LEARN BY DOING – John 7:17-18

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INTRODUCTION:

A man in northern Italy was urging the owner of an orchard to accept the truths of the Bible.  “You tell me it’s the Word of God”, said the owner, “but you can’t prove it.”  As they stood admiring the fruit trees, the visitor said, “What fine-looking trees you have.  Too bad they’re of such poor quality.”  “Of poor quality!”, exclaimed the owner.  “Obviously you haven’t tasted them.  Pick one and try it.”  The visitor accepted the invitation, picked a pear from the nearest tree and began to eat it.  “Yes, you’re right”, he said, smacking his lips, “these pears are excellent!”  Then he made his point.  “Sir, you must do the same thing with God’s Word as I have done with your fruit.  Taste and see that it holds the secret of the abundant life.”

I.  THE CHALLENGE (vs. 17)

Here in John 7:17, the Lord Jesus is in the temple.  It’s the Feast of Booths and He is challenging the people to put His teachings to the test.  He has already told them, in verse 16 and many other times in John’s Gospel, that His teachings are not His own, but came from the One who sent Him. Now He says, “If any man is willing to do His will, He shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.”

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He said the following words in His sermon on the mount:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)  The one who hungers and thirsts after God will recognize God’s messenger.  In John 7:15, Jesus’ hearers had raised the question of His competence as a teacher.  Here in verse 17, Jesus raises the question of their competence as hearers.  It’s not as if the Lord Jesus is teaching them a new principle.  We find this principle stated, in one form or another, in many places in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Let me give you just a few of them.  Psalm 111:10 says, “A good understanding have all who keep thy commandments.”  Proverbs 1:7 states:  “The fear of the Lord is he beginning of knowledge.”  The word “fear” has the connotation of awe, worship, and obedience.  The apostle Paul found that attitude among the Jews in Berea when He arrived there in Acts 17 and began to teach in the synagogue of the Jews.  Acts 17:11 describes their response:  “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.”  A willing submission to God was the foundation for understanding the Source and the truth of his teachings.  The hymn writer, John Sammis, captures that thought with these words:  “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!”  Oswald Chambers, in his book entitled “My Utmost For His Highest”, made this observation:  “Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance.  Spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.”

All the Rabbi’s who were standing there listening to Jesus teach, could relate to what Jesus said in verse 17 from many years of their own personal experience.  What Jesus just said is a reflection on their own personal, life-stories.  Each one of them, at some point in his life, wanted to become a rabbi.  Each one completed his required schooling.  Then he chose a particular rabbi that he wanted to be like, went to that rabbi, and asked him if he could be one of his talmidim (disciples).  By making this request, he is telling the rabbi that he wants to be like him, and will gladly do everything the rabbi tells him to do without questioning it.  After a period of questioning and testing, if the rabbi becomes convinced that this young man has the potential of becoming like him, the rabbi will approach him and say to him, “Follow me”.  What he means by those words is:  “Come with me as my disciple and submit to my authority and my teachings.”

After several years of submitting to his rabbi and learning only his teachings, this young man will also become a rabbi who will think, act, and teach just like his teacher.  Therefore, his authority as a rabbi will not be his own, but the authority of the rabbi who discipled him.

Do you see the comparison?  The authority of these rabbis is not their own either.  They are emulating the rabbi who taught them, so their authority comes from their teacher, and these rabbis would be quick to admit it.  Not only that, but their willingness to submit to their rabbi opened the door of opportunity to learn from him.  The challenge that Jesus has just given the crowd in verse 17 runs parallel to the experiences of their religious leaders, and now these rabbis were training disciples of their own.  I believe that the Lord Jesus is not only challenging the crowd to learn by doing as they put His words into practice, but He’s also reminding the leaders that this is the way it has always been done.  Every one of those leaders is living proof of the validity of that principle.  American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, once said:  “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”

