Notes of an Address by H. A. IRONSIDE
"Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matt. 21:42-44).
YOU will remember the context of these verses. Our blessed Lord, who had already foretold His rejection by Israel and solemnly prophesied His death and resurrection, related the parable of the householder and the vineyard in the hearing of the Pharisees and the chief priests. It is a parable easily read and understood in the light of the kindred passage in Isaiah 5 and the striking reference in Psalm 80:8. The vineyard is the land of Palestine, and the vine God's earthly people Israel. This vine, brought out of Egypt, had been planted in Jehovah's fruitful hill. He had hedged it round about, digged a wine-press in it, built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and gone into a far country. All this spoke of His fostering care of Israel, hedged about by His holy law and dowered with the most blessed divinely-given privileges, such as no other people had ever enjoyed both from a national and a spiritual standpoint. Their nurture was entrusted to divinely-appointed leaders, both kingly and priestly in character, while He Himself, who had been so marvelously manifested in the beginning of their history, withdrew as it were into the silence. He had gone into the far country, shut away from their view in the heaven of heavens, though still deeply concerned about His people in the earth. From time to time He sent His prophets, His own personal representatives, to receive the fruit of the vineyard; that is, to see what there was in Israel that He could delight in—what this vine of the Lord's planting was producing for Himself. But these servants were beaten, stoned, killed, and that at times in the most cruel manner, as when Isaiah was sawn asunder and Zechariah slain between the porch and the altar. Last of all, He sent unto them His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, saying, "They will reverence my Son,* or as another Gospel puts it, "It may be they will reverence Him when they see Him," but alas when He came full of grace and truth they had neither eyes to see, ears to hear, nor hearts to understand, but they cried, "This is the heir; come, let us kill Him and let us seize on his inheritance." And so they caught Him and cast Him out of the vineyard and slew Him. It was a forecast of the treatment they were about to accord to God's beloved Son, but those to whom our Saviour was speaking did not for the moment recognize Him as the heir who was rejected, and so when the Lord put the straight question to them, "When the master of the vineyard cometh, what will he do with those husbandmen?" they condemned themselves, though they realized it not, as they answered, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen which will render him the fruits in their seasons." Then with crushing force Jesus turned to their own Scriptures and from three different Old Testament portions He brought out to them their own sin and doom, until at last we read that they perceived that He spake of them, and they would have laid hands on Him on the spot but they feared the people who took Him for a prophet. They did not rest, however, until they saw Him nailed to a Roman cross, thus fulfilling their own part in the parable.
In the 42nd verse our Lord quotes from Psalm 118:22, 23. This Psalm is one of those commonly designated "Orphan Psalms," in that it has no heading telling us who the human author might be. It is not necessary to suppose that it was written by David nor during his life-time. It is the last of the little Hall-El, or, as it is sometimes called, the Egyptian Hall-El, which was sung at the celebration of the Passover, and in all likelihood was on the lips of our Lord and His apostles after the institution of the Lord's Supper, when as we read, "They sang a hymn and went out." The Psalms were not assembled in their present order and number until a much later period than that of David, for we know there are some Post-Exilic Psalms included, particularly among the Psalms of Degrees, beginning with Psalm 120. According to Jewish tradition, Psalm 118 was written about the time of the completion of Solomon's temple and may even have been sung at its dedication.
There is a very striking and beautiful story linked with these verses quoted by our Lord. It is said that they have reference to something that occurred during the building of the temple. It will be remembered that Solomon was seven years in constructing this glorious sanctuary, and that he had many thousands of workmen who labored six months at a time and then were superseded by others, consequently very few who were in the early relays were engaged upon the building when it was about to be completed. From the book of Kings we learn that the stones for the temple were all hewn and cut to order in the quarry before being sent up to the great platform on the top of Mt. Moriah where the temple stood. There was no tool or hammer used in the building and the great structure went up in silence. In this it marvelously pictured God's present temple, builded of living stones, quarried out from the pits of sin and builded together for an habitation of God in the Spirit.