God works by covenant. What good is the Kingdom without PEOPLE to inhabit it? The project needs workers who will commit to it. He says, IF you do this, THEN I’ll do that. To those who are attracted by the offer He says, Come and work, and whatever is right, I will pay you.
Here is the proposition as Jesus illustrated it in His parable:
Matthew 20:1–2 1For 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. 2And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
He agreed with the laborers for “a penny a day.” When we go into the vineyard to work, our agreement is signed and sealed from both sides, His and ours. We have accepted the terms of the agreement, have we agreed for the “penny” pay (whatever is right) and we go to work.
At this point it is a trust relationship. We trust God, and He trusts us. Not equal, but there should be no complain from our side! Why should we object if He is generous! It is still a lawful, binding agreement.
Where is the surety most secure? When we look at the cases on record, there is no question. God’s side is the sure one. Ours? That depends on how diligent we are, how focused, how captured by the “penny,” and how concerned we are about keeping our agreement and getting the pay.
Going forward, our agreement is ratified by every payment we make, small or great. Whatever we do, or give up, or let go for His sake is a payment on account. By each sacrifice—small or great—that we make, we are saying, “I’ll pay the price, I’m going through!”
The laborers in the vineyard during the various hours of the day? Whom did God find early in the day? We think of Adam, representing those earliest informed about the plan of God. Hearing God’s offer he says, “Yes, I’ll go work.” He drops whatever he was doing and answers the call of God to enter His spiritual “garden,” to “till and keep it.”
Genesis 2:15 15Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
The word translated “man” is literally “Adam.” He was given “work,” he was to “tend and keep it.” At first he must have been willing, but the payments were too much. He didn’t keep them up.
We know the rest of the story. He soon failed, and was removed from the garden.
Fast forward to the time of Abraham. Here we see one seriously attracted by God’s offer and ready to enter into covenant with God.
Abraham’s career began with letting go and giving up. First his home.
Genesis 12:1 1Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
Isn’t that a lot to let go and give up? his COUNTRY, his FAMILY, and his Father’s HOUSE.
A sizeable downpayment!
And beyond that, where was he going? “To a land that I will show you.”
A land unnamed. Unknown to Abraham. What could he do but “trust” God to reveal it when the time was right.
What about the other side of the contract—the pay? God said,
2I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
A great promise, if Abraham could believe it. But Abram said in effect, “I’ll pay the price, I’m going through!”
He did, because we read:
Genesis 12:4 4So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
We can know there were many small payments through the years that did not get on the record. But then came another, a VERY large payment.
Genesis 22:1–3 1Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Could Abraham give up the most precious thing in his life: his child of promise from God?
He COULD and he DID. His heart was set. He said, in effect, “I’m going through.” How could he do it? By faith, because he believed God. Hebrews tells us:
Hebrews 11:17–19 17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Abraham hadn’t seen any resurrection of a dead body, as far as we know. But he reasoned that if God could GIVE life in the first place, He could give it again and raise Isaac up “even from the dead.”
Abraham passed the test, God spared Isaac’s life, and then renewed the promise. This time it was God confirming from His side, saying, “I’m going through for you, Abraham, because you obeyed.”
Genesis 22:15–18 15Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—
17blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore;…18In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Because you have obeyed my voice. What great commendation!
We have another example of paying on a covenant with King David.
David had sinned, and taken his punishment, and now it was time to make an offering to his God, another payment that said clearly to God, “I’ll pay the price, I’m going through!”
What did David do? what kind of payment did he make?
2 Samuel 24:18 18And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded.
Araunah saw an opportunity to do something for the kingdom. So…
2 Samuel 24:20-25 20Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.
21Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.”
22Now Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. 23All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
David, however, saw his own need to MAKE the payment on his covenant. God didn’t need the payment, but David needed to MAKE it.
24Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
David said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” A great principle. David did it right. He said, “I’m going through. I’ll pay the price.” And he did.
We are individually responsible for each and every payment, and those payments must have a proper COST from our side if they are to be worth anything when entered on our account.
25And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.
Paul tells about his first very substantial downpayment when he sealed his agreement with Christ. It is in his letter to the Galatians. He says about this payment:
Galatians 1:13–16 13For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.
He didn’t go to his family and say, is this thing good? What do you recommend? He compared what he had already with what Christ was offering, and said “I want it. I’m going through whatever others do!”
Hear it in what he wrote to the Philippians about his pre-conversion achievements:
Philippians 3:5–7 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
What was Paul’s payment on his account with Christ?
7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
We could go on with illustrations from Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Hannah, Peter. Each showed the same principle: the determination to make their own payments on their contract, saying “I’m going THROUGH.” All knew they were gaining far more than they were giving up.
It is God’s way with us. We give up to make the payments, and then God blesses. It is the lesser in exchange for the far greater and eternal.
Hear Peter asking Jesus,
Matthew 19:27–30 27Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
What was Jesus’ answer?
28So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration [new life consecrated to God], when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
Think of inheriting “eternal life.” That is God’s side of the covenant.
How do we ratify OUR side? By paying the price, making those continual payments day after day, that show our heavenly employer that we want to see it through, all the way to the end.
Why do we hold back on ANY payment we can make to secure our account? Each payment brings us that much closer to the paid-up point, where we can be sure of the “penny.”
Why not say it –and mean it? “I’ll pay the price, I’m going through whatever Others do. I’ll take the way with the Lord’s despised few. Come storm or sunshine, I’m going through!”