Howard Mooney - The Fruit of the Vine - Wilimington Convention - 1972

We will look first of all at Isaiah 5:1-2, "Now I will sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved 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."

The rest of this chapter tells us why it brought forth wild grapes. It was not the fault of the vineyard for that was perfect. Nor was it the fault of the owner or the dresser of that vineyard.

It is the same with us. This Way of God is as perfect as it ever was. Therefore, if our lives are not as fruitful as they should be then it is not the fault of the vineyard or of the dresser. Religious people we talk to often speak in glowing terms about their cathedrals, church buildings, hospitals and so on, to the extent that sometimes we may feel intimidated. But God's people have something to sing about. Cannot we be thankful that the financial burdens have been lifted?

When a vineyard is to be planted the site is very important because only certain areas are suitable for vines. One Swiss-Italian colony in the States looked for three years to find a site suitable for a vineyard. God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit planned this Church. They wanted the right setting where every vine would have the best possible chance. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 3:17 wanting them to be " . . . rooted and grounded in love."

Love is the setting where the vineyard of God is planted. Love is a fruit of the Spirit and it takes love to beget love. This love of God, begotten in us also, extends from eternity to eternity. This love is mentioned in John 17:24 as being, ". . . before the foundation of the world." It was planned in Heaven before the world began. It was part of God's original thought and plan. The
greatest love scene to come will be when Christ and His Bride are united at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The vineyard of God is in a perfect setting. The second verse of Isaiah 5 speaks of a fence around this vineyard. This speaks of God's perfect protection. It wasn't a restriction. We are not deprived of anything but we have everything to make us satisfied and complete. We are protected, not deprived. In my teens I didn't understand this but I was willing for it. I understand it now and I thank God for this fence.

I understand that the suicide rate in the United States is one every second. The people in the United States are not starving. They have liberty, money, every convenience yet there are just so many broken hearts; people who would rather die than live like they are. God has planned for His people days of Heaven on earth, while all around us in this world, men and women would rather die.

What makes this difference? It is the fence that is around God's people. You need to stay inside the fence. You need to keep those precious, clean, blood-bought lives inside the fence and the further you go on, the more thankful you will be that the fence is there.

Then in Isaiah 5:2, it speaks of gathering out the stones from the vineyard. This speaks of God's perfect preparation. God saw the end right from the beginning, and He eliminated the problems that He saw would face His people. Business problems, financial worries and so on are all stones that God has removed. There is a wonderful fellowship you can enjoy without the financial worries that the religious world has.

The Gospel is "Good News." It is the story of the Way of Jesus. Religious people speak of the life of Jesus as the Gospel but the Gospel is the story of the way of Jesus. Every stone has been removed and there is nothing to hinder our roots going down into love and then bearing our fruit upward.

Isaiah 5:2, ". . . and built a tower in the midst of it." This tower is important for it shows that God would be near His people. God is interested in this because it is God's inheritance. As it says in Deuteronomy 32:9, " . . the Lord's portion is His people."

Every plan is for the future of God's people and for the welfare of His people. He will one day call His people to Himself. His people are His project in this world and God wants to be right in the midst of it. In Psalm 46, it says, "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble." God is in His tower watching that nothing can harm the vine.

Then we read about " a winepress therein." The winepress ensures the future of the grape. Only through a winepress, symbolic of preservation, is the future of the grape assured.

Well, when everything was so perfect, why were there wild grapes? There was a family who professed in California who had a vineyard. This family had owned the vineyard for several generations and some of the wines in their cellars were over a hundred years old. I asked them why there were wild grapes. They told me it was mainly through the lack of pruning. A nursery would take a wild vine and after three years cultivating it, would cut off all the branches and then they would graft in a certain variety. All the sap went into the new branch. This speaks to us of our denying self.

James 1:21 says, "Wherefore . . . receive with meekness the engrafted word. . . . " In Gospel meetings, we went through a grafting process. We had our own ideas, ambitions and attitudes, but through the Gospel they were all cut off and God grafted in the life, the nature and Spirit of His Son. It is God's purpose that the old, wild root would lend its strength to the supporting of this new life.

