Three times has God made Himself a vineyard upon the earth, planted a plantation of choice vines, endued by Him with the capacity of bringing forth excellent fruit, fenced His vineyard round with care, cleared its soil of stones, pruned its superfluous shoots, hoed out the weeds from between the vine-stocks, bestowed on it all possible attendance, and looked to see a suitable result; AND THREE TIMES HAS THE RESULT, FOR WHICH HE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO LOOK, NOT FOLLOWED!!!
I. THE FIRST VINEYARD: THE WORLD BEFORE THE FLOOD.
Man was placed in a world that God saw to be "very good" (Genesis 1:31). He was endued with excellent powers; he was given dominion over the beasts; he was bidden to "increase and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28); he was guarded from a thousand dangers, he was fenced round by the Almighty arms; God's Spirit "strove with him" (Genesis 6:3). Chastened him, warned him, spoke through his conscience, and showed him the right path to walk in. What more could He have done to His first vineyard, that He did not do for it?
a. Yet the time came when He "looked upon the earth" (Genesis 6:12); looked for the fruits of what He had done; looked for judgment and righteousness." And what did He find when He looked? "The wickedness of man was great in the earth; every imagination of the thoughts of His heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). "The earth was corrupt before God; all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth; the earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11,12). The vineyard that should have brought forth GRAPES had brought forth WILD GRAPES. God's care for man had been met by man with INGRATITUDE towards God; and it only remained that God should take vengeance, and so lay His vineyard waste, and so VINDICATE HIS JUSTICE!!!
II. THE SECOND VINEYARD: THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL.
This is the vineyard whereof Isaiah especially speaks. God planted His second vineyard, Israel, on the "very fruitful upland of Palestine---a land of corn and wine, of bread and vineyards, of oil olive and of honey" (2 Kings 18:32); "a good land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that sprang out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vine and fig trees, pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein they might eat bread without scarceness, and needed not to lack any thing; a land whose stones were iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass" (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).
a. He fenced His vineyard round with laws, and ordinances morally, as with mountains and deserts topographically; He cleared out from it the stones that marred the soil, THE WICKED NATIONS---"stones of offence"---that once dwelt amid His people; He planted it with choice vine-stocks, the children of "faithful Abraham;" He built a tower---Jerusalem---in the midst of it, and made therein a wine press---the temple---where He would have the gifts, offerings of the people, their good works, laid up in store; and He then "looked that His vineyard SHOULD BRING FORTH GRAPES, and it brought forth WILD GRAPES." Oppression, wrong, murder, the FORM of religion WITHOUT THE POWER, covetousness, drunkenness, vanity, impurity: these were what His eyes beheld when He cast them on His CHOSEN PEOPLE, WHO WERE " a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a SEED OF EVIL-DOERS, children that were corrupters" (Isaiah 1:4)
b. Greater benefits than those bestowed on the FIRST VINEYARD had been met by a DEEPER INGRATITUDE; and now the time was coming when the SECOND VINEYARD would be laid waste, withered up, and UTTERLY "RUINED" (Isaiah 3:8).
III. THE THIRD VINEYARD: THE CHURCH OF CHRIST! God has yet planted a third vineyard, which He calls "His church" (Matt. 16:18), the assembly of His "selected ones!" He has not fixed it in any particular land, but has given it the whole fruitful earth for its habitation. Yet He fenced it round, and separated it off from the rest of mankind by laws and rites and ordinances, which are peculiar, and made it a world within a world, a society within a society.
