John T. Willis

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parables as Powerful Speech

As we continue our study of the Power of Speech, Parables plays a major role. Speakers and composers of the Hebrew Bible used parables. Jesus was a master of parables. Parables are not abstract, but very pointed and direct, intended for a particular audience.

The fundamental purpose of a parable is: (a) to remove the hearers or the audience from their own situation and presuppositions and beliefs; (b) to draw the hearers or the audience into the story; (c) to convict the hearers or the audience of their sins or their incorrect ideas or their ignorance or their traditional understandings; (d) to bring the hearers or the audience to return to God.

Here are a few examples:

1. The Little Ewe Lamb--2 Samuel 12:1-4. The prophet Nathan presents this parable to David as a court case. There were two men in a certain city: one man was rich, the other was poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds; the poor man had only one little ewe lamb. An unexpected traveler came to the house of the rich man. The rich man wanted to prepare a meal for the traveler, but he did not want to kill one of his sheep or cattle, so he took the poor man's lamb and killed her to prepare a meal for the traveler. This parable drew David into this story. David became very angry about the ungodly way the rich man mistreated the poor man. Knowing God's law in Exodus 22:1, David declared that the rich man who has done this is worthy to die, and must pay the poor man four sheep in place of the little ewe lamb. As soon as David committed himself to this story, Nathan declared: "YOU [David] are that rich man." David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and had murdered Uriah on the battlefield at Rabbah.

2. The Two Sons--Luke 15:11-32. Jesus presents this parable to the Pharisees and the scribes who complained: "This fellow [Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them." [Luke 15:1-2]. A man had two sons. The younger son asked his father to give him his share of his estate. His father agreed, and the younger son went into a foreign country and squandered all his property. When he got into trouble, in desperation he returned to his father. When he arrived, his father showered him with gifts, declaring he WAS lost, but NOW is found. The older brother became angry. He complained that his father did not give him a great celebration. The father responded that the older father was always with him, but it was necessary to celebrate the return of the younger son. THE POINT of this parable is clear. The younger son represents tax collectors and sinners who come to Jesus. The older son represents the Pharisees and the scribes. Jesus drew the Pharisees and the scribes into this story. Now it was too late for them. THEY are the ungodly guilty ones whom the father [God] rebuked them.

3. The Disappointed Vineyard--Isaiah 5:1-7. Isaiah presents this parable to the people of Israel and Judah. "My beloved" had a very fertile vineyard. The vinedresser did everything possible to make this vineyard prosperous and fruitful. But when harvest time appeared, the vineyard yielded wild grapes rather than good grapes. What was the vinedresser to do? His only option was the prune and cut back the corrupted vineyard. THE POINT of this parable is that Yahweh is "my beloved"= the vinedresser, and Israel [the people of God] is the vineyard. Yahweh expected to receive justice and righteousness; but instead, this vineyard yielded bloodshed and a cry, making Yahweh very disappointed. Now it is too late. Isaiah has drawn his audience into the story, and now they will suffer the consequences.

Speech is very powerful. One type of speech is parables. PLEASE study each parable in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. They can change our hearts and lives.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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