The Bible is a love story. The two main characters are God and the nation of Israel. Reading the Bible is like reading a romance novel. God is the groom. Israel is described as the bride. God even makes the prophet Hosea marry a prostitute to show him how it feels to be betrayed by a spouse.
God, pursuing Israel, charms, woos, and sometimes chastises Israel. Israel, in turn, sometimes stays faithful, sometimes goes astray, and sometimes repents of wrongdoing. The Bible reads just as one would expect from a give and take relationship.
At the climax of the Old Testament, we read in Isaiah about this relationship. Isaiah sets up a parable in which God is a gardener and Israel is a vineyard:
Isa 5:1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.
Isa 5:2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.
God tried to set Israel up in a good location. He gave Israel fertile land. He helped clear Israel’s enemies. He gave Israel laws and government. But they still turned from him at the slightest provocation. Isaiah says that God “expected” them to follow God but they did not: “So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.” Isaiah then appeals to the minds of the people to ask them what they would do with the vineyard:
Isa 5:3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
In verse 3, God asks Israel to tell Him what the just actions would be towards the vineyard. In verse 4, it is reiterated that God tried everything He could possibly do, reemphasizing the conclusion that Israel should make. God exhausted His options and thought that even then Israel would repent. But Israel never did. Isaiah, banking on the rhetorical answer of Israel, then describes how God will destroy Israel for not turning to God:
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
Just so Israel is clear about the meaning of the parable, Isaiah then interprets it for them:
Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
God is the vineyard owner. Israel is the vineyard. The people are the vines. God attempted all He could do to make Israel love and serve Him. God expected that His actions would sway Israel. Israel rejected God, so God curses them.