What’s So Hard to Understand? The Parable of the Tenants

Jesus taught: Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet (Matthew 21:33-46).

Jewish people, who regard themselves as God’s chosen and holy nation, Israel, take pride in their heritage, their religion and their efforts in having returned to the promised land to rebuild the scattered nation in the original homeland of their ancestors.

I recently listened to a lengthy panel debate in which the topic was over the validity of equating Anti-Zionism directly with Anti-Semitism (see the YouTube debate at this link Debate: Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism). 

If Jewish people want to claim, according to the Scriptures, to be the exclusive nation of Israel with the title-deed right of return to possess the promised land in the Middle East, then they would be obligated to live according to the Law given through Moses, which will once again condemn them, or they will need to be reconciled to God through faith in the Messiah and submit to his will. 

They cannot claim a Biblical right to the holy land if they stubbornly refuse to live and occupy the land as a holy, faithful and obedient nation (or tenant) with legal tenancy agreement and covenant promises.

The God of Israel said through Moses, “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.’’ I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations” (Leviticus 20:22-24).

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:1819)]

The Lord said to me (Moses): “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name – [and they will be completely cut off from Israel]” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19).

Needless to say, as plainly testified by history, the Jewish people were driven from the land in 70AD for not listening to the Jesus the Messiah. More than five-hundred years earlier, the ten tribes of Israel were scattered on account of their unfaithfulness, then the prophets warned the tribe of  Judah who paid no attention and they too were then taken captive into exile in Babylon for seventy years in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. The land did indeed vomit the people out from it on account of their disobedience. One of the reasons was that they did not obey the sabbath of allowing the land to recover and lie fallow every seventh year.

The ideology of Zionism is based upon the assumption that the Jewish people have a God-given right to possess and to occupy the promised land. When people presume to take occupancy of land, they must carefully read and fully understand the legal terms of ownership and/ or occupancy. One may pretend to piously study the Law and yet overlook certain details. If you find the following extracts too tedious to read, then please do not engage in any debate concerning the legitimacy of the Zionist agenda or the legitamcy or illlegitimacy of founding an exclusively “Jewish” state. 

The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

“‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

“‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.

“‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God.

“‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.

“‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

“‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.

“‘Anyone who sells a house in a walled city retains the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time the seller may redeem it. If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the buyer and the buyer’s descendants. It is not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as belonging to the open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:1-31).

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:4-14).

Hananiah was a typical reckless Zionist who was moved by Jewish sentiment and national pride, but did not heed or pay any careful attention to the word of the LORD.

In the fifth month of that same year, the fourth year, early in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”

Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord. He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (Jeremiah 28:1-9).

Jeremiah agree with the sentiment of Zionism, even by saying to the false prophet Hananiah, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied…”, but the Lord’s will is not changed or manipulated by human sentiment.  The Lord spoke through the various prophets during the Babylonian exile of how he would eventually gather the Jews and bring them back to the promised land – only after seventy years, (not two years). Their return from the Babylonian exile would culminate in the coming and revelation of the Messiah. Make no mistake! This has already been fulfilled. Jesus came at the appointed time to establish the kingdom of God and he brought the revelation of the heavenly realm which alone is eternal.

As far as the occupancy of the promised land is concerned, the people cannot return in compliance with the Law of Moses which has been revoked and made obsolete on account of their disobedience and because a New and better Covenant has now been made. According to the Law of Moses, they have been handed over to the same disobedience as all the other nations so that only through faith in Jesus the Messiah, may they be gathered in his Name to receive their inheritance in the resurrection.

Just as you who [Gentile Christians] were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their [Israel’s] disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:30-32).

If, according to the Law of Moses, the promised land would vomit the people of Israel out on account of their disobedience, which culminated in their rejection of the Word of God in the Messiah, it should go without saying, that it cannot receive them back while that same disobedience prevails. But false prophets have suggested otherwise which has emboldened many Jews to return in rebellion and unbelief. 

When Jesus comes again in his majestic, heavenly glory, he will not come veiled in mortal flesh to establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem. On the contrary, when he comes, so too will the eternal heavenly City be revealed from heaven along with the redeemed and holy people of God.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Just as Moses was a mediator between God and Israel, so too, Jesus the Messiah is the only mediator between God and humanity, he is the royal high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying —and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles (1 Timothy 2:5-7).

Jesus told his disciples to flee from the earthly city of Jerusalem which they indeed did – and within that very generation, the earthly city was made desolate. Jesus is the King of kings and he has not issued any prophetic word for anyone to return to the land or city, particularly while still in a state of rebellion against him as the King.

The emotive debate as to whether or not Anti-Zionism should be equated with Anti-Semitism is just an irresponsible way of ignoring the far more important question: “What does the God of Israel say through the Law of Moses and the Word of God spoken through his trustworthy Prophets and the Messiah concerning the ideology of Zionism?”

Jesus is still rejected by many Jews as the Messiah sent by God – and he is also rejected as a reliable, truthful, Prophet by many Jewish people for which there is accountability.

Jesus said,  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39).

Zionism is the ideology of establishing a Jewish homeland in the original boundaries of the Promised Land. If Zionism is to be regarded as legitimate, it must comply with the Law of Moses and it does not! It is not a question as to whether Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism – it is a question of the legality and legitmacy of Zionism according to the Law of Moses and the Word of God in the Messiah.

