Thursday, April 1, 2010
Isaiah 5:4 and Sufficient Grace
I was recently asked to comment on Isaiah 5:4 and how I thought it supported resistible grace. (link) Here's the passage in context:
1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. 3 “ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes? 5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
Isaiah reprimands Israel for rebellion and foretells their resulting captivity by the parable of a vineyard. The style mixes flowing wisdom literature and a harsh prophetic judgement. Per verse 7, God owns the vineyard, which is Israel. Justice and righteousness are good grapes while oppression and a cry for help are wild grapes (or thorns). The chapter opens with a song about a beloved and His vineyard. (verse 1) God had provided for Israel (dug it up, cleared out stones, planted it with the choicest vine, built a tower in its midst, and made a winepress) with the expectation that it would bring forth good grapes, but it didn't (verse 2). In verse 3 the speaker shifts from someone singing about the beloved and his vineyard to God addressing the vineyard. God calls the Israelites to judge themselves (verse 3). God presents His evidence against Israel by asking what more He could have done and says He looked for good grapes but got bad ones. (verse 4). So God is going to remove His protection and blessings from Israel, leading to captivity and judgement (verse 5-6).
God works on the soil (dug it up and removed stones) and the vine itself (planted it with the choicest vine) and dealt with external threats (the tower). It is difficult to identify the specific blessings in verse 2 which God removes in verses 5-6. Clearly they include physical protection from invading nations, but they must also include means sufficient to produce good grapes (righteousness and justice). The reasons are:
1) Good grapes are more than National existence and prosperity
2) God calls the Israelites to condemn themselves for not producing good grapes, but if whatever God provided was insufficient to enable the production of good grapes, they would not be in a positions to condemn themselves. They simply say, I had to produce thorns, you didn't deal with me in a way in which I could have produced good grapes.
3) God's expectation was that they should produce good grapes, which does not makes sense if the means were insufficient for the production of good grapes. Not that He did not foreknow the result but that His foreknowledge of the result was in some sense dependent on the result.
4) the parable as a whole, especially the expectation, indicates that it was God's desire that they produce good grapes
5) God asks what more He could have done - which would not make sense if He didn't provide sufficient grace for the production of good grapes.
Christ refers to verse 2 in Matthew 21:33-43 perhaps even combining it with Isaiah 3:14. While Christ's point is different than Isaiah's, the overall idea of Israel being inexcusable in light of God's previous gifts carries over.