Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book. ”For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idole in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go year also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all day idle? They say u nto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:1-16).

 

            “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).

 

            “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:20-28).

 

            “And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, have mercy on us, O Lord thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him” (Matthew 20:29-34).

 

            When you come to the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you can and will be brought face to face with another one of the parables of the Lord Jesus. As you read the words which are found here you will find a parable Jesus teaches concerning laboring—and not only laboring but being hired to work in a vineyard. If you take the time to read the four gospel narratives you will find incredibly strong and powerful language concerning vineyards and harvest. What’s more is that not only will you find incredible language concerning vineyards and harvest but also about seeds and sowing. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not encounter the tremendous truth contained within them concerning the analogy of harvest fields and vineyards. What’s more is that I am convinced in order to truly understand the words which are found in the four gospel narratives written concerning the life of the Lord Jesus Christ—and specifically the parables of the vineyards and harvest—it is necessary to turn and direct our attention to the parable which the prophet Isaiah prophesied unto the southern kingdom of Judah during the days in which he stood as a faithful prophetic voice in his generation. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find one of the most powerful images concerning a vineyard. What’s more is that in this particular prophetic book you will find the prophet Isaiah speaking of a vineyard which the living and eternal God planted—and not only one which he planted but also one which he personally cared for and tended. Before we consider the words which are found in the four gospel narratives I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah:

 

            “Now I will sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, Judge I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it. Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry” (Isaiah 5:1-7).

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words and language found in this passage of Scripture for it helps serve as the foundation for much of the language and words the Lord Jesus spoke during His time of public ministry. As you read the four gospel narratives you will find the Lord Jesus delivered different parables which dealt specifically with the vineyard and the harvest. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not consider the tremendous extent of the language the Lord Jesus used concerning the harvest and vineyard—not only regarding the world in general but also the end of the age. The more you read and study the four gospel narratives the more you will be brought face to face with the language Jesus used in the parables concerning the vineyard and harvest and how both were used to illustrate and demonstrate principles concerning the kingdom of heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the truth(s) surrounding the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven He would use the language of the vineyard and harvest—not only to speak of the kingdom of heaven in terms of the end of age but also the kingdom of heaven as it was present and manifested in the here and now. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous and incredible language for within we are brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the kingdom of heaven and how the Lord Jesus described it unto His disciples and followers. The Lord Jesus would indeed use the imagery of the harvest and of the vineyard when speaking of the kingdom of heaven for these two images evoked powerful thoughts within the hearts and minds of those who would hear and listen to His parables and words.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah you will find the prophet singing a prophetic song concerning the vineyard which belonged to the beloved. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the vineyard it’s that it does indeed and does in fact belong to the beloved. Within this parable we must needs recognize and understand that this vineyard belongs to the LORD of hosts and that it was He who planted it, cared for it and tended to it. Within this song we find the prophet Isaiah speaking of the vineyard which was present in a very fruitful hill. The LORD of hosts fenced this vineyard, gathered the stones out of it and planted it with the choicest of vine. Not only this but the LORD of hosts would also build a tower in the midst of it and made a winepress in the midst thereof. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize and understand that with all the care the living God had and showed for this vineyard He sought for and desired grapes. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this for at the very heart of the imagery of the vineyard is the desire for it to bear and bring forth fruit. The LORD of hosts deliberately and intentionally planted this vineyard that it might bear and bring forth fruit—something which the Lord Jesus would speak and reveal unto His own disciples. The more you read the words which are found within the four New Testament gospels the more you will find this powerful imagery of vineyards, harvest and bearing and bringing forth fruit. What’s more is that we must needs recognize and understand that we have been called, chosen and even planted that we might bear and bring forth fruit.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words and language found within these passages of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the need for us as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus to bear fruit. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to a tremendous responsibility we have within our own hearts and lives. We as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus have indeed been called to bear and bring forth fruit and even as early as the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist we find this clarion call to bear and bring forth fruit. As you read the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors you will find powerful narratives and examples of the parables which the Lord Jesus taught and spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven—and not only concerning the kingdom of heaven but also concerning vineyards and harvest. What’s more is that when we think and speak about vineyards and harvest we inevitably come face to face with the need to bear and bring forth fruit. There is a great need within our hearts and minds to recognize and understand that we have indeed and have in fact been called to bear and bring forth fruit in this life. If we are such who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus we have indeed been such who have been called to bear and bring forth fruit. There is a great and underlying need for us as the children of God—as the saints of the most High God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ—to bear and bring forth fruit. We cannot have a discussion about the vineyard and the harvest and not also at the same time recognize and understand the need to bear and bring forth fruit. It is with this being said I find it incumbent to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John beginning with the first verse:

 

            “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep. My commandments, ye shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:1-10).

