The Song of the Vineyard
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We will be considering chapter 5 of the book of Isaiah, verses 1-6. May we remind you that we noticed a very definite outline of the book of Isaiah which was found within the book itself. We do not have time to review the entire outline, but we do want to emphasize that the first six chapters of the book of Isaiah form a definite division within themselves.

We pointed out to you that in the first six chapters of the book of Isaiah is found a number of sermons and songs which Isaiah delivered in the course of the reign of King Uzziah and possibly King Jotham as well. You will recall that King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy because he dared to enter into the holy place and offer an offering before the LORD, and Jotham reigned as regent in his stead. These sermons at which we are looking in the first six chapters were delivered during that time.

We make mention of that because the time in which the sermons were delivered color to some extent the sermon itself, for these sermons were delivered at the height of the prosperity of the nation of Israel of that particular era. As a matter of fact, you will remember that we pointed out to you that Israel knew no prosperity any greater than this, unless it was in the days of Solomon.

The reason that we make mention of that to you is that Isaiah was warning in these sermons of eventual judgment, that judgment necessary because of the decay that accompanied the prosperity of Israel of that particular time. We emphasize that because, as we have pointed out to you at other times, when you come to the end of the age, regardless of what age it may be, you will see a similarity of decadence in the age in which we live, because we believe that we are coming to the end of an age. I think you will be able to see that some of the errors which I brought to our attention here in this chapter are with us even today.

One of the things by way of introduction that I would like to say is that there is no relation between chapter 1 of the book of Isaiah and chapter 5 of the book of Isaiah. They are separate sermons, and you shouldn't try to relate them. They were delivered at different times. Likewise chapters 2, 3, and 4 were a sermon that had absolutely no connection with the first sermon that was delivered or with the third sermon that we are thinking about in this lesson.

I want you to see that because if you try to relate these chapters one to the other, forgetting that these were sermons delivered at entirely different times, you are going to bog down in a mass of detail that has no relationship one with the other.

A Song of Isaiah

Notice, chapter 5, verse 1:

Isaiah 5

1Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

We will stop right there because that verse is the end of the song which Isaiah presented in this chapter.

You may wonder exactly why it is that chapter 5 begins with the words, “Now I will sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.” You would understand it more if you could read this in the original text, for you would see in the very form of it that it is a poem, an analogy, a song. You would realize that Isaiah was not only a preacher, he was also a songwriter; and sometimes he was moved upon by God not only to preach, but to sing a song. The very message of the song conveyed the truth that God would have him have.

We will see before we are through with the book of Isaiah that not only did Isaiah preach, as I am attempting to do, not only did he sing, as is indicated in the chapter before us, but he even gave object lessons—object lessons related to the clothing that he wore and the things that he did, all of them providing a foundation for a sermon that he wanted to leave with the people that he addressed at that particular time.

The Location of Israel

As he sang a song about a vineyard, he emphasized that his beloved—and they all knew that he meant God—had a vineyard. He went on to say how God brought his vineyard into being. He planted the vineyard in a very fruitful hill, according to the first verse. Really that meant that He took this people and put them in the most advantageous location that was available to man. Someone says, “Now, wait just a moment. You're talking about planting a vineyard, and then you're using the term people in the same connection. Why do you do that?”

The answer is found in verse 7:

Isaiah 5

7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant…

You see, Isaiah explains his song for us when he says, “When I'm talking about the vineyard, I am talking about the nation of Israel. When I'm talking about the vine, I am talking about the nation of Israel,” or the nation of Judah, as he uses the terms interchangeably.

With that thought in mind, we know that in verse 1, he is not merely waxing poetic when he says he had planted his vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He is thinking literally, for as we compare Scripture with Scripture we find that God deliberately chose the location for the nation of Israel in the very middle of the earth. You will find that phrase repeatedly in the Old Testament—in the very middle of the world.

If you are very well acquainted with history, you will know that all the great emperors, all the great conquerors, so-called, of the world wanted to gain control of the land of Palestine. They said, “If we have control of this little neck of land, we will be able to control the whole world.”

