Lesson One – Physical Israel and God’s Kingdom

Physical Israel and God’s Kingdom

Lesson Aim:  To show how God separated the people of His kingdom, physical Israel, like a vineyard in order to get the fruit He desired.

Scriptures:  Matt. 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-18; Isa. 5:1-7.
Historical analysis for reading the parable.

Place:  Temple in Jerusalem, Matt. 21:23.

Occasion:  Jewish Passover, Matt. 26:17.

Time:  During the week before Jesus was crucified, Matt. 20: 17-19.

Audience:  The specific audience was the chief priests and elders, Matt. 21:23.

Aim:  Specific aim: To cause the Jewish leaders to understand and publicly confess their evil intent to kill Jesus Christ.  Secondly, to announce a change would be made in the administration of the kingdom of God.  Thirdly, to publicly shame the present chief priest and elders so they would carry out their plan to kill Jesus during the feast. “The hour had come.”   John 13:1.

Jesus’ Hook.  Because the high priest and elders were self-righteous people Jesus knew they would give the correct answer to His parable and they did (v. 41).  Because they were shrewd they quickly realized they had been hooked (vs. 45 and 46).


Mankind was created to be God’s sons and daughters while in this world and join Him in eternity as His children.  Please read Isa. 43:6, 7; Ezek. 16:20, 21; John 1:12, 13; Rom. 8:28-30; Gal. 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:3-6; Heb. 2:10, 11 and Revelation 21:7.  We are to develop the nature of Jesus and give glory to God as our Father (Col. 1:27).  This is the fruit God wants from and for His people while we live in this world (Rom. 8:18-21).  God has patiently worked with mankind in various ways since the beginning of time in order to attain His purposes (Heb. 6:13-20; I Tim. 1:16).  His fruit in us will also satisfy our higher needs for eternal glory (Rom. 2:7, 10; I Cor. 2:7; II Tim. 2:10).

In order to give His people the proper mental and spiritual environment in which to develop ourselves, God has used various separation plans for His faithful people in every generation.  The Apostle Paul admonished those who live in the Christian age to “therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”   (II Cor. 6:17, 18).  To attain our aim in this lesson, we will study the first part of a parable commonly known as “The Wicked Husbandman, or Tenants.”  The parable:

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine growers, and went on a journey.  And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine growers to receive his produce.   And the vine growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.  Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.  Matt. 21:33-36


In Jesus’ parable God is represented by the landowner.  The vineyard is the man-dimension of God’s kingdom in Israel.  The farmers, or tenants, were wicked Jewish stewards over the man-dimension of God’s kingdom.  What is meant by the “man-dimension” of God’s kingdom is the sphere in which God seeks to maintain His eternal spiritual kingdom among mankind.  It is where God’s will is being done on some level among people.  The servants of the owner who came for the fruit of the harvest represent God’s faithful leaders and prophets.  According to Isaiah, justice and righteousness was the fruit which the Lord sought from the citizens of His kingdom on earth (Isa.5:7).

Jesus taught His parable during the week just prior to His death.  It is a clear condemnation of Jewish leaders’ stewardship of God’s kingdom in the Old Testament.  The remainder of the parable is a final condemnation of the leadership of Israel because they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  We will take up this study in our next lesson in this series.  With the foregoing thoughts in mind, please read Isa. 5:1-7.

Isaiah’s parable is a description of physical Israel as the man-dimension of God’s kingdom.  Jesus’ parable concerning the wicked tenants is the end of the scenario set forth in Isaiah’s parable.  God did take His kingdom from Israel because they never did “get it right.”  God gave it to “a people who will produce its fruit.”  Matt 21:43.

Today, we are in the last days of God’s sonship program on earth (Eph. 1:10).  In this age the church of Christ is the man-dimension of God’s kingdom (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col 1:13-18).  We have been separated from the world by our new birth (I Pet. 1: 22, 23).  We are “in Christ;” therefore, spiritual Israel (Eph. 2:6; Gal 4:31; 6:16).  The church of God in Christ is the kingdom of Christ and of God (I Thess. 2:14; Eph. 5:5).  Having received the blessing of God’s kingdom, Christian’s now have the awesome responsibility of producing the fruit thereof.  In our next lesson we will see why we should be able to be “fruit producers for God.”

Before the beginning of the last days physical Israel played a key role in God’s plan.  God ruled as their king until the Israelites asked for a man king (I Sam. 8:7; I Chron. 28:5).  Isaiah’s parable illustrates how God separated them from the ungodly idol worshippers so that they could produce His fruit.

Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.  My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.  And He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine.  And He built a tower in the middle of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.  Isaiah 5:1, 2

This separation started when God said to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.”  Gen. 12:1.  Abraham believed in the one and only living God.  His father, Terah, served other gods (Joshua 24:2).  Therefore, the separation was necessary for Abraham’s well being, his children’s spiritual growth and God’s kingdom in general.

This was not the first time God had taken steps to separate the faithful from the unfaithful in the history of mankind.  Noah and his family of eight were the faithful.  The means of separation was the great flood (Gen. 6:1-7).  Some have seen this as a cruel act on God’s part, but Christians understand that it was necessary for God’s overall sonship program in the world.  Each and every person has been created to be a child of God.  When God knows a certain people are not willing to accept His plan for them, they may become objects of His wrath in order to help save His children (Rom. 9:21-24).  At the time God flooded the earth and removed by death the unfaithful people, He knew they had an evil heart.  Although this grieved God, He could not “in His scheme for producing His children” force them to change.  Parent/child relationships cannot be forced.  He had to think of saving the ones who were still faithful.  Separation by the flood was God’s wisdom at that time.  We need to remember that God’s program is for eternity as we read about the drastic steps He took in the Old Testament.

