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 briers and thorns shall grow up;
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 men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
but behold, an outcry! Isaiah 5:5-7 ESV
And [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 ESV
Kit had been raised by her rich grandfather in the Barbados, but when he died she came to live with her aunt and uncle in New England. She missed the warmth and sunshine and flowers of Barbados. She had never had to work before, but now she had to work very hard. Her uncle didn’t welcome her into their home, and he was very strict. The whole village followed the Puritan religion, which Kit hadn’t learned, and sometimes she made people upset because she didn’t understand their ways. One day she lost her job as a schoolteacher because she made a mistake, and she felt like giving up. But then she met a new friend, a wise old woman named Hannah. Hannah encouraged Kit not to give up, but she didn’t tell Kit that. She instead took Kit into her yard and showed her a flower that had grown from a bulb that had come from the southern tip of Africa. Even though it didn’t belong in New England, it had grown. Hannah’s simple story helped Kit understand that she needed to keep trying to fit into her new family and village.
Isaiah had told God’s people a story about a vineyard that had been cared for and protected, but still only produced wild, sour grapes. Many of the people who heard him might have had vineyards of their own, and they knew that if they had a vineyard that didn’t produce good grapes for them, they would give up on it and stop hoeing and pruning it, and let weeds grow and predators come in and destroy it. Isaiah used this story to teach them that they were like this vineyard, and that they deserved to be given up by God and to be attacked by other nations around them. God had given them love and care, but instead of being just and righteous they had become violent and hurtful, even shedding blood. Their behavior was like wild, sour grapes to someone looking for good, sweet grapes.
God told this story through the prophet Isaiah, and when he came to us in Jesus he told a similar story about a fig tree that wasn’t bearing any fruit at all. But the owner of the vineyard let the gardener have one more year to love and care for this tree before cutting it down. This story shows that God looks for us to respond to his love with good works, but even more that it shows how loving and patient God is. He is slow to give up on his people, but keeps giving them love and care. He best showed that love by coming to us in Jesus and dying on the cross for us to pay for all our sins. He sends us his Holy Spirit to live in us and to help us follow his ways and live lives that please him, and to keep us as God’s children always.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and patience with us. Help us to love and serve you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Speare, Elizabeth George The Witch of Blackbird Pond Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.