Isaiah 5 is haunting. The case God built against Israel/Judah is iron-clad. But it’s not just historic, because I can see the warnings applying to individual Christians (me and you), to specific churches, and to the Church at large. We’ll explore it over the next few days. Now one of the things to remember is that when God builds a case, He explains what He was expecting. So it’s not just condemnation, condemnation, condemnation. It’s also, “Here’s where you should be.” And so when we read a chapter like Isaiah 5 we can take the rebuke as it applies to us, but we can also take encouragement because we know what to shoot for. We know what God desires. And we can look to reach for the standard He sets. So don’t just be discouraged by the doom. Take encouragement in the guidance that His Word provides. With that said, let’s get started with today’s.
One of the things we hear a lot is about bearing fruit. Most of our references are New Testament ones, such as the fruits of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22-23. But fruit is talked about in the Old Testament, too. Here’s a great example:
Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
“I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
– Isaiah 5:1-7, NASB
The warning given to Israel/Judah is that God did everything necessary to cause them to grow. He made sure they were in fertile soil. He picked the best vines. He cleared the ground so there were no obstructions. They were placed upon a hill so nothing could compete for sun or rain. The structures required for harvesting the grapes and making the best wine were also built. Everything was in place. There was nothing God left undone for the good of His people’s growth in Him. Yet despite all of God’s efforts, the fruit was bad. It wasn’t what it should have been. And so God asks us, though Isaiah, to judge who was at fault. The answer is an easy one.
The issue comes in when we apply the passages to ourselves. God can pose the same original question to us: are we bearing good fruit? If the answer is that we’re not, there’s a strong warning in these passages. Look at what God threatened as an action. He was going to remove His protection from the vineyard. He was going to let the vineyard be overrun and overgrown. It would be conquered. If it wasn’t going to bear good fruit, God was not going to waste any more time on the production of worthless fruit. I don’t like that warning. It’s a very frightening one. To Israel/Judah, that warning came to pass. Israel (Northern Kingdom) was conquered by Assyria. Judah was conquered by Babylonia. I might be a child of God, but I don’t want to try and make it in this world without His protection. There’s a powerful Enemy sniping for me. There’s a flesh battling to take control. And there’s plenty of people who have bought into the values of the world who would like nothing more than to coerce me to their side. Without God’s protection I’m vulnerable. Too vulnerable. So are you. We all are.
So what kind of fruit is God expecting? What is good fruit in God’s eyes? He tells us He looked for justice and righteousness. He found neither. That’s what He expects of us. Now, we cannot obtain righteousness on our own. We know that from Scripture. Our righteousness is imparted upon us by Jesus Christ. However, we are to pursue righteousness. We are to pursue His ways. We are to seek after His will. We are to be like Him. Justice is part and parcel with righteousness. We do what’s right and we stand for what’s right and we represent what’s right – simply because it’s right. That’s what God is looking for. We continue to fail in that, He withholds His protection. His patience isn’t infinite. It may be long in length, because He waited a long time to push Israel/Judah. But punish the people of Israel He did. The same can apply to us as His children. If discipline is what it takes to get us to pursue righteousness, He’s going to do it. He wants to see the proper kind of fruit in our lives. And He won’t settle for less.
We have everything we need to grow in relationship with Him. We have access to the Father through the Son. We have the very words of God in our Bibles. We have other believers to encourage us in the faith. We have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, as our teacher and our guide. We are that vineyard on a fertile hill, cleared for growth and the production of wonderful fruit. It’s personal inventory time. Are we producing the fruit like we should? If not, what’s in the way? What’s keeping us from being what God wants us to be. It’s time to get rid of it. It’s time to move past it. We want to show the fruit God is looking for. Nothing less is satisfactory to Him. Nothing less should be satisfactory to us.