Chapter 51

 

ďThis was The Lordís Doing, and It Is

Marvelous in our Eyes.Ē

 

ďAnd he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lordís doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.Ē (Mark 12:1-12)

 

            This is clearly an historical parable. We are told in verse twelve that the chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews ďknew that the Lord Jesus had spoken the parable against themĒ.

 

            The history of the Jewish nation, from the time that the Lord brought them out of Egypt until the time of their destruction in 70 AD, is set before us in these twelve verses. Under the emblem of a vineyard and husbandmen (vinedressers), our Master tells us the story of Godís dealings with that nation, both in great mercy and in great judgment.

 

            This parable is recorded here in the Book of God to stand as a beacon to warn us lest we, who have received and experienced far greater mercies than the Jews ever did, should also at last be dashed in pieces upon the rocks of Godís righteous retribution and judgment.

 

A National Warning

 

The things I am about to write may appear to many to be out of place in a commentary; but it is my purpose ever to apply the Scriptures as personally as possible to those who hear my voice or read what I write. Therefore, I make no apology for writing as I do. Rather, I urge you to read the following with great care.

 

Without question, there is a warning for us as a nation in this parable. The United States of America is a nation which has been blessed of God, perhaps unlike any other, with great providential mercies. We have enjoyed prosperity as no other nation in the world. We have lived in the lap of luxury, freedom and safety. There has never been a nation more blessed than ours has been historically with the gospel. God has sent prophet after prophet, generation after generation, through the length and breadth of this land. Israel had peculiar privileges indeed; but their providential blessings were nothing compared to ours.

 

But, like Israel of old, throughout our history we have provoked the Lord to jealousy. It seems to me, both as I read history and from the experience of my own brief lifetime, that the more greatly and signally the Lord has showered his mercies upon us, the more blatantly we have turned from him.

 

Truly, we must acknowledge as did the psalmist, ďHe hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.Ē Like the Jews of old, we have mocked the messengers of God, despised his words and misused his prophets (2 Chronicle 36:16).

 

I am astonished that God has not destroyed our nation. Our streets run red with blood, blood shed by unrestrained, undisciplined children. This generation of children and young people has educated barbarians for parents. Parents these days are more like brute beasts and crawling reptiles that lay their eggs, bury them in the sands of the world and forget them. Parents who refuse to train and discipline their children, who refuse to mold their characters for good, are nothing more than breeding beasts. My apologies to the beasts!

 

Indeed, it is customary these days for men and women, boys and girls simply to breed like dogs, first with one and then another. Common adultery has brought about an utter disregard for marriage, law and order. Fornication is smiled at as a light thing. It is as common for girls to have babies out of wedlock as it is for dogs to scratch fleas. Homosexuality is not only tolerated, it is accepted, promoted and taught in the classrooms of our schools!

 

As it has been throughout history when nations have abandoned God for their lusts, abandoned his way for pleasure, abandoned law and order in the name of freedom, human life has become so cheap in our society that abortion is more common than getting your teeth cleaned. Unborn infants are regarded as unwanted fat to be sucked away as desired. A man may easily get a longer prison sentence for killing your dog than for raping your wife or killing you.

 

It is astounding to me that God has not swept us away into oblivion. Yet, the fact that he has not yet destroyed us gives me hope. Maybe our great, gracious and glorious God will once more in wrath remember mercy! Maybe he yet has in store for our land such a great spiritual deliverance out of Babylon as he granted to the Jewish nation from their physical Babylonian captivity! Maybe!

 

A Greater Evil

 

Having said all that, as horrible as things are on the streets of our cities, in the classrooms of our schools, and among our political leaders, bad as the social fabric of our land is, there is a worse problem. Indeed, this worse problem is the root cause of the other problems we have to deal with everyday. The problem I speak of is this: — The churches, preachers, teachers and spiritual leaders of our land, those who profess to be Godís servants, those who are responsible to teach us Godís Word and Godís ways, have long since abandoned the Word and truth of God. If you will read the first chapter of Romans, you will see that the moral decline of any people begins with spiritual decline, idolatry and apostasy from the Revelation of God in Holy Scripture.

