Summary: Listen to a Genuine Love Song 1) Learn how much God has done for you 2) Learn how much God expects from you
What percentage of songs on the radio is about love? 50%? 75%? 90%? I don’t know the exact percentage but whether it’s rock, pop, or country, I’d say that most songs are about love and relationships. Does this mean that songwriters understand love because they write about it so much? No. Not when you consider how most love songs are about people trying to figure out love. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a love song by someone who knows what love is? That’s what our sermon text is this morning - it’s a love song written and sung by God himself and it’s meant for us. As we listen to this genuine love song we’re going to learn how much God has done for us, and also how much God expects from us.
When people write love songs they use nicknames like “Honey-pie”, “Pumpkin”, or “Sunshine” to describe their loved ones. In his song God calls his loved ones: “Vineyard.” God calls us this because he wants us to learn how much he has done for us. Just think about how much work it is to plant a vineyard. If you were to do this atop a hillside in the Okanagan Valley, you would first have to clear the trees, till the ground, remove the stones, plant good vines, and then build a fence around it all to keep out the bears and other critters. God says he’s done all that for us and more (Isaiah 5:1b, 2a).
But what does God mean that he has cleared stones from us, planted us, and put a fence around us? First and foremost God is describing what he has done for us spiritually. Contrary to what many people think, when it comes to spiritual encounters, God makes the initial contact. We don’t go looking for God any more than a patch of ground looks for a farmer to work its soil. It can’t! The farmer must seek out and work the soil if it’s to be productive. Wasn’t that how things worked in the Garden of Eden? After Adam and Eve ate from the tree they weren’t supposed to eat from, they ran and hid from God because they were afraid. Adam and Eve would have remained in hiding had God not come looking for them and promised to send them a savior from their sin.
God continues to pursue sinners today. In fact he’s doing that right now through the words of this sermon. He wants you and me to know that he loves us. He’s doing more than just telling us he loves us, he’s actually creating or strengthening faith in that promise of love. Just as a farmer must remove stones before he can plant his vineyard, so God must work over our stony hearts removing our doubts and skepticism before he plants faith. This happens whenever we hear or meditate on words from the Bible. Through those words God the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and goes to work to create faith. Even after faith has been created, the Holy Spirit stays on to protect that faith and to nurture it just as a farmer stays on to prune his vines once they’ve been planted.
So why has God done all this for us? Well why does a farmer go through the hassle of planting a vineyard? He plants a vineyard so he can enjoy the fruit it produces. In the same way, God has created faith in our hearts so that we will produce fruit, that is, do things that bring God joy. What is it that brings God joy? The Apostle Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22b, 23a). When God sees us doing these things it brings him joy.
But is that what God sees us produce? It’s not what he saw in the Israelites of the prophet Isaiah’s day. God expected his people to produce choice grapes because he had done so much for them but instead he found only sour ones. Sure on the outside the Israelites may have looked good but on the inside they were rotten. God brings out that point with a word play in the last verse of our text. God said he looked for justice but found bloodshed. He sought righteousness but heard only cries of distress (Isaiah 5:7). It doesn’t sound like much a word play in English but it is in Hebrew. In Hebrew, God said he looked for mishpat but found only mispach. He hoped for zedekah but heard only zaakah. The Israelites may have thought that the way they were living was good enough for the Lord, close enough to the righteousness and justice he demanded, but it wasn’t. They were way off target. In fact they were doing the opposite of what God expected from them.