a. HE HAS GATHERED out from it the stones of MANY HERESIES; He has PLANTED IT WITH CHOICE VINES, the CHOSEN VESSELS" whom His grace has from time to time CONVERTED FROM UNBELIEF TO THE FAITH; He has given it for its TOWER of strength HIMSELF, AND FOR ITS "WINEPRESS" THE BOOK OF LIFE, in which He RECORDS its GOOD DEEDS. And now, what is the result? Has His constant, tender CARE AWAKENED the GRATITUDE which it ought to have AWAKENED? Has His CHURCH brought forth such FRUIT as might have been ANTICIPATED? Is it not to be FEARED that EVEN NOW HIS EYE, RESTING ON HIS THIRD VINEYARD WITH SEARCHING GAZE, LOOKS FOR SOMETHING which it does NOT FIND---demands GRAPES, and "sees little but WILD GRAPES"?1
IV. THE FEAR OF GOD SHOULD BE THE CHIEF CONCERN OF MAN!!
1. Accordingly, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:Fear God,and commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
2. Moreover, man should fear God in the sense, that, his efforts to BEAR FRUIT may NOT BE PLEASING TO GOD! (Cf. John 15:1-7). However, for the benefit of this study, let us note in particular verses 2 and 6 of this text:
a. Jesus said, "Every branch in me that BEARETH NOT FRUIT He TAKETH AWAY: and every branch that BEARETH FRUIT, He PURGETH IT, that it may bring forth MORE FRUIT" (John 15:2). The branches are of two kinds---UNFRUITFUL and FRUITFUL. Then it is possible to come into this organic relation with THE TRUE VINE, to be IN IT and TO BE A PART OF IT, and to BRING FORTH NO FRUIT!
b. Accordingly, being baptized, communicating, professing, partially believing CHRISTIANS (?) there may be in ABUNDANCE, who, though in Him, YET CAN NOT CONTINUE IN HIM!!! Why? "Every branch in me that BEARETH NOT FRUIT HE TAKETH AWAY…" (John 15:2a). WE MUST BEAR FRUIT!! "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22,23).
c. "If a man ABIDE NOT IN ME, he is cast forth as a BRANCH, AND IS WITHERED; and men GATHER THEM, and CAST THEM INTO THE FIRE, and THEY ARE BURNED" (John 15:6). These are the inevitable consequences of NOT ABIDING IN THE VINE!! We may imagine two ways in which this NON-ABIDING IN CHRIST, THIS SEVERANCE FROM HIM, may be AFFECTED:
d. The Spiritual pruning-knife may have LOPPED them off because of their LACK OF FRUITFULNESS; or
e. They may have WITHERED ON THE STEM, and, by their DEFICIENCY OF STRENGTH and LIFE, have suffered some EXTERNAL ASSAULT which they have not had ENERGY TO RESIST!!
V. THE TERRIBLE JUDGMENTS, ALWAYS OVERTAKING THE UNFRUITFUL AND UNFAITHFUL SERVANTS!!
1. Interestingly, the vine is one of the noblest of all trees, and produces the most ABUNDANT FRUIT; but it is one of its peculiarities that all the STRENGTH is SPENT on the FRUIT, and that its BRANCHES are UTTERLY VALUELESS for all other PURPOSES. (John 15:5).2
a. Some have supposed that the fire here is the LAST JUDGMENT, which our Lord looks upon as come AND IT WILL COME!! But the PRESENT TENSE, following the two AORISTS, suggest the immediate FIERCE TEMPTATIONS, the terrible judgments, always overtaking the UNFRUITFUL and UNFAITHFUL SERVANTS, and PRECLUDING the AWFUL CONSUMMATION of DIVINE JUDGMENT, of which the Lord had often spoken (Matt. 13:42) "And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and GNASHING of TEETH."
b. (Luke 16:24) "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, HAVE MERCY ON ME, and send Lazarus, that he may DIP the TIP of his FINGER in water, and COOL MY TONGUE; for I am TORMENTED in this FLAME," and which the apostle of love described in (Rev.20:15) "And whosoever was not FOUND written in the BOOK of LIFE was CAST into the LAKE of FIRE." (Rev. 21:8) "But the FEARFUL, AND UNBELIEVING, and the ABOMINABLE, and MURDERERS, and WHOREMONGERS, and SORCERERS, and IDOLATERS, and ALL LIARS, shall have THEIR PART in the LAKE which BURNETH with FIRE and BRIMSTONE: which is the SECOND DEATH." And, accordingly, the IMMEDIATE and FINAL JUDGMENT, are presented in this text!!
