One thing I’m learning about this whole summarizing-a-lesson thing is that the longer I wait to write it, the less likely I am to do it. It’s not because I don’t want to but because my mind keeps moving forward, and then I get so excited about seeking God’s direction for our next lesson that it’s hard to make myself stop and think about where we’ve been. Maybe it was like that for the Israelites, too. In entering and possessing the land of Canaan (their Promised Land), they were so excited about moving forward that they didn’t take the time to look back at the lessons God had taught them.
This week’s lesson (5/27/12) started with Isaiah 5:3-4. In these verses, God asks two questions: “What more could have been done for My vineyard that I have not done in it? When I look for it to bring forth grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” To answer His question about what more could have been done, we must first look at what God had already done. Literally speaking, we could list (at the time Isaiah was speaking) everything from creating the earth and everything in it (Genesis 1) … to freedom from oppression in Egypt (Exodus) … to taking over and possessing the Promised Land (Numbers, Joshua) … to the guidance God provided (through the pillar of fire and cloud, His Spirit directing the Israelite encampments, His Word, the judges, kings, and prophets, etc.) … to the covenants God had made (with Abraham and David) …
Figuratively speaking, Isaiah 5:2 (read vs. 1-2) gives us four categories into which we can organize what God had done for His vineyard (the people of Israel): (1) He prepared the land; (2) He set apart His people for the land. (3) He built a tower in it, and (4) He made a winepress in it. The tower mentioned in Isaiah 5:2 strikes me as especially interesting. The class came up with a few reasons a man might want a tower in His vineyard. First and foremost, a tower could serve as a lookout – to see what was going on in the vineyard while, at the same time, being watchful for anything approaching the vineyard (i.e. from beyond its boundaries). Biblically speaking, those institutions (the Law and the anointed leaders of God’s people) acted as a lookout tower, observing the ways of the people and those things approaching them (both good and bad).
I’m beginning to see that one of the biggest roots of Israel’s spiritual decline is that they failed to remember what God had done for them, including the provision of a tower of perspective (Jer 6:27) and safety (Ps 61:3, Prov 18:10). We cannot afford to make the same mistake! This week take a few minutes of your quiet time and remember and thank God for what He has done for you. Don’t forget about the tower that is His Word. Ask Him to point out people in your life whom (for your benefit) God has positioned on His tower. Allow those people to point you toward God.
I had planned to move past the kings and into the period of exile in the coming lesson, but I sense that we have much more to learn from the towers that were the Old Testament prophets. So (at least for this week) we will continue in the time period of the divided kingdom, specifically looking at a lesson inspired by the book of Obadiah. Obadiah is the shortest OT book (only 21 verses). It would be good to read it ahead of time. The book focuses on judgment coming to Edom (which consists of the descendants of Esau) because of the way it has treated the people of Jacob (Esau’s brother). It might also be helpful for you to (re-)familiarize yourself with the backstory of Jacob and Esau which can be found Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 27, Numbers 20:14-51.
What about the winepress and wild grapes (Isa 5:2-4)? I’m sure we’ll hear more about those. If not, call me out on it in a few weeks. Seriously … nothing would please me more! J