Isaiah 5:1-7; 11:1-5
Once again we hear about a prophet doing with prophets do. This prophet is Isaiah and today we hear Isaiah sharing a parable. This is one of those rare readings in the Bible that isn’t terribly complicated because it explains itself at the end. In v7, 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! The story is an agricultural metaphor that is common in the Bible because in Bible times the people were familiar with agricultural things. They likely didn’t know the fine details of how to put a vineyard together and get it up and running but by and large they know the general idea of what it takes to have a vineyard going. God has ‘planted’ a people called Judah, here that’s part of the Israelite nation, and done everything possible to create a system of justice throughout the land.
The hill was very fertile and cleared all the stones, or we’d say roadblocks I suppose, out of the way. God plants the choicest vines, as in the people of God in Israel are the chosen people. God plants a watchtower, meaning God is keeping an eye on things and digs a wine vat in the middle as in lining out the expectation that there will be something to harvest after all God’s labor. Like producing a society where justice is important.
Apparently, that’s not how it played out. Clearly, God has done all the necessary work. God has cleared the way and put the people where they’re supposed to be and meanwhile, God expects them to do well by one another. Predictably for humanity then, the result turns out to be less than what God desires. We’ve seen this play out repeatedly in the readings the past several weeks. Solomon, David, Jeroboam, Rehoboam and all those characters really don’t live out the life that God has desired.
We also know that it plays out fairly predictably today. We live in a time of great conflict. That’s a news flash, I know! The newsfeeds are filled with it every day it seems like. Many people believe and say it’s the worst conflict since the Civil War and it’s easy to get caught up in the righteousness of whichever side of the argument you pick. I wonder if the conflict is as bad as advertisers want us to think?
Here’s why I ask that question. No doubt what we hear in the various news outlets is less than good. You are consulting multiple sources for your news and information not just one, aren’t you? But I think the basic human condition is about the same today as in earlier years, we just didn’t hear about most of it. Information took a lot longer to travel around and so not every bit of information was known and readily available.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. If you’re familiar with author John Grisham, he writes legal thrillers. In 2018 he wrote The Reckoning, set in 1946 Mississippi. The main set of characters need to talk to each other frequently but not everyone has a phone and only those in the city have a private line. So there’s this time consuming dance of conveying information depending on whether you need that private and so have to drive to town to use someone’s private line or can just call from your home party line, with nosy Nelly down the road listening in. I know this to be a true fact of life in rural places because we had a party line until I was in 5th or 6th grade.
So getting information from point A to point B took a lot longer and only the biggest stories made the trip. Everything else remained unknown or locked in the closet. Things are different today where information is transported easily and quickly and thus I know what many of you ate last week. I do the same thing occasionally. We had our last BLT for the season last week but my schedule got away from me and I didn’t get around to sharing with you the wonderful sandwich we had for lunch. Sorry about that. You can ask to see the picture between services.
This is the kind of information overload that feeds us far too much information that distorts our view of other people and ultimately gets in the way of following God’s will, particularly God’s will to treat others well and with a sense of justice. This is information overload. We have access to far too much information on a 24×7 basis. And that gets in the way of us paying attention to God. You can blame whoever you want but we’re all guilty of not following God’s will for justice. Just look at the stories in the Bible. I don’t see many following God’s desire hence we hear from the prophets a fair amount. We’re not so different.
Frankly, there was only one that followed God’s will and that was Jesus. Even the best of the characters who faithfully follow God manage to screw it up. But Jesus enacted God’s desire for justice on each of us by going to the cross and dying there for the forgiveness of our sins. This is that green shoot of hope that exists for each of us even when it seems like we’re in the middle of a deep and dark winter.
The question each of us really needs to answer is simply this; is what I’m doing what God really wants or am I acting on my own desires? We pray something about this pretty much every week. Following God’s desires should be a priority in our lives and one of those deep down questions we ask ourselves. I know it’s easier to cruise along with what we’re familiar with in and amongst all the noise from information overload that surrounds us. But if information is overloading us to the point of not having time for God, then it’s time for a little less information. And a lot more God.