Saturday, October 1, 2011

The house of Israel the vineyard of the Lord.

During the Old Covenant Israel was like a vine planted in the land. In Psalm 80:8-11 a summary of the history of Israel is record that goes on to describe how this vine spread across the country from Jordan to the Mediterranean which opens with the words. You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, And caused it to take deep root, And it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, And the mighty cedars with its boughs. She sent out her boughs to the Sea, And her branches to the River.

Yahweh as John the Baptist used metaphor from the culture of Israel that they would immediately recognize. Grapevines and vineyards were critical to the life of the people of Israel, and they were highly valued. (1Kings 21:2-3)

Psalm 80:8-11 archaeology shows very clearly how Israel subsequent entry into the Promised Land, their "planting." God's planting became a wild vine, a vine in short which rejected its Husbandman. It ran wild and produced wild grapes, or as Isaiah put it, Isaiah 5:1 Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: 2: And 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. 3: And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4: What 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? 5: And 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: 6: And 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. 7: For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

It is clear from these verses that the house of Israel is the vineyard the men of Judah are his pleasant plant. The output of a vineyard depends basically on three things: climate, soil quality and work. Notice that after Yahweh had done the initial preparatory work of digging, planting clearing out the stones and hedging He expected good grapes. Yahweh had done more than His share in these three areas. What turned out? Isaiah 5: He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. All vineyards, orchards and gardens must be given time to come to fruition. Now the time had come and Yahweh expects results in proportion to the input He has made in the vineyard.

Many centuries later, Jesus used this metaphor of a vineyard in Mark 12:1-12 that would immediately bring to mind the figure of a vineyard referring to Israel in (Isaiah 5:1-7) What then does all this mean? God expected them to produce spiritual fruit. After all, this is the main produce of every spiritual vineyard. But notice the language Jesus used as he speaks the Pharisees and scribes. Matthew 23:15 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. The nation of Israel was to be a light to all the other nation and lead them to God, but instead they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. Those who produced wild fruit wound deeply regret it on the Day of Judgement.

Isaiah says the hedges of protection is removed. Isaiah 5:5 And 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. This picture is repeated again using the same metaphor.

Notice language of the Psalmist about the hedges of protection Psalm 80:12-16 Why have You broken down her hedges, So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit? The boar out of the woods uproots it, And the wild beast of the field devours it. Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, And visit this vine, And the vineyard, which Your right hand has planted, And the branch that You made strong for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. Did they perish by fire after God removed his hedges of protection? You bet they did.

Some years later, after John the baptist and Jesus made their predictions about the harvest. The apostle John writes about the very same harvest in Revelation. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14-15)

There are some very important things here that must be understood in context of these verses. One the language of a sickle, cutting into a ripe harvest is always used by God before about His judgment in (Joel 3:1-13) Two a winepress is used to separate the seed from the wine. Pressing - The skins and seeds and stems are separated from the juice This metaphor of separating is used by John the Baptist and Jesus as well making a reference to flesh Israel.

Three the word “earth” is often used in our translations of the book of Revelation. The Greek word γη would often be better translated “land.” Its definition is given by various Greek Lexicons as land, earth, soil, or dirt. This word does not have a “planet” meaning as does our term “earth.” This Greek word is translated “earth” only 65 % of the time when it appears outside Revelation. However, the word is translated 97% of the time “earth” in the book of Revelation. This makes many passages appear to be world-wide when the context indicates a localized action or condition.

The land or earth is the land of Palestine clearly under discussion here by John. Notice how it is normally translated “land” as in Matthew 10:15, 11:24.

Forth the distance of the blood flowing out of the winepress is 1,600 stadia. They were wild grapes of the vine of the land who would be trampled. The blood flowing as high as the horses’ bridles would portray the gravity of this judgment. The distance of 1,600 stadia (about 180 miles) just happens to be the approximate length of the land of Palestine. The judgment would be in the land of Palestine not the planet “earth.”

John the baptist timing about God’s judgment on that very generation was right on. However, there is a 40 year period called the all ready but not yet. God waited another 40 years for his judgment, not willing that anyone should perish.