“The new wine fails, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourine cease, the noise of the jubilant ends, the joy of the harp ceases. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The city of confusion is broken down; every house is shut up, so that none may go in. There is a cry for wine in the streets, all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.” (Is. 24:8-11)
Isaiah describes the desolation, the destruction of the city, and repeatedly describes it in terms of the absence of wine. The new wine fails, there is no wine with songs of joy, and even when they want wine, and they cry for it, there is none. The image is not just about the drink, the point has everything to do with joy and gladness. There is no joy; there is no rejoicing; no singing; no musical instruments. This is because the city is empty, and there is no one to sing, no one to celebrate. But it is also because there is no one there to cultivate the earth, no one there to work the land, to plant the grape vines, to harvest the grapes, to press them, and ferment the wine. There is no harvest, and so there are no harvest songs. And there is no harvest because there was no planting, no labor, no tilling, no weeding, and therefore there is no produce, no fruit, no wine, no joy. First comes work and labor, then comes the harvest and joy and rest. First comes work, then comes Sabbath. But this is the image of an inverted Sabbath. Here there is ceasing, here there is rest, there is a Sabbath, but it is not a Sabbath of joy, not a Sabbath of singing, not a Sabbath for wine. But we know why this is the case. Back in chapter 5, Isaiah pronounced a woe upon those who rise early in the morning to get drunk and drink wine until late at night, playing instruments at their feasts while they disregard the works of the Lord (Is. 5:11-12). This is because their feasting follows a lifestyle of greed and grasping rather sacrificial labor and generosity. But this feast is the standard by which we ought to judge every feast. This table is the standard by which we ought to set every table. And this table was set with the broken body and the shed blood of our Lord and Savior. We only drink this wine of joy because Christ our God suffered and bled for us. In other words, the only way there can be truly joyful Sabbath feasting is when there has been truly sacrificial work and generosity. And we want our tables to prove this. Our tables, our feasting, our Sabbaths, our glasses of wine must be resurrections that follow crosses. They must represent faithful labor, sacrificial love and overflowing generosity. Otherwise God will come destroy our city. He will strip away our pretend parties, our selfish joy, and he will drive us out of this land of plenty. So set your tables with open hands, generous words, and with generous helpings. You have a Generous Father in Heaven, and you are here because of His love.