St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Lord Looks For Fruit In His Vineyard

Sermon on Isaiah 5:1-7

Text: I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
2 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.
3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 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? 5 Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”
7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

At this time of year, there are some of you who are getting your harvest in. Some things are already gathered in, but there is still work to do. You worked hard in spring planting your crops. Then this summer, you did your best to get a good crop. Now, finally, you see the fruits of your labor. The harvest is being gathered in. This morning in our text, Isaiah speaks of another planter’s hard work. THE LORD LOOKS FOR FRUIT IN HIS VINEYARD. We will see how it affected the land of Israel and how this parable stands as a warning for us.

The words Isaiah speaks in our text are in the form of a parable. A parable is, as you might recall, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The writer uses pictures from everyday life to explain a spiritual truth. The parable in our text deals with a vineyard that was planted. The owner of the vineyard picked a premium spot for his vineyard. It was on a fertile hillside. He dug up the ground and removed the stones from the ground. He built a watchtower in the middle of the vineyard and also hewed out a winepress. In this vineyard he planted the best vines he could find. He put a great amount of work into this vineyard. Now, as the harvest drew near, he expected to find a good grape harvest.

Yet, he did not get a good harvest, at all. Instead, those choice vines, which had the greatest of care shown to them, produced only wild grapes. These grapes were worthless. They were too sour to be eaten or made into wine. They had produced a worthless harvest. All of the planter’s hard work appeared to have come to nothing. Now, the planter asks the people of Israel to judge his actions. Because there was no fruit, the planter will now tear down the walls that had been protecting his vineyard. He will not prune the vines anymore. He will command the rain not to fall upon the vineyard. He will allow the vineyard to become a wasteland. The people to whom he was speaking would have to admit that the planter was right in his actions.

Then, the parable is explained in verse seven. There it says, “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.” All of a sudden the meaning of this parable becomes all too clear for the people of Israel. They were the garden of God’s delight. They had received special treatment, not because of anything special on their part, but it was out of pure love on God’s part. God had shown unparalleled love to the people of Israel. He had chosen them out of all of the nations of the world to be his chosen people.

God was very visibly connected with this nation. He had brought them from slavery in the land of Egypt to a land that he had told their forefathers would be theirs. He helped them conquer the land. He built the nation up so that, at one time, it was one of the leading powers of the known world. They had enjoyed great prosperity and wealth. God had certainly been gracious to his people in external matters.

God had also been gracious to his people in spiritual matters. God had revealed himself to the nation of Israel in a way that he had not done for any other nation. No other nation had as clear an understanding of God as Israel did. God had given them the Ten Commandments. God told them the way that they were to worship him. God had even promised that the Savior of the world would come from them. These people could hardly have been more blessed.

One would expect that, with all of the blessings showered upon Israel, they would have been living lives that thanked God. Yet, as verse seven continues, “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” They were living as if God had not done anything for them. They ignored his laws. Now, God pronounces judgement on his fruitless vineyard. He said that he would tear down the wall that had protected them. God would no longer protect them from foreign invaders. We see this fulfilled when the Babylonians came in and destroyed Israel, taking many of its people into captivity. God did allow some to come back after seventy years in exile and the Jews did rebuild, but they never attained the same level of independence and prominence that they had before. Yet, God still showed his love to the fruitless vineyard, by giving them another chance. He still sent his Son into the world through the line of Israel. God kept his promises. Yet, the Jewish people again refused to realize God’s blessing upon them. They even went so far as to crucify God’s own Son. This is the way that they repaid God’s goodness to them. As a result, in 70 AD, God used the Roman army to completely destroy Jerusalem and send its inhabitants into exile, from which few ever returned. God showed his wrath to this fruitless vineyard.

This parable is also important for us to look at. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.” God has done many marvelous things for us, as well. He carefully takes care of us, as choice vines in his vineyard. God takes care of our physical needs by giving us all that we need for this life, and often more than we need. God also, and more importantly, takes care of our spiritual needs. You and I were helpless to save ourselves from the sins that we have committed. We have spent our energy in pursuing things that were not God-pleasing. There are times when we have only given a half-hearted attempt at doing what God wants. We did not live to please God, but only for the praise of others or so that someone would get off our backs about what we were doing. We were hopelessly in debt to God, who demands full payment for sins. Yet, God, seeing that we were powerless to do anything on our own, sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to pay the debt that we owed and never could have paid on our own. Jesus suffered and died on the cross because of our sins. Jesus, also, rose victoriously over sin, death and the devil. He gives that victory to you and me. What a precious gift! He reveals what he has done for us in his holy Word. The Holy Spirit has created a saving faith in our hearts. God has richly blessed us with blessings beyond our imagination. Surely, we want to say “Thank you” to God for all that he has done, by living lives that are pleasing to him. These are the fruits of faith that we produce as these choice vines in his vineyard. We don’t do these things because we are afraid that we will be punished if we don’t do them. We produce these fruits out of love for all that he has done for us.

It is good for us to look at this parable, because it is so easy for us to let the things of this world choke out the faith that has been created in us. We start to forget about producing fruits of faith in thanksgiving for God, and end up producing rotten fruit. The Christian’s life is one of self-examination. We look at our lives and see what things are sapping our strength to produce those fruits of faith. We ask that the Lord, the Master Gardener, would prune from us all of those things. We want to thank him for all that he has done for us. May God help us to be fruitful vines, giving glory to him.

As the harvest proceeds, we see trucks filled with the grain that has been harvested. They run back and forth between field and elevator. Often, the elevators run out of room and end up, temporarily storing in on the ground. We are thankful for the harvest from our fields. As we see those grain trucks running back and forth, we can be reminded of the harvest of good works that God enables us to produce. We can produce these good works when we are firmly rooted in Jesus Christ. Our love for Jesus makes it only natural to produce good, God-pleasing fruit. May God give us the strength and the willingness to do so. May we see this parable as warning against a worthless harvest. May God help us to produce fruit in keeping with our faith in him. May each of us produce a great harvest of fruit for the Lord. Amen.