II.  THE PROPER MOTIVATION (verse 18)

Now that Jesus has given them the challenge to do what He suggests, and has told them what will happen if they accept the challenge, He now focuses His attention on motives.  Verse 18 begins with these words spoken by Jesus:  “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory.”  The Lord Jesus is telling them about two different kinds of teachers and this is the first kind and the worst kind.  The teacher who “speaks from himself” is one who speaks by his own authority.  He teaches his own ideas and opinions that are not based upon, nor consistent with the Word of God.  He does not represent God.  On the contrary, he represents himself and “seeks his own glory”.  To such a person, being a teacher is a popularity contest, and his reward is the recognition and praise of others.  His motivation is pride, not humility; and self, not God and God’s Word.  The attitude of these teachers was proof that their teachings were not from God.

Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, once said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people:  those who do the work and those who take the credit.  He told me to try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”  Based on what we’ve learned so far in this passage of Scripture, that was good advice to his granddaughter!

By contrast to the teachers of the Law, Jesus uses Himself as an example of the second kind of teacher.  He says, “but He who is seeking the glory of the one who has sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”  For him, life is not a popularity contest.  It’s a quest to know and obey the truth.  Such a person is not an impostor.  There is no falsehood nor deception in him.  On the contrary, instead of deception there is transparency.  This is the description of the perfect teacher, the kind of teacher you would want to follow and learn from.  Jesus offered knowledge and a personal relationship in exchange for obedience.

A man named Adam Clarke was an assistant in a dry-goods store, selling silks and satins to a wealthy clientele.  One day his employer suggested to him that he try stretching the silk as he measured it out; this would increase sales and profits and also increase Adam’s value to the company.  Young Clarke straightened up from his work, faced his boss courageously, and said, “Sir, your silk may stretch, but my conscience won’t!”  God honored Adam Clarke by taking him from the dry-goods store and equipping him to write a famous commentary on the books of the Bible.  That commentary bears his name.  God gave Adam wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures in return for his obedience, and his life’s work continues to draw others to a deeper understanding of his Lord and Savior.

CONCLUSION:

Are you willing to do God’s will?  Maybe you’ve shut the door to Him in the past, but now you’re ready to open that door again, find out more about Him, and give Him His rightful place in your life.  If so, you may want to click the following link:
https://www.peacewithgod.net.  Clicking the arrow in each section will give you further information and short testimonials.

If you are a Christian, here’s a question for you to think about:  Would you be willing to live and work anonymously?  In other words, would you be willing to live your life and do your work in such a way that God always gets the glory; that the focus of attention is on Him, and your joy comes from serving Him and pleasing Him?  Would you be willing to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the same way that Jesus was an ambassador of His Father?  That’s a tall order, isn’t it?  It’s a major challenge; a tough assignment.  It’s certainly not an overnight experience!  Let’s ask our heavenly Father to provide us with the desire and the power to move one step closer to the image and example of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED  

Welcome to this completed construction site:  John 7:17-18!  God wants us to be fellow-workers, and the study and application of His Word is part of His life-long building project in our lives.  Let’s willingly and eagerly put our hands to the task!

 

THE AFTERMATH: A FALLING OUT – John 6:60-71

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INTRODUCTION:

There are books galore on the topic of leadership.  It would take you an eternity to read them all because new books about leadership are being written and published every day.  Have you ever read a book on following, or becoming a good follower?  I’ve never read, nor have I ever seen a book on that subject.  So I typed “books on following”, and “books on being a follower” into the web browser of my computer.  What I received in response was books on leadership.  I then typed, “how to be a follower” into my web browser and was given many YouTube sites telling me how to become a follower of someone’s social media site, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.  With the click of a button or an icon, I can instantly become someone’s follower, and receive updates.  With the click of another button or icon, I can also instantly “unfollow” a person.   It’s as simple as that!  There are also many online courses being offered which will give you tools and techniques proven to increase the number of your followers.

