When I was nineteen, I was angry at my father, mostly because I thought that’s what any good nineteen-year-old should be. For a time, I laid my aches and faults at his feet in a bitter pile of blame.
You are why I am me, I thought. That October, I signed his birthday card “Kelly.” No love you, no hope you have a great day, no best wishes for another year. I glared at him over the cake and candles.
I can still hear his voice, carrying from the kitchen after the meal, wondering sadly, softly to my mother.
“I don’t know what I ever did to her.”
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
Sometimes the Father’s sorrow is harder to bear than His anger.
God’s children are breaking His heart here in Isaiah chapter five. After lovingly tending and blessing their lives in every way, His people are driven by materialism and success; they design their days for their own pleasure without gratitude; they cheer for the judgment of the other party’s sins without a moment’s humility for their own (Isaiah 5:1-2, 8-19).
Like Eve in the garden, they re-write the truth to suit their passions, believing there’s no way God’s facts could possibly contradict their feelings. They pick the fruit they must not eat and call it good for food and pleasing to the eye instead:
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
And, like me at nineteen, the blessings of their Father are not enough — they must feed on self-gratification and self-righteousness and self-pity instead. For years, I traded all my sweet for bitter. I longed for a more interesting story than the truth; I wanted something to blame instead of my sin and someone to save me instead of my Savior.
Sometimes, we just need to run out of reasons why.
God has planted and tended and guarded us. He has given us everything we need for a life of trust and obedience. Any life we grow around the stories of why we can’t or don’t or won’t will be burned and scattered away. The root will be exposed as rottenness, unstable and unable to strengthen or sustain (Isaiah 5:24).
The wild grapes of self-confidence and pride and indifference are a sign; hopelessness and fear are a warning. We’ve planted our faith in dishonest ground. We’ve told ourselves a tale that’s not true.
You can read all of Isaiah 5 here.