A Parable Of Compassion

A Parable Of Compassion

“He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard: and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord. let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”
–Luke 13:6-9

What a parable of hope and justice, mercy and judgment! The vineyard belongs to the man who planted it and he had every right to expect the fruit of what he had planted. It is rightly called HIS vineyard thus he can do with it however he deems proper. After coming upon this tree in his vineyard which had failed to produce for three years in succession he again finds once again no fruit on this tree. In his anger he speaks to the dresser “Cut it down” then enjoins the phrase “Why cumbereth it the ground?” He is saying it is not producing what I planted it to produce thus it is taking up precious space and time. It has had time to produce yet bears no fruit. The question that one must consider is this man who owns the vineyard righteous in his judgment of this tree? Yes indeed!

After all it is HIS vineyard. He has every right to purge the vineyard as he sees fit. After all the entire vineyard and all that is therein belongs to him. But this dresser who does not own the vineyard, he did not plant it; it is not for his pleasure. He is only the dresser—but perhaps it is his fault this one tree has not produced? Could it be he has been so busy with the other trees the care that should have been given to it has been neglected by him? He lives in this vineyard though it is not his, everyday he toils here and the trees become part of him due to his everyday attendance of these trees. Maybe if he had tried harder on this tree but all his labor has not availed any progress. Yet today is inspection day and the tree is fruitless and the order has come, “Cut it down.”

Perhaps this everyday association with this tree has given him a feeling of self failure or maybe he has an affection for the tree itself, therefore he begins to plea “Lord (by saying this he is telling the owner you are the boss you have every right to give the order) let it alone this year, also, till I dig around it and dung it. Sir maybe this is my fault please give me another year to care for it. I will pull out all the stops; just another year is all I ask. I will give this tree extra attention and then if it does produce fruit then my extra labor has paid off and YOU, sir, will have a fruitful tree.” And maybe with some reluctance in his voice as he looks at the tree which he has grown to love, “and if not, then AFTER that THOU shalt cut it down.”

Since this is a parable Jesus was speaking to these Jews no doubt primarily He is the dresser in this parable who is pleading for the unfruitful nation of Israel. But would that be the end of this valuable lesson? Note that this is connected with his message on repentance in verses 1-5. Then in the last 2 verses he weeps over a nation that will not come to him. The nation of Israel did not produce and was cut down in 70 AD by the judgment of God. But is that the full import of this parable? Could it possibly apply in the church age or even today?

There are some things about God’s dealings with man today we only need to see how God dealt with man yesterday to understand. Paul informs us the things that happened unto Israel was for our examples (1Cor. 10:6,11). Also he told us the things which were written aforetime was for our admonition.(Rom.15:4). Even a casual student of the Bible can instantly began to recall the many passages that supports this intercessory principle—where the dresser seeks time and mercy for the fruitless tree. One such familiar story is where in Moses’ absence from the congregation the people persuades Aaron to build
a golden calf. God is giving Moses the commandments which reflect his character and they, his vineyard, if you please, are worshipping this golden calf with no doubt lewd behavior. “Now there fore let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them, and I will make of THEE a great nation” (Exo. 32:10). But the dresser began to beseech God for mercy for His people. Listen to this prayer of intercession “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—;if not, blot me, I pray thee out of thy book..”(v.32). The Lord plagued the people but spared them for Moses’ sake. What a story of self sacrifice of one willing to throw himself headlong into the judgment of God to spare this people.

Again in the wilderness there was the incident concerning Korath and company. Their complaint was with God’s divine order. God had chosen Moses. God had sent Moses. God has set Moses over the congregation. But these folks did not like God’s plan thus rebellion against Moses which in all reality was not against Moses but God. God says “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (Num.16:21). But Moses and Aaron fall on their faces and said “O, God the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin and wilt thou be wroth wilt all the congregation”(v.22) Those of Korath’s company did die but the congregation was spared because “And he stood between the dead and the living and the PLAGUE WAS STAYED” (v.48).

God through the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet declared “And I sought for a man AMONG them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap BEFORE me FOR the land, THAT I SHOULD NOT DESTROY IT: but I found none.” (Ez. 22:30). But does this same principle apply to his people today or is it every man for himself by himself? Hear what the man who owns the vineyard has to say, “…AS my Father hath sent me , EVEN SO ( or in the same manner) so send I you.” (Jn.20:21)

The great Apostle Paul writer of half the New Testament gives this “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you BY us: WE pray you in Christ’s STEAD, be ye reconciled to God.” (2Cor,5:20). God in His wonderful plan could have chosen angels to preach this gospel and no doubt they would be more obedient and they would not have the frailties of humanity or the limits humans have. It seems that would be more efficient but one thing the angels would be lacking would be human feelings! Thus man with his many failures is chosen and given this great responsibility to preach the gospel and intercede for mankind. No doubt some have interceded for folks who would never produce any fruit only to see them cut down. Amazingly, God does work through man, though he be prone to failure himself, to intercede for the unfruitful trees in His vineyard. “Maybe,” says the faithful pastor, “if He gives me another year to work with them I will do better and maybe they may even become fruitful.” And for those who would complain that this doesn’t seem just and fair, I quote the Psalmist, “As for God, his way is Perfect.” (18:30). And someone has said, “you cannot improve on perfection.”

Elder Steve Epley

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