Now I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with the best vines. In the middle he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were bitter.
Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you judge between me and my vineyard. What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?
Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. . . .
The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence.
A vineyard requires careful upkeep, particularly pruning and irrigation, in order to produce the best fruit. God used a vineyard as a word picture for Israel. The lesson of the song of the vineyard shows that God’s chosen nation was to bear fruit—to carry out his work, to uphold justice. This passage uses plays on words: The Hebrew words for justice and bloodshed sound very much alike, as do those for righteousness and distress. God looked for good fruit. While Judah bore some fruit, the fruit was “bitter” (Isaiah 5:2).
Jesus said, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:20).
Have you examined your own “fruit” lately? Is it good or bad—useful or wild? For the best fruit, connect to the vine. As Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).