In this age of social media, “following” has taken on a new meaning.  The number of one’s followers is a sign of popularity.  Gaining new followers can easily become an obsession, as well as a source of personal pride and competitiveness.  A friend of mine recently told me that he goes to social media sites mainly to get information.  He’s interested in keeping up-to-date on certain people and organizations.  What immediately comes to your mind when you think of the words “following” and “follower”?

TRANSITION:

During the lifetime of Jesus Christ on this earth, followers were often referred to as “disciples”.  In this passage of Scripture, John 6:60-71, we are going to study the effect that Jesus’ conversation had on His followers, and observe how Jesus responds to the situation.

I.  THE VERBAL REACTION OF MANY (verse 60)

In verse 60 of John, chapter 6, we find the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ conversation with His crowd of followers.  “Many, therefore, of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ ”  The word “disciple” is the Greek word “mathetes”, which literally means “learner” or “pupil”, and the teacher was called a “didaskalos”.  The corresponding Hebrew words that were used during that period of time were the “talmid” and the “rabbi”.  In the first century, when you wanted to find out more about a person, and learn from him, you followed him around.  There may have been several motives for doing so, such as curiosity, entertainment, a desire to join the crowd, as well a personal commitment to that person.

For example, since you’ve come to this site and are reading this article, you may be a blogger yourself, and have your own blog site.  Let me ask you a question.  Can you follow a blog site without truly being a follower of that site?  I would say that the answer to that question is “yes”.  You can click the “follow” button or icon for a number of reasons.  You may have read one article, liked it, and clicked the “follow” button because you wanted to get email alerts when new articles are added to the site.  You may have clicked “follow” because you want your name and photo added to the list of other followers in the hope that readers might check out your site as well.  It’s a form of advertising.  Or you may have read several articles and are eager to continue to learn, grow spiritually, and share what you have learned with others.  Those are just a few possible motives.  As you can see, there are many possible reasons for following, and not all those reasons demonstrate long-lasting commitment.

Verse 60 says that “many“, not “all” of his listeners, had a negative attitude about the teachings that Jesus had just expressed to them, and they put their attitude into words, saying, “This is a difficult saying; who can listen to it.”  The Greek word translated “difficult”, literally means “hard”.  The word does not mean “hard to understand”, but “hard to accept” once you understood it.  You might say that Jesus’ words were “offensive” – His teachings were opposed to their own personal beliefs and prejudices.  Therefore they rejected His whole conversation.  True disciples wouldn’t react in that way.  A true disciple would be willing to listen, to learn, and to believe in Him because of who He is, even if the teaching might seem, at first, to be offensive.  The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, made the following statement:  “Understanding is the reward of faith.  Therefore, seek not to understand so that you may believe, but believe so that you may understand.”  The Lord Jesus has already given this crowd of followers plenty of reasons to believe in Him and trust Him.

Bible expositor, Alfred Barnes, tells us the doctrines that were apparently offensive.  First, that Jesus was superior to Moses; secondly, that God would save all that He had chosen, and those only; thirdly, that He was the bread that came from heaven; and fourthly, that it was necessary that an atonement should be made, and that they should be saved by it.  Barnes goes on to say, “These doctrines have always been the most offensive that men have been called on to believe, and many, rather than trust in Him, have chosen to draw back to perdition.”

When these so-called disciples said, “Who can hear it?”, they meant, “Who can put up with it?”.  “Who can listen to His words any longer without losing their patience and responding with outbursts of anger?”

II.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE CROWD  (verses 61-65)

The mumbling and grumbling has started again, and verse 61 tells us that Jesus is aware of it.  Now He is faced with a choice.  Is the Lord Jesus going to politely back away from the conflict?  Is He going to give excuses for His offensive words?  Is He going to say something like:  “I didn’t mean to . . . what I really meant was  . .That didn’t come out right . . . what I was trying to say is . . . I’ve had a lot on my mind lately . . . I didn’t sleep well last night , , , Maybe we should start this conversation all over again.”  Do those excuses sound familiar?  Have you ever used any of them yourself?  Be honest!

