By Marshall Gilmore
Isaiah 5:1-7 is a parable that makes one point, which Isaiah takes a roundabout route to reach. He starts with a wedding scene. As friend of the bridegroom, he says, “Let me sing for my beloved [my friend] my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.” The bridegroom has done everything for the vineyard, the bride, to be fruitful. He gave it a prime location. Plus, he selected “choice vines.” He built a watchtower for protection and “hewed out a wine vat in it.” The disappointment comes when the vineyard “yielded wild grapes.” A courtroom scene (Isa. 5:3-6) replaces the wedding scene.
Isaiah owns the vineyard; he is also the prosecutor. As judge and jury, the people of Jerusalem and Judah must consider two questions. One, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done for it?” And, two, “Why did it yield wild grapes?”
The rhetorical technique Isaiah uses in the two questions implicates Jerusalem and Judah. The people find themselves in the same guilty place where David was when Nathan said to him, “You are the man” (2 Sam. 12:1- 7). They, like David, condemn themselves by their own words.
A judgment scene follows: God the ultimate owner of the vineyard, Jerusalem and Judah, will remove the hedge of protection; outside foes may now enter the vineyard and devour it. The point of the parable is restated by the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow” (Gal. 6:7).
As your people, 0 Lord, give us grace to live circumspectly. Amen.