According to Isaiah’s parable, Israel was God’s vineyard.  In order to prepare a physical place for His vineyard, God’s plan called for the destruction or removal of all the people in Canaan (Exo. 33:2).  This same land is known as Israel today.  However, at the time God wanted to move Abraham out of the terrible environment of the Chaldean society the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full; therefore, God developed the Israelite nation in Egypt until the fourth generation.  Please read Genesis 15:13-16.  Moses brought them out of Egypt.  Joshua led them into Canaan with God’s help (Exo. 4:12, 22; Joshua 24:12).  Thus, it is written in the Psalms, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it.”  Ps. 80:8.

The method God planned to use to fence in His vineyard was explained by Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:1-11.  In essence, God’s instruction was to utterly destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan.  They were to make no covenants with them or inter-marry.  The reason given was, they “will turn away thy sons from following Me.”

Israel did not carry out God’s instructions completely; consequently, God used the people they did not kill, or drive out, to test the Israelites (Judges 3:1-4).  We learn of these trials in the book of Judges.  At that time God ruled His kingdom, Israel, from heaven.  When the people sinned, He let other nations take them over.  When they repented, He appointed a judge to free them of their oppressors.

The Israelites asked for a king like the other nations and God gave them Saul.  (I Samuel 8:1-9).  Saul disobeyed God and David was chosen by God to rule over His kingdom.  A promise was made to him that gave us our present king, Jesus Christ.  Please read II Samuel 7:12-17.  Solomon was the first of David’s seed to reign over God’s kingdom and Jesus Christ is, and will be, the last (I Chron 28:5; 29:11,23; Luke 1:30-33).

After Solomon’s rule, Israel split.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were known as Judah.  They followed Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.  The remaining ten tribes followed Jeroboam and he immediately built idols for them to worship so they would not return to Jerusalem.  Please read I Kings 12:16-33.

Isaiah’s parable historically belongs to the eighth century before Christ.  The parable is used to show Israel how God had protected them and nurtured them; however, the things that were supposed to happen did not happen.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.  What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?  Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless?  And now let Me tell what I am going to do to My vineyard:  I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.  Isa. 5:3-5

God did indeed remove His wall from around His vineyard.  The ten tribes known as Israel no longer enjoyed God’s protection.  In the course of history they were carried into captivity by their northern neighbor, Assyria.  Read II Kings 17:6.  This left only two tribes as God’s vineyard, Judah and what was left of the Benjaminites.  The parable describes Judah as “God’s pleasant plant.”  However, God finally removed his fence from around her and Isaiah’s parable became a reality.  God used the kingdom of Babylon to carry the people of His kingdom into captivity starting in 605 B.C. with the final defeat in 586 B.C.

And he burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.  II Kings 25:9

Seventy years later, Judah’s captor, Babylon, fell to Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1:1, 2).  God re-established His vineyard in Jerusalem but it never did produce the quality of fruit God desired.

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.  Isa. 5:7

Jesus’ parables reveal some of the principles God used to maintain His kingdom with physical Israel.  One, we understand that God maintains His kingdom among mankind on earth.  Two, He expects the kingdom citizens to adopt the same quality of life He maintains in the city of God in heaven.  Three, God uses men as stewards in the man-dimension of His kingdom.  These people will answer for the quality of their work.  Four, God’s hand is never still.  He did not wind up the world and let it run.  We could, no doubt, add other principles to this list; however, these are made very plain to us by Jesus in our text parable.  God is still maintaining His kingdom on earth and these principles still apply.

The main purpose of Jesus’ parable must be understood in its historical setting.  Its purpose was to publicly convict the chief priest and elders by their own testimony of their failed stewardship over God’s kingdom on earth.  That done, there were other purposes served as was noted in the “Historical Analysis” section.

Stephen addressed the sensitive points of Jesus’ parables after Jesus became king.  Stephen was speaking directly to the Jewish leadership, perhaps the very same persons Jesus “hooked.” They killed Stephen as they did Jesus; consequently, we see the parable story did not end with the death of the owner’s son because the Jewish leaders remained in power in physical Israel.

Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost:  as your fathers did, so do ye.  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?  And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.  Acts 7:51-53

God built a fence around His vineyard, the Israelite nation by separating them from those who worshipped other gods.  He made many blessings available to them.  They did not remain within those boundaries He prescribed to them by Moses; therefore, they failed to produce fruit for God.  God removed the wall and also the blessings.

One personal lesson for us today is that when there is no fruit in our lives for God, His blessings may be removed.  We need the blessings in order to develop as sons of God.  The warning to the church in Sardis is an example.  See Revelation 3:1-6.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who does each character represent in our text parable?
  2. When did Jesus teach this parable?
  3. In order for God to attain His purposes for mankind, what has He found it necessary to do in each generation?
  4. Who was the king over Israel before Saul?
  5. When did God start His separation program for Israel?
  6. Tell of another great separation God made before Abraham.
  7. What was the land of Israel known as before it was Israel?
  8. Give one reason why God did not destroy the Amorite people at an earlier date.
  9. Tell how Psalms 80:8 is a true statement.
  10. What method did God use to put a proverbial fence around His vineyard, Israel?
  11. Who is the last king over God’s kingdom according to the promises made to King David?
  12. What did God do when Israel did not produce fruit for Him?
  13. List some principles we can learn from Jesus’ parable.
  14. What was Jesus’ main purpose for presenting this parable?
  15. What is the personal lesson for us?

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