Everyone likes a good love song, am I right?
There’s the feelings they invoke in us, make us feel warm and help us remember the loved ones in our lives. Maybe we’ll turn a song on to help lift us up when we’re having a bad day, a day when maybe we don’t feel as loved.
Music has this ability to move our emotions from one mood to another. It captures us in ways we don’t even expect sometimes.
When you watch movies, music is always important in setting the mood for what is happening on the screen. It is used to prepare the audience.
Music is being used in our scripture reading today as well.
This is likely a familiar song that people might know, a song about a landowner and his vineyard. The landowner cares for the land, loves the land, provides a beautiful garden for the vines to grow. But what happens? What does the landowner receive for his hard labour? Sour grapes.
Then the song takes a wild twist. The landowner is angry. All that work and what does he get? An unusable product. There’s nothing he can do with sour grapes.
So he pledges to destroy it all. Get rid of it! It’s no good, it never will be good.
And here’s where the song takes an even more shocking twist.
The vineyard is Israel. It is the people of Judah.
We’ve moved into the book of Isaiah this week. It is written about the same time as we read last week from Hosea. Where Hosea was in the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah is writing in the Southern Kingdom.
The Southern Kingdom has been watching as the Northern Kingdom has been taken over by invaders, which has put a lot of pressure on them to preserve themselves. They’ve even taken to signing agreements with neighbouring nations to help keep the peace. Agreements which have allowed them to take on pagan practices.
Both of these kingdoms are living in the promised land given to their ancestors by God. God has prepared it for them, he has loved them, and now they have become sour. It’s not the most faithful people who live here.
These are words of harsh judgement to the people. They have been given everything they need to live good, positive, faithful lives, and yet they have turned sour. They have not been faithful to the God of their ancestors, they have turned their backs on the promises made, they have fallen short of what they could have been.
There’s an interesting play on words in this passage. In verse seven of chapter 5 it says, “he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”
There was an expectation of something good, but instead the opposite happened.
The song we began with turns to a tune of a spurned lover, sort of like a Taylor Swift song. There were such high hopes for the relationship, but things fell apart. There was dishonesty, unfaithfulness, and rejection.
If we follow through the song we can see a progression.
It begins with a tune of singing about a beloved preparing the vineyard, but in verse 3 the subject changes to being about “me”, it says, “And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.”
By verse 6 the song is now speaking for God as God decides what He will do with this useless garden. It says He will “make it a waste.”
This whole passage in chapter 5 is a parable, much like how Jesus uses parables himself. Only instead of a story, this one is in the form of a song. It takes a familiar setting all the listeners would know very well and turns it into a teaching moment.
The people are the sour grapes. They have been living in a lovingly prepared vineyard, yet they still turn out sour. All the work of the landowner has gone in vain and what other option does he have than to destroy the crop and figure out how to start over.
Jesus also used the imagery of a vineyard in his parables. In Mark 12 he told this story,
“A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.” (Mark 12:1-3)
Another story of a generous landowner being generous in his treatment of others, allowing them to make use of his vineyard to grow their produce, and when it came to collect on the rent, the people turned their backs on the landowner, beating and even killing the representatives he sent.
If we go back all the way to the creation story, we read of how God created a beautiful world and how everything in it was called “good!” Then he created man and woman to care for creation and all that was in it. And what did they do? They also rebelled.
For whatever reason rebellion is our nature. The temptation of sin is too strong for us to be continually faithful to what God has blessed us with. It happened with Adam and Eve, it happened in our reading last week from Hosea, and it’s happening again this morning in the book of the prophet Isaiah.
And it still happens today.
In our reading this morning we see God is angry at how the people have been acting when they are under threat from outside forces. People have rejected God in order to make peach with pagan nations and their gods. Instead of following the call of God to be a loving, faithful nation, they have taken it upon themselves to try and make their own peace.
One has to wonder today what God thinks of the state of the world.
When you turn on the news you see people turning refugees away because of hatred and fear. These people are running for their lives from terrorists and dictators who are destroying their homes and families. Yet nations are rejecting them, painting them with the same brush as those they are running from.
Politicians are using the plight of the refugees to win election points. And people are buying into the rhetoric of fear. They are buying into the propaganda.
As a result, good people are dying. Children are dying in cold, overcrowded camps surrounded by fences and guards.
Is that what God envisioned when He created the world?
Maybe he should destroy it all. Maybe He should make it a vast wasteland, it seems we’re incapable of caring for it and each other.
Yet He doesn’t. God chose a different path than maybe many of us would choose if we were in his shoes.
Let’s finally look at what we read from Isaiah 11,
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah. 11:1-3)
God chose to not destroy the world, but instead decided to enter it.
Jesus Christ is God among us. On this “Christ the King” Sunday, we celebrate that He has come to show us the way.
He came as one to show us the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He came to lead us back into relationship with God, and to show us the right way to live in the world and with each other.
Today we celebrate Christ the King who still lives among us by the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to those who’s hearts belong to God.
We celebrate today that Jesus Christ is Lord, not just of this world, but he is Lord of our lives.
To say that Jesus is Lord of my life is to say everything else is not. If Jesus is Lord, then our possessions are not. If Jesus is Lord, then our family is not. If Jesus is Lord, then our bank account is not. If Jesus is Lord, then even this church is not. If Jesus is Lord, certainly I am not.
Instead of destroying the Southern Kingdom (although eventually it does fall), God instead promises a Saviour. Instead of acts of destruction, God responds with an incredible act of love.
This is yet another example of how the people are unable to get the job done, and when they can’t do it, God does.
The world is a broken, hurting place right now. And there are times when it feels like there’s nothing that can happen to make it right. Even though there are many people who are trying to help, it feels like more and more are turning their backs and wiping their hands clean of the problem.
That’s not how God acts.
So while many turn away, what we can count on is God working still.
And we can count on that work being acts of love like we can never fully know, because we are often focused on destruction.
Jesus showed us another way.
When we follow him as Lord of our lives, nothing is the same. Instead of destruction, our hearts respond with love.
So let’s let the love be shown. Let us respond as God would have us respond to the needs of the world. Instead of turning away, let’s turn towards, extending an open hand, a blessing of love and acceptance.
This is Christ the King Sunday. The last Sunday before we turn our hearts to the season of eager anticipation we call Advent which starts next week.
Let us celebrate the gift of life that God offers us through His Son. Let us celebrate that this life extends far beyond our earthly life and continues into the heavenly kingdom where we will be in the presence of God for all eternity.
May the Lord truly be the Lord of all there is for each and every one of us, so we may receive His love rather than his wrath.
At the end of our reading this morning, we hear the desired plan of God,
“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.”
May it be so. May our King, the Lord of all, bring his perfect peace to this broken world and may he heal our hearts of our own brokenness as we seek to be followers of his way.