Isaiah 5:1-4 (NIV): I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?
When God brought Israel into the Promised Land, He gave them everything they needed to be successful not only in taking the land, but in retaining it as well. The most powerful benefit that He gave them was His own presence. He was with them, guiding, directing, and empowering them. And, as long as they followed His commandments, they received all of the blessings of His presence and power.
Before long, however, they turned away from God’s ways, and began to compromise with the people around them, taking on their culture, remaking themselves into the image of the worldlings around them. When they began to slide away from God, he had to remove His power from them, and to put a distance between them and His presence. That was to force them to recognize that they were sinning, and move them back to Him. But they only became more hard-hearted, and moved farther from God and further into the unholy culture around them, until the only visible difference between them and the people of the world was that they occasionally went to the tabernacle or the temple. God’s people, who had access to every blessing in His vast arsenal, unaccountably produced bad fruit, fruit that left them vulnerable to destruction and exile.
Today God’s people, the Christians, often find themselves in the same situation. When someone comes to God by trusting in Jesus, He gives us everything that we need to be successful, not only in conquering our community, our nation for the gospel, but for retaining it as well. The most powerful benefit He gives us is His presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is with us to guide, direct, and empower us. And, as long as we follow God’s commandments, we will receive all of the blessings of His presence and power.
But, just like Israel, we must be careful NOT to turn away from God to become enmeshed in the ways of the world – its philosophies and pastimes that dishonor God and His holiness. We must resist the temptation to become like the world, to set as our role models those who don’t exemplify God’s own priorities.
Whenever someone turns away from God’s path to follow the ways of this world, the first thing that they will experience is a loss of the sense of God’s presence and the loss of His power in their lives. This is designed to get their attention and to draw them back to God so that they can be restored, and so that His plans and agenda will be able to continue to unfold through them. But all too often, they continue to pursue the pleasures and attractions of this world rather than the agenda of God’s kingdom, until the only visible difference between them and the people of the world is that they go to church.
God’s agenda is to rescue the world from darkness and death; to save the people of this world through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, and to recreate the whole world as the kingdom of God. But for God’s people to be able to work this agenda, we must keep ourselves from being drawn into the things of this world. If we will stay focused on God, obey His commands wholeheartedly, and devote ourselves entirely to Him and to fulfilling His agenda, then He will fill us to overflowing with His presence and His power, and will make of us a flourishing and fruitful vineyard that will bear good fruit for all eternity.
Father, thank You for warning us away from things that will lose us Your presence and power, and for welcoming us into those things that You so richly provide that will make us successful in the glorious work of Your kingdom. Keep speaking to our hearts, so that we can follow You with everything that is in us. Amen.