Isaiah 5:3

Isaiah 5:1-7 (see also Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 18:13; Ezekiel 24:13)
“Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”

God uses metaphorical language to express the fact that He had set Israel up for success, but which turned out the other way, as Jeremiah 2:21 similarly states: “‘Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?’” Zephaniah 3:7 similarly states concerning God’s legitimate expectation of repentance and righteousness from Israel: “‘I said, “Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction.” So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.’” 2nd Chronicles 36:15-16 similarly states: “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.” Apparently, through the sin of the people, their window of opportunity was closing, as sin caused them to harden their heart until reaching a point of no return, that is, “until there was no remedy.” So God, who “had compassion on His people,” had done everything that He felt was sufficient, and which established a basis for accountability. So what “more” could He have done? That rhetorical question affirms that there was nothing else that could have been done, at least from the standpoint of what was consistent with God’s own standards, as He has generally determined not to irresistibly control people’s wills, and which shows that God is just as concerned with how people become saved, as to whether they become saved.

The problem for Calvinists is that their theology requires them to answer back to God and say, “Well, God, You didn’t do all that you could do. Who better than You would know that Irresistible Grace is given in every single case involving the elect?” The result is that Calvinists are theologically committed to turning this passage, and others like it, into an anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism implies God as representing Himself as relatable in human terms in order to make a particular point, though not necessarily representing Himself in His fullest aspect.

What do Calvinists believe?

We should be offended by the concept of a Messiah who can’t be a Savior without our permission.

Our Reply:

Perhaps we should not be offended by a Savior who doesn’t want to come in and establish His rule by force. Perhaps being a King over a kingdom of marionettes is beneath the majesty of the Most High.

What do Calvinists believe?

The expression of divine disappointment evidences God’s complex set of emotions, since while on the one hand, He acts on behalf of sinners, on the other hand, He knows full well that it is futile since He has also decreed their rebellion from before the foundation of the world and rendered it certain for His glory.

Our Reply:

Not all types of glory are godly and honorable, and the type of glory that Calvinism would otherwise attribute to God is less than godly and honorable.

Dave Hunt comments: “Well God, You could have given them Irresistible Grace. You could have predestined them to Heaven. There’s a lot that You could have done. No, God says that it’s your choice.” (Why Does God Create The Unsaved?)

One non-Calvinist comments: “Isaiah 5 portrays God as a vineyard owner who had busied Himself with the task of ‘planting’ his people Israel— ‘the choicest vine’—on a fertile hill, digging all around it, removing its stones. Despite the legitimate expectation of Israel’s bearing ‘good’ fruit after all He had done, God is exasperated at Israel’s ‘worthless’ yield: ‘What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?’ (5:4). Jeremiah similarly writes of God’s planting Israel as a ‘choice vine’ and ‘faithful seed,’ but Israel rejected God (Jer. 2:21). The same theme of God’s legitimate expectation of repentance and righteousness from Israel is found in Zephaniah 3:7: ‘I said, “Surely you will revere Me, Accept instruction.” So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.’

Ben Henshaw explains: So according to the Lord Himself, He had done all He could do to His vineyard, and yet it still did not produce acceptable fruit. Shouldnt we be able to answer the Lord, ‘Sorry, but you obviously didnt do all that you could have done Lord. You could have irresistibly caused your vineyard to produce good grapes. The Calvinist, to be consistent with his doctrine, could object in such a way. So here are my last two questions for my Calvinist friends. Would you feel comfortable saying such a thing to the Lord? Would you contend that God did not give sufficient grace for the Israelites to produce acceptable fruit? (Arminian Perspectives)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians comments:Arminians agree that God could have irresistibly caused them to bear fruit. But He did not. God has determined, generally, not to irresistibly control peoples wills with respect to sin and righteousness.” (SEA)

Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians comments:When I’ve appealed to similar passages in which God expresses His horror at human evil, I’ve heard Calvinists say that this is God expressing His ‘complex emotions’ (a phrase that sounds very much at home on the lips of Oprah or a Lifetime Channel movie). Some Calvinists claim that though God decreed all of this sin and evil for the sake of His glory, He feels really, really bad about it, because He knows that this will lead to ruin in this life and the next. So any time God is hurt or angry over sin, and even when God goes to extreme lengths to mercifully and/or vindictively deal with sin, all we’re seeing is His ‘complex emotions’ at work. Here, He knows that the fix has been in from the foundation of the world, but He feels bad about it, so He acts on behalf of sinners, even though He knows that it’s a lost cause--because He made it so! This brings up a question: Is God’s preceptive will (‘DON’T SIN; LOVE RIGHTEOUSNESS!’) a slave to his decretive will (‘SIN, YOU REPROBATE; HATE ALL THAT IS GOOD AND BE DAMNED!’)? This is multiple personality disorder.” (SEA)

If God had not given them sufficient ability to repent and turn back to Him, then how could they reasonably be held accountable? But, if God had given them sufficient ability, then they could be reasonably held accountable. God is not mocking their depravity, and God is not judging them for what they could not do, but what they could have done and should have done. God did not leave or abandon them. God was right in their midst, enabling them, and instead, they spurned Him. Compare with Isaiah 65:2: I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face.” Yes, God did all that He felt was reasonable and necessary for them to repent and turn back to Him, but they hardened their heart and refused. To reiterate, in the Lord’s analogy at Isaiah 5:1-7, it simply does not seem likely at all, that the Lord would have responded well to an answer from Israel that it really was His fault, for failing to do more. Rather, from God’s perspective, He had done enough, and that fact alone makes unrepentant Israel accountable and ultimately, guilty.

Click here for a Blog discussion on this point.

Question:  In judging Israel by this analogy, do you suppose that the Lord would have accepted an answer that lays the blame upon Himself? Do you suppose that God would have accepted an answer that He had not done enough, because He knew full well just how depraved they were, and yet denied them the means to overcome their depravity?

Answer:  That’s exactly how Israel answered back to God. Just after the Lord made a similar plea to Israel at Jeremiah 18:1-11, Israel answered back to God: “It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.” (Jeremiah 18:12) God’s response is not to say: “Oh yeah, right, I forgot about that whole Total Inability’ thing. Sorry Israel, My bad.” No, rather God turns to the heathens to see if even they had ever heard of such a ridiculous thing: “Ask now among the nations, who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel has done a most appalling thing.” (Jeremiah 18:13)
Question:   What does God mean by “I expected it to produce good grapes”?

Answer:  God did what He felt was sufficient. God gave sufficiency of means, which of course then sets up a basis for accountability.
Question:   What “more” could the Lord have done?

Answer:  That appears to have been a rhetorical question, but if you are a Calvinist, then wouldn’t you have to conclude that God could have given them an Irresistible Grace?, which to a Calvinist, is the only thing that can tip the scales against man’s depravity.
Question:   Is this anthropomorphism, where God feigns human limitations?

Answer:  God was indicating His expectations to Israel, not any lack of omniscience.