Today’s setting feels like déjà vu all over again to those of us who spent the last two days in Isaiah 5. We’re back on the farm. Once again Israel is the vine that God has planted, and the psalmist locates a tender shoot under the watchful eye of a gifted gardener.
This time, though, we’re given a different kind of history. The vinegrower transplants this tender shoot out of Egypt and brings it to this prepared and beautiful place. Is there any more vulnerable life force than a plant taken out of its soil? We are totally dependent on God, the watchful protector who makes a place better for us than the arid lands we formerly inhabited.
The psalm is a communal lament, a crying out of a people who have known peace and prosperity in the past but now suffer and struggle to make sense of the brokenness in which they find themselves. So many communities and families could make this pattern their own heart’s cry: God has done something wonderful for us (the transplant of a tiny shoot) and we have prospered (growing to cover the mountains). Only now we have been devastated, destroyed. Once strong, we are weak again and plead for the mercy of God’s tender care and restoration. How many times have we gone through this same cycle of growth, loss, and a return to utter dependence on God in our own lives?
The psalmist closes with a beautiful picture of our one true need in moments of deepest despair: “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (niv). Our greatest need is not soil or shade or rain but for God’s face to shine on us. This holy photosynthesis alone will restore us to light and life.
Lord, shine on those in pain and grief. Restore us to light and life. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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