God's Purpose and Provision for Israel

God did not give the nation of Israel its location in order that the Jews might dominate the world, as some people might think and as they themselves might think, but He gave them a little piece of land in the very heart of the earth, according to chapter 17 of the Acts of the Apostles, that the entire world might have the knowledge of God. God is not interested in one nation conquering the world, but He is interested in the whole world knowing about Him.

As you glance at verse 2, you will find that He made every provision for the growth of this vine in this vineyard that could be made. He fenced it; He gathered up the stones; He planted the vine. He built a tower which was for the purpose of watching that no evil thing would take the grapes, such as wild birds, or wild beasts breaking in and destroying the vines. He even made a winepress, because He expected to have some fruit from the vine, and He was all prepared for the wine that would be made.

Some individuals follow this verse through in detail and connect certain things in the history of Israel with each one of these statements—the fencing of the vineyard, the gathering out of the stones, the building of the tower, etc. It does provide an interesting analogy if you have time to follow through.

Israel's Failure

We do not think anybody ought to be dogmatic about it. However, as we read verse 3 and listen further to Isaiah's signs, we realize that something has gone wrong, because God is saying to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah:

Isaiah 5

3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

He is saying, “I want you to make a decision. I want you to make a decision between Me and yourselves. What could have been done in verse 4 that has not been done. What has been left undone?”

Isaiah 5

4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

That is a question, rhetorical in character, that does not demand an immediate answer for the answer is self-evident. Absolutely nothing had been left undone. When that answer was evident, God says, “I have another question for you. When I looked that it should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes. Why is it that all I have found from the nation of Israel is wild grapes when I expected grapes luscious and full that could make wine which would be for the joy of the whole earth?”

Failure Demands Judgment

He goes on to pronounce judgment for failure to fulfill the responsibility. Will you learn this lesson whether you be in Israel or whether you be in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ: Failure to fulfill responsibility always demands judgment. So God says in verse 5:

Isaiah 5

5And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

All these phrases are but figurative descriptions of the manner in which God is going to withdraw His protection and withhold His blessing from this nation so that this nation will be utterly trodden down of the enemies of the nations of the world.

If you will turn to the last paragraph of this chapter, you will see the manner in which God is going to break down the hedge, the manner in which God is going to break down the fence and turn it over to all the wild animals, figuratively speaking. In verse 26, Isaiah said:

Isaiah 5

26And he [that is, God] will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

Get the picture. Because the nation of Israel failed God in the manner in which she did, God said that He was going to hold up a signal that all the nations of the world would be able to see and He was going to hiss to them—not at them. Here is a figure of speech with which Isaiah was familiar. He had in mind a beehive and he had in mind the bees all collected in one hive. He wanted to move them over here to another hive that he might take the honey out of this one. So, what did he do? He got over here by the empty hive and hissed, and as he made the hissing noise, the bees hearing it would leave one hive and go to another.

He uses that as an illustration of what God was going to do. God was going to stand and hiss, and He was going to call all the nations of the world from a great distance, and they would hear it and they would come against the nation of Israel. Notice, beginning in verse 27:

Isaiah 5

27None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, [that is, neither shall they be afraid] nor the latchet of their shoes be broken [that is, neither will they be hindered to the extent of stumbling] :
28Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, [as they move swiftly over the land] and their wheels like a whirlwind:
29Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.

Will you put yourself in Isaiah's day? Will you recognize that what he declared was the complete captivity of the nation at the hand of the other nations of the world? Will you realize that when Isaiah declared this, the nation of Israel was at the height of its prosperity? How do you think people looked upon him? The same way that they look upon you or upon me or anybody else that is concerned about our own nation. The very moment we open our mouths to say that judgment is awaiting our nation, we are marked. We are marked by any number of different names and by any number of different aspersions.

I would like to say to you that if you plan to speak out against the evils surrounding us and take your stand upon the Word of God, you can expect to be misunderstood; you can expect to be persecuted. If things get bad enough, you may even expect to lose your life. Remember this: Isaiah was sawn asunder with a wooden saw because he dared to stand in the day of prosperity and say, “This nation is through because of the wild grapes that are growing on the vines from which God expected luscious grapes.”

