The Parables of the Vineyard
There’s more than just one parable of a vineyard, recorded in the bible. We’re going to look at one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament.
Isaiah Chapter 5
Is 5:1-7, “Let me sing now for my well-beloved, a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
He dug it all around, removed it’s stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it. And also hewed out a wine vat in it. Then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.
And now O’ inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.
What more was there to do for My vineyard, that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes, did it produce worthless ones?
So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard; I will remove it’s hedge, and it will be consumed; I will break down it’s wall, and it will become trampled ground.
I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to “rain no rain” on it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, is the house of Israel. And the men of Judah, His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.”
Do you get the analogy? God established His people, the house of Israel. And He cared for them, and nurtured them. And He protected them, gave them everything they needed. And He expected them to produce “good fruit” according to the ways that He had taught them. But behold, they didn’t produce those “good grapes”, but rather, they produced bloodshed, and distress.
Was God WRONG to expect Israel to produce “good grapes”? Was God wrong, after bringing Israel “into existence”, through His love and His kindness, (in Exodus 4:22, God says, “Israel is My son, My first-born”) was He wrong to expect them to show THEIR love in return, not only in return to God, but also in return to one another, as well as every other person alive?
If Israel was considered by God to be His first-born, if He “begat” them to be His very own people, (“a holy people to the Lord your God.. and a people for His own possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deut 14:2), and then if He “nurtured” them as He did, by giving them His very WORD to guide them and to instruct them, and by giving them “prophets”, and “judges” to lead them and to encourage them, should God not have expected them, to give their love in return?
To put it plainly, God’s very own people, God’s “possession”, turned their backs on God, and committed sin, after sin, after sin, and became worthy of destruction. They ceased “to know God”. And so God decreed…
“Therefore, My people go into exile, for their lack of knowledge, (They were lacking in the knowledge of God’s will, because they turned their back on God’s word) and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.
Therefore Sheol (Sheol here represents death and the grave) has enlarged it’s throat and opened it’s mouth without measure; And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descend into it!” v’s 13-14
In Mathew chapter 21, We have another parable about a land owner and His vineyard. Jesus had been confronted by some of the chief priests, and elders of the Jewish people.
And Jesus spoke these words to them in Mat 21:33-40, “Listen to another parable.. He said. “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, and put a wall around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey.” (Can you see the almost identical introduction to this parable being told by Jesus, as was told by the prophet Isaiah, some 700 years earlier?)
“And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. And again he sent another group of slaves, larger than the first, and they did the same thing to them.
But afterward, he sent his OWN SON to them saying; They will respect my son. But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves; This is the heir, come let us kill him and seize his inheritance. And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?
Remember, it was some of the chief priests and elders who had confronted Jesus, and that’s who Jesus asked this question.. “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” Well, they didn’t understand that they themselves were those “vine-growers” that Jesus was talking about. And so here’s how they answered, in verse 41..
“Then they said to Him; He will bring those wretches to a wretched end! And will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
The vineyard in this parable, represents God’s kingdom, and the Jews had it all. They had the kingdom, and they had the fruit of the kingdom, but what they forgot about, was the King Himself!
Can you see what Jesus was really telling the Jewish leaders?
Here’s two of my favorite verses from Luke chapter 13. Verses 34 & 35, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate, and I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
In order for the scribes and priests, to say.. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, they would have to say; I believe in Jesus Christ, because it was Jesus, who came “in the name of the Lord”. But they weren’t about to say that. They were NOT going to admit that Jesus was the Christ, and that His words are truth, because Jesus’ words, condemned their actions, and condemned their attitudes. They were hypocrites! They claimed to love God, but they didn’t.. They only loved themselves.
The nation of Israel was notorious for turning their backs on God, and for persecuting and even killing God’s prophets, who were sent to them to try to bring them back to the Lord, with their preaching and with their prophesying. And so Jesus calls Jerusalem; “The city that kills the prophets, and stones those sent to them.”
And those very same people who killed the prophets, were very shortly, going to kill the very Son of God! Remember what it said in the parable?
Mat 21, verse 37 said; “But afterward, he sent his own son to them saying; They will respect my son.”But they didn’t, did they?
We Need To Respect His Son
The church today, is thought of by God, in exactly the same way that He thought of the nation of Israel. Israel was then, what the church is now, “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession..” 1 Pet 2:9
And we, as His people, are responsible, just as Israel was, to USE all that God has given us, to produce “Good Fruit”, out of His kingdom. We are in His vineyard, and we have a “hedge of blessings” all around us. And we as a group of God’s people, as well as each one of us as individuals, needs to be involved, every day, in bearing fruit for God.
Jesus tells us in, John 15:5, “I am the vine and you (individuals) are the branches; HE who abides in Me, and I in him, HE bears much fruit (good grapes), for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
V-6, “If anyone does not abide in Me, HE is thrown away as a branch, and dries up, and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (If you do not abide in Christ, that means if you don’t obey His teachings, you will produce only “worthless grapes”)
V-8. “By this, My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit (good grapes again), and so prove to be My disciples.”
