The Joy Of Wine
This blogpost is the fourth and final one in a series on the Church As A Vineyard. We have talked about the picture of a vineyard running through the Bible as a symbol of God’s blessing and favor, and it’s frequent use by Jesus in teaching about nourishment and fruitfulness in our lives and pointing to a harvest of souls and restored lives to be brought in.
So, what’s next? Doesn’t the whole process end with the harvest? Well, after the planting, pruning, growing and harvesting, we should not forget there should also come a time of enjoyment and celebration – the joy of wine.
As vineyards are symbolic for a place of blessing and favor, wine is a Biblical symbol for joy. It’s connected to celebration and gladness and received out of God’s hand.
Psalm 104:14-15 (NLT)
You cause grass to grow for the livestock and plants for people to use. You allow them to produce food from the earth, wine to make them glad, olive oil to soothe their skin, and bread to give them strength.
I think that some of us may be forgetting the element of enjoyment in our Christian lives. We can get so occupied by the growing and the harvesting – which are good things! – that we forget to embrace the joy that comes from knowing God and receiving His blessing, both materially and spiritually.
Today we are going to look at an Old Testament principle around rest and celebration which points forward to the ministry of Jesus and the Kingdom of God and has a beautiful application for our lives today.
Sabbath – Sabbath Year – Year of Jubilee
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt to bring them to the Promised Land, He gave very long and detailed instructions as to how their society would run. He gave them instructions on social relationships, family relationships, how to run the Tabernacle, how to do sacrifices, what to eat and what not to eat and how to be a nation that would function under His blessing. These instructions were revolutionary. God wanted His people to be different than the other nations, so He gave them the conditions for His blessing.
He instructed them first to have a weekly rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest – the Sabbath, which was holy and they needed to approach it as such. In Leviticus 25 God gives further instructions. They need to treat the seventh year as a Sabbath year.
Leviticus 25:1-6 (NLT)
The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.
So, this was to be a year of reduced work, of enjoyment and of sharing in the produce of the land. The harvest was not to be brought in to be sold, but the fruit of the land would be public property. Everyone had the right to eat from it, without paying for it. The produce of the land belonged to everyone. So, here we see this principle of Sabbath – of giving yourself a break and resting in God, relying on His providence being extended to a complete year.
But it will go even further! The rest of Leviticus 25 is an instruction to the new nation of Israel to have a Year of Jubilee every 50 years, which is like a Sabbath year on steroids.
Leviticus 25:8-12 (NLT)
“‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
We are not going to have time to read the rest of the chapter, but these are instructions that will follow:
All Israelites, who had sold themselves into slavery to pay off debts, were freed.
Property that had been sold to pay off debts reverted back to the families who were originally to inherit it.
There was no work on the land for the entire year.
What were the effects of this Year of Jubilee?
The Year of Jubilee would eradicate permanent poverty. The people had to show mercy to the poor and release them from debts, giving them a fresh start. No society on earth or economical system has been able to avoid that people would fall into permanent poverty.
I’m talking about a poverty that goes beyond just a lack of money, but becomes a self-sustaining system of having no chances, no hope and no encouragement to think long term. But in the Israelite society, families were not to fall into permanent poverty, making sure that a poverty mindset wouldn’t be transmitted from generation to generation.
The Year of Jubilee discouraged the people to focus on getting more stuff. The people of God had to understand that ultimate joy is not found in getting more stuff, but in more of God.
Both the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee emphasized that God’s people were to be a community of faith where people would take care of each other.
The Year of Jubilee pointed to God’s provision, since the land was not to be worked in for an entire year. The society that God had in mind when He brought His people to the Promised Land was a society where people felt responsible for each other, upholding justice and freedom, while maintaining a regular pattern of rest and celebration.
The Year of Jubilee pointed forward to life under the rule and reign of God. It was a way of letting it be on earth a bit more like it is in heaven.
But the people of God didn’t live this way. We don’t find any evidence in the Bible that this Year of Jubilee was really obtained. And the nation didn’t live under God’s blessing, as they could have.
That idea of “the joy of wine” was something they only experienced irregularly. It’s something they expected that would come in the future.
Year of Jubilee and the Kingdom of God
Through the life and the ministry of Jesus, the Kingdom of God would break in to life on earth. What was scarcely experienced in a material way in the Old Testament, Jesus came to bring to full fulfilment both in a material and in a spiritual way.
This is how Jesus started His public ministry:
Luke 4:16-21 (NLT)
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Jubilee)
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
When Jesus began His public ministry, He announced that His ministry was going to be like a Year of Jubilee. Now is the time of the Lord’s favor! Now is the time that you will experience what it is like to live under the rule and the reign of God.
Jesus demonstrated what it means that the Kingdom of God is breaking through into human existence – healing, justice, freedom, favor and a complete salvation from the power of sin. This, by the way, is the ministry that Jesus handed over to His Church.
The Year of Jubilee as it is described in book of Leviticus points forward to the rule and reign of God.
The eternal rule and reign of God is announced in the Old Testament, it breaks through by the ministry of Jesus Christ, it is continued through the ministry of the Church and will ultimately be fulfilled when Jesus returns.
Revelation 11:15 (NIV)
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”
The Party Shouldn’t Stop
Let me put this in the context of the series. We’ve been using the biblical metaphor of the vineyard to understand the church and discipleship better. How does this all relate to that Joy of Wine?
As Christians and as the Church, we are ambassadors of that Kingdom of God which is here already – we can experience it, it has broken into history – yet, we are still expecting its fulfilment. Our role as the church is to continue this Year of Jubilee.
What was Jesus’ first miracle? At the wedding in Cana He turned water into wine. The wedding that was supposed to last seven days was threatened to be ended because the wine was finished.
Jesus turning water into wine signifies that a time of joy has come, a time of the Lord’s favor, like Year of Jubilee – but it also says this: the party shouldn’t stop. The Year of Jubilee was only once every 50 years and would end after one year. But the ministry that Jesus would start, wouldn’t end with His Ascension – it continues until it’s fulfilment when He comes back.
There is no end to God’s goodness, there are no limits to His favour and His provision will never run out! You and I can still experience and what it means to live under the rule and reign of God!
So, as the people of God, we are to be a people that experience this favor of God, share it and extend it to the world around them.
We experience the favor of God in our lives
Joy and celebration should mark the Christian life. That doesn’t mean that you always have to smile and pretend like you’re happy. Joy runs much deeper than happiness, because happiness is circumstantial, but joy comes from the never changing God.
We are called to celebrate and to enjoy the goodness of God. Partying in the right way and for the right reasons is a very spiritual thing to do – because we acknowledge the goodness of God and express our thankfulness.
We share the favor of God in the community
Within the community we share the favor of God. We are responsible for each other. Those who have share with those who do not have. Those with an abundance of joy minister to those with a lack of joy. We serve each other’s needs because we are a community that lives under the Lord’s favor and demonstrates what it is like to live under the rule and the reign of God.
We extend the favor of God to the world around us
Justice flows out of the Christian community, because we are ambassadors of the ever-expanding Kingdom of God. And so, we do everything in our power to restore justice.
Living as a People of Joy
So, let’s be a people of JOY. After all that work of planting, pruning, growing and harvesting – we get to celebrate the joy of wine. Don’t forget to rest in the Lord’s favor and to taste of His goodness.
And also, as in the Sabbath year and in the Year of Jubilee, the fruit of the vineyard was public property. God doesn’t give His blessing only to be enjoyed by a few, but it is to share – within the community and with the world outside.