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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 30, 2020  

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)

An interesting way to begin to look at this passage is to consider the ways different translations of the Bible caption these verses.

The NRSV titles this passage as “The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard.” The Message translation describes the passage as “Looking for a Crop of Justice.” The New English Translation uses “A Love Song Gone Sour.”

The sense of this passage is that the Lord has given us his vineyard—everything to make us the best possible. Then something goes wrong. Is there anything that God could have done to make things better? No. In this analogy the problem is with the grapes.

God expects justice. What is God’s justice? In God’s realm justice has to do with relationships—right relationships with God and with our fellow humans and with our environment itself. So if there is a problem with justice, there is a problem with humankind’s relationships.

Fast forward to today. How would we characterize our relationships with God, our fellow humans, and our environment? My response is that for the most part people are well intentioned and doing their best. However, too often we take our cues from something other than God’s word, God’s intent for us.

How do things like brinksmanship, hubris, keeping score, a sense of superiority and real privilege factor into our relationships? I can only look into my own heart, a heart that God already knows better than I do and offers the means to correct my heart and therefore my relationships.

I am no different than anyone else. We each have the God-given means to correct our relationships and heal our world. It is up to me, along with everyone else, to take full advantage of that means.

Dear Lord, I pray that you will help me to grasp the courage and clarity that you so freely offer. Amen. 

Written by Blake Anderson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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