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Lesson 11: Getting Ready for the Harvest *

Introduction: In our study last week, James told the rich a terrible time was coming upon them. Part of the reason was that they had been unjust to their workers. This week James addresses a different audience, church members. The message last week and the message this week, however, seem to have some relationship to each other. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Patience

    1. Read James 5:7. He says, "Be patient, then." If James is continuing from last week, what are they to be patient about? (Last week James said to the rich, "Misery ... is coming on you" ( James 5:1). Members of the church were apparently employees who had been cheated. They should be patient because vindication is at hand. God will deal with the rich.)

      1. What will vindicate the church members? (The coming of the Lord - which is near.)

      2. That is a problem, isn't it? If James had written that they should be prepared for the Second Coming, that would be a good message. But, he says that the rich are going to get justice and their victims vindication if they show patience. The problem is that they all died before Jesus came. Is James a false prophet? (I would have thought God was going to give me justice soon.)

      3. Read James 4:14. James says life is like a mist that disappears quickly. When we die, these kinds of problems come to a conclusion. Is that what James meant?

    2. Re-read James 5:7 and add James 5:8. Does this sound like James is talking about death? (No! The farmer sees the autumn and spring rains. They come in a year. James also says "the Lord's coming is near.")

      1. If the time of vindication is like an annual event, and James says the time is "near," how do you explain that it has been 2,000 years?

      2. It seems all the disciples thought Jesus return was near. To explain this I've heard people say something like: "Well, if the disciples had thought that the Second Coming was 2,000 years away, they would not have been motivated to share the gospel." What do you think about that explanation?

        1. How many people lie to motivate you to buy something, because the truth would not be very motivating?

    3. Read Acts 1:6-8. What is the last thing that our Lord said before He returned to heaven? (He told the disciples that God sets the times for future events and it is not for us to know.)

      1. Does this put James in an even worse light? He says the Second Coming is near when he has no idea - and has been told by Jesus that only God knows the time of the Second Coming?

      2. These are hard questions, the kind you might expect from a lawyer in cross-examination. But, they are not unfair questions. Let's explore an explanation, one that does not involve the assertion that James was not telling the truth.

  2. Crossing Over

    1. Read John 5:24-25. James and Jesus are speaking of the same event - the Second Coming of Jesus. Notice that Jesus says that the time of the Second Coming "is coming and has now come." How could Jesus say the Second Coming "has now come" when it was thousands of years in the future?

      1. What is the most important part of the Second Coming? (Death is defeated. We are given eternal life. Because of the way that Jesus phrases this, I think He is speaking of the essence of the event (which is defeating death), instead of focuses on the timing of the Second Coming.)

      2. If you think I might be right about this, what evidence is there that death was defeated while Jesus was still here the first time? (Look again at John 5:24. Jesus told those who were listening to Him that they could, right now, cross over from death to life.)

      3. Do you think that you can enter into eternal life now? (Read John 5:26. Jesus has the power to give us eternal life. The essential part of the Second Coming - defeating death - can take place right now.)

    2. Read James 5:8-9. What could James be talking about here that is true? (Our Judge is constantly "standing by the door." He is willing to open the door to eternal life right now. When we give our life to Jesus, He opens the door that allows us to cross-over from death to eternal life. The essence of the Second Coming is available to us now. If we realize that, it helps us to be patient with the long wait.)

  3. Examples of Patience

    1. Read James 5:10-11. Why are the prophets a good example for the people to whom James is writing?(The prophets needed patience because they suffered the most from their fellow citizens. Those who claimed to know God were the main problem. Recall that James is writing to believers who fled persecution from fellow Jews. They are just like the prophets in that respect.)

      1. Why is Job an especially good example for these people? (Job was not only given a difficult time by this friends, but he lost his earthly wealth. That is likely the situation of those to whom James is writing.)

    2. Look again at James 5:11. James says look at what God finally did for Job. What God did for Job occurred during his lifetime. How would those to whom James was writing understand this "be patient" advice?

      1. Don't you hate it when people are so theoretical that they seem to have no common sense? We started our discussion ( James 5:7) with James telling people who were abused by the rich to be patient "until the Lord's coming." I then pointed out the spiritual aspect of the Lord's coming, the cross-over from death to life. What about the practical part of retribution against the rich? If we take a commonsense point of view, is James misleading the people to whom he is writing?

      2. Read Matthew 24:1-3, and then skim over the rest of the chapter. What is Jesus describing in answer to the question of the disciples? (He is describing both the fall of Jerusalem and His Second Coming.)

        1. Why is it appropriate for Jesus to mix up the two? (Look again at the question the disciples asked. They asked about both events. Their assumption was that they were the same event.)

        2. Does this discussion help us with the practical, retribution aspect of what James wrote? (Yes. The fall of Jerusalem was very close. The rich who had abused the poor were about to suffer some serious retribution. Having cheated the poor to gain more money would do them no good now.)

    3. Let's look back at the hard cross-examination questions I asked. Is James misleading those to whom he is writing? (They were likely to believe the Second Coming was close. But, the essence of the message, entering into eternal life and retribution for being cheated, those truly were both at hand.)

  4. Swearing

    1. Read James 5:12. Is James off on another, unrelated, topic? (Read Matthew 5:34-35. Notice that swearing by Jerusalem was one of the grounds for claiming you were telling the truth.)

      1. How reliable would it be to swear by Jerusalem? (I think this advice is related to the prior discussion. James tells his readers don't rely on money, rely on God because He will make things right. Now he says that when it comes to you doing the right thing, don't suggest reliance on anything God has made, rather just do what is right as a child of God. Swearing by Jerusalem would soon prove to be a bad idea.)

    2. Friend, would you like to cross over from death to eternal life right now? James suggests this is a solution to many of the problems of life. Why not repent, confess and claim Jesus' promise of entering into eternal life today?

  5. Next week: Prayer, Healing and Restoration.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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