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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 5:1–7

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; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people 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 expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 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 it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! (NRSV)

I spent a lot of my younger years feeling afraid of a wrathful God. I hadn’t yet encountered the God of love and compassion, but I had heard a lot of preachers talk about God’s anger. This idea of God’s wrath was part of the reason that I renounced my faith for many years. This was one of the ideas about God that really bothered me.

But once I had also encountered the God of grace and steadfast love, and had done some deeper readings of the biblical texts, I began to feel differently about God’s anger. It seems that God gets mad when people are unjust and take advantage of those weaker than them. Maybe I am okay with God getting angry about these things.

This scripture pivots on the last verse in our reading that says that God expected to see justice, but instead saw bloodshed. God expected to see righteousness, right action, but instead God heard cries of distress. Things fell apart.

This is one very strong thread throughout the biblical text—that things fall apart when there is injustice. Maybe not immediately. Definitely not immediately. Many scriptures include poems and prayers asking God How long will I have to endure? and How long before you come to our aid?

But eventually, woe comes to the unjust. The arrogant will be humbled, yes, but actually all people will be humbled (v. 15). We can’t just say it’s those people over there. There’s a humility that all people need.

The author of these verses in Isaiah asks what more they could have done to avert or to repair the destruction of the vineyard (v. 4). We can ask ourselves the same question. What more could we have done, and what more can we do, to avert or repair injustice and respond to cries of distress?

God of love and justice, let me be humbled so that I can remember I am not in charge. But help me to be strong and courageous so I can work with you and your people for a just and abundant world. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life

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