Summary: “What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” Is. 5:4
The focus of many people today is to acquire wealth and property and enjoy worldly pleasures. This is not surprising as the wealthy are accorded the best places at functions and attract the most respect no matter the source of their wealth. The first words of Scripture, however teach us to rather keep our focus on God with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. God is Creator and everything begins with Him and is sustained by Him. It is wise to keep our focus on God since He is all knowing and everything He does is for a good reason. He had a good reason for creating man on the sixth day and not earlier. He spent the first five days creating all that man would need to survive and fulfil His will. God created man to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”. (Gen. 1:28) If man had been created earlier he would have drowned or starved to death. God has in a similar way provided in Christ all that the believer would need to produce the fruits of the Kingdom.
Step One: The love of God
a) The planting of the vineyard
God is love and He “is the same yesterday, today and forever”. (Heb. 13:8) In today’s parable a landowner plants a vineyard and provides all that is necessary to ensure that the land bears fruit and yields a harvest. He even built a winepress to extract juice from the harvested grapes.
b) The protection of the vineyard
The landowner also built a watchtower and planted a hedge around the vineyard to protect it and guard against thieves and robbers. He took appropriate measures to protect his investment.
c) The stewardship over the vineyard
The landowner, satisfied with his provisions and preparations, gives the vineyard out to tenant farmers who as stewards were to take care of it. All that they needed to do for an abundant harvest was to take good care of the land and the vine.
The landowner in this parable is a reference to God, the vineyard to Israel, the tenants to the Jews and their religious leaders, the landowner’s servants to the prophets, the son to Jesus Christ and the other tenants to the Gentiles. The Jews and their religious leaders were unfaithful to God and refused to listen to the God’s faithful prophets who proclaimed the Word of God. They reminded the Israelites that the vineyard belonged to God who, as the owner, had a right to part of the yield. They withheld from God what was rightfully His and thereby denied themselves His blessings. Without the blessings of God, the vineyard could only yield sour grapes. Unfortunately, we seem to be repeating the same mistake today. We fail to see God as the owner of everything we possess and refuse to give Him His just demands. Withholding from God what is rightfully His is to deny ourselves His blessings.
God chose Israel to point the world to God. They were to demonstrate the nature and character of God by producing the fruits of the Kingdom, the fruit of love, holiness, justice and righteousness. Israel, instead of good grapes, bore sour grapes. They produced the fruit of hate, injustice, oppression and idolatry because they did things their way instead of God’s way. Today the Church has been chosen to point the world to God but are they doing things their way or God’. Is the Church bearing the right fruit?
Step Two: The rejection of God’s love
a) Fruit of envy and greed
The landowner’s love and provisions did not make any impact on the tenant farmers. They rejected His love and rather sought to take over the vineyard. We are still rejecting God’s love today and instead of depending on God have chosen to depend on ourselves so that there is no longer any need to obey Him. The result of our dependence on self is envy, greed and hate.
b) Fruit of rebellion and wickedness
Envy and greed leads to rebellion and wickedness. An envious and greedy person will destroy anything and anyone that dares stand in his or her way. A wicked person will even kill to achieve his evil aims.
c) Fruit of murder
Rebellion and wickedness will eventually lead to murder. When the landowner sent his servants to collect his rightful share of the fruit, the farmers mistreated some, beat up and killed the others. They did not even spare his own son. They took him outside the vineyard and killed him.
The desire to be in control of our own lives is the main reason behind the rejection of God’s love. The rejection of God’s love however brings us under the control of the world and the flesh. This is the worst thing that can ever happen to anyone. It leads to a mindset that is contrary to the Word of God and leads to unrighteous acts that show no regard for God. Paul before his conversion was ruled by this mindset. In spite of all his religious knowledge and training he persecuted and killed the followers of Christ. When Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus he came under the control of Christ with a new mindset that made him behave and act in accordance with the Word of God. A mindset that agrees with the Word of God leads to a life of love and righteousness. Paul’s new life reflected the mindset of Christ. He “counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord”. (Phil.3:8) With the mindset of Christ he finally understood that his righteousness could never come from obeying the Law but only by the grace of God.