First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Calling Upon God When Times Are Bad
1 Let me sing for my well beloved a song of my beloved
about his vineyard.
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
2 He dug it up
gathered out its stones,
planted it with the choicest vine,
built a tower in its midst,
and also cut out a winepress therein.
He looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
3 "Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
please judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?
Why, when I looked for it to yield grapes, did it yield wild grapes?
5 Now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will take away its hedge, and it will be eaten up.
I will break down its wall of it, and it will be trampled down.
6 I will lay it a wasteland.
It won't be pruned nor hoed,
but it will grow briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it."
7 For the vineyard of Yahweh of Armies is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah his pleasant plant:
and he looked for justice, but, behold, oppression;
for righteousness, but, behold, a cry of distress.
World English Bible
Why do churches fill with petitioners when times are bad, but seem half empty in good times?
Why do people cry out to God only when times are bad? Isaiah gave an cold, but accurate answer. Because they don't take him seriously any other time. And that was the reason they found themselves in the darkness.
Isaiah, a prophet in the royal court, bravely spoke against the corruption of power elite in Jerusalem and the lax fidelity of the people at large. Serving in the second half of the eighth century, the prophet drew a clear line between the sin of the people and the chaotic political situation in which they found themselves. War after war raged on their borders and threatened to engulf Judea. "Why was God abandoning his people?" the nation asked. Isaiah answered with the song of the vineyard.
The key to interpretation lay in verse seven. From this vantage point, the song makes sense. God planted his people like a vineyard. He granted it protection and favor (choice vine planted on a fertile hill with hedges and a look-out tower). [5:1-2] Isaiah then challenged a popular view the people had about themselves ("We are the Chosen People") with a call for judgment. The fruit of such a carefully planted and tended vineyard was sour; the people God protected and grew was unfaithful and unjust. [5:3-4] What should God do? At this point, the prophet declared the judgment: God would abandon his people, just as his people had abandoned him. [5:5-6]
The words of Isaiah were harsh, but necessary. For the people did not have a relationship with God as a birthright to be squandered. Like any other relationship, a faith walk with God required constant, honest prayer and a highly moral life.
It is only natural we call upon God when we feel endangered. But, this is not the only time to take God seriously.
How do you take God seriously? When have you called upon the Lord in need? What happened?