THE CHERISHED VINEYARD
a. For what purposes did the Creator establish the Hebrew nation? Genesis 12:2; Deuteronomy 7:6–8; 26:17–19.
b. Why was this nation to be deeply grateful to God? Deuteronomy 32:9–12.
c. How did God plan for the Hebrew nation to bless other nations, and how does this apply to us today? Deuteronomy 4:5–8; Matthew 5:16.
“The Lord has His eye upon every one of His people; He has His plans concerning each. It is His purpose that those who practice His holy precepts shall be a distinguished people. . . .
“Not to this world only but to the universe are we to make manifest the principles of [God’s] kingdom.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 12, 13.
2. THE VINEYARD’S CONDITION TODAY
a. Why was God disappointed with the vineyard He loved? Isaiah 5:1–4.
“[The Jewish nation] desired to appropriate to themselves the fruits of the vineyard over which they had been made stewards. Their covetousness and greed caused them to be despised even by the heathen. Thus the Gentile world was given occasion to misinterpret the character of God and the laws of His kingdom.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 20, 21.
b. When does the church not bear fruit from the true vine? John 15:4.
“The Lord planted His church as a vine in a fruitful field. . . . But this vine of God’s planting has inclined to the earth and entwined its tendrils about human supports. Its branches are extended far and wide, but it bears the fruit of a degenerate vine. . . .
“The Lord has bestowed great blessings upon His church. Justice demands that she return these talents with usury. As the treasures of truth committed to her keeping have increased, her obligations have increased. But instead of improving upon these gifts and going forward unto perfection, she has fallen away from that which she had attained in her earlier experience. The change in her spiritual state has come gradually and almost imperceptibly. As she began to seek the praise and friendship of the world, her faith diminished, her zeal grew languid, her fervent devotion gave place to dead formality. Every advance step toward the world was a step away from God. As pride and worldly ambition have been cherished, the spirit of Christ has departed, and emulation, dissension, and strife have come in to distract and weaken the church.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 240, 241.
c. What kind of fruit is God longing to see us bear? Galatians 5:22, 23.
“The fruit Christ claims, after the patient care bestowed upon His church, is faith, patience, love, forbearance, heavenly-mindedness, meekness. These are clusters of fruit which mature amid storm and cloud and darkness, as well as in the sunshine.”—Ibid., p. 117.
3. SHUNNING A SHALLOW EXPERIENCE
a. Describe the state of the Lord’s spiritual vineyard in the early reign of Uzziah, king of Judah? 2 Kings 15:1–3; 2 Chronicles 26:1–7, 15.
“The long reign of Uzziah [also known as Azariah] in the land of Judah and Benjamin was characterized by a prosperity greater than that of any other ruler since the death of Solomon, nearly two centuries before. For many years the king ruled with discretion. Under the blessing of Heaven his armies regained some of the territory that had been lost in former years. Cities were rebuilt and fortified, and the position of the nation among the surrounding peoples was greatly strengthened. Commerce revived, and the riches of the nations flowed into Jerusalem.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 303.
b. Name some spiritual blemishes that darkened the picture. 2 Kings 15:4.
“This outward prosperity [under Uzziah] . . . was not accompanied by a corresponding revival of spiritual power. The temple services were continued as in former years, and multitudes assembled to worship the living God; but pride and formality gradually took the place of humility and sincerity.”—Ibid., pp. 303, 304.
c. How does a neglect to put away evil plague us? Song of Solomon 2:15.
“Many pet and excuse the defects in their characters; but these must all be remedied. Every deviation from the right is sin and sin must be put away. We cannot afford to walk carelessly before our brethren or before the world.
“Many confess their sins again and again but do not put them away by genuine repentance. Unless we have a firm purpose and the aid of the grace of God, strong resolutions and vigilant watchfulness will be vain and powerless when temptations assail the soul.”—The Signs of the Times, March 6, 1884.
“It is the little foxes that spoil the vines, the little neglects, the little deficiencies, the little dishonesties, the little departures from principle, that blind the soul and separate it from God.”—In Heavenly Places, p. 226.
4. TARNISHED BY PRIDE
a. Why did disaster come upon Uzziah? 2 Chronicles 26:16–21; Numbers 15:30.
“The sin that resulted so disastrously to Uzziah was one of presumption. In violation of a plain command of Jehovah, that none but the descendants of Aaron should officiate as priests, the king entered the sanctuary ‘to burn incense upon the altar.’ Azariah the high priest and his associates remonstrated, and pleaded with him to turn from his purpose. ‘Thou hast trespassed,’ they urged; ‘neither shall it be for thine honor’ (2 Chronicles 26:16, 18).
“Uzziah was filled with wrath that he, the king, should be thus rebuked. But he was not permitted to profane the sanctuary against the united protest of those in authority. While standing there, in wrathful rebellion, he was suddenly smitten with a divine judgment. Leprosy appeared on his forehead. In dismay he fled, never again to enter the temple courts. Unto the day of his death, some years later, Uzziah remained a leper—a living example of the folly of departing from a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Neither his exalted position nor his long life of service could be pleaded as an excuse for the presumptuous sin by which he marred the closing years of his reign, and brought upon himself the judgment of Heaven.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 304.
“The Lord has ordained men to certain positions in his church, and He would not have them step out of the places to which He has appointed them. When the Lord gives them a measure of success, they are not to become lifted up, and think themselves qualified to do a work for which they are not fitted, and to which God has not called them.”—The Review and Herald, August 14, 1900.
b. How does God consider pride? Proverbs 6:16, 17; James 4:6.
“He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give.”—Steps to Christ, p. 30.
“Pride, self-confidence, love of the world, fault finding, bitterness, envy, are the fruit borne by many who profess the religion of Christ. Their deportment is in sharp contrast to the character of Christ. . . . With such conversions Christ had no connection.”—The Review and Herald, April 15, 1902.
5. FACING CONSEQUENCES OR CHOOSING CONSECRATION?
a. Describe the prevailing conditions in Israel and Judah at the time Isaiah was called to serve as a prophet. Isaiah 1:1–9, 21–23.
“The reign of Uzziah was drawing to a close, and Jotham was already bearing many of the burdens of state, when Isaiah, of the royal line, was called, while yet a young man, to the prophetic mission. . . . The divine protection was being removed, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah.
“But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord’s servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 305.
b. What summarizes the plight of the faithful, then and now? Psalm 11:3.
“With oppression and wealth came pride and love of display, gross drunkenness, and a spirit of revelry. . . . Iniquitous practices had become so prevalent among all classes that the few who remained true to God were often tempted to lose heart and to give way to discouragement and despair.”—Ibid., p. 306.
“While others are panting after earthly enjoyments, be ye panting after the unmistakable assurance of the love of God, earnestly, fervently crying: Who will show me how to make my calling and election sure?”—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 145.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What caused the faith of God’s church to decline?
2. Name one seemingly small oversight during Uzziah’s reign.
3. Why does God consider pride such a grievous sin? Do we?
4. How did Judah’s superficial prosperity eventually affect them as a nation?
5. In an age of degeneracy, what do God’s faithful few need to realize?