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and invite us to recognize that we have indeed been called to bear and bring forth fruit. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus would speak unto His disciples and emphatically declare that He was the true vine and His Father was the husbandman. Jesus would go on to declare that every branch in Him which did not bear fruit he would take away and every branch which bears fruit he purges that it may bring forth more fruit. The Lord would go on to declare unto His disciples how they were clean through the word which He had spoken unto them and then invited them to abide in Him and He in them. This would be immediately followed by the Lord’s words how as the branch could not bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine no more could they except they abide in Him. Jesus would go on to declare that He was the vine, that they were the branches and that those who abode in Him and He in them the same would bring forth much fruit. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples that without Him they could do nothing and if a man does not abide in him the same would be cast forth as a branch and is withered. Oh we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous truth that is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible reality concerning the call to bear fruit—and not only the call to bear fruit but also how we cannot expect to bear fruit without and apart from abiding in the Lord Jesus.

 

            With all of this being said I am convinced we must needs carefully consider the following words which are found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Galatian churches. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the fifth chapter you will find the apostle Paul contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful truth surrounding the need to not only abide in the person of Jesus but we must also allow the work of the Holy Spirit within our lives. It is indeed true that we have been called to bear and bring forth fruit, however, we must needs understand that the only way we can truly bear and bring forth fruit is through abiding in Christ and allowing the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested within our hearts and lives. There is something absolutely incredible about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful reality of how we are to bear and bring forth fruit in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the work of the Holy Spirit within our lives as well as the responsibility we have to abide in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We as the saints of God must needs recognize and understand that while it is indeed true the fruit we have been called to bear is indeed a work of the Holy Spirit within our lives there is also a great responsibility we have to abide in Christ. It is only to the degree and measure we abide in Christ and even abide in the person of the Holy Spirit we are able to bear and bring forth the fruit that is required of us by the most High God.

 

            It is at this point I find it absolutely necessary to consider the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul written unto the Galatian churches. The words we find in this passage of Scripture not only presents us with the fruit we have been called to bear and bring forth in the earth but also how bearing and bringing forth the fruit is indeed a work of the Holy Spirit within our lives. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to be those who will deliberately and intentionally choose to abide in Christ—and not only abide in Christ but also allow the working of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Galatian churches concerning this contrast of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit:

 

            “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:13-26).

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading these words is how we are indeed and are in fact able to conceive and bring forth fruit within our hearts and lives. The apostle Paul makes it very clear that we are to walk in the Spirit and that by walking in the Spirit we would not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to declare that the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and the two are contrary to each other so that we cannot do the things which we would. While it is indeed true we have been called and invited to walk in the Spirit I would also dare say we have been called to be led by the Spirit—a truth which the apostle Paul wrote about in this passage of Scripture. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and tremendous truth surrounding the need to not only walk in the Spirit but also be led by the Spirit. The apostle Paul writes and speaks of the fruit of the Spirit and then presents nine different fruit of the Spirit. Beginning with love the apostle Paul would also go on to speak of joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. This would be intrinsically and directly linked to our need to through love serve one another. If and when we speak of the fruit of the Spirit we must needs recognize that it not only directly touches and impacts our relationship with others but it also directly impacts our relationship to and with the living God. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter unto those saints which were scattered and suffering:

 

            “According as his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11).

 

            When you come to the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus teaching and speaking through another parable. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus speaking of the kingdom of heaven and declaring how the kingdom of heaven was like unto a householder which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this parable for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth concerning the kingdom of heaven being likened unto a vineyard. What’s more is that not only is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a vineyard but it also likened unto a householder who went out early in the morning to find and hire laborers who would work in his vineyard. Early in the morning the householder would find laborers who were willing to work for him in his vineyard for a penny a day. What makes the parable so incredibly unique and interesting is not only that this householder went out seeking laborers to work in his vineyard but that he would go forth multiple times during this particular day. Within the parable we find Jesus describing this householder as going out early in the morning and hiring laborers to work in his vineyard for the day having agreed to work for him for a penny. This householder would go out at about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace and invited them to go into the vineyard. These laborers would go their way and would proceed to work in the vineyard belonging to this householder. Jesus would go on to describe how the householder would go out at about the sixth and ninth hours and would do likewise as he hired more laborers to work in his vineyard—and not only those who were willing to work in the vineyard but those who stood idle in the marketplace.

