This whole passage has deeper meaning and imagery for me now, having just visited a vineyard. We visited Benziger Winery in Sonoma Valley yesterday afternoon. We had the most perfect picnic lunch of wine, three kinds of cheese, Tapenade (delicious olive spread), fruit and dark chocolate. Our tour guide showed taught us about the biodynamic process of growing grapes in this region of California. It’s this intricate process that’s designed to maximize self-sustainability and holistic development.
I loved Benziger Winery because of this organic, biodynamic emphasis. There was such harmony and rhythm in harnessing the natural processes of the ecosystem–between fertilizing with natural compost, using good insects to regulate the harmful ones, even maximizing or minimizing the amount of sunlight depending on what type of grape you want to produce. The carefully-planned, well-thought out meticulousness of it struck me. There was such extreme care and order and precision given to the development and maintenance of this biodynamic process, simply to unleash the power and beauty of nature to produce fruit.
I loved having the simplicity and complexity of the winemaking process in my mind as I read this. It made me think of how carefully and intentionally God shapes and arranges circumstances to work through His people, to bless His people and to romance them into a relationship with Him. He says “Now let me sing to my Well-beloved; A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard” in Isaiah 5:1. God gives such intentional care and love into this process, from clearing the stones, to planting the choicest vine, to building a tower, expecting it to bring forth “good grapes.”
There is such agony and frustration when He says “What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?” in verse 4. And out of frustration, the prophecy is made to destroy the vineyard, to burn it down, to trample it, to lay it to waste. I tried to imagine what that would have looked like at the gorgeous winery/vineyard we visited yesterday. The sunlight and blue skies were absolutely perfect and the vineyard looked so pristine and peaceful. To contemplate what its was destruction would look like was extremely unsettling to me.
Because of Israel’s misuse of the vineyard–the passage warns repeatedly against drunkenness and intoxication–God threatens destruction. I think of course he’s referring to actual drunkenness. But I think the greater reality is that there is a drunkenness that comes with squandering and misusing God’s purposes, plans and gifts for our lives. A vineyard represents order and growth and abundance and enjoyment. Life. And when humanity comes along and abuses this order and grace–either hindering its growth or by overindulging in the abundance, we miss a very real, tangible opportunity to engage with the Father and to enjoy Him as He intended.
We lose the Garden all over again.
This whole passage actually makes me contemplate the things in my life that I have been given stewardship and responsibility over: my relationships, my gifts, my experiences, my choices–and wondering if I am giving them same order, love and intentionality that is expected of Jerusalem and this vineyard. And the fact that I should live and act, not motivated out of fear of destruction or wrath, but because of this beautiful picture and life–a thriving vineyard that is an expression of God’s love and provision and intricate purposes–that the Spirit is constantly inviting us in to experience.