“Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven; behold and tend this vine, preserve what your right hand has planted”
With all the rain we have had lately, many people have forgotten the serious lack of rain that preceded it, but not everybody, especially those whose investments were threatened. We had planted a few things before the rain stopped coming, a small vegetable garden and two Japanese Maples. As the tell-tale signs of thirst began to appear, like the browning and wilting of leaves, we began watering them. We had spent some money for the plants and seeds, but we were most concerned about the time and energy we had spent spent digging holes, tilling the soil, and erecting barriers to keep out the wildlife. We had made a small investment, and we didn’t want our efforts to be wasted. I can only imagine how many of our local farmers must have felt, since they had invested so much more by comparison.
A vine is one of many metaphors for God’s people that is used in the Scriptures. God’s people were threatened many times, and in the verse quoted above, the psalmist is using this metaphor to give voice to his desire for God’s protection. He appeals to God to “look down from heaven and tend this vine.” He makes this request on the basis that his people represent something in which he is invested. After all, he has planted them. He has called them into being. They are his. Surely he cares if something happens to them.
It reminds me of the story of Jonah, the unwilling evangelist who required a three-day stay in the belly of a fish in order to be convinced to call the people of Nineveh to repentance. Nineveh was a sworn enemy of Israel whom Jonah wanted to experience the wrath of God. Much as he feared, they heeded his call, repented of their sins, and were spared. As Jonah camped outside of the city, in mourning over God’s decision to not to destroy it, God caused a bush to grow up overnight, providing Jonah with some much needed shade. The following day the bush was destroyed by a worm, making Jonah even angrier. God responded to Jonah’s anger with these words, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow…and should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 9:10-11). Through the bush God was attempting to demonstrate to Jonah that the people of Nineveh were an investment. He had created them in his image; therefore he cared about them deeply.
We too are God’s creation, his investment. He has invested so much in us and in our salvation, even sending his only Son to die on a cross for our sins. He won’t simply stand idly by as we wither away. He will do everything he can to make sure we grow into the people he created us to be. Let’s cooperate with his grace so that his efforts are not in vain. To borrow a phrase from two Moravian missionaries, “May the Lamb that was slain received the reward of his suffering.”