The “proof” that you are a disciple of Christ, is whether you bear “good fruit”, and whether you bear “much fruit”.
Jesus tells us in Mat 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?”
V-17-20 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit, is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
The Kingdom was taken away from Israel
God’s prophets were sent to the people, to urge them to return to God, by repenting of their sinful ways, and by once again following their true Lord and God. But they WOULDN’T ! It’s exactly like what we read earlier from Luke 13:35, when Jesus said to them, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood together under her wings, AND YOU WOULD NOT !”
After Jesus told the parable of the evil vine-growers, He asked this question, “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” Mat 21, verse 40
And they answered Him in verse 41, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched END, and will rent out the vineyard to OTHER vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
Then Jesus answered them, and said in verse 43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (from Israel), and given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And so the kingdom was given to the nations of the gentiles.
Warnings Were Given
The bible points out out many times, how God REPEATEDLY warned Israel, that the kingdom was going to be removed from them, because of their unbelief, and their disobedience (which are really the same thing). And how the kingdom would be given to others, who were willing to believe in Jesus, and follow His commands.
He warned them through Isaiah the prophet, in Isaiah chapter 5, when He compared Jerusalem and Judah to a vineyard; When He said: “I will remove it’s hedge, and it will be consumed. I will break down it’s wall, and it will become trampled ground.” In other words, the Jewish kingdom, would become “trampled ground”.
He warned them through Jesus, in this parable in Mat chapter 21, when He compared them to “evil vine-growers”, who killed even the master’s own son! And He emphatically said to them; “..the kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”
And Jesus warned them in Luke chapter 14, with the parable of the great dinner feast, where those who were originally invited, had refused to come. And Jesus said in V-24; “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of My dinner.” And then Jesus said; Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel OTHERS to come in, that My house may be filled.” V-23.
And Jesus warned them again in Luke chapter 16, with the parable of the “certain rich man, dressed in purple and fine linen”, who represents that “Royal Priesthood” the “Holy Nation of Israel”, who “faired so sumptuously”, on God’s blessings. But then that “certain rich man” died, and ended up being “unseen” by God; And then of course, there was the poor man named Lazarus, which means.. “one who God helps”, who ended up being the one who was comforted, when he was “carried away to Abraham’s bossom”.
And Jesus warned Israel again in Luke 13, verse 35, when He told them how often He had wanted to gather them together and give them the blessings that are in Christ; “But they wouldn’t”. They wouldn’t believe, and they wouldn’t bear fruit! And so Jesus warned them with these words; “Behold, your house will be left to you desolate..” You will lose your blessings!
Blessings Were Removed
And so Israel did have the blessings of God taken away from them. And those blessings were given to the gentile nations around them, who were willing to believe in Jesus, the prophet sent by God, and to produce the “good fruit” of obedience, in God’s vineyard.
We read in 1 Cor 10:11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
How many times will WE have to be warned, before we understand, that if we are not busy, “bearing fruit” for God, that He will take our blessings away, and He’ll give those blessings to someone who WILL take His word seriously? Someone who WILL take seriously, our responsibility to “bear fruit” every day.
We know, that there’s more to becoming a Christian, than just believing. But I wonder if somehow, after we DO become a Christian, that we think believing is all we have to do to REMAIN a Christian? We believe in God, but what do we DO for God?
You know what it means to do for God don’t you? It means to do for others! Jesus tells us in Mat 25:40; “To the extent that you did it to one of these, the least of My brethren, you’ve done it to Me.”
Bearing fruit for God, is DOING for others. Typically, our days are filled, with doing for ourselves, and our own families. And we need to provide for our families, don’t we? But ask yourself this question.. When I only do for myself.. am I exalting myself, or humbling myself? And then ask yourself this question; When I’m busy doing for others.. am I exalting myself, or am I humbling myself?
If we ever expect to be exalted by God, then we better humble ourselves, and do for others, even for the least, of one of Christ’s brethren.
God Wants Faith and Obedience
That’s all God wants. He has given us His word, He has planted His vineyard. He has built a hedge of blessings around it. And God expects us to produce “good grapes”. He expects us to BELIEVE His word. That’s Faith. And He expects us to DO, the good works that He has established for us to walk in. That’s Obedience.
“He has told you O’ man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to DO justice, to love kindness. and to walk humbly, with your God.” Micah 6:8
And how do you “walk humbly with God”? By doing, humbly for others.
Don’t let the kingdom be taken away from you. If you’re a Christian, make sure that you walk humbly with God everyday. And if you’re not a Christian, become one today, and be added to His kingdom..
..By believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And by confessing your faith openly. And by repenting of your sins, and by being baptized for the forgiveness of those sins. And THEN, walk with God by obeying His every word, and doing for others, every day.