For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before me,
says the Lord GOD.
Read Chapter 2
Ambrose of Milan
Yet if the husband’s power allures you, pray tell me who it was that spoke in the prophet, saying, “O Lord, make it known to me that I may know. Then I saw their thoughts. I was led as a harmless lamb to the slaughter and knew it not. They took counsel together against me, saying, Come, let us throw wood into his bread.” For if the Son here spoke of the mystery of his coming incarnation—because it was blasphemous to suppose that the words are spoken concerning the Father—then surely it is the Son who speaks in an earlier passage: “I have planted you as a fruitful vine—how did you become bitter, and a wild vine?” - "On the Christian Faith 4.12.166"
All those who refuse Christ for another become strangers. And how are they made strangers? Because even that vine, though planted by him, when it had become sour, what did it hear? “Wherefore you have been turned into sourness, O alien vine?” - "Expositions on the Psalms 56.3"
For it is by similitude, and not by any personal propriety, that he is thus called a vine. For when he says, “I am the true vine,” it is to distinguish himself, doubtless, from that vine to which the words are addressed: “How are you turned into sourness, as a strange vine?” For how could that be a true vine that was expected to bring forth grapes and brought forth thorns? - "Tractates on the Gospel of John 80.1"
Learn this also, that before the soul comes into the world, it has committed no sin. But though we came into the world sinless, we now of our own choice commit sin.… Remember also how God again accuses them and says, “I have planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed; how then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?” - "Catechetical Lectures 4.19"
Sin is a terrible thing, and the most grievous disease of the soul is iniquity, which corrupts the fiber of the soul and makes it liable to eternal fire. It is an evil freely chosen, the product of the will. The prophet clearly declares that we sin of our own free will: “I had planted you, a choice vine of fully tested stock; how could you turn into bitterness, a spurious vine?” The planting was good, but the fruit coming from the will is evil. So the planter is blameless, but the vine will burn with fire since it was planted for good and bore evil fruit of its own will. - "Catechetical Lectures 2.1"
So also God is introduced by the prophet as saying to the person who had become evil by his own choice, “Yet I had planted you a fruitful vine. How have you turned back into a wild vine?” Anywhere it is said that evils happen to the wicked from God, it must be understood as an accidental coincidence of name. This name is given to the chastisements that God in his goodness is said to send not for the hurt of those who are chastised but for their benefit and profit, in the same way that a physician might be thought to apply bad things in his painful and bitter remedies to save the sick. - "Preparation for the Gospel 13.3"
God through Jeremiah reproaches the evil of the human will in such a way that he teaches that it is foreign to him. He says, “Yet I planted you as a choice vine.… How then did you turn degenerate and become a wild vine?” He says that the vine is foreign to him not because of some defect in the divine creation but by the avoidance of his own will, which is justly blamed because it brought forth bitterness, something God did not produce in it. It had the bitterness not from God’s predestination or from God’s work but from the evil of its own will. Because of that bitterness, God rebukes it a second time through the prophet mentioned above: “Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God: the fear of me is not in you.” Since, therefore, it is evil and bitter for a person to have left the Lord and not to have in him a fear of God, who is contrary to the truth in such a way that he thinks it comes from a good and kind God. - "Letter to Monimus 1.3–4"
Hence God gave the gift of prayer. But he does this, even though he does not need for us to ask, but that we might not grow indifferent from being saved without effort. For this reason, he said to Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people, for I will not hear you,” not wishing to stop his praying (for he earnestly longs for our salvation) but to terrify them. Seeing this, the prophet did not stop praying. So that you may see that God did not wish to turn Jeremiah from it, but to shame them that he said this, hear what it says. “Don’t you see what they are doing?” Also when he says to the city, “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” it is not that he may cast them into despair that he so speaks, but that he may rouse them to repentance. - "Homilies on Romans 14"