wine turned to water (and then back to wine)

“paper hanger,” mewithoutYou

i read isaiah 1-4 this morning. something in verses 21-23 of chapter 1 made me curious. here they are:

“How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
     your best wine mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the
and the widow’s cause does not come
to them.”

the reason that particular verse (22) struck me was because of the chorus of mewithoutYou’s “paper hanger“:

I stopped believing, you start to move
She was like wine turned to water then turned back to wine
I stopped my leaving and the better man bloomed
And you can pour us out and we won’t mind

I was dead, then alive
She was like wine turned to water and turned back to wine
You can pour us out, we won’t mind
A scratch around the mouth of the glass
My life is no longer mine

this reminded me of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at cana. here’s the passage, for reference (john 2:1-11, ESV. emphases are mine):

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me?My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants. ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.‘ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

first i will say that i don’t pretend to understand everything in the song lyrics. the “she” refers to a character mentioned previously in the song, though, to clarify that part.

that phrase “wine turned to water and then back to wine” made me think of the miracle at cana in a light i hadn’t before.

wine is mentioned throughout the Bible in a variety of circumstances, but one thing it was used for in the old testament was drink offerings to God. if you start in the context of isaiah 1, where israel has turned away from God and has become utterly corrupted, it’s interesting that their “best wine (is) mixed with water.” it’s weak, ineffectual, diluted.

maybe that just refers to wine for the purpose of drinking, but, since God has said earlier in the chapter “bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me” (1:13a), and talks at length about how israel’s sacrifices have become a meaningless religious habit since their hearts aren’t behind their actions, i don’t think it would be inappropriate to extend that context to “your best wine (is) mixed with water” as including drink offerings.

wine is also important in the new testament beyond the wedding at cana. at the last supper, in which Jesus celebrated the passover with His disciples before He was arrested and crucified, He used wine to symbolize His blood as the means of ultimate, final purification in the new covenant God was about to establish.

luke 22:17-20: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'”

so back to cana. Jesus is the living water — true life comes from Him and from Him alone. He has the servants put the water into jars reserved for the rites of purification. Jesus’ blood is the only thing strong enough to purify us from the corruption and death of sin. Jesus later will use wine as a symbol of His blood shed for us — that’s why we use it (or, modernly, grape juice) when we take communion together as Jesus and His disciples did at the last supper. into the jars went water, and out came wine.

also, this miracle was in the context of a wedding feast — Jesus said at the last supper that He would “not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” can you imagine Him drinking it again at the marriage supper of the Lamb, when Christ the bridegroom and His bride the church have finally been joined in the new heavens and the new earth?

one other thing i find interesting is the exchange between mary and Jesus. she says “they have no wine,” and He says in response, “woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” it’s hard to tell from things mary says and does later just how much she understood about Jesus before His crucifixion, so quite possibly she just simply said “they have no wine,” meaning “the guests have nothing to drink now, and when everyone finds out, the bridegroom will be humiliated — do something! i know you can, although i don’t know what it will be.”

and Jesus says to her “My hour has not yet come.” that’s a curious way to answer. it makes me wonder if He was responding to mary’s statement on a level of meaning deeper than her thought.

because it was true — they had no wine. and His blood was the wine they really needed.

i love it when God uses unexpected things to trigger deeper searching in His word. i want that to happen more.