From the book: Sermon on the Mount. Vol. 5

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Sermon on the Mount, #59
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THE FRAILTY OF MAN

SERMON #148

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? MAT 6:28-30.

We must begin by taking notice of what Jesus said before this. We read in MAT 6:24, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." The Lord is teaching us that we cannot serve the Lord with a divided heart. Our text is in context with the single eye concept. We cannot serve self and Him. There is only one way we can serve the Lord; it is only with total, unconditional surrender to Him. We cast our all upon Him seeing that everything is of Him. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow, what we will eat and drink, or the needs of our body.

Now He continues by asking, "And why take ye thought for raiment?" Why do you have anxieties about clothing your body? He tells us to "Consider the lilies of the field..."

It is very important we understand the logic of Jesus' teachings in His Sermon on the Mount. First, He shows us our dependence upon God for our very existence, for our food and drink. Then He tells us to look at the birds--see for yourself, see them with your own eyes. Open your mind; see the logic. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" MAT 6:26. We considered in a previous sermon how we are better than the birds of the air or the beasts of the field because we bear the image of God; we were created to reflect God's image.

Then Jesus turns our attention to the frailty of man, and the empty show of the human heart we have by nature. All our anxiety will not add one thing; we are dependent upon the Lord for everything. Now He wants us to see how frail we are. We are born to die because we were born in sin, but we were created for eternity. MAT 6:27 teaches us we cannot add one moment to our life span by all of our anxieties. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" It is another way of telling us we cannot serve two masters.

He says in V:25, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" "Therefore" is the connecting link that shows our trust and our whole expectation must be on the Lord. He is our portion, not the things of this life. The Apostle Paul said in PHI 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Our heart must be centered on Christ as our portion. Jesus says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," MAT 6:33. Then all the anxiety is taken away. We must have our legitimate labor, but without being anxious.

Jesus is emphasizing that if we have anxious thoughts about our life and future in this world, we must look to our frailty and see our total dependence upon God for our very life itself. We often see people who are told they have a certain ailment, and they are close to death. What are they to do? Is this the time to flee to the Lord? We should flee before that. We should not wait until we are terminally ill; we should give the flower of our life unto the Lord. If our heart has trusted the Lord, it isn't as great a shock to find we are terminally ill. We are prepared, and our heart is not set upon this life and the things of this world.

MAT 6:28 says, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore [notice the connecting word], if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" See the reproof in this Scripture, "O ye of little faith?"

Here again Jesus teaches us to "Consider," i.e., use the mental capacity which God has given to you! "Are ye not much better" than the grass of the field? "...shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" If we understand what it is to trust the Lord, have our heart set upon Him, then there is no anxiety about the future and having our temporal needs supplied; we will see how He provides.

This word "Consider," is two-fold. It means "To learn thoroughly, i.e., to note carefully," but it also means "to concentrate upon, think about it, to meditate upon it, to consider." When we are asked to consider something, we are to get a mental understanding of it, but also to concentrate or meditate on it. Think about it. When we have thoughts arise in our hearts and fears for the future, He tells us to consider these things; think about them in the light of Scripture.

Consider the wild flowers which grow among the grass in the field. Consider how they grow without any worry or labour, "...they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Jesus is teaching us to see the lesser to give us the faith to believe the greater. If the Lord takes condescending care of a single blade of grass, will He not care for you, "O ye of little faith?" This is so positive and logical.

Now observe why He spoke of Solomon. Solomon was used as a proverb among the Jews; he was the measuring stick, and the glory of Solomon was the climax of earthly splendor, yet he was not clothed as one of these wild flowers. The Lord Jesus is telling us that even if we could attain unto the glory of Solomon by taking thought, even then we could not even attain unto the glory of one of these little flowers by being anxious. If the Lord has clothed little flowers with such majesty, why should we be concerned for our clothing? Jesus is saying that if His Father has so clothed each flower individually, do we need to be anxious about our temporal needs?

