The Politics of the Vineyard of Israel

I have just posted a reflection on Isaiah 5, Psalm 80, and Matthew 21 over on Political Theology Today. Within it I explore the significance of the prophetic vine parables and the vantage point that they can provide us upon our own nations:

As the vast drama of the nation of Israel is allegorized in prophetic parables of vines and vineyards, the hearers of the prophetic message are granted an unusual vantage point from which to regard the history of their nation. This fecund matrix of symbolism can give birth to insight, as it enables the hearers of vineyard parables to regard the nation and their place within it from a revealing perspective. The nation is figured as a unified collective agency which ought to respond fruitfully to the generous providential hand of God over the course of its history. The leaders of the nation are responsible to tend to its fruit and to deliver its produce to its owner. The proper response to the parable is one of recognition and judgment in the hearer, an epiphany in which they appreciate the part that they are playing in the narrative and interrogate their performance accordingly.

The reader of these parables in our modern context might be struck by the fact that the perspective they afford to their hearers is one rather strange to us. Although we may regard our nations as possessing a quasi-agency, this agency is typically depersonalized and abstracted from our own. Viewing ourselves as a people with a collective moral agency, responsible to answer God’s generous rains of blessing with good fruit, offers us a surprising and rather unsettling perspective upon our histories.

Read the whole piece here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Ethics, Guest Post, Isaiah, Matthew, NT, OT, Politics, Psalms, Society, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Politics of the Vineyard of Israel

  1. Geoff says:

    The full article is excellent.
    1 A call for a national day of prayer. This has been jettisoned for a long time in the UK. Was the last one for the Dunkirk exodus in World War 2, which was miraculously answered? There was, unsurprisingly, no mention of it in this year’s film, just an, almost nonplussed, surprised, acceptance that it was successful at all, even taking into account the narrow scope of the characterisations.
    2 Have you done anything on the correct use allegory in scripture, as it has been much maligned . over the years. Even D A Carson at the Keswick Convention, this year was at pains to point out the allegorical use of Sarah and Haggar when expounding Galatians. To say he was hesitant or wary would be to over-egg the pudding, but, to me, he was self-aware in his deliberate use of the word.

    • I haven’t written much in detail here about the ‘allegorical’ use of Scripture, although I’ve done a lot of figural reading of the text. I think things like Paul’s use of Sarah and Hagar are illuminating in ways we don’t often appreciate. They can alert us to the fact that there is more going on in Genesis than we might originally have supposed.

  2. Hi Alastair! Have you written anything on the political theology of Psalm 2? Or do you know where I could find something on that?
    I was listening to a sermon by Dale Ralph Davies on it and he said that the political theology expressed in Ps. 2 is that the rulers of the nations will by and large be hostile to the True God and his enthroned Messiah. Thus our expectations should not be that the rulers of the nations will be amenable to God’s kingdom but instead to have a realism about their hostility.
    What do you reckon?

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