For the next several Mondays, I'm going to explore this idea in a series I'm calling "Rooted: Plant Analogies in the Bible."
I'm a would-be gardener. I have an area of our yard picked out, but since we don't have a fence yet and we do have a menagerie of wildlife that frequent the area (gophers, rabbits, deer, possums, coons, wild hogs ...) it is most prudent for me to wait. But I love the idea of putting in the care of protecting tender sprouts, hacking at weeds, and patiently awaiting the harvest a home garden can provide (especially given how much produce I seem to buy).
In both Song of Solomon and Isaiah God paints a picture of a vineyard in need of protection. The young lovers of Song of Solomon have foxes to catch before they strip the vines of blossoms before they can even set fruit. And in Isaiah the Lord predicts the fall of Isarael after He strips away their hedges and their walls.
From the time a grapevine flowers, it is almost four months until mature fruit is ready to be picked. In the Song of Solomon there is a need to keep those blossoms on the vines. The lovers don't express the need for a taller fence or a thicker hedge, but rather a need to catch the foxes.
The first thing I take from this verse is that we have something fragile and desirable that needs to be protected. In its time this vineyard will yield fruit. But we aren't able to built walls large enough to keep every imposition from threatening the fruitfulness of the vineyard come harvest time. We can't just put up all wall and distance ourselves from the world. We have to stay diligent and watchful. When temptations and sources of harm that can keep us from bearing fruit sneak into our lives we have to catch them. We don't simply observe them and hope that they won't have an impact on us, our families.
We can teach our daughters to have healthy boundaries, but we also must teach them how to catch those things which get past the boundaries. Perhaps they are stealthy, or perhaps they look cute and innocent in the beginning. They may seem small and of little harm, but if they snatch too many blossoms there will be no fruit. They can't be dealt with later. If allowed to scamper freely through the vineyard it may become too late to rescue a bountiful harvest.
But in Isaiah we see that there still is a need for a wall. In verses that read like a beautiful song with a sad end, God shows that without His protection, when He removes His walls and His hedges, the vineyard is consumed and trampled. Wasted. Uncared for. There can be no fruit when it is choked with thorns and brambles ... and no fruit without rain. Grapevines actually have very specific needs for well-timed rains when putting on fruit.
We have some mustang grapes growing along an old fence behind our house. Every year in the spring the hardened, bare, dormant vines suddenly spring to live with fresh green leaves. Blossoms peek shyly and become hard round promises of fruit to come. The vines grow incredibly fast during the rainy season.
And almost as quickly, when the temperatures climb and the rain ceases, the leaves become paper-thin and wilt. What fruit hasn't been spotted by damage, eaten by the various birds and beasts that may be able to tolerate the acidic fruit (these aren't your grape jelly and wine variety grapes, I hear you should wear gloves even to pick them!) become shriveled and unappetizing.
On the opposite side of the fence, thorny vines have all but overtaken the fence line and grow nearly to chest-height on myself. They grow quickly, and I never see any grapevines on that side of the fence.
Next week I will share why it is so important to protect the fruit-bearing capabilities of your "plant" as illustrated in the Bible ... which will also partly answer why God removed the hedges and barriers around Israel and let her vineyard be overtaken.