But the old root doesn't give up easily. Some vines are a hundred years old but the old, wild stock is still trying to assert itself. It will quickly put out a bud and if this is not nipped off it will develop into a shoot and then a branch. In a spiritual sense, it could only produce wild grapes because it is coming out of the old human part. Human nature will put out shoots of its own. Of course it is just a harmless looking bud at first but when the old roots take over, energy that should be going to the new life is hindered and the strength goes to the old life.

There are six "woes" mentioned in this chapter (Isaiah 5). They are all a product of the wild root. Instead of being pruned back, and being "nipped in the bud," they became a woe to the heart of God. There is a natural tendency, no problem with that, to get a car, a better position, or otherwise to get ahead in this world. But does this hinder you from giving proper time to spiritual things?

I once knew a family who wanted a better home for their children; where God's Servants could be comfortable. They wanted meetings in their home. They were building their new house with all this in mind. Their desire was good, but building that new home took up so much time that they didn't have the time to read and to pray that they used to have. First they began to miss the mid-week meetings. Later they began to miss the Sunday morning meetings and do you know, by the time that home was completed, they were outside the fellowship of God's people. The new life had died out; everything had gone into that new home and it only produced wild grapes.

If that old life is getting the preeminence, cut it back. Nothing is worth it if the new life is sapped. These old shoots are often towards pleasure. Isaiah 5:11, " Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!" This refers to this human nature being pleasure bent. The world provides every form of pleasure because that is what the world wants.

There are some good pleasures. Often there is nothing wrong with the activity itself, but some of these activities can take you away from home on a Saturday evening instead of preparing for the Sunday morning meeting. If any activity robs you of spiritual activity, it becomes a woe. There were some young people in the home where we were. They were very hearty and often had a sing and a
read together. Unfortunately they got into "evils" and they found there were more "good" evils than "bad" evils. The so-called "good" evils are just as deadly as the "bad" ones.

John 17:15 says, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." A "good" evil is anything that hinders you from giving God the proper place He ought to have.

Ephesians 5:15 says, "See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." Our time here is given to us to prepare ourselves for eternity so there are many things that are evil simply because they would take up that time. If you read and pray, then you have to redeem that time, or purchase that time at the expense of the time that you want for yourself. You have to redeem every bit of that time.`

Isaiah 7:14-16, ". . . Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good." What association do butter and honey have with evil and good? In both butter and honey, you refuse a lot of good things to get things that are even better. When making butter, the first thing you do is skim the cream off. Because you want the cream, the refuse is the skim milk. Later, when you churn the cream and get the butter, the refuse is the butter-milk. Then, with further churning, the refuse is the whey. Three good things become refuse in order to get the best; the butter.

The same thought is in connection with the honey. You see the bee going from flower to flower. The beauty and fragrance of the flower is ignored in order to get the chosen drop of honey. In a few days, the flower is gone but the honey is laid up for future enjoyment. In every day of Jesus' life, He refused good things so that He had time to read, to pray and so He could "delight His soul in fatness." (Isaiah 55:2)

Isaiah 7:22, " . . . for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land." Not everyone that enters in is left there. Some were taken away in captivity and some died in that captivity. They were carried away captives because they were too weak to defend themselves. If you want to be left, keep strong by getting the butter and honey.

Isaiah 5:18 speaks of the tendency towards iniquity and vanity. Iniquity is the desire to take our own way. Vanity is just pleasing ourselves which is a very natural tendency. Every time you see a tendency towards this, then nip it in the bud. Sometimes we have seen sorrow in older people, often because they didn't prune back the old nature but allowed it to grow. Maybe they said, "It won't
amount to much." But it doesn't get any better with time; one only gets more self-centred, selfish, secretive and so on until nobody can enjoy their company or the fellowship with them they could have had. It may not have cost them their soul but it certainly marred their testimony. One wouldn't want to grow into a cross, obnoxious old grouch and reach the sunset years with people one
didn't like around.

