These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“… the creation waits with eager longing …” (v. 19) RSV
Has it ever occurred to you that the greatest ecological crisis is caused not by carbon emissions but by our spiritual sins – our rebellion against God? Our passage today indicates that all creation has been groaning (v.22), waiting to be released from “its bondage to decay” (v.21).
This process has been depicted for us in the story of creation. In Genesis, the Fall of Adam and Eve resulted in (amongst other things) the cursing of the ground: “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you” (Gen. 3:18). Now, Genesis gives us a theological account of creation, not a scientific one. It explains the significance of what has happened.
Genesis therefore explains that angels, and man and animals and trees and rocks and the weather are all intertwined. So when one moves out of step it affects all the others. Hence human rebellion has knocked all of creation off-kilter.
Creation is longing for restoration, but it won’t finally know it until it passes through its own death and resurrection. One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1). Until then creation waits for the salvation of the human race. It waits. There is nothing else it can do. Meantime the earth witnesses to the glory of God.
If we are bothered about this beautiful but broken world, then we need to join the ranks of those who are saved. We need to move onto the side of Jesus and walk in harmony with him.
Of course we should in every way try to save the planet, but nothing we do will be as effective as walking in step with the Creator. “… the creation waits with eager longing …” (v.19) for us to do so.
Lord, life is a great mystery. Thank you for the world that you have created. May I help its salvation by walking in harmony with you. Amen.
“… the farmer waits for the precious fruit …” (v. 7) RSV
“Be patient” (v.7) says St James. God’s times are not our times. We are impatient for answers to prayer. We want God to act now and to sort everything out. Ultimately we want our Saviour to come, get rid of sin and evil, suffering and death. We want, in other words, “the coming of the Lord” (v.7).
But James wisely points out that life is not like that. Nature itself teaches us that things happen in their season and not before. We cannot rush the growth of plants or of animals. “… the farmer waits for the precious fruit” (v.7). Of course if the farmer has not ploughed and harrowed, planted and tended then he can wait as long as he likes, but no fruit will ever come.
Patience is required after we have done all we can. God will not bless inactivity and irresponsible super-spirituality. He blesses those who have endeavoured to help themselves.
But we know there are times when having done all we can, and we still cry out for God. “Where are you?” we plead. “Why do you not answer my prayers?” we cry. This is when our faith grows through the exercise of patience.
We need to learn (and it is learning through practice) to contain our souls in patience. The farmer knows that the fruit will eventually come, that is why he is able to wait. We too need to believe that ultimately God, through Jesus, will come. He has promised to provide food and clothing, and all things needful for life. It must therefore grieve his heart when we grumble and complain both to God and to other people. Such lack of faith is no testimony to the God of promises. Let us develop serenity and trust, accepting God’s timing.
Thank you Lord for the wonders of nature. Thank you that the birds do not strive and that the grass grows. Help me to learn from them. Amen.
King Saul’s patience ran out at the last moment. He had been told by Samuel to wait seven days until he would return and perform the sacrifice. But Saul panicked when his troops started to be restless and to desert. He felt he could wait no longer but must take matters into his own hands. On the seventh day he performed sacrifice himself.
This was breaking the law of God. He was king in charge of the temporal affairs of his kingdom, but Samuel was the prophet and in charge of the spiritual affairs of the nation. The king must not interfere with the religion of his people.
Samuel (who represented God) was horrified: “What have you done?” (v. 11). Such impatience and inability to wait on God’s timing showed that Saul was not worthy to be king. If he had waited he would have become strong, but he blew it. Samuel told him, “But now your kingdom shall not continue;” (v.14).
Patience helps us grow up and grow strong. Only the immature want the ‘waiting taken out of wanting’. Children wantChristmas ‘now’, but life is not like that.
The only way that a narrow boat can continue up the full length of a canal is by passing through locks. Each lock causes the forward progress of the boat to cease; yet the change of water level while it is in the lock is vital if the boat is to move forward again. Our times of no progress and frustration are not wasted if we accept them with patience.
God wants us to trust him. If he says he will do something, then even if he appears to be delayed, we must not try to solve the problem for him. St Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about his promise … but the day of the Lord will come …” (2 Pet. 3:9-10).
Help me, O Lord, to wait on your timing, for my times are in your hands. Amen.
Patience is a virtue, so they say. In fact, according to Paul, patience is the fourth fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience …” (Gal. 5:22).
In this Psalm David is praying for patience to endure a very sticky time in his life: “the desolate pit … the miry bog” (v.2). We don’t know exactly what period of his life is being referred to, but we probably recognise in our own lives that feeling, that the more we struggle the deeper in we sink. We can’t get a foothold to get on top of the situation.
David had several such periods, for instance, being hounded for years in the wilderness by jealous King Saul; or the affair with Bathsheba and the unexpected pregnancy followed by the ‘murder’ of her husband and then the death of the child; or the occasion when his son Absalom drove him out of Jerusalem and slept publicly with his concubines, followed by the untimely death of Absalom.
Sometimes David had to hold onto God in submissive patience. He trusted that sometime, hopefully not too far away, God would ‘return’ and save the day.
And he did! “He drew me up … and set my feet upon a rock. He put a new song in my mouth …” (vv. 2-3). In other words his circumstances changed, Saul committed suicide and he became king, and Bathsheba produced a second child: Solomon!
Our trials are an opportunity to learn trust and patience. The Spirit of God will teach us. As we take our eyes off the frustrations and hardships and focus on God, and as we learn to rejoice in all circumstances, so we will find the time will pass far more quickly.
Father, sometimes your hand is heavy upon me; teach me to rejoice in all circumstances, trusting patiently in you. Amen.