Lesson 11 | Sabbath, 11 September 2021
“The children of Israel were to occupy all the territory which God appointed them. Those nations that rejected the worship and service of the true God were to be dispossessed. But it was God’s purpose that by the revelation of His character through Israel men should be drawn unto Him. To all the world the gospel invitation was to be given. Through the teaching of the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted before the nations, and all who would look unto Him should live. All who, like Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabitess, turned from idolatry to the worship of the true God were to unite themselves with His chosen people. As the numbers of Israel increased, they were to enlarge their borders until their kingdom should embrace the world.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 19.
Fruitful hill and noble vine
1. What parable did the Lord use to portray the history, conditions, and expectations that He had for His people? What was the soil like in which He planted His vineyard?
Isaiah 5:1. Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill.
Psalm 80:8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
“‘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.’ Deuteronomy 32:9-12. Thus He brought the Israelites unto Himself, that they might dwell as under the shadow of the Most High. Miraculously preserved from the perils of the wilderness wandering, they were finally established in the Land of Promise as a favored nation.
“By means of a parable, Isaiah has told with touching pathos the story of Israel’s call and training to stand in the world as Jehovah’s representatives, fruitful in every good work:…” –Prophets and Kings, p. 17.
2. What kind of vine did the Lord choose to plant in His vineyard? What did He do to protect and nurture it?
Jeremiah 2:21. Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed:…
Isaiah 5:2. 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.
“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 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.
“Christ was their instructor. As He had been with them in the wilderness, so He was still to be their teacher and guide. In the tabernacle and the temple His glory dwelt in the holy Shekinah above the mercy seat. In their behalf He constantly manifested the riches of His love and patience.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 17, 18.
Disappointment at the harvest
3. What did the Owner say concerning what He had done in planting the vineyard? Nevertheless, what did He find at the time of the harvest?
Isaiah 5:2, 4, last part. And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes…. 4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
“But ancient Israel did not fulfill God’s purpose. The Lord declared, ‘I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?’‘ Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.’‘ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard. What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For… He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.’ Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1; Isaiah 5:3-7.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 19, 20.
4. In addition to not producing the expected fruit, what happened to the vine? What did the Lord therefore ask His people to do?
Jeremiah 2:21, last part … How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
Isaiah 5:3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
“The Lord had through Moses set before His people the result of unfaithfulness. By refusing to keep His covenant, they would cut themselves off from the life of God, and His blessing could not come upon them. At times these warnings were heeded, and rich blessings were bestowed upon the Jewish nation and through them upon surrounding peoples. But more often in their history they forgot God and lost sight of their high privilege as His representatives.… Thus the Gentile world was given occasion to misinterpret the character of God and the laws of His kingdom.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 20, 21.
Privileges and protection withdrawn
5. What would one expect the Owner to do, since the vineyard had produced nothing and the vine degenerated into a strange plant?
Isaiah 5:5, 6. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: 6And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
“With a father’s heart, God bore with His people. He pleaded with them by mercies given and mercies withdrawn. Patiently He set their sins before them and in forbearance waited for their acknowledgment. Prophets and messengers were sent to urge His claim upon the husbandmen; but, instead of being welcomed, these men of discernment and spiritual power were treated as enemies. The husbandmen persecuted and killed them. God sent still other messengers, but they received the same treatment as the first, only that the husbandmen showed still more determined hatred….
“The goodly vine planted by the divine Husbandman upon the hills of Palestine was despised by the men of Israel and was finally cast over the vineyard wall; they bruised it and trampled it under their feet and hoped that they had destroyed it forever. The Husbandman removed the vine and concealed it from their sight. Again He planted it, but on the other side of the wall and in such a manner that the stock was no longer visible. The branches hung over the wall, and grafts might be joined to it; but the stem itself was placed beyond the power of men to reach or harm.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 21, 22.
6. What two kingdoms and people did the fruitless, degenerated vineyard represent?
Isaiah 5:7. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
“Had Rehoboam and his inexperienced counselors understood the divine will concerning Israel, they would have listened to the request of the people for decided reforms in the administration of the government. But in the hour of opportunity that came to them during the meeting in Shechem, they failed to reason from cause to effect, and thus forever weakened their influence over a large number of the people. Their expressed determination to perpetuate and add to the oppression introduced during Solomon’s reign was in direct conflict with God’s plan for Israel, and gave the people ample occasion to doubt the sincerity of their motives. In this unwise and unfeeling attempt to exercise power, the king and his chosen counselors revealed the pride of position and authority.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 90.
Only a remnant
7. How is this parable to be understood? Were errors and apostasy general among God’s chosen people, or was the problem only with the vast majority? What positive words were nevertheless heard concerning a faithful few in the time of the monarchy?
Isaiah 1:9; 6:13. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah….6:13But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
“‘They which lead thee,’ the prophet continued, ‘cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.’ Verse 12. During the reign of Ahaz this was literally true; for of him it is written: ‘He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom;’‘ yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel.’ 2 Chronicles 28:2, 3; 2 Kings 16:3.
“This was indeed a time of great peril for the chosen nation. Only a few short years, and the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel were to be scattered among the nations of heathendom. And in the kingdom of Judah also the outlook was dark. The forces for good were rapidly diminishing, the forces for evil multiplying. The prophet Micah, viewing the situation, was constrained to exclaim: ‘The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men.’‘The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge.’ Micah 7:2, 4. ‘Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,’ declared Isaiah, ‘we should have been as Sodom, and … Gomorrah.’ Isaiah 1:9.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 324.
For additional study
“Of special value to God’s church on earth today–the keepers of His vineyard–are the messages of counsel and admonition given through the prophets who have made plain His eternal purpose in behalf of mankind. In the teachings of the prophets, His love for the lost race and His plan for their salvation are clearly revealed. The story of Israel’s call, of their successes and failures, of their restoration to divine favor, of their rejection of the Master of the vineyard, and of the carrying out of the plan of the ages by a goodly remnant to whom are to be fulfilled all the covenant promises–this has been the theme of God’s messengers to His church throughout the centuries that have passed. And today God’s message to His church–to those who are occupying His vineyard as faithful husbandmen–is none other than that spoken through the prophet of old.
“‘Sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.’ Isaiah 27:2, 3.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 22.