The other choice would be to stand His ground, give further evidence of the truth of His statements, and then move along in the same direction, full-speed ahead..  This is the course of action that Jesus pursues in spite of their opposition.  It’s full-speed ahead!  He begins by asking them a question:  “Does this cause you to stumble?”  He’s letting them know that He hears what they are saying, and He also knows the condition of their hearts.  The word “stumble” is the Greek word “skandalizei”.  We get our English word “scandalize” from that Greek word.  Jesus is saying, “Are My teachings offensive to you?”  “Do they go against what you want to believe?”  He is also leading into what He is about to say next.  His second question, found in verse 62, is “What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?”  Jesus is not telling these followers that they will see His ascension into heaven because Acts 1:6-13 tells us that only the eleven apostles watched that happen.  Jesus is speaking hypothetically.  One of the statements that offended some of these followers was that Jesus claimed that He had come down from heaven.  Now He’s saying, “What if you saw me ascend to heaven – the same place that I told you I came from?”  “Would that offend you all the more?”  You might say, from Jesus’ response, that He is separating the chaff from the wheat!

In verse 63, Jesus explains His purpose for saying those things to them, and He also  reasserts His authority or right to say them.  “The spirit gives life; the flesh accounts for nothing,  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  I don’t personally think that Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit here, even though the beginning of His statement is also true of the Holy Spirit.  He’s clarifying His analogy by saying that He’s referring to the spirit of man, not his physical flesh.   A man’s spirit is his source of life, and God gives him that spirit.  His listeners were very familiar with Genesis 2:7, which says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  The Greek word translated “spirit” here in verse 63, is pneuma, which literally means “wind” or “breath”, and is sometimes used to refer to the Holy Spirit as well.  Jesus is speaking to them in  Hebrew (Aramaic), and the word Jesus probably used is ruach, which also means “wind” or “breath”.  So there is nothing lost in translation between the two languages.  The Scriptures describe Jesus’ death on the cross with the words “He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30; Matthew 27:50).

Now, in verse 64, Jesus “hits them with a bombshell” when He says to the crowd of followers, “There are some of you who do not believe.”  He’s implying, “You know who you are, and I know who you are also.  You can’t hide anything from Me.”  The apostle John goes on to explain the basis for Jesus’ words:  “For He knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.”  As God, Jesus was all-knowing, but having taken the form of a man, He temporarily laid aside the use of that attribute.  It was the Father who had revealed that information to Him.  Jesus has “opened the exit doors even wider” for those who weren’t truly His followers, and don’t want to be His followers because they don’t really believe in Him.

Preacher and author, Henry Drummond, was once asked to address a meeting at the exclusive West-End Club in London, England.  He began with these words:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, the entrance fee into the kingdom of God is nothing, but the annual subscription is everything.”  There were many in Jesus’ audience who wanted to be part of the club but didn’t want to pay the subscription fees.  Jesus had quite a following that day, but very few genuine followers.

What Jesus then shares, in verse 66, defies their understanding, and hurts the foolish pride of many of His listeners.  He reiterates what He said in verse 44, when He says in verse 65:  “no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Jesus is telling them that faith is a gift.  It’s impossible for us to believe by our own enabling.  Only God can draw a person to Himself.  He’s also implying that hearing His words doesn’t necessarily lead to faith.

III.  THE DESERTION (verses 66-67)

Then it happens.  Hundreds of these followers turn away from Jesus and begin to walk away, wanting nothing more to do with Him.  Verse 66 says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.”  The Greek word literally means “the majority”.  There were more people leaving Him than there were of those who were staying with Him.

