Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 23: The Lord's Vineyard
Based on Matt. 21:33-44
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The Jewish Nation
The parable of the two sons was followed by the
parable of the vineyard. In the one, Christ had set before
the Jewish teachers the importance of obedience. In the
other, He pointed to the rich blessings bestowed upon
Israel, and in these showed God's claim to their obedience.
He set before them the glory of God's purpose, which
through obedience they might have fulfilled. Withdrawing
the veil from the future, He showed how, by failure to
fulfill His purpose, the whole nation was forfeiting His
blessing, and bringing ruin upon itself.
|The Parable of the Vineyard.—Davis Collection.|
"There was a certain householder," Christ said, "which
planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged
a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to
husbandmen, and went into a far country."
A description of this vineyard is given by the prophet
Isaiah: "Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my
beloved touching His vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a [p. 285] vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and He fenced it, and
gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the
choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also
made a winepress therein; and He looked that it should
bring forth grapes." Isa. 5:1, 2.
The husbandman chooses a piece of land from the
wilderness; he fences, clears, and tills it, and plants it with
choice vines, expecting a rich harvest. This plot of ground,
in its superiority to the uncultivated waste, he expects to do
him honor by showing the results of his care and toil in its
cultivation. So God had chosen a people from the world
to be trained and educated by Christ. The prophet says,
"The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah His pleasant plant." Isa. 5:7. Upon
this people God had bestowed great privileges, blessing
them richly from His abundant goodness. He looked for
them to honor Him by yielding fruit. They were to reveal
the principles of His kingdom. In the midst of a fallen,
wicked world they were to represent the character of God.
As the Lord's vineyard they were to produce fruit
altogether different from that of the heathen nations.
These idolatrous peoples had given themselves up to work
wickedness. Violence and crime, greed, oppression, and the
most corrupt practices, were indulged without restraint.
Iniquity, degradation, and misery were the fruits of the
corrupt tree. In marked contrast was to be the fruit borne
on the vine of God's planting.
It was the privilege of the Jewish nation to represent
the character of God as it had been revealed to Moses. In
answer to the prayer of Moses, "Show me Thy glory,"
the Lord promised, "I will make all My goodness pass
before thee." Ex. 33:18, 19. "And the Lord passed by
before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, [p. 286] merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in
goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving
iniquity and transgression and sin." Ex. 34:6, 7. This was
the fruit that God desired from His people. In the purity
of their characters, in the holiness of their lives, in their
mercy and loving-kindness and compassion, they were to
show that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting
the soul." Ps. 19:7.
Through the Jewish nation it was God's purpose to
impart rich blessings to all peoples. Through Israel the
way was to be prepared for the diffusion of His light to
the whole world. The nations of the world, through
following corrupt practices, had lost the knowledge of God.
Yet in His mercy God did not blot them out of existence.
He purposed to give them opportunity for becoming
acquainted with Him through His church. He designed that
the principles revealed through His people should be the
means of restoring the moral image of God in man.
It was for the accomplishment of this purpose that God
called Abraham out from his idolatrous kindred and bade
him dwell in the land of Canaan. "I will make of thee a
great nation," He said, "and I will bless thee, and make
thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." Gen. 12:2.
The descendants of Abraham, Jacob and his posterity,
were brought down to Egypt that in the midst of that great
and wicked nation they might reveal the principles of God's
kingdom. The integrity of Joseph and his wonderful work
in preserving the lives of the whole Egyptian people were a
representation of the life of Christ. Moses and many others
were witnesses for God.
In bringing forth Israel from Egypt, the Lord again
manifested His power and His mercy. His wonderful
works in their deliverance from bondage and His dealings
with them in their travels through the wilderness were not [p. 287] for their benefit alone. These were to be as an object
lesson to the surrounding nations. The Lord revealed Himself
as a God above all human authority and greatness.
The signs and wonders He wrought in behalf of His people
showed His power over nature and over the greatest of
those who worshiped nature. God went through the proud
land of Egypt as He will go through the earth in the last
days. With fire and tempest, earthquake and death, the
great I AM redeemed His people. He took them out of
the land of bondage. He led them through the "great and
terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and
scorpions, and drought." Deut. 8:15. He brought them forth
water out of "the rock and flint," and fed them with "the
corn of heaven." Ps. 78:24. "For," said Moses, "the Lord's
portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling
wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept
him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirreth up her
nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings,
taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone
did lead him, and there was no strange god with him."
Deut. 32:9-12. Thus He brought them unto Himself, that
they might dwell as under the shadow of the Most High.
Christ was the leader of the children of Israel in their
wilderness wanderings. Enshrouded in the pillar of cloud
by day and the pillar of fire by night, He led and guided
them. He preserved them from the perils of the wilderness,
He brought them into the land of promise, and in the sight
of all the nations that acknowledged not God He established
Israel as His own chosen possession, the Lord's vineyard.
To this people were committed the oracles of God.
They were hedged about by the precepts of His law, the
everlasting principles of truth, justice, and purity. Obedience
to these principles was to be their protection, for it [p. 288] would save them from destroying themselves by sinful
practices. And as the tower in the vineyard, God placed in
the midst of the land His holy temple.
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