Three Things to do With Warnings in the Bible3
14 “But when the tenants saw [the son of the owner coming to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard] they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
This parable, as we said earlier in the week, is a thinly veiled re-telling of the biblical history between Israel and her prophets. The climax is that the Son has been sent to call Israel to repentance and right relationship with God. And when they kill the Son, Jesus says, the Owner of the Vineyard will come and pass judgment on those who have done such a thing. The owner’s response would have been expected in the culture of Jesus’s day.
This parable is a sober warning to the religious leaders in the audience that they face the most important decision in their lives. And it’s important for us to understand the heart behind any warning: a warning is only given when you genuinely care about the people who are in peril.
You warn your kids not to put their fingers in the light socket. You warn the new co-worker about the cafeteria food. You warn your house guest that the toilet isn’t working and they need to use the other one. You warn people whose welfare you care about.
If Jesus didn’t love the religious leaders, he wouldn’t warn them about any judgment to come. He would simply let it happen. We don’t tend to read warning passages this way. They sound angry and judgmental. But real anger comes with quiet glee at the inevitable destruction to come. That’s not what we see with Jesus.
If there is a real danger, we need someone to sound a real alert. If we’re about to drive off a cliff, someone needs to tell us that we’re headed to our untimely death. If we’ve got cancer, the only thing worse than knowing about it is not knowing about it and missing the window to treat it.
The Scripture is full of warnings from God to his people. Those warnings are spoken firmly and in love, from a God who made us while there is still time to do something about it. They apply to us, too.
Here are three things to do with warning passages: 1. Thank God for them. 2. Consider how they were applicable in the immediate biblical context. 3. Prayerfully consider if the warning might apply to you, too.
The Jewish religious leaders didn’t heed this warning. The Son was murdered through their cooperation. And in the year 70 A.D, approximately 40 years after Jesus’s crucifixion, the Roman government unleashed one of the most devastating military attacks in all their horrible history on Jerusalem. They completely destroyed the city along with the temple.
One historian at the time estimated that over 1 million people were killed and another ancient account says that 97,000 people were enslaved. The city of Jerusalem and the religion of Judaism has never been the same since.
What is your instinctive response to warning passages in the Bible? Are there warnings that you’re ignoring right now? How might understanding warning passages as gifts of love help you to receive their important message?