WORD STUDY – A COTTAGE IN A VINEYARD
Isaiah 1:8: “And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.”
This passage caught my attention because I am reading this as I eat my cucumber salad. Otherwise it would probably go unnoticed as it does for most Christians. Its meaning seems to be obscure but as I examined it I found it presented a very sobering thought, at least to me.
The daughter of Zion is often a reference to Mt. Moriah, a small mountain near Jerusalem where the temple stood. In a figurative sense the prophet is saying that the temple will be left as a cottage in a vineyard. The word cottage although not an incorrect rendering can be sort of misleading. You see it is the word succoth. Many of you probably immediately recognize this word and when you hear it you do not think of a cottage as we consider a cottage. When we hear the word cottage we think of a comfortable little, sturdy house. However, when you hear Succoth you think of a flimsy little booth which the Jews stay in during the feast of Tabernacles. This is really what is being referenced.
During a time of harvest, whole families would live in the fields or vineyards to do their harvesting. They would set up lightly constructed booths or succoths made of brushwood that they would live in so as to protect their fields from thieves and to be near the field so they can begin their harvesting the first thing in the morning without having to make a journey to their fields each morning. After the harvest, the little shack would be left to face the elements and would gradually fall apart during the storms that would come over the year.
The word for lodge is molown which is an inn, an overnight stop over. It was really nothing more than a shelter where rather unsavory individuals would spend the night. It was a place where there was no privacy at all. You would sleep in a little loft above your mule or camel and there would be a well in the middle of the various lofts. Everyone would have their own little campfire and in the morning they would leave. Like I said it was usually inhabited by unsavory characters and it was not unusual to wake up in the morning and find your camel and supplies missing.
So what the prophet is saying is that because of the rejection of his people, he will leave them or abandon them and their temple would fall into ruin like a temporary booth set up during harvest time.
But there is also a secondary meaning behind this as well. There is a gradually deterioration to the elements and/or a take over by unsavory individuals. I have seen many believers, churches and ministries that were once very cutting edge, dynamic, filled with the power and presence of God harvesting lost souls. Now they are like booths in the field that have been abandoned after harvest. They are deteriorating and they don’t even realize it. They live on the glory of the past, but the presence of God is no longer there. No one is really getting saved and the Word of God is replaced with a lot of sermons on good things, love and beauty so no one is offended. Even in Charismatic circles I find they try to pump it up with a lot of shouting and fast music and make people think their booth is still filled with the presence of God and it is still harvest time, but in reality the harvest is long past, the harvester has left and their booth is in decline, and deteriorating. Yet, they dance around to the music and sing heart touching songs and say, “Oh, feel the presence of God, He is still here,” but it is not the presence of God, it is just the effect of the music on one’s emotions. In ancient times they used to burn fragrances, use certain essential oils to create a feeling of euphoria, a sense of peace, tranquility and they would say, “See this is the presence of God,” but it was not the presence of God, it was only the effect of the fragrances upon the emotions. The presence of God has long since left those churches or ministries which are in decline but people do not realize that they substituted fragrances or music for the feel good.
Worse yet, some are like the lodges in the garden. They are becoming filled with unsavory type people. They are compromising with the world, trying to keep things going by using the marketing tools of the world and the wisdom of the world. They take surveys of the neighborhoods to see what the people want and what will bring them out to their churches or ministries. They seek to attract the media with their good works so as to attract more people and finances to the ministries or churches. But all the time their succoth, their booth in the harvest field has long been abandoned by God the one who will do the harvesting.
We need to occasionally sit back and take a good look at our lives. We need to determine if we are just living on the glory of the past. We need to ask if our spiritual lives are not just empty abandoned booths. Is our yahoos and praise alleluias are coming from a deep love for God or are they just echoes of past glory. We need to consider if we are not sustaining ourselves through unsavory means. Maybe we are just playing worship music as the ancients burned oils or fragrances to create that good feeling that was once the presence of God in our lives. We are saying our praises, loud prayers, and prophecies etc to convince everyone we are still in the midst of the harvest. When there lies within us unconfessed sins and a booth that has long been abandoned by God.
I would like to use that example of the old frog who would jump out pot of boiling water but if you put him in a pot and heat it up he will stay in until it boils. However, some eighth graders did that test and the old croaker was no dummy, he jump right out when it got too hot. Unfortunately, most Christians, and I include myself, just do not have the sense of the old frog to jump out. We drift away from our first love without realizing it. I know it happens to me which is why once a year I spend a week living in silence, sort of a second honeymoon with Jesus. I write about in my upcoming books to be released in January by Whitaker House entitled “A Journey into Silence.” It is on Amazon now for pre-order.