A Great Sense of Urgency
Text: Matthew 3:1-17
To be presumptuous is bad enough. Things become worse when a spirit of complacency settles in as well! The general spiritual awareness of Israel was at a low spiritual ebb when John came on the scene. He knew that one of the goals that he must set for himself was to raise the alarm for the people! A great sense of urgency must be felt, or the people would not respond appropriately.
“And even now the axe is laid to the root of
the trees. Therefore every tree which does not
bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into
John minced no words as he preached to the people! They must be made to realize that they were accountable to God! The illustration John chose was both apt and obvious! Was Israel a fruitful tree? How long had the nation been unfruitful? What if God were to lay the axe to the root of the tree? Surely, this word of warning needed to be preached with great power and vigour! A terse word of warning just had to be preached!
THE SONG OF THE VINEYARD
The prophet Isaiah also had to preach a very similar word to Israel in his time. His message was well preserved in a text often called “The Song of the Vineyard”.
“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved.
A song of my Beloved regarding His
My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good
But it brought forth wild grapes.”
This little song of the Vineyard was Isaiah’s personal lament concerning Israel. Isaiah spoke of God as his “Well-beloved”. He grieved with God that despite all the work that had been poured into Israel, all His expectations came to nothing. Israel only yielded “wild grapes”.
Isaiah went on to describe how God remonstrated with Israel over its unfruitfulness.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and
men of Judah,
Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good
Did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled
I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds that they rain no
rain on it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house
And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.”
John may have used different words to address the issue of unfruitfulness! However, the thrust of his message was the same as that of Isaiah. The gist of the message may be summarized thus.
1. God had done His part and more.
2. He has every right to expect good fruits.
3. If there is a persistent problem of unfruitfulness then He reserves the right to take drastic action against the unfruitful vine.
4. The application is true whether the vine is the nation or the individual!
Unfruitfulness is an unacceptable condition where God is concerned!
Hundreds of years had passed between Isaiah and John! Nevertheless, Israel seemed to have been dormant and unfruitful all the while! A powerful wake-up call had to be sounded!
As we read the solemn words that John preached, we are reminded of another text. Malachi was the last of God’s writing prophets. His writing has special significance because the context of his words had reference to the Day when the Messiah would come to Israel. One part of the Messiah’s ministry would be to bring a word of comfort. However, there was another aspect of ministry that the Messiah would have. Let us take a look at how Malachi described this aspect.
” ‘For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do
wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall
burn them up,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
‘That will leave them neither root
nor branch.’ ”
Solemn words indeed! John was right to preach as solemnly as he did.