The Prosperity of Our Nation

I see in my own mind a tremendous similarity between the nation of Israel in the time to which we refer and our own nation today. I do not believe there has been any nation that has been any more favored than our nation has. We have not been placed in the heart of the earth in the sense that Israel has been, but we have been placed in an area that in itself almost guarantees our prosperity.

When you think of the nations of the world today who are starving to death because they do not have land upon which to produce enough food to feed them and realize that we produce more food than we actually need, so that we can stockpile it and let it be used as a weapon in the hands of a man who has set himself up with one of the problems of sour grapes that we are going to be thinking about, you will realize that God has given us a privilege as few nations have been given.

I don't have the time to go on and draw the parallels; I'm simply suggesting it to you, and confident that you will be thinking about it because every enlightened Christian has a responsibility. The responsibility that no enlightened Christian can escape is the responsibility of prayer. You may not be able to make speeches because you may not be given to that. You may not be able to go to war, because you may be hindered in some fashion; but there is absolutely no one within the sound of my voice today who realizes the terrible days in which we live, who cannot at least pray. I don't mean to suggest it is the least thing you can do, but at least you can pray.

I never make a statement like this without thinking about something that is recorded in the first Corinthian letter concerning the church at Corinth. There was a man in that assembly who was living in open sin. Nobody did anything about it. When the Apostle Paul called it to their attention, they said, “What could we do? We don't know what to do about it. There is nothing that we can do.” The Apostle Paul said, “You could have been burdened about it. You could have been grieved about it. You could have prayed about it. Maybe you didn't know what to do, but you didn't need to act as though it didn't matter. You didn't need to act as though you were not concerned.” This is the condition in which Israel was, and I beg to suggest that it is the condition in which our own nation is today.

The Nationalization of Land

Then Isaiah sings his song and uses it as a text. He begins with verse 8 and, going through the remaining portion of the chapter, mentions six wild grapes that God found in His vineyard. God went to the vineyard to find good grapes, but instead He found wild grapes. I'm sure He found many more than six, but Isaiah mentions six of them. We call your attention to them without a great deal of comment other than a word of explanation because they speak for themselves. The first one of them is found in verse 8:

Isaiah 5

8Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Does that mean anything to you? You read some of the laws that God gave to Moses recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, related (listen carefully to what I am saying now) to what we call the nationalization of land . You will find that it is expressly forbidden, and you will find that God said in His Word that when the nation of Israel reached the place where she denied the right of private ownership and began to lay house to house, field to field—the nationalization of property, as we think of it today—the nation of Israel would be in line for the judgment of God.

Need I say any more concerning the day in which we live, when it is more difficult than it was twenty-five years ago to exercise the rights of private ownership? No, our government has not come in with gun and sword and physically taken away our rights. We have been foolish enough to hold out our hand for what she could give as she put her hand in our pocket and thought we were getting something for nothing.

Do you read the funny papers? Well, you ought to. The funny papers have ceased to be funny. They have become a commentary on the conditions of the world, and if restrictions continue along the line that they have, I am of the opinion that the funny papers will be the only place that you will be able to find any proof.

Did you read the comic strip that had for one of its chief characters, Mr. Bribery? Did you notice how he patted someone on the back, and said, “I want to give you this money to help you,” and he reached in the back pocket and took out the billfold? Did you notice how this individual came to him and said, “Mr. Bribery, there are some hungry people, and I need some money to feed them.” Mr. Bribery said, “I'm always glad to help,” and he gave the man $500.00 and the man put it in his pocket, and while he was patting him on the back and saying that he was always glad to help, he took the $500.00 back. The poor man thought Mr. Bribery was a help. He was, but he was helping with his own money, and that is exactly the condition that is suggested in this verse of Scripture, the nationalism of everything that is privately owned, until, if you will look at verse 10:

Isaiah 5

10Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath [one measure of meal] , and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.

In other words, when these individual properties were by themselves privately owned, there was a good yield. When they were all nationalized, it took ten acres of ground when ordinarily one acre would have yielded it. You can make your own analysis. This was the nation of Israel before judgment came.