Have you ever felt sadness because people who were close to you didn’t come through for you?  Did you ever feel a sense of abandonment by the majority of those around you because of something you said or did?  How would you feel if over half of the friends on your social media sites decided to “unfriend” you at the same time because of something you said or did?  What would be your reaction if most of the followers of your blog site decided to “unfollow” you on the same day because of something you wrote?  Would you feel a twinge of sadness and abandonment?  I certainly would!  God gave each of us emotions and, even if we don’t always express them, we feel them deep down inside and it hurts!  The Lord Jesus had a human nature like ourselves, with the same emotional makeup that each of us possesses.  Let’s see how He responds to what was happening to Him at that moment.

IV.  JESUS QUESTION TO THE TWELVE (verse 67)

Verse 67 gives us Jesus’ initial response.  “Jesus said therefore to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you’?”  I personally believe that Jesus said those words to the twelve disciples with sadness in His heart, and I think that sadness was evident to them by His facial expression and by the way He spoke those words.  This should come as no surprise to us.   The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  This was probably one of many times that Jesus was saddened and grieved at people’s rejection of Him and His words.  In this case, Jesus is hoping to receive some encouragement from the twelve.

V.  PETER SPEAKS FOR THEM ALL (verses 68-69)

Simon Peter was quick to respond, in verses 68 and 69, saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  I don’t know whether Peter could have said it better, and that’s just what Jesus needed to hear at that sorrowful moment in His life.  Peter affirmed who Jesus was, attested to the truth of Jesus’ words, and expressed his faith in Him.  Peter was also speaking on behalf of the other eleven disciples, assuming that they all believed as he did.

VI.  JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE TWELVE (verses 70-71)

In verse 70, Jesus corrects Peter’s words, but I think there is much more to Jesus’ words than just correcting a misconception on Peter’s part.  It reads, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ “  The verse indicates that He is speaking those words, not only to Peter, but to all twelve of the disciples.  Why would Jesus say such a cutting remark?  In those days, calling someone “a devil” was pretty strong language. Was Jesus just releasing His frustrations or did He have a specific purpose in mind?

I don’t personally think that Jesus’ emotional state changed from sadness to anger in verse 70.  I believe that Jesus said those words with sadness in His heart, in His eyes, and in His words.  As He looked around at the twelve, His eyes may have lingered at the face of Judas as He said the word “devil”.  It may have been similar to the look on Jesus’ face when He turned to look at Peter after the cock crowed and Peter had denied Jesus three times.

The Lord Jesus loved Judas and wanted him to come face-to-face with his own greed.  He gave Judas the responsibility of being the keeper of the money box (John 12:4-6; John 13:21-29) to show him how easily he gave into the temptation to rob from it.  As we shall see, Jesus will wash Judas’s feet, pray for him, and show him honor.  It saddened Jesus that one who was in such close proximity to Him on a daily basis for three years, would be so distant from Him in his heart.  The Lord Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of the twelve, showed him love and concern, revealed Himself to him by His life and miracles, and offered him eternal life.  He even gave Judas the power to heal diseases and cast out demons when He sent the twelve out two-by-two to proclaim the Gospel. (Luke 9:1-11; Matthew 10).  But it was all in vain.  Judas hardened his heart again and again.

In verse 71, the apostle John adds the following personal comment:  “Now he meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.”  He said those words because he, Peter, and the other disciples had no idea that Judas was not a true follower of Christ.  Judas played the role so well that none of the other disciples noticed any differences.  John was as shocked as all of the others, and wants to make that known to his readers.

