Formations 07.09.2023: God Persists

Isaiah 5:1-8, 13-17

A line in Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse” gives us what is now a familiar proverb:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.

We usually cite the line not in the original Scots, but in a more understandable English version: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In other words, no matter how carefully a project is planned, accidents or misfortune can still happen. We’ve all been there, haven’t we. We all know the frustration that comes when things don’t go according to plan.

This week’s passage invites us to consider the possibility that God can also relate to plans going awry. Isaiah sings a song in which God is depicted as a vineyard owner who plants and cares for a vineyard, only to be rewarded with a harvest of wild, unpalatable grapes. The vineyard, Isaiah says, is the house of Israel, who have utterly failed to produce the fruit that God intended for them.

We’re taught to think that God always wins. And in the ultimate sense, we can be confident that God will be victorious at the end. Yet the Bible is full of stories of sinful humans thwarting God’s will—and the pain this inflicts on themselves and others.

We might even think of the Bible as the unfolding story of humans resisting God’s plans over and over again…and God persisting, striving, rewriting the script until, in the fullness of time, God at last prevails.

That is what God sets out to do in Isaiah 5. God sets out the nature of Israel’s undesirable fruit in the accusations of verses 8-15: greed, haughtiness, and lack of knowledge. By contrast, God is exalted by justice and righteousness. These are the fruits that God wanted Israel to bring forth.

And God is going to keep working with God’s people until justice and righteousness prevail.


• Why do you think some people find it shocking that God’s will is not always done on earth?
• How would you describe what God is feeling in this passage?
• How does this passage help us to see Judah’s situation from God’s perspective?
• What are some ways we can see the world as God sees it?
• If we really could see the world and the people in it as God sees them, how might we live differently?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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