Isaiah 27:2, 3
In that day sing you to her, A vineyard of red wine.…
The vine is a familiar Bible figure for the pious individual; and the vineyard, or cluster of vines, an equally familiar figure of the Church. Several things make the figure specially suitable. The vine is a beautiful plant; it is dependent, and cannot be its best when standing alone; it brings forth rich and abundant fruit; it needs constant and careful tending; its wood is useless for any other purpose than carrying the sap that flows through it; and it is exposed to peril from changing atmospheres and outward foes. To this last point of comparison these verses direct us. For the others such passages may be consulted as Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7. We note that vineyard-keeping includes -
I. TENDING. This is called to mind by the very strong assurance, "I will water it every moment," which is evidently meant to impress on us the constancy, the care, the gracious wisdom, the prompt helpfulness, of the Divine dealings with the Church. To our minds it has a somewhat exaggerated sound, but that is only because we have no associations with a parched, hilly, hot, and almost rainless country, such as Pales-fine or Egypt. Constant and abundant irrigation is the essential condition of vegetable life in such lands, and to it the science and practical skill of the people are devoted. Channels are made in which the water may run to the vineyards, and much of the gardener's skill is devoted to this regular and efficient watering. The Eastern idea of a fruitful tree is one "planted by the rivers of water;" "its leaf shall not wither." They who are thus careful about the watering of their vines will be sure to do everything else for them that is necessary for their well-being. They will gather out the stones, enrich the soil, clean the blue, prune luxurious growths, guide the trailing branches, and thin the crowded bunches. And so does the Lord of that vineyard, the Church, meet her needs at every point. That he should "water it every moment" suggests that his supreme care is for the renewal of her vitality, and assures us of his further care of all the forms and expressions of that vitality. We may be sure, in New Testament language, that with "his dear Son, God will freely give us all things." He will feed, he will correct, he will encourage, he will check. Whatsoever is needful for the wise tending of the Church, we may fully trust him that he will do, for he is a Master-gardener. In following out this thought, precise practical applications may be made to the conditions and necessities of the particular Church addressed.
II. WATCHING. "Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." Van Lennep tells us that "vineyards which are at a distance from a village require a constant watch and guard during the fruit season, or they are completely devoured by the jackals." Some of the very earliest Egyptian paintings are vivid-hued representations of trellised and festooned "vines," while, peering through the bough-twisted fences, is seen the sharp and mobile nose of the "fox," stealthily stealing towards his favorite repast. It is usual to dig a ditch all round the vineyard, into which stone posts are driven, branches are twisted in and out of these posts, and, as wild plants and briars soon grow up among them, a thick and solid fence or hedge is made. But the bus-bandman is obliged from time to time to examine all parts of the hedge, and close up any gap or breach made by the foxes, jackals, badgers, hares, hedgehogs, and perhaps even wild bears which, by trampling, destroy more than they eat. A frail shed raised on poles a good height is prepared for the defense of the vineyard, in it a watcher remains day and night while the fruit is ripening. From his elevated position he can see all over the vineyard, and arrangement is sometimes made for his signaling to the neighboring village in case of emergency. He is provided with weapons suitable for dealing with the precise foes which he may have to encounter. These points will suggest the gracious forms in which God has ever defended his ancient Church. Historical illustrations may be given. What he has ever been, that he still is; and the individual Christian, as well as the Christian Church, may rest secure in his keeping. No foes can come nigh us that he will not see. None can prove stronger in attack than he in defense. Sometimes the Christian may, in his despairings, say after over-worn David, "I shall now Perish one day by the hand of Saul;" but, with God's watching and keeping, he shall no more perish than David did. The Church, overestimating the force of evil at any given time, may cry that it "is in danger." It is always an untrustful cry, raised when men fail to look to the "Watcher in the booth," who keeps the vineyard night and day. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his People from henceforth even forever." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine.