The great prophet Isaiah told the people of Israel a parable about a vineyard (Isaiah. 5:1 – 7). The owner of the vineyard did everything he could to make the vineyard productive. He built a fence around it to protect it from marauding enemies. He removed the stones from the soil so that they could not interfere with the growth of the vines, and he planted only the finest vines. He built a tower in the midst of the vineyard and also constructed a wine press. He had every right to expect an abundance of delicious grapes, but instead the vineyard produced grapes that were bitter and repulsive.
In Isaiah’s parable Israel is the vineyard. Instead of producing a harvest for the glory of God, the people had drifted into spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy. Because of Israel’s refusal to bring forth fruit, God spoke through Isaiah concerning the removal of the hedge that protected them. He an-nounced that he would command the clouds to rain no more upon it (Isaiah. 5:5). This sentence was pronounced because, instead of justice, the people had produced oppression, and instead of righteous-ness, they lived crooked, selfish, sinful lives.
In the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus spoke a similar message to the Israel of his day. He spoke of the owner of a vineyard who had for three years sought fruit on a certain fig tree during harvesttime only to find it barren. He decided that the fig tree should be destroyed because it was nonproductive. He asked the man who was in charge of caring for the vineyard a question that has an application for us today. After issuing an order to cut the tree down, he asked, “why cumbereth it the ground” (Luke 13:7). The vinedresser still had hopes for figs and suggested that it be given one more year of opportunity in which to be productive.
This parable has both a national and a personal application. Through this parable Jesus was saying that the nation of Israel had one more opportunity to bear fruit for the glory of God.
I. This parable speaks of God’s absolute ownership.
A. Individuals forget that only God is absolute owner. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. He placed humans on the earth to subdue and develop it, but he did not give the earth to them. The world still belongs to God. The psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).
B. Governments and economic systems forget or ignore that God is owner. In the world of today, two economic systems are contending for supremacy. The capitalistic system emphasizes that the in-dividual has a right to own, utilize, and control property. In the socialistic economic system, individual property rights are denied and ownership is vested in the state. Both of these systems are in error, for neither the individual nor the state has the right of sole ownership: ownership belongs to God.
II. This parable speaks of God’s right to expect fruit.
A. After the fig tree had been planted a sufficient length of time to bear fruit, the owner came expecting to find fruit in three successive years only to be disappointed repeatedly. Not only was he dis-appointed, but he decided that the tree had no right to continue to survive if it was going to be nonproductive.
B. God has a right to expect fruit from his vineyard. He is the vine and his disciples are the branches. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our heavenly Father is glorified as we bring forth much fruit (v. 8). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (v. 16).
III. This parable speaks of the patience of God.
A. In three different years, he came to the vineyard expecting fruit from the fig tree before deciding to have it cut down.
B. Because of the intercession of the vinedresser, the owner consented to give the fig tree one more year of opportunity.
C. Jesus was saying that God is patient both with the nation and with the individual, and that he would give them another chance.
IV. This parable speaks of the firmness of God.
A. He who bears no fruit is a parasite. God is patient, but there is a limit to that patience. The fig tree was given another chance.
B. The owner of the vineyard said, “Cut it down.” God’s judgments are rooted in righteousness.
The unsaved about us are a total loss to God. They bear no fruit to his glory. They are in peril of ex-periencing his judgment. Because the mercy of God is still available to them and because of our concern for them, we should seek to guide them by God’s word in order that the Holy Spirit may draw them to experience the joy of bearing fruit.