Many so-called “Christian Zionists” claim that they “love Israel” and support the modern Jewish state of Israel based upon a misdirected sentiment that in so doing they wrongly believe that they are blessing the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for which they superstitiously, or at best, naively expect God’s blessing in return. However, they may as well consult a lying, reckless prophet such as Hananiah son of Azzur, because the descendants of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham. According to the faith of Abraham, we trust and pay homage to the King of the heavenly City, the King of Righteousness and the king of ’Salem – Peace. It has nothing to do with a pedigree in the flesh or even an accurately recorded genealogy. It is only according to the obedience to God that comes through faith in Jesus.  

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything (Genesis 14:17-20).

Jesus is the eternal one, the man from heaven, the King of Righteousness and the King of Jerusalem, whom Abraham encountered before Jesus had come in an earthly body of flesh.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:44-50).

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:54-58).

Anti-Zionism may be motivated by love and open rebuke, as I believe is my motivation in being opposed to Zionism (may the Lord be the Judge). I only oppose Zionism because it is a rebellion against Jesus the Messiah and against God’s purpose in creating a non-racial, new humanity from Jew and Gentile. In other words, not a Jewish state, but a new Israel which spans the whole earth, even reaching to the heavenly dimension of Mount Zion.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Proverbs 27:5).

You [the faithful and redeemed in Jesus the Messiah] have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken —that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:22-29).

There are many Jews opposed to Zionism. The highly emotive suggestion that “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism” has led to the accusation that Jews who indeed oppose Zionism are “self-hating Jews”. It is stupid and irresponsible to suggest that to be Anti-Zionism, as an ideology, must only be from the motivation of hatred towards Jewish people. Some political and liberation movements resort to an armed struggle, even including suicide-bombers who are prepared to sacrifce their lives in order to maim and kill their hated enemies. 

Indeed there can be Anti-Zionism fueled and motivated by outright hatred of Jewish people. However, there can also be Anti-Zionism motivated by a genuine concern that political and religious Zionism for a Jewish state is not based upon the Scriptures, it is not according to the Law and it provokes racism and hostility. 

From a Scripturally informed Christian perspective, Zionism is certainly not  according to the will of God. On the contrary, it is opposed to the will of God which is to create a new humanity in which there is no longer any distinction to be made between Jew or Gentile in the flesh. Professing Christians who ignore this will not have God’s approval and are to be likened to the reckless, false prophet, Hananiah son of Azzur. According to the stupid and irresponible assumption that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism, the prophet Jeremiah too, would have in that case been regarded as Anti-Semitic as would Jesus the Messiah. Many Jews actually blame Jesus and the New Testament for Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism.

Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism? It’s not the sentiment and ideology alone which should be questioned on either side of the debate. Rather, it is the motive: Is it motivated by genuine love and faithfulness to the Messiah or by self-will, rebellion, national pride and hatred?   

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

People who disagree with us – (and us with them), may conclude that we must be motivated by hatred towards them, or by Anti-Semitism, if we oppose Zionism, but thankfully, God is our Judge and the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world which maim and kill, but rather the weapon that demolishes every hypcocrisy and unfaithfulness to God and the Messiah.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete (1 Corinthians 10:3-6).

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:6-7).

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be rejected by the people, that he would suffer on account of their sins and be crucified and then vindicated by God.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem (Isaiah 53:1-3 please read the full chapter). 

The misleading slogan that “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism” is made by Zionists in a foolish attempt to lump all people into the catergory of being hateful enemies of the Jews – without acknowledging that they, who make such a charge, may indeed themselves be hateful enemies of Jesus the Messiah – for which God will be the Judge.

Christian Zionism Refuted

But my real argument set forth in this short article is addressed to so-called “Christian Zionists”. What, concerning Jesus’ parable of the tenants is so hard for you to understand? Do you not realise that by supporting and encouraging Jews to try to lay claim to the promised land through their own political means by military might, without acknowledging the guilt of all humanity in rebelling against God’s Anointed King, is to encourage a uniquely Jewish rebellion against the King of kings. We cannot give our allegiance to an agenda which rejects the Messiah-King while trying to lay claim to the Land.

Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials, for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring? (Proverbs 24:21-22).

1 thought on “What’s So Hard to Understand? The Parable of the Tenants”

  1. Andrea Lesley Richardson

    ..YES,,,and Amen..Thank you brother Peter,I realy appreciated reading this ,.yes were all under sin,were only saved by God’s grace through faith in the Messiah Jesus not of our works or pedigree we cant boast only like you
    said can we praise Jesus for what he has done by dying for our sins what great great love…

    Shaw hay….this modern ideology is really something,,,,(no way Christians can support this )

    I see the people (in the video )who want it are really blind , slaves and prisoners and missing out of all the promises found in the Messiah ,self determined to destruction ,,,.we can pray for them ……a song came to ,mind ” Lord have mercy Christ have mercy”,,,.even if they build walls make laws Jesus can save ,he is mighty to save ,,,The word of God is not bound no one can keep Jesus out of the hearts of those who truely seek whom the father has given him .Hallelujah..thank you again I had those questions which again have been clarified thank you my brother. I hope you are well…and at peace..

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