Made Captive to the Senses

Look at verse 11, and notice the second wild grape that is brought to our attention:

Isaiah 5

11Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
12And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

We are told today that alcoholism is one of the biggest problems our nation has to face, and we are told that more and more people are becoming addicted to it. If you were to read some of the things that are occurring in high circles, you would think that you were reading what you have read here in this passage of Scripture. Individuals who rise up early in the morning that they may follow strong drink. They drink all day until night inflames them.

It is not a question of taking an occasional drink; it is a question of setting the alarm, so to speak, to get up early enough to have enough time to drink all of the intoxicating beverages they possibly can before nightfall.

Will you notice the sad statement in the last part of verse 12:

Isaiah 5

12…but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

Time enough to satisfy their own senses, but not time enough to regard the work of the LORD, nor the operation of His hand. Notice the result of this. Someone says, “Is this the judgment of God?” In a sense, yes, but not because God visits the judgment upon the people concerned. The things that they do bring that judgment upon them. Look at verse 13:

Isaiah 5

13Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

What is he saying? He is simply saying, “Because they have dedicated themselves to the satisfaction of the senses, they have gone into captivity.”

Someone who knew the history of Uzziah would say, “Wait a minute. We are a free people. We haven't been made captive to anybody.” “Yes, you have. You have been made the captive of your own senses. You spend all of your time satisfying them to such an extent that honorable men are famished.” This might be more accurately rendered, “there is a famine of honorable men.”

A Famine of Leadership

Let's think about that for a moment from the standpoint of leadership. In the nation of Israel at this particular time there was a famine of leadership. I'm of the opinion that in our own country at this particular time there is a famine of leadership. You stop and think for a moment about the few leaders upon whom we could depend if a real emergency arose, and recognize what I am talking about. Will you look at verse 14:

Isaiah 5

14Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

And he continues to speak of how Hell had to enlarge itself to take care of all the people who would wind up there, because of the sad state of a nation.

It is another illustration of the fact that the Bible never did say anywhere that God prepared Hell as a place into which to send sinners. He prepared Hell for the Devil and his angels, but so many people wanted to act like the Devil that God had to build an annex on Hell to take care of them. That is a commentary on the sad state of the nations of the world.

Entangled By the Sin of Presumption

Look at verse 18, and notice the third wild grape that is mentioned:

Isaiah 5

18Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

This verse is not as clear as it could be. What it actually says is this: “Woe unto them that begin to draw iniquity towards them with thin silken threads, and by and by draw sin to them as with a thick rope.”

What is Isaiah saying? Simply that sin always begins as a simple little silken thread, not very big, not anything to be concerned about; but before it goes very far, it has developed into a heavy rope, and it becomes that which entangles an individual inseparably from sin.

Wait just a moment. What sin? What sin is worse than another? Isaiah sums it all up in verse 19. Look at it:

Isaiah 5

19That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

What is this sin that entangles them as a mighty rope? It is the sin of presumption, the sin of presuming that God in some way or another will not bring judgment on them. Even though He has on every other nation, He won't on them. They are the people who say, “If God is going to judge us, why doesn't He do it? They are the people who say of people like me, “He is just another calamity hollerer. Don't pay any attention to what he has to say. There have been prophets of doom since the beginning of this nation.”

Beloved, if you look at the history of Israel, and if you look at the history of all the nations of the world, you will see that judgment fell upon every single one of them when their state wasn't nearly so bad as ours. Why should we presume to think that God will not bring judgment upon us? Why should we think that the Great Society will become a reality when God says that there is nothing but doom awaiting us?

I was speaking to a visitor in our service one morning about the terrific hardships that Christians were having at this particular hour. We were speaking specifically about a man who went to his employer and said, “I cannot be a part of this thing that you are doing. I cannot be a part of this thing that you are insisting we all do, because I am a Christian and it is contrary to everything that the Bible teaches.” That man was fired in less time than it is taking for me to tell you about it. He went six months without a job, and his family nearly starved to death. His wife had to get work, because there was nothing else that could be done.

