“What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” Isaiah 5:4
It has been quite a year. This year I have seen a crisis in Ukraine, another war in the Middle East, and a deadly disease that has affected half the world. I saw all hell break loose in Ferguson, Missouri and a restoration of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. I became an official member of my first church, said goodbye to a good friend, made a new friend unexpectedly, came out about a life-long struggle I had kept hidden, and accepted a call to the ministry. I worked a lot, prayed a lot, read some good books, and watched far too much television.
With all of the ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, it’s hard to find the meaning behind it all. But one thing is certain. I am not the same person I was a year ago. God is working through every moment of my life to make me into the person he wants me to be.
Isaiah paints a lovely picture of the the hand of God at work. In reference to the nation of Israel, he describes the vineyard of the Lord. “He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it.”
I can almost see God clearing out the debris in my life and replacing it with seeds of love and of righteousness that he causes to grow. But the story doesn’t end there. Isaiah says that God “looked for [the vineyard] to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” Despite all of the good things the Lord put into his vineyard, its fruit was bad. Why was it bad? Is God a bad gardener?
No, the fruit was bad because the vineyard had a mind of its own. Remember, Isaiah is actually talking about the people of Israel here. Israel rebelled against God. That’s why Isaiah says that the vineyard produced “wild grapes.” The takeaway here is that people become who they are due to a combination of the circumstances God puts in their way and the choices they make.
We can either submit ourselves to God’s will and allow him to finish his work in us, or we can tell God to buzz off and go our own way. But the Bible gives countless warnings against those who reject God. A few verse later, Isaiah tells how God will deal with the vineyard full of wild grapes. “I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”
But what does the Bible say of the one who honors God? “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” That is why we must reflect on our lives, consider what God is teaching us, keep his word in our hearts, and commit to keeping our lives in line with his plan. If we do this, each year will be better than the year before, as we grow in his grace.