 

            I read the words which are found in this parable and I can’t help but see an incredible invitation given unto the idle who are abiding in the marketplace. By the time we come to the eleventh hour we find this householder going out again searching for laborers to work in his vineyard and would find those who were not only standing idle but who had been standing idle all day long. When the householder saw them he would ask them point blank why they stood there all day idle—a question which they would respond by declaring unto him that no one had hired them. These individuals had been standing in the marketplace all day long idle waiting for someone to hire them and put them to work and there was no one who had hired them. Here it was at the eleventh hour of the day and they were still in the marketplace waiting and hoping someone would come and hire them. This householder would come unto them there in the marketplace and would immediately offer them work within his vineyard. Having hired others early in the morning as well as the third, sixth and ninth hours the householder would continue looking for those who would be willing to work in his vineyard. There is something truly astonishing about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture as it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the hiring of these laborers—and not only the hiring of these laborers but also the payment and wages of these laborers. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s how this household not only hired laborers to work in his vineyard but also agreed to pay them wages for their work.

 

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths found in this parable which Jesus spoke centers upon the time that would eventually come for the householder to pay those whom he had hired to work in his vineyard. Eventually within the parable Jesus teaches and reveals how the householder and lord of the vineyard would speak unto his steward and instruct him to call the laborers and give them their hire beginning from the last unto the first. The parable goes on to reveal how those who were hired last came and received every man a penny. The householder and lord of the vineyard would continue calling those who had been hired unto himself that he might pay them the wages which they agreed to. The householder and lord of the vineyard would choose to begin with those who were called last to labor in the vineyard and would pay them according to their wages. Where the parable becomes intriguing is when you consider the fact that as the householder and lord of the vineyard would call forth the laborers whom he had hired and who had agreed to work in his vineyard those who were hired first became disgruntled and frustrated with the householder over the wages he paid them. Those who were hired first believed themselves to have been qualified and positioned to earn and be paid more because they had worked the longest. Within this parable we find those who were hired first received the wages for their work and supposed they should have received more. As a direct result of this they murmured against the householder and goodman of the house and said, “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding these who were hired first. If you read the parable which Jesus taught—not only will you find the goodman of the house beginning with those who were hired last but also giving them the same wage as those who were hired first. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it wasn’t merely that these were hired first but also that they had borne the heat and burden of the day. When those who were hired first understood they were given the same wage as those who were hired at the eleventh hour and worked only one hour they murmured against the goodman of the house. Not only this but within this parable you will find those who were hired first actually thinking and believing themselves to be able to speak to the goodman and master of the house and vineyard concerning his own money and vineyard. Those who were hired first not only felt they deserved more than those who were hired last but they also presumed to speak unto the goodman of the vineyard concerning his own wages and how he paid the laborers who worked in the vineyard. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this parable and how those who were hired first not only believed themselves to be worthy of greater pay and compensation but also presumed upon themselves to speak unto the goodman of the vineyard concerning that which belonged to him. Those who were hired first placed themselves in an incredibly difficult and dangerous place for they would allow their eye to be evil as well as murmur against the goodman of the house and vineyard.

 

            If and as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the parable not only described the kingdom of heaven but was also designed and intended on demonstrating one of the most powerful truths and realities concerning the kingdom of heaven. The more you read the four gospel narratives which are found in the New Testament the more you will the truth concerning the kingdom of heaven and how the economy of the kingdom of heaven is entirely and altogether different from that of the earth. Within this parable we encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth that the last shall be first and the first last. What’s more is that within this parable you will find Jesus going on to describe and declare how many are called and yet few were chosen. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this parable for they call and draws our attention to the incredible truth concerning the kingdom of heaven and how the first would be last and the last would be first. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would also declare how many were called but few were chosen—a truth of the kingdom which would appear in other places within the gospel. In fact I am absolutely and completely convinced that if we wish to understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture we must needs acknowledge and understand these other parables which the Lord Jesus spoke concerning the last shall be first, the first being last and many are called but few are chosen. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following parables and words which the Lord Jesus spoke which would demonstrate and illustrate how the last would be first and the first would be last—and not only this but also how many are called but few are chosen:

 

            “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and follow thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:27-30).

 

            “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mark 9:33-37).