VI. THEY MURDERED THE HEIR: (Matt. 21:37-41) "But last of all he sent unto them His SON, saying, They will REVERENCE My SON. But when the husbandmen saw the SON, they said among themselves, this is the HEIR; come, let us KILL HIM, and let us seize on HIS INHERITANCE. And they CAUGHT HIM, and CAST HIM OUT of the VINEYARD, and SLEW HIM. When the Lord therefore of the vineyard COMETH, what will HE DO unto those HUSBANDMEN? And they say unto Him, He will MISERABLY DESTROY those WICKED MEN, and will let out His VINEYARD unto OTHER HUSBANDMEN, which shall RENDER Him the FRUITS in their seasons."
1. My friends, hear me, are you listening? "They will REVERENCE MY SON," armed with DIVINE CREDENTIALS, and FULLY REPRESENTING the HOUSEHOLDER, AS His AUTHORIZED "PLENIPOTENTIARY, "A person invested with full POWER or AUTHORITY to TRANSACT the FATHERS BUSINESS!!! (American College Dictionary). Thus, the SON of DAVID, and HEIR to THE KINGDOM!! THE SON of GOD and HEIR OF ALL THINGS!!
2. I suggest that we carefully consider the following texts: (Matt. 3:17) "And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matt. 17:5) While" he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and BEHOLD A VOICE OUT OF THE CLOUD, which said, THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED; HEAR YE HIM. (Matt. 28:18) "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ALL POWER (or authority) IS GIVEN UNTO ME in HEAVEN and in EARTH. (John 3:35) "The Father loveth the Son, and hath GIVEN ALL THINGS INTO HIS HAND.
b. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, HATH IN THESE LAST DAYS SPOKEN unto US BY SON, WHOM He hath APPOINTED HEIR of ALL THINGS, by WHOM also HE MADE the WORLDS" (Hebrews 1:1, 2).
c. "They CAST HIM FORTH OUT of the VINEYARD." Christ was CAST OUT of the SYNAGOGUE as A PROFANE PERSON, DELIVERED TO THE Romans to be CRUCIFIED, and relegated to CALVARY for that purpose, OUTSIDE the GATE of the CITY. There they KILLED HIM!!! So they FILLED UP THE MEASURE of THEIR INIQUITY!!!
VII. WE USE THE TRANSIT TO FIND CERTAIN VALUES, WHICH GOD HAS GIVEN MAN: STRAIGHT LINES, DISTANCES, ARCHES, ANGLES, LEVELING, PLUMING, WHICH HAVE SPIRITUAL COUNTER PARTS
1. "Yet ye say, THE WAY of the LORD is NOT EQUAL? Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not MY WAY EQUAL? Are not your WAYS UNEQUAL?" The word, EQUAL, means: Even, Uniform, Regular, Unvarying! The word, UNEQUAL, means: Different or NOT THE SAME!! "When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when a wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he SHALL SAVE HIS SOUL ALIVE. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall SURELY LIVE, HE SHALL NOT DIE. Yet saith the house of Israel, THE WAY OF THE LORD IS NOT EQUAL. O HOUSE OF Israel, Are not MY WAYS EQUAL? Are not YOUR WAYS UNEQUAL?" (Ezekiel 18:25-29). 2
a. Consider this: The "gray-haired saint may FAIL at LAST," The apostle may become a CASTAWAY (1 Corinthians 9:27, and the RIGHTEOUSNESS of a LIFE may be CANCELLED by the SINS of a YEAR or a DAY!! It was necessary, so to speak, to HAMMER in the TRUTH upon men's MINDS, so that it might be DRIVEN HOME and DO ITS WORK!!
