ISAIAH SESSION 6 — POISONOUS BERRIES

Text: Isaiah 5:1-12

When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.

In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster —  exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation. Oh, but if they will repent as I did, the Lord and I will rejoice and sing (Zephaniah 3:17)!

The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. He gives Isaiah visions, and words with which to paint a picture of what the Lord has shown him.

And He sends me to the church today, though I am only a pastor and teacher. But by His grace, I am what I am. As I read Isaiah, I see what the Lord showed him, as if the Lord was showing it to me. If I were going to give this a title, I would call it, “Poisonous Berries.”

Verse 1 —

The LORD is Isaiah’s well-beloved, and the well-beloved of all who are entirely His. Many would think that calling Him your Beloved is an irreverent way to speak of the LORD, but that is precisely what He wants to do in the hearts of every believer, just as Jesus Christ prayed to His Father —

John 17:25   “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

God Within you, His love within you! He wants all of you, He wants your whole heart to be devoted to Him and for you to love Him with His divine love which He will pour out into your heart by the Holy Spirit whom He gives to whoever asks (see Romans 5:5)! I cannot help but speak of this great work that the Lord will do in the hearts of all who seek Him!

What does Isaiah do for his LORD? He sings a song to Him, one given to Him concerning the LORD’s vineyard. 

Isaiah’s beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill — prime farmland. The vineyard is God’s people (Isaiah 5:7), then and now — those who have believed into Jesus Christ. He also still calls His people, the Jews, to receive their Messiah, who is Jesus.

Verse 2 — 

The LORD tilled the fertile soil on the hill where He planted His vineyard. He removed the stones, and planted it with a grapevine, so it would produce a bright red grape, the most desirable and prized grape. He made sure that there was nothing to impede its growth and production.

He built a tower in the middle of it, where a watchman was posted. He hewed out a winepress in it. He provided everything needed for a productive vineyard.

Then, He expected His vineyard to produce good grapes, bright red grapes, because He is good and He took perfect care of His vineyard. But it produced only worthless ones — literally, poisonous berries. 

Verses 3-4 —

The LORD speaks. And now, My people, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more could I have done for My vineyard?

He is good, and did only good to and for His vineyard. He provided all that it needed in order for it to produce grapes. 

Why, then, did it not produce what it should have produced? It was not His fault that the grapevine He carefully planted bore poisonous berries. But the fault lies with His people, who rebelled, and rebel today, against Him. Do you understand that when you sin, you are rebelling against the LORD? And your sin makes you produce fruit that is contrary to Him, even fruit that is poisonous!

Rebellion always leads to ruin. I know it firsthand, from my own rebellion and my own ruin. But He gave me a song of restoration, when I repented. Then He and I sang this song —

Isaiah 27:2  In that day, “A vineyard of wine, sing of it! 3 “I, the LORD, am its keeper; I water it every moment. So that no one will damage it, I guard it night and day. 4 I have no wrath. Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, then I would step on them, I would burn them completely. 5 Or let him rely on My protection, let him make peace with Me, let him make peace with Me. 6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.”

Indeed, it is a beautiful song! Now I rely on His protection. My heart is no longer divided, but wholly His! He forgave me, reconciled me to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, and then filled me with His Holy Spirit so I love Him with His love! I took root and sprouted so I now bear the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Glory to God for what He has done!

Verse 5 —

But His people did not turn back to Him, though He sent prophets to warn them, again and again. Jeremiah says 

Jeremiah 25:3 “From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. 4 “And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear . . .

And the LORD Himself says —

Jeremiah 26:4-5 “And you (Jeremiah) will say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened;“to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth.”’”

Jeremiah 29:19 because they have not listened to My words,’ declares the LORD, ‘which I sent to them again and again by My servants the prophets; but you did not listen,’ declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 32:33 “They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.”

Jeremiah 35:14  . . . “I have spoken to you again and again; yet you have not listened to Me. 15 “Also I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them again and again, saying: ‘Turn now every man from his evil way and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to worship them. Then you will dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your forefathers; but you have not inclined your ear or listened to Me.”

Jeremiah 44:4 “Yet I sent you all My servants the prophets, again and again, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing which I hate.”

Why did they rebel? As it is today, many false shepherds ruin His vineyard. They trample down His field. They make it a desolate wilderness (Jeremiah 12:10). 

His people preferred (and prefer today) the soft words of false teachers and prophets rather than the hard truth that the LORD’s teachers and prophets spoke to them then, and speak to them now. It is truth that brings restoration, if they heed it and repent.

Because of their rebellion, He tells them what He is going to do to His vineyard. He will destroy it. He will remove its hedge and it will be consumed (eaten up by Babylon’s invading army). 

