As near as I can tell, our society has lots of sympathy for renters and little sympathy for landlords. TV shows and movies tend to present landlords as humorless jerks who are looking for any excuse to raise the rent and/or evict the helpless tenants. But the real world is a little more complex than that. If a tenant doesn’t pay his rent, or does some things to reduce the value of the property (like trashing the place), it’s usually very difficult to get them forcibly removed.
The background situation described today was actually pretty common back in Jesus’ day, and it still was practiced in some parts of the United States until recently. The landowner would let people stay on his land, and plant and harvest crops. They'd get to keep a certain portion for themselves and give him the rest when called for, all of which would be agreed to beforehand. But in this situation, the renters didn’t want to live up to their end of the bargain.
This story is mainly directed towards Israel, but if we think it doesn’t apply to us as well, we’re being pretty foolish. God is the landowner, and he “cultivated” Israel. Various times Israel is compared to a choice vine which the Lord “planted” and from which he expected a harvest (for example, here). When God didn’t get the harvest he deserved, he took punitive action.
This nation is a lot like Israel. In fact, our founding fathers repeatedly compared it to such, saying that we would be like a new Israel, a shining city on a hill. Like Israel, the Lord has been incredibly good to us, piling up blessing upon blessing, especially spiritual ones. Has there ever been a nation so blessed by so much access to the Word? You can go into any Christian bookstore and choose from hundreds of different study Bibles, each trying to suit your purposes and stage of life.
And God not only gave them his word, he also sent prophets to steer them back on course when they went astray. We too have had lots of great preachers, teachers, and pastors. There are lots of Bible-teaching and preaching churches out there.
How did they react to all this blessing? You can read the story. They treated his sent servants with abuse, with disdain, and occasional murder. And finally he sent his own son. Maybe his thinking was "This will show them I’m totally serious about negotiating a peace. Maybe they were confused, maybe they thought the former servants were imposters or something."
But what they did to the son was the last straw. He could forgive how they treated his servants, but not this. He was going to come pay a visit himself, and this time there'd be no peaceful outreach, no negotiations, no outstretched hand. Once they rejected the son, there was no other possibility but total war.
I don’t think that America has gotten to that point yet. Christians aren’t being openly persecuted, and there's still some openness to the Message of Christ. I really hope I’m right. But on a personal level, the principle is still the same. Anyone can commit any sin and still be forgiven if they ask for it, but to reject the Son is to cut oneself off from the only source of forgiveness and reconciliation that there is.
If you’re a believer, please be thankful for the blessings you have, the opportunities he poured out upon you. And you might want to pray for your nation and your lost friends and family members. If you’re not a believer, if you haven’t placed your trust in Christ yet, please do so today. The time for negotiations is rapidly closing.
Lord Jesus, please help me to make the most of every opportunity you’ve given me. When your servant comes to rebuke and steer me straight, please give me listening ears and a soft heart.
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