This person said to me, “Why would a man who takes a stand for God have to suffer like that? Why would God let him suffer like that?” I said, “Why shouldn't He?” Where have we gotten the idea that if we take a stand for God, it's not going to cost us something? Where have we gotten that idea? Here we are told that individuals ignore God and say that God is not going to do anything. They say, “If He is going to do it, let Him start.”

I say to you that one of these days judgment is coming, and my Bible says that when it does, it is going to have to begin at the house of God. No, I do not believe that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is going to go through the Tribulation, but I make bold to say to you that I believe before Jesus Christ comes, Christians can expect to suffer. I believe they can expect a hard time if they are willing to stand up and be counted. But there will probably be very few who will.

Perversion of Word and Thought

We have been thinking about the wild grapes, and I would like for you to notice the fourth one, which will explain why very few Christians will have to suffer. Look at verse 20:

Isaiah 5

20Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Sounds like a congestion of words, doesn't it? If you took the time to put this in modern language, you would understand what we are talking about. Nobody says what they mean any more, and particularly is that true in relation to national pronouncements. One thing is said today, and another thing is said tomorrow. Nobody stands by his word. It is a disease that has swept the entire nation: the perversion of word and the perversion of thought, the perversion of conviction. If something is evil, let's not make an issue out of it. Let's say it's all right, and if something is good, let's say that something is wrong with it. If something is bitter, don't tell people that it is bitter. It will just stir up a lot of unnecessary unrest. Tell them it is sweet. Sweet is bitter, and bitter is sweet.

Lack of Humility

Look at verse 21 for the fifth wild grape:

Isaiah 5

21Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

That's another wild grape. Instead of humility that indicates a complete dependence upon God, there is this pride that causes men to be wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight. They feel like they have the solution to every problem there is and they need no help from God.

Drunkenness of National Leaders

Look at verse 22 for the sixth wild grape:

Isaiah 5

22Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

The last wild grape that is brought to our attention is the wild grape of muddled thinking which arises from intoxicating beverages. Somebody says, “Do you know how much wine and liquor is consumed in the White House?” Somebody else says, “I don't think it is any of our business.” Well, I do.

It is difficult for me to think that men can make decisions that are based on righteousness and justice if their minds are muddled by intoxicating beverages. There is ample evidence, if you are to believe what you read in reports from the White House, from the council tables of our government, that these deliberations are not held without the aid of beverages.

God said, when He looked at the nation of Israel, “I expected deliberations which would reward the righteous and punish the wicked, but instead I find the wicked are justified and the righteous punished.”

The Certainty of God's Judgment

Have you read your papers lately? Are you keeping up with current events? Do you notice any similarity in this verse of Scripture and what you read in your newspapers? Well, read them again, and see if you do not reach the conclusion that this is a day when the wicked are justified and the righteous are punished. Sad. Some say, “We ought not to think about it. We ought not to even consider it. It would be better to point up the good things rather than the bad.” Well, listen to what Isaiah said after he brought to the attention of his people the wild grapes that had been growing in God's vineyard. Look at verse 24:

Isaiah 5

24Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: [notice] because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

God isn't primarily interested in details. The details change as the years go by, but the basic thing that concerns Him is found in verse 24. If you examine the things that are occurring today, and if you find that in those things the law of God has been cast away, if you find in those things that they are despising God, then you will know that verse 25 is inevitable, for there we read:

Isaiah 5

25Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, [yes, His people] and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

You say, “I have studied carefully the reign of Uzziah, and I do not find one thing to bear this out.” No, you don't, for in Uzziah's reign all was well, but Isaiah was looking through the telescope of prophecy, and that which had come across as vision, though it was future, to him was present. He spoke of it in the futuristic present, as though it had already occurred, because he knew that the end was inevitable.

Conclusion

It may be difficult for us today to think that our nation, in the midst of its prosperity, will suffer under the hand of God. It may be difficult for us, when we are still at liberty to drive our automobiles and come and go as we will, that the day will come when these liberties will be taken away from us. But mark what I tell you: If this nation continues the way she is going, you can expect the thing that happened to Israel to happen to us, and when it does, God help us!


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