He will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground — trampled by the feet of the vast armies of Babylon! Are you trampled ground, as I was when I was dead in my sins and extremely disabled by progressive multiple sclerosis (MS)?

The good news for me then, and for you now, is that His purpose in discipline and punishment is always that His people would turn back to Him. 

Verse 6 —

The LORD continues His description of the desolation His people will face, because of their disobedience. His beautiful vineyard, which produced for Him only poisonous berries, will be laid waste by Him. He will no longer care for it, no longer prune it, no longer hoe it so weeds do not choke it. And the fertile ground will become parched, for He will charge (command) the clouds not to rain on it. 

Verse 7 —

Why will He destroy what He so carefully planted? Because of their rebellion!

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightful plant. They are the vine He planted, expecting bright red grapes.

But His delightful plant bore the poisonous berries of bloodshed (oppression, and even the sacrifice of their children in fires to false gods). He looked for justice (for proper, godly judgments by His people), but found only bloodshed. They chose false gods instead of Him!

And His delightful plant bore a cry of distress (a shriek)! He looked for righteousness, for His people to be as He is, to be right as He is right. But instead, He heard the shrieks of children as they were burned to false gods, and the shrieks of slaves who were beaten by their wicked masters, and the shrieks of those who were robbed of their land by their greedy brethren. 

Verses 8-9 —

Woe to those, the LORD says, who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room, so that they have to live alone in the midst of the land! It is a picture of those who are greedy, who want to hoard great tracts of land, and who are never satisfied with what the LORD has provided for them. They buy so much land that there is none left on which others can live. 

To Isaiah’s ears, the LORD has sworn, “Surely!” Without a doubt! My people, you were greedy for land and houses, so others were left desolate, with no place to live. So, your many houses will be made desolate — even great and fine ones — without occupants. He will remove His people from the land that they hoard, and the houses they treasure.

Verse 10 —

The LORD will also make the land unfruitful. Ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath (7.5 gallons) of wine, rather than the expected 500 gallons. A homer (2.5 pounds) of seed will yield but an ephah (1/10 of a homer) of grain, about one day’s gleaning. The yield of the land will be virtually nothing. 

Verse 11 —

The LORD sees all that His people are doing. They rise early in the morning so they can begin to drink. They stay up late in the evening so wine may inflame them (perverse sexual passion in view here)! 

Paul warns the believers in Corinth that no drunkard or any other sinner will inherit the kingdom of God —

1Corinthians 6:9   Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 

But the good news comes in the next verse —

1Corinthians 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Have you been washed? Have you been inwardly cleansed of sin? Or do you rise early to drink in what the world drinks in, and stay up late, passionate for what the world is passionate for? 

Then repent! Turn back to Him, and cry out to be filled with His Holy Spirit. You will no longer crave what the world craves, but will greatly desire continual fellowship with your Maker!

Verse 12 —

The LORD’s people were partying with the world, actively rebelling against the LORD, doing what the nations around them did. They held great banquets, accompanied by lyre and harp, flute and tambourine, and wine! 

But they did not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, nor did they consider the work of His hands. 

What were His deeds? He took perfect care of them, so they would produce bright red grapes, but they produced only poisonous berries. 

So they would see His deeds of discipline and punishment, for He would send them into exile after they had been overrun by Babylon’s armies. Remember, He does it so He may restore those who repent!

They were His work, but they produced poisonous berries instead of bright red grapes. And so they will experience the work of His hands when He removes His protection and Babylon invades Judah and even Jerusalem, and carries them into exile!

They did not consider, they did not pay attention. They had no respect for His deeds on their behalf, and the work of His hands on their behalf. 

Instead, they feasted with the world, with idolaters, with false prophets and teachers! It is the same today, among God’s people, and it was the same for me, before I repented and He changed my heart.  

Beloved, He has provided for you in every way. What fruit do you bear, for Him? He has tended you, to make you prosperous and so that you produce His glorious fruit —

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (faith), 23 gentleness (humility), self-control (Spirit-control) . . .

Or have you produced the poisonous fruit of the flesh (the sin nature)? Paul describes that fruit to the believers in Galatia —

Galatians 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But those who belong to Christ Jesus are commanded to crucify their sin nature, after they have come to faith, by asking Him to purify them by filling them with His Holy Spirit, thus making them partakers of His nature 

Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

2Peter 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Judah’s passions and desires are on full display in this passage. It is the same today, among God’s people. And so, like Isaiah, I speak boldly and bluntly to you, and warn you to turn back to the Lord. 

Turn back now! Ask the Lord to fill you with the Holy Sprit! He will cleanse you inwardly, and crucify the sin nature in you, which you inherited from your father, Adam. Do it today, for a day of judgment is coming!

Lord, may Your people hear and heed, may they see the promises that repentance brings. Amen.

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