In front of our town home, where we lived before our current neighborhood, there were three very large sea grass like bushes on the other side of the parking lot.  They were huge and beautiful when in bloom, though my children frequently were cut by their sharp, long leaves which were so inviting to run though or pluck as a long sword.  In the winter, the landscapers pruned those things all the way down to the bottom so they just looked like little hay bales or stumps.  Two totally different looks for this plant and two totally different effects for the setting around it.  That is about the season I find myself in these days.

Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.  I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.  I will command the clouds not to rain on it.  Is. 5:5-6

There is pruning and there is total abandonment.  When God observed that the vineyard He had created for fine wine, Israel, was only producing bad grapes, this was His response.  He would make it a wasteland.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  Matt. 27:46

Because there were no good grapes to be found, no, not even one, Jesus took on the destruction of the vineyard for whom He had come.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,and he will surely curse you to your face.”   The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”  Job 1:8-12

God did not allow Job to be destroyed or trampled.  Only Jesus could fully withstand that because only Jesus was truly pure and righteous.  While Job’s friends had it all wrong, we still see by the end that Job didn’t accurately understand his own relationship to God before what we might call this “pruning”.  Jesus was crushed for our transgressions so that we may be pruned to bear His righteousness.

Nonetheless, “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has” is pretty tough stuff.  On far less loss I am willing to “curse God to His face”.  Or if not curse God, because let’s be honest, I’m  a good southern girl, I’m quick to assume total abandonment and call into question everything I have believed about God as easily as Adam and Eve did.

And I’m starting to think that is just what He intends.

He doesn’t want to destroy me, but He does want to destroy my false notions about Who He is and who I am in light of that.  What looks and feels like a wasteland, by faith in His substitution, becomes for us nothing more permanently fatal than winter pruning.