Isaiah 5:3-4—And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?
Early on in the biblical record, our Father-Husbandman showed Himself strong in holding man accountable by asking tough questions. To Adam He asked, “Where are You?” and “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:9-11)
To Eve He asked, “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:13) Of course we know that God knew the answers to these questions before He asked them; nevertheless, He used questions as a way to allow man to see himself and become accountable for his own choices which were in direct violation of God’s clear instructions. Throughout the remainder of Scripture, we find a treasure of divine instructions through God’s strategic use of questions.
All of God’s questions are a call to stop, look, listen, heed a warning, and take inventory. Churches need to do this. When our ministries seem to be in disarray, perhaps our green-thumb-Husbandman is asking us some questions. “This is the way we have always done it” is not the holy creed of the church! When we are being slain in battle and fleeing from opposition, maybe we shouldn’t assume there is no sin in the camp (Joshua 7). If there seems to be little joy, little love, and little lasting fruit, maybe our church has become diseased and defective in its abiding (John 15:1-16). Maybe the Father has us in a spiritual stupor because He is asking us some questions.
In our Isaiah passage, God’s questions were a call for Israel to come to a complete stop in order to evaluate and take inventory of their relationship as a covenant people with Jehovah their covenant God.
On one occasion when a troubled church asked me for help, the head deacon came to me in tears with a broken heart over the church. I took him in my arms, called him by name, and said, “We are going to call this church to a complete stop until we hear from Jesus and what He has in mind for us.” We did, He (Jesus) did, and that church is now living again.
During those shut down-stop-look and listen times, our evaluations should fall into three categories as we ask ourselves questions.
1. Is Jesus our first love? In Isaiah God said, “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.” In Revelation we have a record of the Ephesian church, who by all appearance was doing everything right, but had left their first love and were on the verge of extinction by Christ! (Revelation 2:4-5) There are so many subtle substitutes for Jesus that we can often have a sense of false security just because the machinery is running well, the programs are in place, the doctrine is orthodox, the buildings are clean and up to date, and the music moves our emotions! Israel had the law, the prophets, and the temple, but they had left the heart, soul, mind and strength-love for God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
2. Has God given us everything we need to become all He wants us to be? God asked Israel, “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?” When a church really looks at its resources in Christ, it must admit that, in Christ, they have everything they need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:2-3). No excuses. “ . . . all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (I Corinthians 3:22-23).
3. Have we been good stewards of God’s presence and God’s presents? “Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” What do we do with what God gives? More specifically, God’s question was a sobering Why? This query goes straight to the heart—Why? God is not as interested in size as He is in sort. Our motives from the heart are what matter most to God. The rest of Isaiah 5 outlines where the heart of Israel had turned and why the grapes were wild. God’s questions should prompt us to stop and do the same.
The Bible is full of God’s questions. Who could forget God’s questions to Job which caused this righteous man to abhor himself and repent? (Job 38-42:6) Could it be that God’s questions tell us more than answers ever could?
Finally, remember that the gospels record some 135 questions asked by Jesus. One of His final questions was “Do you love me?” which is where we should probably start and finish (John 21:15-17).
God holds us accountable with questions.
Take a pause in ministry to listen to God.
Regular times of stillness can save time, money, and heartache.
Is Jesus our first love?
What has God given us?
Have we cherished and invested God’s gifts?
Jesus also asks many questions.
A Touch of Tozer
What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character, and destiny. When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which art in heaven. ‘For He willeth that we be occupied in knowing and loving’ wrote Julian of Norwich, ‘till the time that we shall be fulfilled in heaven . . . . For of all things the beholding and the loving of the Maker maketh the soul to seem less in his own sight, and most filleth him with reverent dread and true meekness; with plenty of charity for his fellow Christian.’
To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.
The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 19
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