Thursday, January 18, 2007

Isaiah 17 - Seeds, Fruit, and opposition

Isaiah uses a few plant metaphors to prophesy about Israel in chapter 17.  First, he talks about a day that will come when Israel will be like a harvested field of corn.  I can imagine in my mind’s eye rows of tall, dead cornstalks with no ears on them.  But… there will be a little bit left in it to be gleaned.

6 Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.

Perhaps this is a prophecy concerning the gathering of scattered Israel, saying that they will be plucked from the “outmost” branches of a decimated tree, just a few at a time.    

The next metaphor that interests me is in verses 10 and 11:

10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:

11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.

Because Israel will forget about God, they will grow plants that are beautiful in appearance, but they will come from strange, or unknown places.   These plants will grow alright and they will appear to flourish, but the harvest will be a disaster. 

If we take plants to be a symbol of doctrines and ideas, and the fruit to be the rewards for following those ideas to their end, I think this little passage has something very interesting to say.   The message is this- the things of God are often not distinguishable from the things of the world until they come to fruition.  This is congruent with the following passages of scripture:

·         The parable of the Wheat and the tares in Matthew 25:24-30 Tares may refer to ryegrass, which looks similar to wheat, but has a definitely inferior fruit.

·         Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits…

·         Alma 32:40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

Going along with this message appears to be the pretext:  It is possible to tell the difference if we remember our Creator and look to him for guidance.  The world, full of false religions, is like a great field full of all sorts of strange plants and weeds which yield miserable fruit.   Here and there, there are good plants and good seeds, but they must be searched for and they come on plants that may not appear to be the most fruitful.  The world can also be viewed as the hiding place of scattered Israel.  They are like berries to be gleaned from a harvested tree- Highly prized and hard to find. 

Finally,  I was touched by the message of the last three verses:

12 Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.

14 And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

This is saying a two things to me:  First, God is acknowledging how it feels for us to face the world, which is a huge, rushing, noisy, overpowering mass of adversaries.  It is daunting and there appears to be much power there.  Second, while the world may take advantage for a day, God will come to our aid.  Notice that this aid comes, metaphorically, in the night time before the morning.  Thus we need to trust in God all the way up to the last minute and not lose faith.

 

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