Exodus 20:1-20 • Psalm 80:7-15 • Isaiah 5:1-7 • Matthew 21:33-46 • Philippians 3:4-14
We usually miss the splendor of our Exodus passage – the giving by God, to the Hebrews, the ten commandments. This, too, is probably the reason we also miss the true meaning and weight of sin. As I pointed out in the Sunday message, the Hebrews coming out of the oppression of slavery in Egypt were, in many ways, like children. They had never lived in freedom, they had never been given the choices that freedom now gave – their lives had basically been lived in survival mode. Now, God is telling them the basic of how to live and how to relate to each other. The ten commandments are basically a ‘How to live in freedom and in Community.’ God gave them this gift (and it was a gift as they were the only people receiving this gift) so they could stay free and not enslave themselves to something, or someone, else. It is a guide of how to trust God, ‘you don’t need to steal because God will provide’, etc. Freedom comes with responsibility to others – the commandments are actually the first lesson in Loving God and Loving others.
Three of our passages for this week use the metaphor of a vineyard. The Psalm passage is actually an answer to the other two – ‘we cry out to God to restore us.’ This, final answer, is then named in the Matthew passage as we see the vineyard owner sending the ‘son’. This Psalm as it cries for restoration is a recognition that we are unable, apart from God, to produce the fruits that God is calling us to produce. Read this passage, then, after you read the Isaiah and Matthew passages, return to this passage again
• Isaiah is speaking but the words are directly from God to all the people.
- This Isaiah passage was probably on the minds of the people as they listened to the parable of Jesus in our Matthew passage. In that passage Jesus is largely confronting the religious leaders and how they have swayed from leading the people to God, instead, making their faith about religious practices and rules – in Isaiah, God is speaking to all the Israelites about the shallowness of their faith and the resulting abuse and neglect of their neighbors (see v.8-12 to understand this).
- The Israelites are divided. What was the nation of Israel has now split into Israel and Judah.
- God is confronting the fact that this vineyard, a vineyard that he planted and nurtured, has grown wild grapes (referring to the people) instead of what he originally planted. He begins by reminding them of his love but in the end, God is warning the people of the doom ahead.
As with last week, and in the coming weeks, we find Jesus in the temple. This is the week that will end with the cross. Last week Jesus’ authority was questioned by the High Priests and Elders, now, as this continuation continues we see that they have been joined by the Pharisees. While this engagement began with these first century Jewish leaders asking the questions, now we see that Jesus has become the one asking the questions. Last week the question was about authority to which Jesus responded by pointing out their lack of honesty, this week we see in the parable, Jesus confronting these religious leaders themselves. In verse 45 we see that the religious leaders realize that Jesus is comparing the tenants in the parable to them.
While there is an implicit reference to the ‘cornerstone’, this parable is primarily aimed at the leaders failures. Jesus is now speaking to the leaders, and the two parables after this one will also be aimed at the leaders (the remaining religious leaders will gather with this group for those parables – the Herodians, Sadducees, and the Scribes).
Three things to consider:
- As the vineyard owner sends his servant, and eventually his own son, to collect the produce/fruits, think back to Matthew 5:1-12. This is the produce that is being collected, this is what the tenants were meant to produce. Jesus is confronting the leaders’ failures to lead out and produce the characteristics spoken to in Matthew 5.
- Look at the quick and brutal response of the leaders when asked ‘what will the owner do to these tenants?’
- As you read our Philippians passage, think if there could be a sameness in what Jesus and Paul are saying.
As we have seen, Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi is reminding the Philippians that they have not yet arrived in their faith, they are still learning and growing. As we learned Sunday, Paul is addressing a divisive risk they are facing within their fellowship. Paul’s overriding message is ‘work out your salvation.’ In this passage Paul reminds the people to not look back at what they have achieved, to not boast in the past, but look ahead at all that God is doing and what it is that he is doing in others as well – this passage is a particular passage to ‘not get stuck in what you have achieved and understand’, instead let God continue to grow you in your understanding (and sometimes correct you in your misunderstanding).