Just as Jesus often used parables to illustrate His teaching, so Isaiah does here. It may be an already existing parable which he presses into service, whether it is his own creation or not it certainly serves his purposes well. It relates to what he has just been saying in at least two main ways.
First, it illustrates God’s various ways of working in history. Sometimes He deals harshly with His people, and sometimes He saves them from their enemies; sometimes He gives them over to their enemies. Why do His ways change so much? The parable gives the answer. A farmer changes his manner of working according to the materials he is working with and the stage he is at. So too the Lord changes His manner of working in history. But His ways are not haphazard; He is working according to a plan. Most of the processes described in the parable suggest pain – plowing, threshing, grinding – but all contribute to the final good of food production. In a similar way the Lord’s severe dealings with His people are directed towards a good end which He constantly has in view, as we have seen (vv. 16 & 22).
The second connection is via the theme of wisdom, to which our attention is pointedly drawn at the end of both sections of the parable (vv. 26 & 29). In acting as he does the farmer is simply putting into practice a wisdom that he has received from God. That is why his work is so productive: he is open to God’s wisdom and willing to be guided by it, unlike the proud, foolish leaders of Jerusalem. Like many of Jesus’ parables, this apparently gentle and reassuring picture of rural life has a sting in its tail.
The issue of the folly (false wisdom) of the nation’s leaders is taken up and developed further in the next chapter; so the parable points forward as well as backwards. Again and again Isaiah has reminded his hearers that in the short term the fate of Jerusalem hangs on the way its leaders respond to the warnings he has sounded, but that its final destiny is secure because of the Lord’s unswerving commitment to make it the center of a renewed earth.
Isaiah 28:23-29 Reflection Questions:
What New Testament parable has spoken to you?
Which agricultural term fits with what you have been or going through now?
What encouraging word do you get from this study?