Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa
Today’s Passage: Isaiah 63
Wine Watch: vv.2-6, see below
You know the grapes of wrath, right? No, not the novel by John Steinbeck; he based the title of his novel on the phrase “grapes of wrath” from the first verse of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” You know the line, right? “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” Well, that refers back to Revelation 14:17–21, in which an angel executes God’s judgment on the earth by harvesting “grapes” for the winepress of the wrath of God. Before the basket press and horizontal screw press became widely used in the late Roman Empire and early Middle Ages, workers would juice grapes by stomping on them–and in the winepress from John’s vision in Revelation, the workers in the winepress squeeze out blood that runs for two hundred miles.
And I used to think the chain of references ended there, but no. John’s alluding to the first part of today’s chapter, Isaiah 63. Isaiah describes this dude “majestic in His apparel” (63:1) who shows up from Edom, his clothes stained red “like the one who treads in the wine press” (63:2). The dude, who is generally inferred to be God himself, explains: “I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me” (63:3). It’s like the story of the Little Red Hen. God asks, “Who will help me press the wine for my banquet?” (Isaiah 25:6-9). “Not I,” said the people. So God tramples them like grapes in a winepress. Those red stains on his robe? Bloodstains.
This is one of those unabashedly aggressive pictures of God’s judgment that you end up grappling with if you read the Bible long enough. I’ve grappled with them before on the blog here, and I’ll likely grapple with them again. For now, I’ll just note that there is also a Biblical precedent for asking God, “Where is your justice? Where is your love?” And you look at a book like Job, and God finally gives answers to our questions–and in all likelihood, we end up grappling with those too. We’re like Jacob, wrestling in the dark with God, trying to wrangle a blessing out of him at the cost of a dislocated hip. So it goes.
But there’s mercy in today’s chapter too. In vv.7-14, Isaiah praises God’s kindness toward his people, and you’ve got lines like “So He became their Savior; in all their affliction He was afflicted” (63:8-9) with a sacrificial tone that can’t help but remind me of Jesus Christ. And you’ve also got one of those surprisingly rare instances in the Old Testament where God is overtly referred to as “Father” (63:16). Isaiah’s dealing with a historical situation which is intermittently dark and light, often confusing and convoluted, and he’s intent on delivering a message from God that entails both hope and judgment, salvation and wrath. Wrestle with God all you like, but don’t miss out on the blessing.