 

            This parable of the vineyard certainly speaks historically of the nation of Israel. It is, without question, a warning to us as a nation and a warning to other nations like ours in this apostate age, who are reaping the consequences of forsaking God and his Word. But it is primarily a warning to local churches, a warning to those who are now so greatly blessed in these dark, dark days with the privilege of sitting in the house of God, under the ministry of faithful gospel preaching. This is what God the Holy Spirit intends for us to learn from this parable: — "Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (Romans 11:20-21). There are seven important lessons in this parable.

 

1.    Godís church in this world is his vineyard. — "And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country" (v. 1). There certainly are applications of this parable to be made to the church universal; but it speaks principally of the church local, local assemblies of men and women who profess to be followers of Christ and his gospel. Every true gospel church is a vineyard of Godís planting. The local church is Godís vineyard. It belongs to the Lord. He separated a piece of ground (a place) for it. He planted it. He has hedged it about. And the local church, the place where you gather with Godís elect, worship the Lord Jesus Christ, hear the gospel of his grace, and have Christ revealed to you through his Word, is the greatest blessing you have in this world.

 

2.    The Lord God has let out this vineyard to us as his husbandmen (v. 1). There is no greater privilege in this world and no greater responsibility under heaven than this: — The Lord God has given us the treasure of the gospel, trusting to our hands the message of his grace, that we might be in this age ďthe pillar and ground of the truth,Ē holding forth the light of the gospel in a world of darkness (1 Timothy 3:15-16).

 

3.    At the appointed season, the Lord God looks for and rightfully expects to find fruit from the husbandmen of his vineyard. — "And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard"(v. 2). The rent he requires of us is very reasonable. All he demands from us is that we reverence his Son (v. 6). God simply requires that we worship his Son. That worship is more than attending worship services two or three times a week. The worship of Christ involves faith in him and faithfulness to him as stewards in his house (1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

 

4.    In verses 2-8 our Savior teaches us that as men and women deal with and treat Gods faithful servants, so they deal with and treat Godís Son.

 

ďAnd at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.Ē

 

5.    Lost religious men and women love religion, religious duties, religious activity, religious ceremonies, religious history and religious tradition, but utterly despise God, his Son, and his gospel, and would (if they could) cast Godís Son off his throne, out of his Kingdom, and kill him. — "But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be oursÖAnd they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way"(v. 7, 12). The reason preachers, teachers, churches and religious leaders despise and cast Christ and his Word out is obvious. — They want the vineyard for themselves. The Pharisees did what they did during our Lordís earthly ministry, and at last crucified the Son of God for only one reason. — They wanted to preserve their position of power and influence over the people (John 11:47-54). That is the reason, the only reason, preachers and religious leaders like Diotrephes despise Christ, his gospel and his servants in every age (3 John 9; Psalm 2:1-12).

 

6.    If we despise the privileges and opportunities God has given us, he will both take away those great privileges and make those things which might have been the means of our everlasting salvation and make them the very basis of our everlasting ruin. — "What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner"(vv. 9-10. Present privileges are no guarantee of future privileges. The Lord Jesus warns us that he will remove the candlestick that is despised (Revelation 2:5). If the preaching of the gospel is not a savor of life unto you, it will be to you a savor of death (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

 

7.    Godís purpose is not hindered. — "And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?Ē (vv. 10-11).Though many do despise Godís grace and thus heap destruction upon themselves, when he takes the gospel from one people, he gives it to another and the purpose of God is not thwarted or even hindered. Christ is still exalted and his people shall be saved (Romans 3:3; 11:26, 33-36).

 

ďGive ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.Ē (Psalms 80:1-19)

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

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