Theme: God’s Justice
This parable warns that we must act now, in the day of grace.
When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
In yesterday’s study, we began a discussion of Jonathan Edwards’ statement that we are God’s enemies in several ways. First, we are enemies in our judgments. The second way in which we show that we are enemies of God is in the natural relish of our souls. Third, Edwards says that people are enemies of God in their wills. That is, the will of God and their wills are set at cross purposes to each other. What God wills, they hate. What God hates, they desire, Edwards says that is why they are so opposed to God’s government. They are not God’s loyal subjects, as they should be, but are opposed to his rule in this world. Their whole desire is expressed by the psalmist: “Let us break [God’s] chains, and throw off [his] fetters” (Psalm 2:3).
Fourth, the affections of the natural man flare out against God. Edwards was aware that in prosperous times, when God seems to leave men alone and their plans are not disturbed, they manage for the most part to keep their evil affections toward him hidden. They will even be a bit condescending in such times, as if from the throne of their own universe they might throw God a tip. But let them be crossed, let something go wrong, and their malice burns against him.
This is exercised in dreadful heart-risings, inward wranglings and quarrellings, and blasphemous thoughts, wherein the heart is like a viper, hissing and spitting poison at God. And however free from it the heart may seem to be, when let alone and secure, yet a very little thing will set it in a rage. Temptations will show what is in the heart. The alteration of a man’s circumstances will often discover the heart.”1
Edwards argued that those true affections will be seen most clearly when people are cast into hell. There will be no new corruption then, only less restraint on what had been present all along. But their hatred of God will burn continually.
Fifth, men are God’s enemies in their practice. Here Edwards gets close to the main point of Christ’s parable. For he says that although men and women cannot injure God, because he is so much above them, they nevertheless do what they can. They oppose themselves to God’s honor, persecute his prophets, seek to thwart his work in this world and, in general, “list under Satans banner” as willing soldiers.
What is to be done with such persons?
That is precisely the question Jesus himself asked of those who were listening to his parable. He could have given the answer himself. He could have said, “Because of their wicked behavior, the owner of the vineyard will return and destroy those tenants.” But Jesus did not apply it that way. Instead, he turned to the very people he was accusing of being such tenants and said to them, “Tell me, what will the owner do when he returns? You render judgment. What is the proper response to such wicked and inexcusable behavior?”
The people rightly replied, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time” (v.41). In rendering that judgment they spoke their own doom.
1Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and Carlisle, Pa: Banner of Truth, 1974) 2:131.
What are three more ways in which we are enemies of God?
Summarize the main point of this parable.
How does Jesus talk about the wicked tenants?
What is your first reaction toward God when something goes wrong?
Although men and women cannot injure God, because he is so much above them, they nevertheless do what they can.