Character of God - Sovereignty (Matthew 19:30-20:15)

Dr Daryl Miller, July 31, 2016
Part of the Knowing the Character of God series, preached at a Sunday Evening service

New Series: Knowing the Character of God
Title: Character of God - Sovereignty (The Parable of the Laborers and
the Hours)

Text: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matt. 20:15).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 19:30?–?20:15
We begin the series “Knowing the Character of God,” which focuses on five of the great parables of our Lord that highlight God’s character. Our concept of God affects our response to him and to others.

Jesus begins his parables with “For the kingdom of God is like,” and then he tells a story that will in some way illustrate the way God reigns.
The parable of the laborers and the hours is difficult to interpret. It is not an allegory. It sheds light on how God deals with humankind. Here in brief is the story: A householder who needed laborers to harvest his grapes went out early in the morning to hire laborers. He found some and agreed to pay each of them a denarius (the usual wage) for the day’s work. At 9:00 a.m. he went back to the marketplace seeking laborers. He hired some and agreed to give them whatever was right. This he did again at noon, at midafternoon, and at one hour before the day’s end. The laborers indicated that they were idle because no one had hired them. When the day’s work was over, this employer, beginning with the last hired and going to the first hired, paid each one a denarius, a full day’s wage. Although he had paid every man as much as agreed, those who had worked all day in the heat complained about his generosity. “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’?” (Matt. 20:13?–?15).

Both at the beginning of the parable and again at the end in Matthew 19:30 and 20:16, Jesus says, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” We conclude that this is the truth illustrated: God’s judgment will curiously differ from man’s judgments. Every kingdom worker is precious in God’s sight. Lack of opportunity will not be a hindrance to one’s reward.
I. The sovereignty of God.
“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (Matt. 20:15). God’s ways seem as puzzling to us at times as the payment of equal wages to all of the laborers appeared to them. At first we are inclined to agree with the grumbling workers. It does not seem right to pay a man who has worked only one hour the same wages as one who has worked in the heat all day long. However, the workers who were not hired earlier had been ready. They were willing. They were idle not by choice but by necessity. They could honestly say, “No one has hired us.” The man who went to work early at least knew that at the end of the day he would receive a day’s wage with which to buy food for his family. The man waiting idly through the day must have worried about coming to his family without any money for their needs. Waiting was probably as difficult as working.
In ruling over his kingdom, God will take into account all of the facts, including motive and opportunity. When we know as he knows, we will see that his ways, which now seem strange to us, are just and right. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8?–?9).
II. God will do all he promises.
The laborers who first entered the vineyard bargained for so much money per day. The householder gave them what he promised. God promises to all who repent and obey salvation, eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, heaven, and more. God will fulfill his promises.
In addition, on the basis of faithfulness and service, the Lord promises rewards according to his sovereign grace. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14?–?35, the five-talent man and the two-talent man who were equally faithful received equal rewards. In the similar parable of the pounds, the one more faithful received more reward. The inequalities of the talents seem to recognize the inequality of human endowment. One pound to each servant seems to indicate that every person is potentially of equal value to God. God will take into account all of the facts.
III. God will do more than he promises.
A. The householder is more interested in the workers than in the work. God is concerned for his people.
B. The householder took into account the worker’s opportunity. God in judgment will certainly consider one’s opportunity. The assumption in the parable is that the workers accepted the first opportunity. They were not willfully lazy. They had not been hiding to avoid work.
Some people have heard God’s call and have resisted. They are without excuse. Others have not heard the full gospel or have suffered under an unspiritual ministry. Others are excused by circumstances beyond their control. For example, let us imagine two sisters who answer the call of God for missionary service. Both make preparation by completing college and seminary. At the time for appointment, it is necessary for one of them to stay with their aged, sick parents. One of the sisters serves on the foreign field. The other remains with the parents. After the parents’ death for whom she has cared tenderly, the second daughter is now past the age for foreign service. She serves faithfully in the homeland until her death. Who would call God unfair if he should give the same commendation to each of the sisters? Perhaps Andrew, the ordinary man, the personal soul-winner who brought his brother Peter to Jesus, will receive equal commendation to that of his gifted brother who preached to the multitudes.
IV. God will reverse many human judgments.
In Luke 16:19?–?31 the rich man certainly was considered a leading citizen of the community. His counsel would be sought by politicians. He was important among the businessmen. Lazarus was considered a common beggar. No citizen would have considered him among the first citizens. Lazarus, at death, however, was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. “The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (vv. 22?–?23). God’s book of remembrance as to the great will be vastly different from the history books.
God takes into account the motive. The worker who was willing to work will be rewarded as the one who did work. David wanted to build the temple but could not. Solomon did build the temple. God said to David, “Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart” (1 Kings 8:18).
The murmuring workers did not share the spirit of the householder. They thought of work accomplished rather than of the welfare of the workers. They were like people who think that everyone ought to get exactly what he or she deserves or has earned. They leave no room for a merciful God who rejoices to give more than people deserve. The nearer we come to Jesus, the better we understand that the sovereign God has a right to do as he pleases and that because of his character he will do no wrong to anyone. The nearer we draw to him, the more we will rejoice in his grace and goodness to others.
Let us trust God enough to work in his vineyard. He will pay what he has promised?—?yes, vastly more. Work is better than idleness. How good it is to be able to work in God’s vineyard!


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