It amazes me sometimes how some people absolutely disdain umbrellas. It can be pouring rain, and they don’t care. They’d rather walk out in the rain than actually carry an umbrella. It amazes many Japanese people I know too. I’ve had more than one Japanese person ask me, “Why don’t foreigners here use umbrellas?”
It really beats me. I have no clue.
Anyway, that’s how the Israelites were. They were a nation under God. God had pulled them out of slavery in Egypt, and brought them into the promised land, and he told them that if they would keep the covenant he had made with them, he would bless them and protect them. But if they stepped out from the umbrella of his protection, they would lose everything.
And that’s exactly what the Israelites did. They turned their backs on him, and started worshiping other gods.
That’s what this passage is about. God compares Israel and Judah to a vineyard, and he tells them how he had lovingly planted them in a fertile place, cleared out all the stones, and set up a wall and watchtower around to protect them. But when he looked for good grapes from the vineyard, he found only bad. And so he asked the Israelites,
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? (4)
He went on to tell them exactly what he meant, saying,
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. (7)
Now, because of the bad fruit Israel was bearing, God told them,
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. 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. (5-6)
In other words, God was saying, “Until now I protected you from your enemies; I protected you from harm. No more. I’m tearing down the hedge and the wall protecting you, and will leave you to become a dry wasteland filled with briers and thorns.”
And that’s what God does with us, when we give ourselves over to sin. Our protection is taken away, and he will leave us to reap the consequences of our sin.
Paul once wrote to the Corinthians concerning an unrepentant sinner in their church,
Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord….Expel the wicked man from among you. (I Corinthians 5:5, 13).
In other words, take him out from the protection of the church. If he wants to sin, let him go out into the rain and let Satan wreck havoc in his life.
Why did Paul say this? To destroy the man? Not at all. He said this that the man might repent, and that his “spirit may be saved.”
God doesn’t take his protection away from us in order to destroy us. Rather, he does so to let us see how miserable this life is without him and that we might repent.
How about you? Do you disdain the protection of God in your life? Do you sin thinking that God really won’t mind? By living that way, you are stepping out from God’s protection. And the result is not joy, but misery.
Let us not live that way. Rather let us stay connected to him who is the the true Vine, and bear good fruit for him. For it is in doing so that we find true joy and true life.