Royalty and Ruin


Introduction—The Glorious Destiny Israel Might Have Had

To bring the best gifts of Heaven to all peoples, God called Abraham from his idol-worshiping family and told him to establish his home in Canaan. “‘I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.’” Genesis 12:2. Abraham was called to a high honor—to be the father of the people who would preserve the truth of God, the people through whom all nations would be blessed by the advent of the promised Messiah. RR 7.1

People had nearly lost the knowledge of the true God. Idolatry had darkened their minds. Yet God in His mercy did not blot them out of existence. He planned that His people should live out the principles that would help to restore the moral image of God in human beings. RR 7.2

God’s law must be exalted, and He gave the people of Israel this great work. God separated them from the world and determined to preserve the knowledge of Himself through them. In this way all peoples would hear a voice appealing to them to turn from idol worship to serve the living God. RR 7.3

God brought His chosen people out of Egypt so that He might bring them to a good land that He had prepared as a haven from their enemies. In return for His goodness they were to glorify His name in the earth. He preserved them miraculously from the perils of the wilderness and finally established them in the Land of Promise as a favored nation. RR 7.4

With touching emotion Isaiah told the story of Israel’s call and training: “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 grapes.” Isaiah 5:1, 2. RR 7.5

“The vineyard of the Lord of hosts,” the prophet declared, “is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.” Isaiah 5:7. God’s people were walled in by the instructions of His law, the everlasting principles of truth, justice, and purity. Obedience was to be their protection, for it would save them from destroying themselves by sinful practices. God placed His holy temple in the midst of the land, like the tower in the vineyard. Christ was their instructor, their teacher and guide. In the temple His glory beamed from the holy Shekinah above the mercy seat. RR 7.6

Moses had plainly shown the purpose of God and the conditions of their prosperity. “‘You are a holy people to the Lord your God,’” He said. “‘The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.’” “‘Today the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken.’” Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:18, 19. RR 8.1

God intended to draw people to Himself through Israel’s revelation of His character. The gospel invitation was to go to all the world. Through the teaching of the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted, and all who would look to Him were to unite themselves with His chosen people. As Israel’s numbers increased, they were to enlarge their borders until their kingdom embraced the world. RR 8.2

But ancient Israel did not carry out God’s plan. The Lord declared, “‘I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?’” “‘Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste.’ ... He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry.” Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 5:4-7. RR 8.3

By refusing to keep His covenant, God’s people would cut themselves off from His blessings. Often in their history they forgot God, robbed Him of the service He required of them, and robbed their neighbors of religious guidance and a holy example. Their covetousness and greed caused even the heathen to despise them. Their behavior gave opportunity to misinterpret the character of God and the laws of His kingdom. RR 8.4

With a father’s heart, God patiently set their sins before His people and waited for them to acknowledge their wrongs. He sent prophets and messengers to urge His claim, but instead of welcoming them, the people treated these men of wisdom and spiritual power as enemies. God sent still other messengers, but they too were hated and persecuted. RR 8.5

The withdrawal of God’s favor during the Exile led many to repent, yet after they returned to the Land of Promise the Jewish people repeated the mistakes of former generations and brought themselves into political conflict with surrounding nations. The prophets whom God sent to correct their evils, they received with suspicion and scorn. So from century to century, the keepers of the vineyard added to their guilt. RR 8.6

Israel despised the choice vine that the divine Gardener planted on the hills of Palestine, and they finally threw it over the vineyard wall. The Gardener removed it and planted it again, but on the other side of the wall and in such a manner that the stock was no longer visible. The branches hung over the wall, and grafts might be joined to it, but God placed the stem itself where human power could not harm it. RR 9.1

Of special value to God’s church today—the keepers of His vineyard—are the messages given through the prophets. They clearly reveal His love for the lost race and His plan for their salvation. The story of Israel’s call, their successes and failures, their restoration to God’s favor, their rejection of the Master of the vineyard, and a remnant’s carrying out of His plan—this has been the theme of God’s messengers to His church throughout the centuries that have passed. RR 9.2

The Master of the vineyard is now gathering from among all nations and peoples the precious fruits for which He has been waiting so long. Soon He will come for them, and in that glad day His eternal purpose will finally be fulfilled. “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” Isaiah 27:6. RR 9.3