“Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” verses 31 & 32.
We are coming to the end of our study of this wonderful parable, which is providential since I go over to England next week to fulfil some preaching engagements. I would not have liked to have had to leave you with our study unfinished.
Let us look at the two verses we read.
1. How quickly the Jewish leaders gave the right answer. (See V 23) Men have a knowledge of what is right and wrong. These men had heard God’s Word. “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not,” verse 32. However, they don’t act according to what they know!
The Saviour was here talking to “the chief priests and the elders of the people,” Matt 21:23.
2. This they did because these men knew the truth. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not,” Matthew 23:1-3.
3. Furthermore, they had the example of others obeying the gospel. “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him,” Matthew 21:32. They had the further encouragement of seeing others coming forward in faith but they rejected the Word of God and refused the example of those around who repented.
Boys and girls give heed to God’s Word and to the good example of those around you who receive the Lord Jesus.
We will consider a little further the decisions made by these sons.
The second son. He was like the seed in stony ground: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended,” Matthew 13:20-21.
The decision he made was a not a fixed, settled decision. There was no root to the decision. It did not run down deep into his heart! He was not like David. “O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory,” Psalm 108:1.
I wonder what made him change his mind – the voice of friends calling him away? Note, “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word.” ‘Tribulation’, ‘Persecution’. The Word of God brings such troubles as these. “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles,” Acts 8:1. Only those truly rooted in Christ can withstand such. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” Ephesians 3:17.
The first son. He realised the sinfulness of his decision. Lack of gratitude, offensive and shameful, vexing to God. Doubtless, as an Israelite he would have been familiar with Deut 21:18-21. “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” He turned in repentance.
Refusing to obey your earthly father is most serious. How much more your Creator!
Defying of the voice of God can only end in death. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” James 1:15. That is the penalty of sin
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Revelation 21:8. The second son was a LIAR!
Please take heed to this matter today, boys and girls.
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. . . . Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved, . . . Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. . . . Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved,” Psalm 80:1, 3, 7, 19.
The opening verse brings us to the days of Israel marching to the promised land. The placement of the tribes was ordained of God. The three tribes mentioned here followed after the Kohathites who carried the Ark of the Covenant, the very symbol of God’s presence amongst His people.
“And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: and the other did set up the tabernacle against they came. And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set forward according to their armies,” Num 10:21-22.
When the people of God are going forward as God intends them to proceed then their eyes will ever be on the blood-sprinkled Ark. It is there that God meets with us. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel,” Exodus 25:22.
If we are in communion with God this is where we will be.
Of course this is a symbol of the very place we seek to enter today.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” Hebrews 10:19-22.
The Psalmist repeatedly asks for a “shining forth.” In Psalm 94:1 the word is translated “shew thyself.” That is what we look for today.We come to “see the Lord”. Not with the physical eye but with the eyes of faith. Hebs 1:1, 27.
I want us to consider the repeated request today.
I. PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS IN THE PLACE OF PRAYER THAT WE WILL SEE OUR NEED AND OWN IT.
“Turn us.” We need turning from backsliding. Word means: ‘recover’!
1. Do we see the evidence of our backsliding? Verses 4-6,12-13, 16.
2. Are we willing to humbly and brokenly acknowledge it.
3. Will we pray for restoration? There is a price to pay!
II. UNDERSTANDING OUR NEED, WE SEE THE MERCY OF GOD MORE CLEARLY.
1. At best our view of God’s mercy is limited. At best, we “see through a glass darkly,” 1 Cor 13:12.
2. In the place of prayer the blessings we have lost sight of come before us again. Verses 8-11. How we have forgotten (occupied with other things) what the Lord has done for us! Jer 2:32, 3:21.
3. Here is where God reveals Himself. Ps 94:1.
III. THE SHOWING OF GOD’S FACE IN THE PRAYER MEETING IS OUR SALVATION
1. In the face of the Lord we see ALL His mercy toward us. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Corinthians 4:6.
There is a clarity spoken of here.
2. Seeing it clearly we do not hesitate to claim in faith the blessings. Vague understandings of God’s mercy breeds unbelief!
3. Thus in the prayer meeting the victory is gained. “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad,” 1 Samuel 1:18.
That is what Jehoshaphat learned. “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD,” 2 Chronicles 20:17-8.
Seeing God’s mercy and power let us claim the victory today.
We have noted that both of the sons refused to serve their father. It is an underlining of the sinfulness and rebellion of all of humanity.
Now please note the important difference in the attitudes of the two sons.
1. One son sought to conceal his disobedience. “And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not,” verse 30. He knew what he should do but only pretended to do it! He thought nothing of deceiving his father.
How many there are like that? They have a mere pretended ‘religion’! A sham ‘obedience’ of God commands! Their whole behaviour is a lie!
2. The other son was openly defiant but repented. “He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went,” verse 29.
It is possible to change your ways.
First word Christ used as a preacher. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 4:17.
It is not how you start but how you end that counts.
THE RESPONSE OF THE SONS.
We must now think of the response of the two sons.
1. Both sons showed a rebellious spirit. Verse 29, “I will not.” Verse 30, “and went not.” Both of them were rebellious in heart.
Cared not about PLEASING their father nor PARTAKING of the fruit nor in PROMOTING the wellbeing of the vineyard..
So it is with us all. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips,” Romans 3:10-13.