Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark, Sr. and John D. Clark, Sr.
“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.”
“The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel.”
God cast the heathen out of the land of Canaan and planted there instead His vineyard, the Israelites. After rescuing them from Egyptian slavery, He fed them “the bread of angels” in the wilderness (Ps. 78:25) and gave them His law to guide them in the way of righteousness. He cherished them and shielded them from those who sought to do them harm. He answered their prayers for wisdom and strength. Said Moses, “What great nation has God so close to it as the Lord our God is in all that we call upon Him? And what great nation has righteous statutes and judgments as this law which I am setting before you today?” (Dt. 4:7–8).
Unfortunately, not everyone in Israel shared Moses’ exuberance and gratitude for God’s grace, and the immorality which idolatry breeds ruined Israel. God chose Isaiah to sing for Him a parable to Israel concerning His vineyard: “I will now sing for my Beloved my Beloved’s song concerning His vineyard: My Beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. And he dug all around it, and cleared it of stones, and planted it with a choice vine. And he built a tower in the midst of it, and he also hewed out a wine-vat in it. And then he waited for it to yield grapes. But it produced wild grapes!” Then, Isaiah explained the parable to his listeners: “The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, His very delightful plant. And He looked for justice, but behold, murder! For righteousness, but behold, a cry!” (Isa. 5:1–2, 7). God grieved as a husband would grieve over an unfaithful wife: “You took your beautiful objects made from my gold and from my silver which I had given you, and you made for yourself male images, and you committed whoredom with them. . . . Come back, O wayward children, says the Lord, for I am married to you!” (Ezek. 16:17; Jer. 3:14). Finally, after centuries of pleading with Israel through many prophets, who were all rejected and abused for their efforts, God made the heart-rending decision to put away His beloved Israel, the “apple of his eye” (Dt. 32:10; Zech. 2:8).
When Jesus came, he warned the leaders of Israel with an easily understood parable that the time had come for Israel’s rejection by God (Mt. 21:33–45): “There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, and he hedged it all around, and dug a wine-press in it, and built a watchtower, and leased it to vine-dressers, and then went on a journey. Now, when the season for the fruit was at hand, he sent his servants to the tenants to receive his fruit. And the vine-dressers seized his servants; one they beat, and one they killed, and one they stoned. Again, he sent other servants, more than the first, and they treated them the same way. Then, finally, he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But the vine-dressers, seeing the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come on! Let’s kill him and seize his inheritance!’ And they seized him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. So now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? They said to him, ‘He will brutally destroy those wicked men, and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.’ Jesus then asked them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures, “The stone that the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner. This is from the Lord, and it is astonishing in our eyes”? Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and be given to a nation that will yield its fruit. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but whoever it falls on, it will crush him.’ And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was talking about them.”
Jesus told his disciples that he was the vine and that those who were in him would be spared the wrath of God: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. He takes away every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it might bear more fruit. . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit. Without me, you can do nothing. Unless a man abides in me, he is thrown away like a branch, and it withers, and they gather them up and throw them into a fire, and it is burned” (Jn. 15:1–2, 5–6).
In order for the Jews to continue to be in God’s vineyard after He sent His Son to them, they had to believe that He was the one God sent. It is with this understanding that Jesus prayed to his Father, “They were yours, and you have given them to me” (Jn. 17:6). Some Jews believed in Jesus and remained in God’s vineyard, but those who did not believe were cut off and rejected by God. Those Jews who believed were a special group, for they remained in the vineyard of God all the way from the cradle to the grave. They were not cut off when the vineyard was pruned following the day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Spirit from heaven, nor did they need to be “grafted in”, as the Gentiles later were (Rom. 11:17–24). They were chosen people of God throughout their lives.
In time, Jews who recognized Jesus as Israel’s Messiah were cast out by their Israelite kinsman and were forced to go live as believers in the Gentile world. But the Old Testament came to an end, and the New Testament took its place, open to all who would believe in Christ, the True Vine of God. God turned His beloved Israel over to her own ways and called the Gentiles instead.
God’s judgment upon Israel, Paul said, served as an example to the Gentiles of God’s righteous judgment, and when taken rightly, it inspires fear of God rather than boasting. “[Do not say,] ‘The branches [the Jews] were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ True; they were broken off because of unbelief – but you stand by faith. Do not be high-minded, but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches, He might not spare you, either. Behold, therefore, the goodness and the severity of God; toward those who have fallen, severity, but toward you, goodness – if you continue in goodness. Otherwise, you, too, shall be cut off ” (Rom. 11:19–22).
Paul’s point is clear. God will cast out of His vineyard now all who do not “continue in his goodness”, just as He cast out disobedient souls from His Old Testament vineyard. And isn’t that what Jesus was also teaching when he said, “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mt. 24:12–13)?
Yes, my Friend, salvation is God’s sure promise to His obedient children. On the other hand, God’s disobedient children will be cast out of His vineyard and have their names blotted out of God’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5), and then be cast into the horrific Lake of Fire, to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10, 15). Let us live so that we escape that awful place, and be granted a place among the saints who will live in peace with Christ forever.
by John David Clark, Sr.
Love those about you while you can.
Wait, if you can, a little longer;
Just an hour,
or even a few more minutes,
Oh let me have you as my father a little longer
before you leave me to face this forgetting world
with only my memories.
Please, if you can. Stay.
I can still say I have a father as long as you are here.
What will I say when you are gone?
What should I say?
Just a little longer,
let me rest in the shadow of knowing you are here.
If only for a moment, if you can,
ease my heart a little longer with your presence.