b. "Yet the children of thy people say, The WAY of the Lord is not EQUAL…" (Ezekiel 33:17-20).3 "AND, NOW, O WATCHMAN,WHAT OF THE NIGHT? PLEASE HEAR THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET, as he closes this chapter: "Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I PRAY YOU, and hear what is the WORD THAT COMETH FORTH FROM THE LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they SIT BEFORE THEE AS MY PEOPLE, and THEY HEAR THY WORDS, BUT THEY WILL NOT DO THEM: for with their MOUTH THEY SHEW MUCH LOVE, but their HEART GOETH AFTER THEIR COVETOUSNESS. And, lo thou art unto them as a VERY LOVELY SONG of one that hath a PLEASANT VOICE, and can play well on an instrument: for they HEAR THY WORDS, but they DO THEM NOT. And when this cometh to pass, (lo it will come,) then shall THEY KNOW that a prophet hath been AMONG THEM" (Ezekiel 33:30-33). 4
VIII. CONCLUSION: THE DIVINE FORMULA FOR BECOMING A CHRISTIAN, IS AS FOLLOWS:
1. Man MUST HEAR THE GOSPEL of Christ, "And how shall they believe in Him of whom they HAVE NOT HEARD" (Rom. 10:14b).
2. Man MUST BELIEVE THE GOSPEL, Jesus said, "He that BELIEVETH and is BAPTIZED shall be SAVED" (Mark 16:16a).
3. Jesus said, WE MUST REPENT of SINS, "I TELL YOU, Nay: but, EXCEPT YE REPENT, YE shall all likewise PERISH" (Luke 13:3).
4. WE MUST CONFESS CHRIST BEFORE MEN, "And with the MOUTH CONFESSION IS MADE UNTO SALVATION" (Rom. 10:10b).
5. BAPTISM IS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION!! WE MUST BE BAPTIZED! "Know ye not, that so many of us as were BAPTIZED INTO JESUS CHRIST were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH" (Rom. 6:3).
6. WE MUST BE FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH: "Be thou FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH, AND I WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE" (Rev. 2:10c).
a. The PARABLE of the VINEYARD teaches us that SIN CAN and DOES HARDEN HEARTS, EVEN THE HEARTS OF CHRISTIANS!!!
b. I shall cite the WORDS of Brother John Stacey, which I read many years ago. "My friends, IF YOU ARE LOST you probably will have to WADE THROUGH a MOTHERS TEARS! You might have to LEAP OVER a FATHER'S PRAYERS! You'll have to CLIMB OVER THE MOUNTAIN OF SERMONS that you have HEARD! You'll have to FORCE YOUR WAY PAST THE GOOD EXAMPLES that have been set FOR YOU! You'll have to TURN A DEAF EAR to all THE WARNINGS that have COME FROM GODLY PEOPLE. MOST OF ALL YOU'LL HAVE TO MAKE YOUR WAY AROUND THE CROSS OF CHRIST!! YOU'LL HAVE TO SWIM THROUGH THE OCEAN OF MERCY, GRACE, AND LOVE THAT HE HAS PLACED BEFORE YOU!!! YOU'LL HAVE TO FLY OVER THE WALL OF HELL He has placed on the highway of life to STOP YOU DEAD IN YOUR TRACKS and to BRING YOU TO YOUR SENSES!!! Here is a QUESTION YOU SHOULD ATTEMPT TO ANSWER: WHY ARE YOU SO DETERMINED TO DESTROY YOUR SOUL? Beloved, YOU HAVE NO PROBLEM THAT GOD, AND YOU CANNOT SOLVE!!! PLEASE GIVE HIM A CHANCE! "BEHOLD, NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME; BEHOLD, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.) (2 Cor. 6:2c).
1. King James Version of the Bible, Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fifth Improved Edition
2. The Pulpit Commentary: Excerpts From Several Texts, and Sermon Outlines.
3. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament
4. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
5. The American College Dictionary
1. The Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah 5:1-7, pages 83 & 84, Homiletics (no name listed)
2. The Pulpit Commentary, John 15:1-7, pages 268-270, Exposition by H. R. Reynolds
3. The Pulpit Commentary, Ezekiel 18:25-29, pages 323 & 324, Exposition by E. H. Plumptre
4. The Pulpit Commentary, Ezekiel 33:17-20, 30-33, pages 184-186, Exposition by E. H. Plumptre & T. Whitelaw
(E-Mail Address: email@example.com). Dear Reader: In the event you find mistakes or errors in scripture references, etc., please inform me of same, at your earliest convenience. Thank You! (MLH).
Marlin L. Harless