Throughout the Scriptures we hear teachings that refer to vineyards… and for good reason. Vineyards were good object lessons because they were everywhere. I can visually identify with this. One unexpected blessing of living in southwest Michigan was its vineyards. That experience made the analogy that much fuller.
In Isaiah chapter 5 the writer uses this image to tell a story. A story of fruitfulness. A story of the Israelites and their relationship with God. A story that is transferable to us. He uses a theme similar to the one Jesus used in Matthew 7 when He was teaching about how to distinguish false prophets from true followers. Isaiah & Jesus agree that it is the individual’s fruit that determines their spiritual health. Thankfully this is not a lesson simply about production – though many Christians seem to believe that production is the key to following Jesus. Instead it is about the type of fruit one produces.
So a better question would be… what kind of fruit am I producing? Here the distinction is between sweet grapes & wild ones or good grapes & worthless ones. The next logical question seems to be… how does one tell what kind of fruit is being produced? And while I don’t believe his answer here is the only way that you determine someone’s spiritual worth, I do believe it is reflective of the spirit of “sweetness” that he is asking for.
Verse 7 says… He (God) expected them to yield a crop of justice, but instead he found bloodshed. He expected to find righteousness, but instead He heard cries of oppression. I am painfully aware that issues of justice and oppression in our time have become cultural buzzwords and even politically pawns for power. But I cannot escape the language that is here in God’s Word. These concerns are concerns of God.
From its invention to now, I have been proud to be a part of www.one.org. I do not believe that they are the spiritual hope of the world… that job has already been spoken for. However I do believe that they are conducting the kind of business that Jesus (coincidentally the One who is the hope of the world) spoke about & they demonstrate the kind of spirit that demonstrates the good grapes that Isaiah is teaching about. A book that I have been privileged to lead several leaders through is titled The Externally Focused Church. One of its challenging thoughts for me was the idea of working with agencies (like one.org) who are not necessarily Christian. The authors’ position was that they will “… partner with any organization that is morally positive and spiritually neutral.” They go on to say that, “If churches can honor God through serving the needs of the community and creating relationships with those leading the local agencies, we may have the opportunity to share the good news of God’s grace.” In the margin of my copy of the book I wrote that by meeting needs we have already begun to give the gospel! Most people already know the gospel. They want to know if it works.