The inspired scribes of the Bible understood the sheer power of the use of imagery as they instruct us in the entire gamut of life – birth, sickness, health, romance, hope, despair, vocation, death, damnation, resurrection.
More often than not they utilized wine or the vineyard as an appropriate, image, symbol, or metaphor. For example, Isaiah provides an enticing invitation to God’s universal summons to the banquet of salvation, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (25:6)
Maybe the most powerful use of the vineyard as imagery in the Bible involves the ritual of how wine is made once the grapes were picked from the vine. The stomping of grapes by the use of human feet is an ancient tradition that existed during Biblical times. This was hard work.
So, the owners of the vineyard would lighten the wine presser’s job by making a festival of the occasion and providing a piper to play uplifting music. The workers were also provided with frequent breaks where they renewed their energy by drinking wine of previous harvests and telling jokes and riddles.
Compare this festive, collegial picture with the prophetic foretelling of the suffering of Jesus in Gethsemane in Isaiah. “I have trodden the wine press alone.” (63:3) Unlike the festival-like atmosphere of the wine-pressers, Jesus is left all alone with even his three most trusted companions asleep when they are needed most.
New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman reminds us that “art provides us with clues about how to live our lives more fully…[E]verything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons gleaned by art…” Similarly, I have found that my knowledge of the subject of wine has enhanced my Spirit infused understanding of God’s Word and its application to my own life.