I think of two workers starting out in a year together in the harvest field. As the year goes by, they are getting closer together and there is a stronger union between them to the extent that often they hate the thought of separation. I have learned the secret of nipping things in the bud. I suppose I could make things miserable for my young companion but I would want to nip things in the
bud. I would feel terrible if I felt that my companion was glad to see the back of me. I would hang my head in shame and almost want to give up the work.

So when you see any tendency towards iniquity or vanity, then nip it in the bud. That woe can only produce wild grapes. You will find no comfort in them at all.

Isaiah 5:20, "Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." This speaks clearly of compromise. In the beginning God put a big difference between these things. But night is still night and day is still day. There is a great difference between them and spiritually speaking, there is a great difference between good and evil.

However, man has changed these things. There is no distinction between good and evil in the world today. Often you cannot see the difference. It could happen to us, especially parents. If there is any tendency to compromise because of pressure from children, then nip it in the bud. It doesn't matter what the world around us is doing. God's standards are still the same. Good is still good and evil is still evil. We sometimes see a tendency to change the standards of the home or of discipline in the home, but remember, that is only from the old, wild root.

Isaiah 5:21, "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight." There is no room for pride in this fellowship. We have nothing to boast of but everything we have is given to us from God. I may have a tendency to take credit for myself, for me to feel I am something now; that I have more ability now, but that is of the old human nature and the old, wild root.
Nothing can take us out of the grace of God, or rob us of our place in this fellowship more than when pride takes over.

Isaiah 5:22, "Woe to them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink." This speaks of a tendency towards dishonesty. We occasionally see crooked business practices. This is again, just from the old root where the new life has been starved out and in many instances, gone forever. There are many different things that cause the vineyard to die out and be a disappointment to God; and eventually, a disappointment to themselves. The tendencies are as much here today as they were in the days of Isaiah.

However, I do not want to close on a morbid note. Look at Isaiah 27: 2-3, "In that day sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." It was the same vineyard so why the difference? Where there were wild grapes, there was now red wine. It is because they were willing for the pruning. They were willing for self-discipline, for denial of self; they were willing to nip tendencies in the bud before they could take over. Consequently, all their energy had gone towards the support of this new life.

The longer a grape hangs on the vine, then the richer, fuller, and sweeter it becomes. You elderly people, every year makes your life richer, fuller, and sweeter. In a vineyard, the grapes may be tested for sugar content before they are picked. If they don't have enough sugar, they are left to hang a little longer. Some things get better all the time as we go on in God's way.

My parents came out of a religious world, bitterly disappointed. They came home from their first fellowship meeting enthusing over what they now enjoyed. While the workers were first visiting my parents, my father's expression changed and he looked at Mother and later told her, "We shouldn't get too enthusiastic about this because it is too good to last." In the next few months, they practically held their breath because they thought it was too good to last.

That was back in 1911. I was home in 1964 and had the privilege of a visit back home with my parents. It was the last time I saw my mother in this life. That evening, I did not do much talking. My sister and her companion had new babes and were full of all this. I saw the expression on my father's face change and he looked at my mother as he had done fifty-three years previously. He said, "The things of God mean more to us today than ever they did before."

When the grape just cannot hold any more God comes with His sickle and takes it from attachment here and takes it to safety. Death is associated with the harvest of the grapes.

Revelations 14:13 says, " . . . that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." This impresses us that death is a form of blessing. There will be no more storms, no more problems, no more privations, no more dangers because the soul has been taken home to be with Christ, in the place where God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

This is a perfect setting for a perfect vineyard which will bring forth fruit that is a joy to God and to ourselves and assure us that our lives every year, when we fit into this perfect programme of God, will become richer, fuller, and sweeter, until we cannot hold any more and then God will take us home.

I hope we will be inspired, as we think of this vineyard of our lives, to nip in the bud, any of these tendencies that could hinder our fruit. For Jesus' sake.