“Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
And he fenced it and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein and he looked that it should bring forth grapes and it brought forth wild grapes.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I look that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down." (Isaiah 5:1-5)
My husband and I have spent countless hours driving around the countryside looking for the perfect place in which to build a house. Not any place would do, we had our criteria. We wanted a place with enough room for the kids to play, a place for a garden and fruit trees, and lots of privacy. After many days, weeks and months, even years of searching, we finally found the perfect spot.
In the parable of the vineyard the first verse says, “My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill”, meaning the master of the vineyard chose carefully where he was going to plant his vineyard. It had to be the perfect spot, a place where the ground was fertile and would bring forth the best fruit of the vine. I imagine he spent a lot of time searching before finding the perfect spot for his vineyard.
After picking out the perfect location for the vineyard, the master shows his great diligence in what it takes to prepare for his precious fruit. First he puts up a fence to keep out predators, protecting the vineyard from outside influence. Then he combs the ground for stones, anything that might hinder the growth of the tender young vines. He picks the choicest vines, the very best he can afford to plant in his vineyard. He builds a tower so that he can watch over the fence for anything that might bring harm to his precious vineyard. He bought a wine press so he would be prepared, because he expected the vines to bring forth good fruit. He was a caring, dedicated master expecting nothing but the best by all his preparations in his vineyard. Imagine his immense disappointment when his vines bring forth bad grapes, after all his care and diligent sacrifice.
Matthew 21:33-44 gives a more complete picture of the parable. After the master carefully prepared the vineyard he let it out to husbandmen, people he trusted to the stewardship of his vines while he was away. After awhile he sent servants to the husbandmen to receive the fruits, but they beat and stoned them. Finally he sent his son saying “they will reverence my son”. “But when the husbandman saw the son they said among themselves, this is the heir; come let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.”
Because of the wickedness of the vineyard wherein they would kill the masters son, in his anger the master takes down the hedge and breaks down the wall, which wasn’t in good shape anyway according to Proverbs 24:30-31: it“was grown all over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof and the stone wall thereof was broken down”, probably because of neglect of the husbandman.
I love parables. I love finding the unseen little gems that a careful study will produce. The Bible Dictionary defines a parable as being “Greek in origin, and means a setting side by side, a comparison…In parables divine truth is presented by comparison with material things. The parable conveys to the hearer religious truth exactly in proportion to his faith and intelligence; to the dull and uninspired it is a mere story, “seeing they see not,” while to the instructed and spiritual it reveals the mysteries or secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Thus it is that the parable exhibits the condition of all true knowledge. Only he who seeks finds."
Isaiah uses the parable of the vineyard to symbolically tell the tale of Israel’s destruction and scattering and as I pondered upon it I considered how to apply it to me personally. My thoughts were led to the idea of comparing the vineyard as being my home, and my husband and I, the husbandmen. How is the soil in our vineyard? Is it fertile? Are we constantly nourishing it to keep it thriving and strong? Are we teaching gospel precepts that will help our family grow in truth and righteousness? Are we having personal and family scripture study? How is the ground? Do we allow stones that are thrown in to clutter up and hinder our growth? And what are the stones? How many activities are taking up valuable family time? What weaknesses are we stumbling over? What are we doing with those stones? Are we using them to build the wall, or carrying them around in our backpacks? How about the tower? Are ever watchful for enemies? What or who are those enemies? Are we aware of who our children’s friends are and who our friends are? What TV programs and movies are we watching? What magazines are we reading? What content is coming in to our homes from the Internet? How is our wall? Are we constantly keeping back the thorns and nettles? Are we preparing for the return of the master? What fruits will we be able to present to him?
When my husband and I found the perfect spot for our home, there were many obstacles to overcome. We had to split the property in three parcels and sell two of them before we could begin construction on the third. We have sold one and are still waiting on the other to sell. The economy has taken a downturn, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when it will sell. When we bought the property we began going to church in the ward whose boundaries our property was in rather than where we were renting our house. But after being there a couple of months I began feeling like we needed to go to the other ward. My husband hates change and didn’t want to, and I loved the ward as well. It was a difficult decision. One day after listening to a particularly uplifting lesson in Relief Society I thought in my mind how much I loved this ward and wanted to stay here. Immediately another thought followed, “You’re needed elsewhere.” I knew then that we needed to change wards and so after some prayer and deliberation we did. Our children have thrived in the new ward. And I know that things have not progressed on our house because our children needed to be here for whatever reason. My dream of living in the perfect house on acreage has had to take a back seat for awhile.
Right after I finished my ponderings of Isaiah 5, I picked up a sheet of paper that I had tucked into my scriptures. It had this quote from President Howard W. Hunter, “If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take his teachings and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life, for we will be committed to a single sacred standard of conduct and belief.”
I want to choose where my vineyard is, but I realize that I am not the master of the vineyard, I am the steward, and it is the Lord who chooses the place. It has taken me awhile to learn that it doesn’t matter where we are or what kind of home we are in, whatever area the Lord has chosen for us is the place that will be of the most value in our progress and it is the place that I am to nourish. The pattern he has given us in this simple parable has relevance in every aspect of our lives. How we choose to conduct ourselves in the vineyards we have stewardship over are intrinsically related to the happiness and wellbeing of our families. The consequences of our conduct have eternal significance, and that eternal significance will be very clear when the Master comes to gather the fruit of his vineyard. I think the final question is: When the Master comes, how will I greet him and how worthy will be the fruit in my vineyard?