CONCLUSION:

Are you a genuine follower of Jesus Christ?  Have Jesus’ words, in this passage of Scripture, caused you to consider whether or not you want to be identified with Him and follow Him?  Have you turned away from Him in the past?  Many in that crowd walked away from Jesus because they didn’t want to acknowledge that He was the Messiah, the King of heaven and earth; they didn’t want to believe in His teachings.  They didn’t want to acknowledge their own sinfulness, and didn’t want to turn the control of their lives over to Him.  Do you feel an emptiness inside and a need to know God?  He wants to reveal Himself to you as you read and study His Word.  It’s not too late to turn around and choose to follow Him and become obedient to His Word.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and your life bears witness to your commitment to Him as your Lord and Savior, do you feel sadness as you look around you at those who refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to Him by repentance and faith?  Are you willing to ask God to give you a greater compassion for the lost, and a burden to pray for them consistently and confidently, trusting God to change their hearts and draw them to Himself?  God wants to turn that sadness into joy in answer to your believing prayers.  We can never pray enough for those who don’t know the Lord.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

 

BE PATIENT LIKE THE FARMER – JAMES 5:7-8

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INTRODUCTION:

Are you a patient person – both on the outside and on the inside?  Do you mind standing in long lines?  Are you unperturbed when listening to long commercials on your TV or radio, or long, automated ads on the telephone?  Are you content when put on hold for an undetermined amount of time?  If your honest answer is “yes”, you are, by far, an exception to the rule!

In 2006, a survey of more than 2000 adults revealed that most peope take an average of 17 minutes to lose their patience when waiting in line.  Also, most people lose their patience in only 9 minutes when on hold on the phone. Impatience is a common trait; wouldn’t you agree?

TRANSITION:

James has finished his verbal chastening of the selfish, unrighteous rich people, and is continuing where he left off in his address to the churches.  We see the transition in verse 7, where James now calls his readers and listeners “brethren”. He is writing once again to his brothers and sisters in Christ.

I.  THE EXHORTATION (vs. 7a)

He has been telling the wicked rich people what to do before they meet their Maker.  Now he is telling his fellow-believers what their attitude should be in their present circumstances in order to prepare to meet their Lord and Savior.  He reiterates what he said in chapter 1, verse 12:  “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  In this letter, James has brought to their minds many passages from the Old Testament, and I believe he is doing so again.  One Old Testament passage of Scripture which closely parallels his words is Psalm 37. In verses 7-9 of Psalm 37, King David writes:  “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret for him who prospers in his way, because of him who carries out wicked schemes.”  Then David says in verse 9, “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.”

This exhortation is repeated several times in Psalm 37.  I encourage you to read the whole psalm to get the full effect of what David is saying there under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

James also gives this encouragement in verse 7 in order to protect his readers and listeners from their own selfish plans and boastful attitudes (James 4:13-17).  Some of them have been setting up their own timetable for what they want to accomplish for themselves, and have been boasting about it to others.

When James uses the words “until the coming of the Lord”, he may be reminding himself of the Lord Jesus’ words to him and the other disciples:  “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also”  (John 14:1-3). That’s a wonderful promise for us to cling to as well, in these troublesome times! The early church believed that Christ could come at any moment, and that was a source of joy and encouragement in their trials.  Two centuries have passed, but Christ could still come at any moment.  Are you excited about that possibility?  It could become a reality at any moment!

II.  THE EXAMPLE (vs. 7b)

James says, “take a good look at the farmer as an example of patience (long-suffering)”.  The farmer has a lot of work to do, and he also must wait for things to happen in his fields and orchards.  Plants take time to grow and fruit takes time to ripen.  As his readers and listeners know, in Deuteronomy 11:13-14, God made a promise to the nation of Israel before they crossed the Jordan River and entered the promised land.  “And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain . . . “.  In Israel the early rain, or autumn rain, comes in October and November, after the ground has been prepared and the seed has been sown.  This rain enables the seed to germinate, produce sprouts, and grow to almost full height.  The late rain, or spring rain, comes in March or April, when the buds have formed, and enables the grain to mature for the harvest.  It’s important that the farmer follows this timetable set forth by God if he wants an abundant harvest.  There is a time of patiently waiting for the autumn rain to arrive, for the spring rain to arrive, and for the harvesting to begin, but the farmer is kept busy preparing and repairing the equipment and the barns, and getting the laborers ready for the coming harvest.  The time goes by quickly because the farmer is committed to his tasks and excited about the harvest to come.

