There are two kinds of outcast: those removed for acting wrongly, and those moved for acting in moral rightness. We experience being cast out when a person or group in authority seeks our removal from the group. Perhaps they feel threatened, or, maybe they are experiencing feelings of insecurity. Or, they may simply be asserting dominance. The result is, one person or group casts out another person or group.
The experience is nothing new, certainly nothing new for religious groups. But I want to ask you how close do you think we are to time's end? We don't know. But we know there are remarkable developments in the world and in the churches. It seems as though we have entered a time when almost anything can happen.
Cast out of the Vineyard
Join me at Luke 20:9-18. Let's review Jesus' parable of the vineyard:
And He began to tell the people this parable: 'A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. The owner of the vineyard said, "What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him." But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, "This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours." So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.' When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” But Jesus looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: "The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone"? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.'
Jesus offers this parable in the setting of a challenge over authority. The pharisees had asked from where did Jesus receive His authority. He replied that if they would answer His question, He would tell them. He asked them whether John's baptism was from God or from men. They refused to answer, and Jesus responded saying that He would not tell them from whence He received His authority. It was at exactly that point that Jesus told the parable above.
Think now on Jesus' parable. Who owns the vineyard? The man who owns the vineyard represents our heavenly Father.
Another crucial point: there is a harvest time for the vineyard, just as there is an end of the world. After a lengthy period the owner of the vineyard does return.
First, he sends a servant to receive the fruit. The rebels beat the servant and send him away. The owner sends a second servant and he receives the same treatment but is intentionally humiliated. The owner sends a third, who is physically wounded and thrown out of the vineyard. Each time the violence escalates.
Finally, the owner sends His own son. When they see that He has sent His Son, they decide to kill Him, removing the heir, and keeping the vineyard for themselves. The violence has escalated all the way to murder. But not just murder. We said that the owner of the vineyard represents God the Father. Then the owner of the vineyard is a King. Then the violence advances to regicide, the killing of royalty, the Son of the King.
Extreme mercy is shown by the King. He sends servants three times, and then, at last, His own Son. He gives every opportunity to repent, even risking the one He loves most. But to no avail.
Now to our point. Where would you and I fit into this parable? Were we cast out, where would we fit?
We are not the owner of the vineyard--God the Father is. We are not His Son Jesus, who died to redeem us. Where we fit in the parable is among His servants who are sent.
The servants are faithful to the owner of the vineyard, and they do what He says. He commands. They obey. They are wounded and cast out all while in His service.
That--exactly that--is our part; to be cast out for God. But in the end, we do not die for us, His Son Jesus, God in human flesh, dies for us.
Like Abram offering his son Isaac, God stops the sacrifice. When He sees Abraham's faith, He provides His own sacrifice.
The point is, our part is to serve Him. We may be slaughtered as we serve Him or we may just be cast out.
Do you recall Paul's famous prison letter to Timothy? He is being persecuted for His faith and He is locked away out of everyone's hair. Paul doesn't want Timothy to misunderstand or to have wrong expectations, so He offers that famous line: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Does anyone here recall what the very next verse is?
That next verse is where Paul says, "Evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."
Just as the renters of the vineyard were self-deceived, so those who persecute God's faithful servants today are self-deceived. We should always remember that. If you or I or a group of His faithful are mistreated, don't be surprised. Pray for those who harass and persecute you. If those who oppress you have fallen into evil, remember, "evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." As the owner of the vineyard patiently sought for the heart of the rebel, would-be vineyard usurpers, so God seeks for the hearts of those blind in their own rebellion. They are being deceived. They need our intercession.
But you don't feel like interceding? Then you are not where Stephen was when he was being stoned to death. Then he prayed, and "falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' (Luke 7:60)." That is a hard one.
But then think of Jesus being murdered for our sins. God sent His only begotten Son and they slew Him. We will return to this thought.
But, maybe we say to ourselves, praying for those who persecute and harass us is only for some future time when we are in an advanced stage of faith. Are there other cases in the Bible record? What can we learn from those?
Joseph was given prophetic dreams. His brothers hated him for it. The dreams foretold a day when his brothers would bow before him. The brothers hated Joseph. They felt he was treated as a favorite by their father. When opportunity arose, they sold Joseph and he became a slave in Egypt. Then when Joseph resisted the immoral advances of Potiphor's wife, he was cast into prison. Then God gave pharaoh a dream he couldn't understand, and gave Joseph the ability to interpret it for him. Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over all Egypt, second only to himself.
Sold illegitimately into slavery, then cast into prison for his faithfulness, then left there forgotten when he had asked favor of pharaoh's butler, Joseph found his place among the outcasts, but remained faithful (Genesis 39 - 50).
