Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Jun 7, 2015

“The Vineyard” 6-7-15

Isaiah 5:1-7, I Peter 2:18-25
June 7, 2015

In 1976, as our country was celebrating its Bicentennial, the British rock group Wings released a silly song written by Paul McCartney.  It was appropriately entitled “Silly love songs”.  In the song, Paul wrote and sang that you might think that people would have had enough of silly love songs, but that as he looked around it seemed that some people wanted to fill the world with silly love songs.
This attraction to love songs is much older than McCartney realized.  We find love songs in the biblical literature, specifically in the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs and in a few other places.
This short song from Isaiah advertises itself as a love song but I think that it really is not.  This is a short song that Isaiah introduced as a love song so people would listen to it, but it is really more about judgment than love.
But it is an interesting composition none the less.  For one thing, in addition to its being a song, it is also a parable, which is a rare thing in the Old Testament.  We may have only two parables in the OT, so this would be half of them.
It is also interesting because of its being used later as the basis of two parables of Jesus.  Jesus told a parable about evil tenants of a vineyard, which basically has the same idea of judgment, but in somewhat harsher terms.
Jesus also told a parable about a fig tree which was planted in a vineyard but was not producing fruit.  That parable also speaks of impending judgment and may be based on this parable from Isaiah.
But the point of this Isaiah parable and the two parables of Jesus are all the same: that Israel was the vineyard, or the fig tree in the vineyard, and that Israel, like the vineyard and the fig tree had not produced the desired product, so God, the owner of the vineyard and the God of Israel was about to destroy it or them. 
Now, it is not too hard to move forward from that parable to posit some things about us as a part of the church of Jesus Christ.  While I do not totally endorse all the aspects of supersessionism or replacement theology, I do think that we Christians are a called-out group of people who are a vineyard of God.  And I think that as such, God has expectations of us, some of which are the same as those he had for Israel, his other vineyard.
So what was the reason or reasons why God harshly judged and even temporarily destroyed the vineyard in the parable?  It did not produce wine.  The vineyard that was described in this parable was not just a place to grow grapes, it had a winepress and a watchtower and a hedge with a wall behind it.  It was to have been a secure wine factory.  And it did not produce good wine.  So it was to be destroyed. 
Now, if this vineyard represented Israel, what was the “wine” he expected from them?  It is clearly stated in verse 7 “he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness but heard a cry.”  He expects us to behave righteously, to obey his commandments and to treat others justly.
And according to I Peter 2:24 we have an advantage in fulfilling these requirements of God.  In writing of the work of Jesus, Peter wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness: by his wounds you have been healed.” 
Unlike Israel, we are not being held responsible for the sins of our ancestors or the history of our nation.  And, we are not even held accountable for our own past sins, Jesus lived a sin-free righteous life and that life is attributed to us by God when we believe in Jesus.  He put the righteousness of Jesus in our account.
And, in the life of Jesus we also have another advantage, a perfect example.  When Peter was writing to Christian slaves instructing them to live righteous lives in the horrible system of slavery, he wrote in verse 21 “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.”
Jesus also told his apostles that he would send his Holy Spirit on them and those who followed after them, to help them in their work as the Body of Christ, or a vineyard of Christ.
So today, as we commune, I invite you to eat and drink this holy meal and remember who Jesus is and who you are.  Jesus is the Son of God who died for you and you and I are parts of the Vineyard of God known as the church or the body of Christ.  He expects us to produce righteousness, Justice, and more believers.  And he has given us himself as past righteousness and an example.  Let us commit ourselves to produce the wine of righteousness, justice, and a larger body of Christ on earth.


Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906