Friday, October 2, 2015


Howard Webber is a retired Pastor having served for many years in various appointments as a Salvation Army officer. He is an award-winning author and weekly contributor to this SA related blog.

On occasion, he favours us by sharing hitherto unpublished articles. Here then is a three-part Bible study. 
The FSAOF Editorial Board

Isaiah 5:1-4 read

After all God had done, providing a fertile soil, (all that would nourish), clearing the stones, (removing all that might obstruct health and growth), building a watchtower, (to watch over his precious vines), a wall/hedge, (KJV & v5), (to protect them), a winepress, (evidence of him anticipating a good crop), and planting the choicest of vines, (choosing the offspring of Abraham, his friend (Isaiah 41:8), one would have thought that Israel would have responded by giving God their best. But they sorely disappointed him. When he sought the good fruit he anticipated all he found was bad fruit, sour grapes (GNV): grapes that were not the result of the care and provision of the owner of the vineyard, but of a a vineyard that was a law unto itself. 'What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?' God cried, (v 4)

What Isaiah describes here has been repeated throughout human history and is a reoccurring theme in the bible: God lavishing his loving kindness, his care and his provision upon man and man responding with ingratitude and disobedience.

Right back at the beginning, God planted man in a beautiful garden, the garden of Eden. The garden belonged to God and he wished to delight in it, for it to be pleasing to him. He expected Adam to bear good fruit, but instead of the good fruit God planned and hoped for, he found bad fruit,  Adam being a law to himself. Adam and Eve had every sort of tree to eat from. They had all the protection and every provision they could ever wish for. They only had one prohibition, one thing forbidden, only one thing they were not to do... yet they did it! One can imagine God's pain. One can imagine him crying out, 'What more could I have done to have you please me?'

God protected and provided for David in an amazing way when he was on the run from King Saul. When Samuel anointed him to be king, that young shepherd boy could never have imagined all that God would one day give him. Yet David went on to sin big-time, with sin that included deceit, adultery and murder. It broke God's heart. Through the prophet Nathan, (2 Samuel 12: 7-9), God cried out, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little I would have given you even more. Why....why did you despise the word of the Lord?'

In Jeremiah 2:21, God cried out again, 'I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?'

Man's failure to produce the fruit he desires is repeated time and again. It seems that God's man or woman is incapable of being, (or doing for that matter), what pleases God. In Romans 7 St Paul said as much of himself, 'I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing.(v 19). For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....(v 15). For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out,' Paul knew that however much he tried, however good and patient God was with him, he was incapable of producing the fruit that God longed for in his life.

Jesus told a story in Luke 13:6-9 which showed God's enormous patience with us. The fig tree bore no fruit whatsoever, year on year. It deserved to be uprooted and burned, but the man who took care of the vineyard begged to be given more time in which he would dig round it, fertilise it and attempt to turn around its fortune. We know no more from lips of Jesus, but I would suggest through what we have already studied, that it was all to no avail.

Have we any idea of all that God has done and continues to do for us?

Do we recognise ourselves in the words of St Paul?

Howard Webber

Bournemouth UK

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