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June 14, 2019

Sermon Isaiah 5 . . .“Bible songs:  Let me sing for my beloved”

“Bible songs:  Let me sing for my beloved”

Isaiah 5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Back in the early ‘70s, Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, and Chuck Negron of a band called, “Three Dog Night,” sang a song called, “An Old Fashioned Love Song.”  You probably know how it goes:  “Just an old fashioned love song/Comin’ down in three-part harmony/Just an old fashioned love song/One I’m sure they wrote for you and me.”

Across the years, composers have written quite a lot of love songs in most every genre you can imagine.  Just think, for example, of all the songs that have the word “love” in their title!  (As I mention their names, try not to sing along!)  Elvis Presley sang, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love.”  The Beatles sang, “All You Need is Love.”  Pat Benatar sang, “Love is a Battlefield.”  Stevie Wonder sang, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”  Foreigner sang, “I Want to Know What Love is.”  And Paul Simon sang, “Loves Me Like a Rock.”

And along with those many love songs, there’s also quite a lot of “love gone bad” songs too!  Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs once sang a song called, “I Would have Wrote You a Letter, but I Couldn’t Spell Yuck.”  Jimmie Bussell sang a song called, “My Wife Ran Off with My Best Friend, and I Sure Do Miss Him.”  And I don’t know who sang, “You Were only a Splinter as I Slid down the Banister of Life” and “My John Deere was Breaking Your Field, while Your Dear John was Breaking My Heart.”

Good or bad, it seems we can’t help but sing about love.

And, believe it or not, some seven hundred before Christ, even the prophet Isaiah once wrote a song about love, a song we, today, could call, “You Were a Bunch of Sour Grapes in My Vineyard of Love.”

It’s strange if you think about it.  God does quite a lot of things we would never expect!  In the book of I Kings, as Elijah once hid behind a rock, God whispered.  In the book of Isaiah, He whistled.  In the book of Jeremiah, He frowned.  In the book of Leviticus, He smiled.  And in the book of Psalms, He put tears in a bottle.

Now here, in our text for today, He sings a song--a love song.  But as beautiful as it is, it’s one of the saddest songs there ever could be.

Please turn in your Bible to page 724.  Isaiah chapter 5, starting at verse 1:  “Let Me sing for My beloved My love song concerning His vineyard:  My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; He built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and He looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.  And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.  What more was there to do for My vineyard, that I have not done in it?  When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”

It was some seven hundred years before Christ, a time of moral, spiritual, and political collapse.  The northern kingdom, the kingdom of Israel, had already fallen, and Judah, the southern kingdom, would soon be next.

That’s why Isaiah couldn’t help but write in chapter 1:  “Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire,” and in chapter 2:  “Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of His majesty.”

But it was also from his pen that came wonderful words of gospel.  As he wrote in chapter 40:  “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Let’s look again at the text.  Verse 1:  “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; He built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it.”

Look closely, and you’ll see there’s nothing more the farmer could have done for his vineyard.  First, he planted it on a hill, because grapes grow best on well-drained, sunny hillsides.  Then he dug it out, fertilized it, and cleared it of stones.  And he built a watchtower, to scare away birds and foxes and robbers.

There’s really nothing more he could have done!

But what did he get for all of his hard work?  In the words of verse 2:  “He looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.”  In Hebrew, it’s “beushim”--tiny grapes, hard grapes, sour grapes, useless grapes.

It won’t be long, just a couple of weeks from now, and you can buy some fresh, sweet, juicy, mouth-watering peaches from your grocery store shelves--you know, the kind that, when you bite into them, they drip their sweet, juicy nectar down your face.  That’s a peach!

Ever have an unripe persimmon?  Hopefully not!  Take one bite, and your mouth will pucker like it’s never puckered before!

And that’s just what the farmer found growing on his vines.  He looked for grapes, good grapes, sweet, juicy, mouth-watering grapes.  But what he got, he wanted to spit out of his mouth.

Now as you’ve certainly realized by now, this song isn’t simply about a farmer and his vineyard.  It’s about God and His love for the people of Israel.

Year after year after year, He guided and guarded them.  He blessed them and protected them.  He gave them freedom from Egypt, manna from heaven, and water from a rock.  He appointed judges and anointed kings.  And no matter what they did to Him, never once did He forsake them.  And all He wanted was for them to love Him in return.

And what did He get?  Verse 4:  “What more was there to do for My vineyard, that I have not done in it?  When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”

So now what?  What would He do when they failed to love Him?  Verse 5:  “And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.  I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.  I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”

And there’s more!  Verse 8:  “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field.”  Verse 11:  “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink.”  Verse 18:  “Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes.”  And verse 20:  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

It’s one of the saddest love songs there ever could be!

Ever felt like this?  I’m sure you have.  After all, there are lots of ways to break a human heart.

You raised him the best you could.  You prayed with him, you modeled love and grace for him, and you taught him right from wrong.  Now, you sit and wait till the consequences play themselves out.

You loved her.  You would have done anything for her.  Till she betrayed you.  Then suddenly, all your trust was gone.

There are lots of ways to break a human heart.

And there are lots of ways to break God’s heart.

As much as we might hate to admit it, the Lord could sing the very same song about us!  As one author put it:  “There are ‘bad grapes’ in abundance in the American vineyard.”

Has He blessed us?  Yes He has, far more than any other nation on earth.  Think of all that He’s placed at our feet--ore, minerals, oil, forests, pasturelands, farmlands, and more.  Think of our heritage, our economy, and our freedom.  We live in a land where “all men are created equal...endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

And as God has so richly blessed us, He expects us to bless Him in return.

As Isaiah wrote in verse 20:  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

Ever heard of “sologamy”?  It began back in 1993 when a woman named Linda Baker, a Los Angeles dental hygienist, invited seventy-five of her closest friends, walked down a makeshift aisle in a bar in Santa Monica, and married herself.  And by the power vested in an actor friend, she took herself to be “her own lovely wedded person.”

And if that’s not enough, in January of 2015, Yasmin Eleby married herself in Houston, complete with ten bridesmaids, family and friends.  Then she went on a honeymoon with herself to Cambodia, Laos, and a jazz festival in Dubai.

And how about Nano, a twenty-year-old Norwegian, who claims to have been born the wrong species!  Believing she was supposed to have been born a cat instead, she hisses at dogs, and meows at her friends.

And last, but not least, in December of 2015, Paul Wolscht, a fifty-two year old father of seven, said he didn’t want to be an adult anymore.  So he left his wife and children, called himself, “Stefonknee,” and set out to become a six-year-old girl.

As Isaiah wrote:  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

In an article entitled, “Five Things Christian Parents Must Do to Raise Godly Children in a Secular World,” author Natasha Crain writes:  “In a secular world, kids will frequently encounter challenges to their faith.  And while atheists are often well prepared to lay out their argument against God, many Christian parents are not equally prepared to teach their kids about Christ.”

So what does she suggest?  She writes:  “Parents must continually deepen their understanding of Christianity...Parents must intentionally make ‘spiritual space’ in their home...Parents must study the Bible with their kids...Parents must ask what questions their kids have about their faith and...Parents must ask their kids the tough questions they don’t think to ask.”

Only then, she says, can we hope to raise godly children in a secular world.

One more thing--it seems there was a seminary professor who liked to do elaborate object lessons for his students.  And one day, as they came into the classroom, they saw a big target on a wall along with a number of darts.

Then he told the students to draw a picture of someone they didn’t like or someone who had made them angry.  Then he invited the students to throw darts at that person’s picture.

One drew a picture of someone who had taken his girlfriend.  Another drew a picture of his younger brother.  Another drew a picture of a former friend.

Then the class lined up and began throwing darts.  Some threw them deep.  Some threw them so hard, the paper tore.  Finally, as the students returned to their seats, he took the target down from the wall.

That’s when, underneath, they saw a picture of Jesus.  Holes and jagged marks covered His face and chest.  His hands and feet were pierced.

Only there can we hope to find forgiveness and peace.

 

Spirit of God, breathe on Your church, pour out Your presence, speak through Your Word.  May Christ be known in every nation, for He is our hope and salvation.  This we ask in His name.  Amen

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