III.  THE EXHORTATION (verse 7b)

James encourages his readers and listeners to have the same attitude of perseverance and expectancy as the farmer that he has just described.  There are, and have been, times in our lives that have tested our patience and posed a threat to our devotion to God and service for Him.  There have also been times when we have wanted to get things done in a hurry just to get them over with!  19th-century preacher A.B. Simpson offers this advice:  “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again?  There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering.  If you are to practice these things, it must be now.”  Each day offers countless opportunities to learn patience.  Let’s not waste them.

A PERSPECTIVE FROM ABOVE

I’m going to carry this illustration of the farmer a step further because both the Old and New Testaments do so.  It is a clear, powerful, and exciting realization and motivation for us today.  I have already shared scriptures concerning the early and late rains as found in the old testament.  But there is another image that James may be trying to convey, and this image may be coming to the minds of his readers and listeners.  It is the image of God as the patient Farmer, the Cultivator, the Planter, the Nurturer, the Pruner, and the Harvester in the lives of His people.

King David says to God is Psalm 65:9-10:  “Thou dost visit the earth and cause it to overflow; Thou dost greatly enrich it.  The stream of God is full of water. Thou dost prepare their grain, for thus Thou dost prepare the earth.  Thou dost water its furrows abundantly; Thou dost settle its ridges.  Thou dost soften it with showers; Thou dost bless its growth.”  He describes God as doing the whole work of the farmer.

Psalm 121 gets more personal.  “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is the shade at your right hand.  The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will protect you from every evil.  He will keep your soul.”  As the farmer takes good care of his land and crops, so the Lord takes constant care of His people.

A song that I sing to myself almost every day is the hymn, “God Will Take Care Of You”.  Now I’m beginning to realize why this song is so special to me.  The words. “God will take care of you” are repeated over and over again with different melodies.  Singing the song brings a smile to my face and an assurance that those words are really true.  It reminds me that when I was a little child, my mother used a similar method to calm me down and help take away the fear or the pain I was experiencing.  She would hold me close, rock me in her arms, and say, “It’s OK, Tommy . . . It’s alright . . . I love you . . . You’re going to be alright . . .  It’s gonna go away . . . You’re going to be OK.”  Does that bring back memories?  Those repeated words brought comfort to me, and helped take my mind off the problem.  In a similar way, God tells us over and over again in the Scriptures that He loves us and will take care of us.

Isaiah 30:18 reflects the patience of a farmer.  “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you.  And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.”  “For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightul plant.”  If God is waiting, that means He is also watching, and with joyful anticipation!

The Lord Jesus echoed the words in the psalms and prophets when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit.  For apart from Me you can do nothing. . . . by this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:5,8).

We believers in the Lord Jesus are God’s vineyard, God’s field.  We are the fertile ground which God has prepared.  He has planted the seed of His Word in us, watered it, and caused it to germinate and grow.  He has provided for everything, filled us with His Spirit, and taken care of everything in our lives.  Now He is waiting patiently for you and I to cooperate with Him so that we might bear much fruit before He comes again. The seed is in that fruit to bear more fruit.  God wants us to depend upon His enabling, follow His example of working and waiting on Him, and so prove to be His disciples.  You are equal to the task because He is the “Lord of the Harvest”, and He has called you to be His laborers.  The coming of the Lord is very soon!

“For you are God’s fellow-workers: you are God’s field”  (I Corinthians 3:9).  May you experience the Lord’s care for you, and may your lives bear much fruit for the Lord!

I’m moving on to a new construction site:  James 5:9-11.  Hope to see you there once construction begins!  This work-in-progress must go on until He comes!  Or until I go to Him – whichever comes first!  May the Lord of the Harvest bear fruit in your life today as you abide in Him!  (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).