Our readings today, Isaiah 5:1-7 and the Gospel, Matthew 21:33-46 reflect the ancient cultural connection to the cultivation of grapes for wines. Both testaments offer the vineyard as symbol of God’s desire for us to yield good fruit.
Now, there’s a pretty good vineyard story, before we delve into the readings for today, found in 1Kings 21. It tells the story of a man named Naboth who had inherited a vineyard from his father. King Ahab, of the northern kingdom in those days (maybe 900BC) had his palace very near Naboth’s nice vineyard. The king offered to trade Naboth for the vineyard, and then offered to cash him out but no, Naboth could not part with that inherited vineyard. You can read what happens next.
In the Isaiah piece today we read of God’s disappointment that after all He had done for Israel as a people, His very own people, they had wandered away from the true faith He had blessed them with. My friend Matthew Henry, writing in the 18th century (OK, I call him my friend because I like him. I like his 5-volume commentary on the whole Bible, too.) used these words to describe what God expected His vines to yield in us: humility, meekness, patience, love, and a contempt for the ways of the world.
Instead of those qualities, what fruit do we sinful people so often yield? Here is Henry’s list: pride, passion, discontent, malice, and contempt not of the world but of God Himself. Turns out, we cannot be relied upon to yield up the fruit God desires without some help – and we got it. We look to the cross and realize that His solution was sacrifice, not ours, but of His Son, and in the vineyard of the Risen Savior we are forgiven of the nasty stuff we create and led toward God’s ideal for His vines. For that graceful vinedresser we give thanks this day and always!