 

            “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31).

 

            “And he went through the cities and villages teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door,a nd ye begin to stand without,a nd to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and saw unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last” (Luke 13:22-30).

 

            Within these passages we encounter the economy of the kingdom of heaven—particularly and especially concerning the truth that the last would be first and the first would be last in the kingdom of heaven. What we must needs recognize and understand is that within the four gospel narratives—not only do we encounter the truth surrounding the first being last and the last being first but we also encounter the wonderful truth surrounding many being called but there are few who are chosen. What we find within this passage of Scripture in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative is an incredibly strong and powerful picture of the first being last, the last being first and many being called but only a few are chosen. It is this concept of many being called and few actually chosen which we must needs recognize and understand if we wish to understand the economy of the kingdom of heaven. With this being said I invite you to consider now those passages found within Scripture which speak to this truth surrounding many being called and few being chosen. Consider if you will the following passages which are found in the gospel narratives as well as the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning the call Moses issued to all those who were present among the children of Israel and how there was only one tribe which responded to the call—the Levites. As a direct result of the Levites responding to the call they were the only ones chosen from among the twelve tribes of Israel to stand before the LORD as priests and ministers within his tabernacle and later His temple. With this in mind I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture:

 

            “And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servant to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14).

 

            Here in this passage of Scripture we find an incredibly powerful parable spoken by the Lord Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven and how the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a marriage which a king made for his son. When the parable itself was concluded the Lord would conclude it with making the declaration for a second time that many are called but few are chosen. This reality of many being called but few being chosen is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus for it calls and draws our attention to a powerful and clarion call that went out to all the children of Israel in the wilderness. After Moses had come down from Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai having received the Law from the hand of God he would witness and behold the children of Israel committing idolatry and fornication before a golden calf. Incensed and outraged Moses would not only cast from his hands the Law of God thus breaking it but would also grind the golden calf into powder and would sprinkle it upon water before making the children of Israel drink it. What we find after this is Moses issuing a call unto the children of Israel concerning those who were on the LORD’s side. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that any of the twelve tribes of Israel could have responded unto the call issued by Moses. What we find, however, is one tribe actually responding to the call which was issued from the mouth of Moses. It was the tribe of Levi who would take up the sword according to the call of Moses and would go throughout the camp that the judgment of the living God might be satisfied. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning this particular event within the history of the children of Israel:

 

            “And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt if in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (For Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)” (Exodus 32:15-25).

 

            “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourself to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day” (Exodus 32:26-29).

 

            The narrative which is found in the Old Testament book of Exodus is quite unique and astounding when you think about and consider it for it calls and draws our attention to a pivotal moment for the children of Israel. Moses had been atop the mountain of God in the presence of God for forty days and forty nights receiving the Law which was to be at the very heart of the culture and society of the people of Israel. After those forty days and forty nights were completed the children of Israel grew impatient not knowing where Moses was or even what had become of him. As a direct result of this they would appeal to his brother Aaron that he might form and fashion for them gods which they could see with their eyes and worship as the ones who delivered them out of the land of Egypt. Aaron would proceed to ask them for as much gold as they could provide—necklaces, rings, earrings, etc. Aaron would then form and fashion a golden calf which they would worship. Upon the completion of the golden calf Aaron would present this as the god who had delivered and brought them up out of the land of Egypt. What’s more is that before the golden calf the children of Israel would commit idolatry, immortality, fornication and debauchery before the presence of the LORD which was still present upon the mountain. One thing that so amazes me about this passage of Scripture is how the divine presence of the living God was still present atop and upon the mountain with thick darkness, clouds, thunderings, lightnings, smoke and a consuming fire. Despite all of that the children of Israel would proceed to give themselves over to idolatry, immorality, fornication, debauchery and tremendous evil in the sight of the living God.

 

            What you will find as Moses came down from the mountain is his anger waxing hot within his soul and the casting down of the tables of stone which had the Law of the living God upon them. What’s more is that Moses would take the golden calf, grind it to powder and then strew it upon the water before making the children of Israel drink it. Immediately following this Moses would then issue a clarion call unto the children of Israel concerning who among them was on the LORD’s side. This call and invitation given by Moses unto the children of Israel not only asked who was on the LORD’s side but also called on them to come unto him. Moses writes and records in this passage of Scripture how all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him and were then instructed by Moses to put every man his sword by his side and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp and slay every man his brother and every man his companion and every man his neighbor. The children of Levi would do according to the word of Moses and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. What makes this all the more intriguing and interesting when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that Moses also instructed the people to consecrate themselves that day to the LORD even every man upon his son and upon his brother that the LORD might bestow a blessing upon them on that particular day.

