New Art, Song of the Vineyard
Jamie and I stopped by the little country store for a donut after we dropped Chloe off to her piano lesson. We were greeted by a lot full of marked down pumpkins and mums – the last fruits of fall. Last week, it had been a happy surprise to find the pumpkins for only $2 each. Today, I found it rather sad to come upon this forgotten lot of browning, rotting, dying things. Because of what they signal ahead.
Winter is coming….again. The waiting season when everything lies dormant beneath the freeze. The season with cold so bitter we forget the sweet promise of spring. But life does return in due season.
There is going to be fruit where we can only see decay.
God promises restoration in our lives like that of the changing seasons. He promises growth and new life in places we’ve only experienced as broken and barren. God sent the prophet Isaiah to His people Israel with this promise in a song:
“I will sing for the one I love a song about His vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it….then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit” (Isaiah 5:1-2).
One bad apple spoils the bunch. Israel could not produce good fruit. Is there any good that can come from this land? From these people? The Lord inquires, “What more could have been done for my vineyard?” (Isaiah 5:4). Did the Lord’s own mighty, outstretched arm not bring them up from slavery, and provide all those years in the desert? The Lord Himself led them by cloud and pillar of fire, daily closer to the promised land, with its giant-sized fruits, flowing with milk and honey. But the majority only saw giant barriers – too big to believe God, and His promised harvest.
The thorns of Sovereign circumstance so embittered the Israelites that they forgot the God who cares for them. The Gardener of the Vineyard who tenderly prunes us toward fruit-bearing glory (John 15). In the trampled wastelands, they lost the hope of spring.
There is a similar story of redemption in the book of Hosea. In fact, restoration is the story of the Bible. Every prophet of every age has told and re-told this story. Because it is God’s story, and we are His vineyard. I have particularly taken to heart the account in Hosea, because I am a lot like Gomer – the woman in the story who was Hosea’s wife.
Gomer had led a sinful life. She was unfaithful and bore illegitimate children. God called Hosea to marry her, and to take her back again and again in her infidelity. Their union was a picture how God is with us. There are seasons of brokenness and devastation, but all for the purpose of bringing us back to Him. We see this pattern in Gomer’s life, “I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst…..I will block her path with thorn bushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way” (Hosea 2:3, 6).
God makes promises to Gomer; not only for herself, but for her children too (See Hosea chapter 2). He describes times of punishment, but with the promise of restoration. “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hosea 2:14, 15).
Achor means trouble, and Gomer has been living in the valley of it. Her life choices have caught up with her, and she painfully sees them playing out in her own life, and in the lives of her children. She is walled in on every side by the thorns of circumstance, and her children are lost. Here, in the wilderness of her life, God promises He will give her back her vineyard.
She and her children will be restored.
This is the promise I hang on to every day. I cling to the knowledge that God is tending His vineyard, and everything He allows to happen in life is moving us toward restoration. There is going to be fruit where we can only see dead things. This is the song of the vineyard, and I will sing it for the One I love. Even as I walk through the wintry valley of the shadow of death with trouble on every side. Even there will I sing in the rooted hope of spring- the eternal fruit of a heart set on things above.
“In that day…declares the Lord,
“I will plant her for myself in the land”(Hosea 2:23).
“I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16).