David defeated Goliath for King Saul but Saul took a disliking to him. Saul tried to murder David again and again, so that David had to flee to the wilderness. There David had repeated opportunity to kill Saul, but refused.
Innocent, David was made an outcast. But God delivered him in His time (1 Samuel 17 - 31).
Prophet Outcasts in Caves
When Ahab ruled Israel and Jezebel his wife bore sway, Ahab's householder Obadiah hid 100 of God's prophets in two caves (1 Kings 18:4). The prophets had done nothing wrong. Not only cast out, the prophets were in hiding for their lives (1 Samuel 22:18).
Isaiah told the truth and was sawn in half (Hebrews 11:37). Jeremiah told the truth and was cast into a cistern, but God saved him out of it (Jeremiah 38). Daniel's three friends were faithful in a crowd of thousands and were delivered from the fiery furnace. Sometimes we are delivered, other times, God sees fit to let us perish in our service for Him.
In the immortal language of Hebrews 11:32-40:
[T]ime would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
I've officiated at numerous funerals across the years, but never where the deceased had been tortured or killed for his faith.
The Days Close Ahead
Do you recall this preview of the future we face given in The Great Controversy? It's from page 608:
As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.
The prophetic eye reveals a grim tomorrow. Will we be ready to stand? Will our sons and daughters be ready? This is the training hour. Long has the church slumbered. But the coming of Jesus is nearer now.
Satan was on the track of Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry. And on that first sabbath morning, when Jesus announced He was Messiah come in fulfillment of prophecy, at that beginning they tried to cast him out. Luke 4:17-29:
And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.' And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?” And He said to them, 'No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, "Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well."' And He said, 'Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.' And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.
Satan is opposed to truth. You preach it? You live it? You speak it? Exemplify it? You will be harassed. You will be persecuted. It's part of being servant to our King. Up until now we have been very pampered servants.
Things become more intense as we near the end. But let me encourage you. I encourage you without hesitation: join this church. Remain in this church. Don't become discouraged. Get baptized. Be involved. Join this church. Hang in there. This church as a world church believes exactly what you and I believe. Press together, press together!
It is an important study to know how to resist evil. God does call the believer to contend for the faith (Jude 3). History shows that at sometimes the true church was persecuted and existed in exile in the wilderness. At other times she was accepted in the broader world but only after fatal compromise with culture.
Do you recall in Early Writings that word foretelling the shaking in God's church?
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the Counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people (Early Writings 270).
Sometimes we have had a fuzzy thought that somehow we will be running to and fro preaching from Revelation three. This does not say that. It says that the receiver of Jesus' testimony exalts the standard and pours forth the straight truth. That is, those who resist evil and plead with God to change them--these are they who overcome in that trying time. Hear the paragraph immediately before the shaking paragraph:
As the praying ones continued their earnest cries, at times a ray of light from Jesus came to them, to encourage their hearts and light up their countenances. Some, I saw, did not participate in this work of agonizing and pleading. They seemed indifferent and careless. They were not resisting the darkness around them, and it shut them in like a thick cloud. The angels of God left these and went to the aid of the earnest, praying ones. I saw angels of God hasten to the assistance of all who were struggling with all their power to resist the evil angels and trying to help themselves by calling upon God with perseverance. But His angels left those who made no effort to help themselves, and I lost sight of them.
Does this sighing and crying, resisting darkness and evil, agonizing in prayer--does this describe your experience and mine? Some of us sigh and cry over evil but we do not ray very much about it. Don't you think it is about time for that to change?
We need to seek Jesus while He may be found. The night is coming when we will not be able to work for Him so easily as we have. Much remains to do, and all while the hours to do it are rapidly running out. God would have us seek Him and grow now. We should not allow the darkness to shut us in. There is darkness. But we are children of light. Now more than ever we need to stay on the lighted path and press together, pray for ourselves and for each other, and avoid all the traps of bitterness and disappointment ready to swallow up our hope.
Let's finish now and cement our thoughts on Jesus. God gave Jesus for us and He wants His vineyard back.
Our privilege is to be His servants, to go where He sends us, and sometimes to be cast out for adhering to King Jesus and His truth. We may someday be cast out from one place or another, but even then it will be a sign, not that truth has failed but that truth has succeeded. When such a day comes it will be a sign that we are near the return of Jesus. And it will be a sign that God's truth is about to go forth in power like we have never seen it go.
Do not be saddened on the day you find yourself harassed or attacked for what you believe. It's normal. And remember. What ultimately happens to vineyard rebels? The owner returns and protects and helps and avenges His servants and His Son and His truth. God is still on His throne even in the day we find ourselves in company with the outcasts.
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