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Under the beautiful similitude of a vine, and vineyard, the Lord speaketh of his church. By reproof, and by entreaty, the Lord reasoneth with Israel on the sad subject of the church's disobedience, and setteth forth the Lord's patience and long-suffering.
Is not this God the Father, speaking to God the Son, as Mediator and Head of the church, upon the subject of his people? Surely it is the Father which hath given to his dear Son the church, and the church to his Son; and therefore it is here very properly called his vineyard. Do not fail, my soul, to remark, in the opening of this chapter, how the Father speaks of Jesus, and to Jesus. He is the only beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth. My soul, will it not prove, what of things thou must wish to have fully proved, that one heart and one soul, in this sense, distinguish God's affection and thine; if God's beloved be thy beloved, and God's dear Son be thy dear Saviour?
Observe how God speaks of the church, and the blessedness of it. First its situation, in a very fruitful hill: secondly, its security from enemies of every kind, it is walled around: thirdly, the soil in which it was placed, all the stones being gathered out of it: and lastly, the choiceness of the vine. Reader, think of the grace, love, mercy, an favor of all the persons of the Godhead, towards our poor ruined nature, which are here set forth, under these several images! The wine-press and the tower built in it, are so many farther proofs of divine love; intimating the ordinances and institutions the Lord hath set up from age to age in his church. Oh! think what an awful state that soul, that church is in; which instead of bringing forth the sweet fruits of the Spirit, bringeth forth only the corruptions of unrenewed nature, which like the wild gourd, in the prophet's pottage, produceth death, 2 Kings 4:39-40 .
May we not suppose, that somewhat like this appeal, will be among the judgments at the last day? And then it will be found, that the soul that is Christless now, will be speechless then.
Was not this awful judgment actually inflicted, when Israel became unchurched at the siege of Jerusalem? That it is more than a parable, this passage fully explains. And, therefore, there is no period in the history of Israel like that, which took place, agreeably to our Lord's own prediction, by the army of Titus Vespasian, Luke 21:5-11 . How pathetically did the prophet mourn over the event of the Babylonish captivity, under the same similitude, Psalms 80:8-16 . And, Reader, mark the concluding verses of the same Psalm and take notice how the church calls upon the Lord, to look to Jesus for the recovery of his church and people. Surely there is much gospel in that Psalm.
Here is a solemn woe denounced against carnal pursuits; and yet who feels restrained by it? My soul, you need not look abroad into the world, for examples of the unprofitableness of sin: in thyself thou mayest but too often find the sad wild grapes, which grow upon this thorn hedge of a worldly planting. Alas! what disappointment and bitterness spring out every desire that is not formed in Jesus, and sanctified by him.
The prophet speaks with confidence, concerning the issue of worldly minded men in their pursuits, because the Lord said it, and so plain, as when a man whispers in the ear of another. It is a general intimation that nothing of the kind shall prosper. Their houses shall be uninhabited, and their product nothing; yea, in measure shall they fail. Ten acres of vineyard, which; when fruitful, might be supposed to yield many hogsheads of wine, shall give out but one bath, which makes about eight gallons; and in their seeds an omen, which is in quantity a bushel, shall yield but an ephah, that is the tenth part of a gallon. Such hath ever been, and will be more or less, the disappointments of the carnal.
How striking are these expressions! wine and dancing, revelling and music, rioting and sensuality, bring on their own punishments. Hell and the grave yawn to receive those who kill themselves by intemperance. Both poor and rich, in their different means of gratification, fall under the same sins, and are alike cut off in their transgression. Here is an awful picture of a fallen state. Alas! every age produceth but the same. See a similar representation, Amos 6:1-7 .
Here is a sweet break to the sad account, which, like some herbage to the traveler over a desert, comes in to our relief in these verses. Jesus will be exalted in the hearts of his redeemed, in the worst of times. And the fold of his flock shall be satisfied with his goodness. Reader, this may be everyday seen in the midst of the world's pursuit. The church of Christ is fed, supported, and refreshed; let sinners, among the carnal, prosecute their evil courses as they please. While the dinner parties; and the midnight revellings of the world, are going on; the people of God have their prayer-meetings, and their public ordinances also. Malachi 3:16 .
Here are accounts of still increasing wickedness, and woes of still increasing misery. Reader, in the present Christ despising generation, doth not the prophet's representation suit, as though written for the very purpose? Is there not one and the same family feature? Alas how fallen is our nature: how general, yea, universal, the taint of evil? Is it to be wondered at, that sorrows abound, where sin so much abounds? Let the Reader, if by grace happily preserved from such daring impiety, not overlook, nor forget, to what cause to ascribe it. 1 Corinthians 4:7 .
Methinks I would read these verses with a twofold aspect. God had said by the prophet, in a preceding chapter; Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; while to the wicked, it shall be ill with him, Isaiah 3:10-11 . And may we not make application of what is here said, in both senses? The Lord will lift up an ensign for his people, in the same moment that he will lift up an ensign for destruction to his enemies. And when Jesus, the glorious ensign of his people's redemption comes, it is both for vengeance and for salvation. See Isaiah 11:10 and Isaiah 63:4 .
READER, let us mark from the perusal of this chapter, the two great leading points contained in it; the grace, and mercy, and loving-kindness of the Lord; and the fallen, corrupt, and wretched state of man. Both views are here presented to us: and both open to very solemn and improving subjects.
How exactly answering to the love of God to his people, is the description the prophet hath given of the church, under the similitude of a vine. Calling, his people out of Egypt, forming them into a church, and planting them in Canaan; casting out the nations before them, and watering them continually with his blessing: these things are strongly shadowed forth under the images of planting, gathering out the stones, making a fence, and causing the clouds, and the rain, and the sun, to shed their influences. - Reader, look at Jesus, that plant of renown! Behold in the wonders of redemption, what God hath wrought. And then take a view of what hath followed in all generations of the church: when the Lord looked that his vineyard should bring forth grapes, wherefore brought it forth wild grapes.
Reader, it will be your wisdom and mine, while contemplating in this chapter the riches of grace, in the Lord's forbearance and long suffering to his people, to look into our own history, and behold what correspondence we can find there, with what is here said of God's ancient people. Oh for grace to make such improvements from the whole, as to see that all our mercies are in Jesus. It is for him, and his righteousness, his atoning blood and salvation, that the world continues. But for his gracious interposition, the whole earth would have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Lord! visit thy church, thy vineyard, thy people. Oh take unto thee, Lord Jesus, thy great name, and as thou hast wrought out salvation for us, so work salvation in us. Behold the purchase of thy blood, and for thine own sake turn to thy people a pure language, that they may all call upon thee with one consent. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11