 

            If there is one thing that makes the narrative of the sons of Levi so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it’s that on the day when Moses came down from the mountain of the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai he issued a call that would have been heard by all the children of Israel. Moses didn’t specifically call the sons of Levi unto himself, nor did he make the statement that the sons of Levi were on the LORD’s side. Moses issued a strong and powerful invitation given unto the children of Israel concerning those who were on the LORD’s side and it was the children of Levi who responded. As a direct response of the sons of Levi stepping forward and presenting themselves unto Moses they were then chosen by Moses to go throughout the camp and slay every man his brother and every man his companion and neighbor. The sons of Levi were those who heard and responded to the call of Moses on this particular day and while it was indeed true that many were called there was only on tribe that responded to that call. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the whole of the children of Israel were called of the living God through Moses on this particular day and yet it was only the sons of Levi who responded to the call issued by Moses. What we must needs recognize and understand is that not only were they chosen on this particular day to take up the sword to purge and cleanse the children and people of Israel but they would also be chosen again by the living God in the coming days. It would be the sons of Levi who would also be chosen by the LORD to stand, to serve and appear before Him as His priests and ministers before the tabernacle of the living God.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers you will find that the sons of Levi were specifically chosen by the living God to stand and serve before Him as priests and as ministers in all things pertaining to the tabernacle. In fact there is a certain place within the Pentateuch where we read of the specific roles and functions of the children of Israel—not only pertaining to the work and service of the Tabernacle and not only pertaining to the setting up and taking down of the Tabernacle but also the carrying and transporting of the Tabernacle during their days of wilderness wandering. This is incredibly unique and important for us to think about and consider for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the principle of many being called but few are chosen. During the days of Moses and Aaron many were called on that day when the golden calf was destroyed from among the children of Israel and yet only a few were chosen. I would love to know how many sons of Levi responded to the call of Moses on this particular day when he called for all those who were on the LORD’s side. We know that on this particular day there were three thousand men which fell as a result of the sword of Levi moving to and fro throughout the camp. What we don’t know is how many of the sons of Levi heard and responded to the call of Moses on this particular day.

 

            When you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find in the twentieth chapter of this gospel the Lord Jesus delivering a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven. This parable delivered by the Lord Jesus was one that would describe the kingdom of heaven as a householder and goodman who had a vineyard and who went forth on a certain day looking for those who would agree to work for him in his vineyard. Scripture isn’t clear whether or not this householder and goodman did this on a daily basis, however, we do know for sure that on this particular day this householder and goodman would go out and look for those who would work in his vineyard. This householder would go out early in the morning and hire a first round of those who would work in his vineyard who would then begin working in that vineyard. The householder would go out at the third, sixth and ninth hours continuing to search for those who would work in his vineyard and would hire more who would in fact come and work in the vineyard. Where the parable takes a unique turn is around the eleventh hour when the householder and goodman would go out again into the marketplace and would come upon those who were standing idly in the midst of it because no one had hired them yet. The householder would then invite them to come and work for him in his vineyard and agreed to pay them an appropriate wage for their work. When these laborers returned with the householder to the vineyard there were those who had already been working and laboring in it and these would then join the work which had already begun by others.

 

            There is something unique and powerful about this parable when you take the time to think about and consider it for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the concept of laboring in the vineyard—and not only laboring in the vineyard but also those who work and labor in the midst of the vineyard. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality regarding that which the Lord Jesus was indeed seeking to convey unto His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him. Within this parable we find the Lord Jesus not only speaking of a vineyard which required work but also of those who were hired to come and labor and work in the midst of the vineyard. Within this parable we find those who were called to come work in the vineyard and yet I can’t help but wonder if there were those who perhaps chose to ignore the invitation to come and work in this vineyard. The parable doesn’t seem to indicate whether or not there were those who ignored and rejected the invitation to come and work in the vineyard, however, there seems to be an indication of this within Jesus’ words concerning many being called and few are chosen. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture are the first mention of first being last, the last being first and many are called but few are chosen. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is when you consider the words which the Lord Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the narrow way and broad gate. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to consider the words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this passage as I bring this writing to a close:

 

            “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

            “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

 

            “Not every man that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).

 

            “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” Matthew 7:24-27).

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