As a "heads up," I will not be sending Bible Tuesday on October 7th as I will be on vacation. God bless and keep you all!
Bible Tuesday for October 5, 2014
Let me sing for my beloved a song of my lover about his vineyard.
My beloved had a vineyard on a fruitful hill. He broke the ground, cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. He built a watchtower inside it, he even hewed a winepress in it; for he hoped it would yield grapes. Instead, it yielded wild grapes.
“Now then, dwellers of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, you be the judges between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard that I failed to do in it? Why, when I hoped it would yield grapes, did it yield wild grapes? Now I am going to tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, that it may be ravaged. I will break down its wall, that it may be trampled. And I will make it a desolation. It shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thistles. And I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the seedlings He lovingly tended are the people of Judah. And He hoped for justice but behold, injustice; for equity, but behold, iniquity!
Here is a poem which is also a prophecy and a rebuke of the Israelites. The prophet starts out subtly, describing the activities of a dedicated landowner who goes all out when he gets into wine production, but then the plot thickens: the grape vines won’t cooperate. The pleasant story turns into a chastisement of Israel!
We had wild grapes that grew on the cyclone fencing that divided our old neighborhood from Hwy 11. We tasted them out of curiosity. Wow! Was that a mistake! I couldn’t get that incredibly sour taste out of my mouth for a couple days!
How painful and heartbreaking for God to keep the covenants, guide the patriarchs, bless them with offspring, rescue Israel from Egypt, hand feed them in the wilderness, clear Canaan for the twelve tribes, plant them in the middle of everything so that they would give up sweet fruit to woo the nations of the world to God, and instead they act just like any other stubborn weed and give off fruit only ants and desperate birds would eat.
For textual notes: There are many phrases and words in the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament which are not found anywhere else in the Bible or in any other ancient Hebrew manuscripts, whether secular or sacred, so actual translation is very difficult. Two such phrases appear in this passage of Isaiah: “on a fruitful hill”, and “make it a desolation”. In other words, these English phrases are the translators’ best guesses on what our spiritual forefather and mothers were trying to tell us when they wrote their gifts to all future generations.
You set us at strife with our neighbors; our enemies mock us at will. O God of hosts, restore us; show Your favor that we may be delivered. You plucked up a vine from Egypt; You expelled nations and planted it. You cleared a place for it; it too deep root and filled that land. The mountains were covered by its shade, mighty cedars by its boughs. Its branches reached the sea, its shoots, the river. Why did You breach its walls so that every passerby plucks its fruit, wild boards gnaw at it, and creatures of the tfield feed on it? O God of hosts, turn again, look down from heaven and see; take not of that vine, the stock planted by Your right hand, the stem You have taken as Your own.
Psalm 80 tells the Isaiah story of the vineyard from Israel’s point of view. And what a different view it is! This psalm is written in the form of legal charges that would be recited at the beginning of a legal proceeding. Israel is suing God!!!!! The charge against God is that God himself broke down the walls and the hedges that protect the vineyard so that it can be ravaged.
This passage and psalm are but two places where the Israelites are spoken about metaphorically as a vineyard. The above lament is thought to have been written at the siege of Jerusalem when the city walls were breached and it’s citizens were either killed or taken into captivity. The victims of this military hostility do not see their enemy as God’s tool of punishment, but rather a force which God failed to repel.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul’s credentials as a Jew are pretty impressive. What he is telling his readers is that his life heretofore followed the Law perfectly, but it didn’t get him what it was promised to earn. Instead, righteousness has been given him through Jesus Christ. Paul considers relationship with Christ to be the “pearl of great price” and he does “sell all he has”, his whole blameless reputation as a Jew and his livelihood as a Pharisee, in order to obtain Christ. Paul says here, and throughout his letters, that Christ is worth it!
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first, and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir! Come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” [The Pharisees, scribes, and
Temple authorities] answered him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
It is very difficult to know if the Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish Authorities recognized the beginning of this parable as a quote of an indictment against Israel from Isaiah, as an indictment against God in Psalm 80, or as standard operating procedure for starting up a vineyard. Jesus is definitely utilizing the vineyard metaphor to address the Jewish authorities and teach the crowds. In this parable, the problem is not the fruit grown, but the tenants who work the vineyard. Some scholars have said that it takes five years from the time a vineyard was planted until it would reap its first crop. It is unclear if the owner sends his slaves to collect the whole crop and then pays the tenants later or if a partial crop is collected and the tenants keep for sale a partial crop. No matter what the conditions, these tenants are having nothing to do with the owner!
The whole metaphor/parable was to address the unfaithfulness of the Jewish authorities in the Kingdom of God. In this case, the Kingdom of God appears to be the realm in which the Jewish Authorities were to have taught, loved, prayed, lead worship, given thanks, and all other activities of adoration and service to God. But Jesus tells them that they have tried to buck their role in the Kingdom and take on the role of the Heir, Jesus himself. So what will happen, by their own words, the Jewish Authorities will be thrown out and new tenants will be hired. That is in fact what happens: those Jews who believe into Jesus leave the Jewish authorities and follow the disciples after Jesus’ ascension. Even for Jews who stay Jewish, once the Temple is destroyed in 70AD, the whole system of worshiping God which required the Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, etc., is ruined and over the course of a couple hundred years, the new rabbinical system takes its place. Indeed, the tenants are thrown out and new ones take their place.
The Jewish authorities hearing Jesus proclaim this are absolutely indignant! How could some itinerate preacher come along and unseat the whole Temple system?! That is quite the rejected cornerstone.