"Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:" (Isaiah 5:1)
The prophet Isaiah now transitions into a song which is directed toward his beloved God. This song is concerned with the relationship between the LORD and His vineyard which represents the nation of Israel.
As Isaiah considered the many vineyards located in the hill country of Judah, he saw in them a picture of what God had done for Israel. The Lord had given her all that she would need in order to be well both physically and spiritually. Physically, the land of Canaan was rich in both agriculture and mining (Deuteronomy 8:9). Spiritually speaking, God had provided Israel with the ability to be fruitful if they were willing to follow His Law. In the keeping of the Law's two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40), the Israelites would have been a light to the surrounding nations thus leading the heathen to a saving knowledge of Jehovah. Indeed, God had given His people every opportunity to bear much fruit for His glory.
"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." (Isaiah 5:2)
A vineyard requires protection against grazing animals and people passing by; therefore, a fence would be very necessary. God's fence of protection is about them who love Him (Job 1:10). The Lord had promised to fence in Israel if they would serve Him only.
The stony ground of Judah required much clearing before it could be suitable for planting a crop. The Lord put forth much effort in clearing out the stoney ground of Israel's heart through the lessons of the wilderness wanderings. In addition to this, He had put down all the enemies of Israel before their eyes from the day they left Egypt to the time they found themselves planted in the Promised Land. Through every step of Israel's history, the Lord had "cleared the ground."
What good is a well-cleared vineyard without a high-quality plant? Just as a man would choose carefully the best of vines for his vineyard, the Lord carefully provided His people with the choice vine of His holy Law - a law which served as a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ (Galatians 3:24). God's mercy, provision and love for Israel all served in making their "plant" the greatest of the surrounding nations.
The watchtower of a vineyard served to keep animals and thieves at bay. The Lord's Spirit was Israel's Watchtower. In Leviticus 26:12, God told Israel, "And I will walk among you, and will be your God... ." Who could ask for a greater defense from both external and internal attack?
The winepress was the place where the grapes were trodden. It was hewn out of the bedrock and was large enough to accommodate two or three treaders. The receptacle (also hewn out of the bedrock) for receiving the grape juice was located some inches downhill of the press and was connected to the press via a channel in the rock. God expected His people to produce spiritual fruit for His glory. The reward of the labor that goes into producing a quality vineyard is realized in the quality of its produce.
Naturally, the farmer who has invested so much in his vineyard would be expected to eagerly await the results. The verb looked means to look for with eager expectation. God eagerly awaited the righteous fruit which should have grown in such a perfect vineyard; however, the Lord was greatly saddened by the results. After putting so much time and care into a vineyard, one can only imagine the disappointment of finding sour grapes. In perfect harmony with human nature, the Israelites had taken advantage of God's grace and used His blessings for their own gain. Their spiritual fruit was a stench in God's nostrils.