What is God really like? Jesus tells a parable in Luke 20:9-19, which reveals four foundational aspects of the nature of God. In Part 1, we saw God is good. Now, we will consider two more truths about God we learn from this parable:
2. God is patient – He sends us many messengers
In the parable, the owner, who represents God, sent a servant to the vineyard when the grapes were ready to harvest. The tenants were like share-croppers. The owner did not demand all of the grapes, just a portion of them. But the tenants rejected the servant, beat him up, and kicked him out. The essence of sin is declaring independence from your Creator – refusing to acknowledge God’s ownership of this world and rejecting His claim on your life. Sin always begins with an attitude that says, “I don’t need God. I’m the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.”
The tenants insulted the owner by rejecting his servant. What would you do if you were the landlord of a rental house and you sent an employee to collect the rent and instead of paying, the renter beat up your employee and said, “This is MY house! I’m not paying a dime!” God would have been legally and morally justified to instantly reclaim the vineyard from sinful mankind and punish us immediately. But at this point in the parable, we learn the truth about God: He is not only good, He is patient. Instead of punishing the farmers, he sends another servant, and then another – and they are all rejected.
In the Old Testament, God sent many prophets to Israel to warn them of the dangers of rejecting God. Most of the prophets were abused and scorned. Elijah was threatened by a wicked queen, Jeremiah was thrown into a pit to die, and Amos was ridiculed. The messages of the prophets were never valued until years after they died. Someone once said prophets, poets, and pigs have one thing in common: they aren’t truly appreciated until they’re dead.
God owns this world and He owns your life. Have you rejected His claim? If you have, you should be thankful God is patient. He keeps on sending you messengers to patiently request you surrender to Him what is rightfully His. God has promised He will punish sin. You may think you are getting away with your sin, but God is just being patient with you. The Bible says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He is giving you another chance right now as you read these words. Patience is not weakness or unconcern; patience is strength under control.
In the 19th century, before radio or television, people in America found entertainment by listening to orators. One of the most infamous was a gifted atheist by the name of Robert Ingersol. He traveled around the country delivering eloquent speeches on the irrationality of believing in God. One of his most dramatic methods was to stand on stage and shake his fist toward heaven and say, “If there is a God, I dare Him to strike me dead in 10 seconds!” Then he slowly counted to ten. Women fainted and God-fearing people rushed for the exits, fully expecting God to send a fireball and consume Robert Ingersol. Of course, nothing happened. After completing his count, Ingersol challenged anyone in the audience to refute his logic. It is reported in one small Midwestern town an old, godly woman laughed out loud and said, “Mr. Ingersol, do you think you can exhaust God’s wonderful patience in just 10 seconds?” God is patient, but as we will see, His patience will run out one day.
3. God is loving – He sent His only Son
In the parable, after his servants had been rejected and abused, the owner takes an unprecedented, astonishing step – he sent his son. Jesus called him “the beloved son.” In Mark’s version of the story, the owner sends his “only son.” The words “beloved son” are the same words heard when Jesus was baptized. A voice from heaven said, “This is My Beloved Son” (Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11).
I was reading my Bible the other day and came across an amazing verse. When I read it, I was blown away. It is probably the most important statement about God found in the Bible. I want to share it with you in case you have never read it. It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Can you comprehend that? There is only one God and He has only one Son, and He loves us so much He sent His only Son to reconcile our differences with Him. What did we do? Did we run out to meet God’s Son and fall at His feet in surrender? No, like the tenants in the parable, we crucified the Son of God.
This parable not only highlights the truth about the character of God, it reveals the shocking truth about the utter wickedness of the human heart. The tenants of the vineyard did not kill the owner’s son in the spontaneous heat of emotion; they made a calculated decision. They thought by killing the son, they could claim ownership of the vineyard.
That’s what so amazing about God’s love. We are sinners by nature and by choice, but God still loves us, in spite of our sin. He loves us enough that He sent His only Son to die for us. The Bible says, “God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
How can a person resist that kind of love? God has written thousands of letters to us – and each one of them says, “I love you.” The reason some people don’t understand the Bible is because they try to study it like they study other literature, such as Shakespeare or Milton. Instead, the Bible is one long love letter. On every page, God is expressing His love to you.
The owner of the vineyard was good, patient, and loving, but he couldn’t allow the wickedness of the tenants to go unnoticed or unpunished.
In Part 3, we will look at the final truth about God. You may be shocked to discover the truth!