Jesus teaching is: if the lesser is true, how much more shall the greater be true? "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" What is Jesus really saying here? He is also speaking of our frailty. Let's go through this and see how the grass is used to teach the frailty of man. Today it is, tomorrow it is cast into the oven. We, too, are here today and gone tomorrow; why be so concerned about our short stay? Jesus calls our attention to our frailty by admonishing us to "Consider," (to learn thoroughly from, to note carefully, to concentrate upon) the grass, "...which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven."

We see our loved ones called to stand before the bar of judgment as they are called from this life. We can see this on all sides; parents, brothers and sisters, children, and close friends have departed. We see the uncertainty of life; some lives are long and full, others are very short. That is the lesson the Lord Jesus is teaching us in this verse.

If we would understand the uncertainty of life, our hearts would not be on the things of this world. We would seek first the kingdom of God. That is the central theme of this whole teaching; we are to serve God, to come under His Kingship. We cannot serve God and mammon. We are as the grass, sojourners who are here today and gone tomorrow.

The Apostle Peter points out how the frailty of man is revealed in the gospel which is preached unto us. May the Lord give words to unfold these truths.

Let's look at 1PE 1:23-25, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For [see that connecting word; the emphasis is on being born again! For] all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." See the emphasis on being born again, for man is like grass; we fade as a leaf.

"Ye must be born again," is the central call of the gospel that is preached to us. It is so precious when we see what the Apostle Peter is saying, "...And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." This is the Word of God, that we fade as a leaf. Comparing the condition of man to grass emphasizes the urgency of being born again.

Jesus was teaching us to see our frailty; like the grass we are here today and gone tomorrow. Our hearts are to be set on being born again and seeking first the kingdom of heaven rather than on the things of this world. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever..." The Word of God is what lives and abides forever. "And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

This gospel is preached unto us, i.e., to consider man's frailty and to learn to lean upon God's mercy. If we understand the Word of God, the tenor of Jesus' message is that man is frail. Then we will see the necessity of seeking the kingdom of God.

Watch what we see in PSA 103:13-17, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. [Isn't that the gospel that is preached to us, that this life is but for a moment, but eternity and the Word of God endures forever?] As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children."

Do you see where the durable riches are? They are eternal riches. When we go back to MAT 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us that "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." What eternal riches there are for those who seek first the kingdom of heaven without anxious thoughts about this body, this life, or this world! Their hearts are taken up with thoughts about eternity. That is also what the Psalmist tells us. See how this same gospel is preached unto us throughout Scripture. "But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children."

This is the gospel that the prophet Isaiah proclaimed as he prophesied the coming of John the Baptist who was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He proclaimed the gospel in ISA 40:3-8, "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."

John the Baptist openly declared that he was that voice which Isaiah said should be heard in the wilderness in JOH 1:22-23, "Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias." John the Baptist was sent to preach the frailty of men.

As John's voice began to cry in the wilderness, see his gospel which the prophet Isaiah said he must proclaim! ISA 40:6-8 says, "The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? [Now see what John's message is,] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." That is the gospel that is preached unto us that we might see the frailty of man. Jesus says, "...Consider the lilies of the field...the grass of the field;" He wants us to consider the gospel that has been preached to us since the foundation of the world and throughout the Scriptures.

How are we to see the way of the Lord revealed in your heart and my heart? It is when we understand that we have no abiding place in this world. That should bring us to our senses. Isn't that what brought the prodigal son home, when the tinsel of the world faded away, and he came into famine?

Our eternal security is in the blessedness of the Word of God. This gospel of the abasement of man and the exaltation of Christ is what John the Baptist preached. JOH 3:29-31 tells us, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all." Do you see the gospel John the Baptist brought forth? The Lord Jesus Christ is teaching us the same principle when He tells us to consider the grass.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, and he said that all man is like the grass and flowers, but God's Word is forever. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." As the forerunner of Christ, he was going before Christ to prepare hearts for the gospel. We must understand that the heart must be prepared for the gospel by understanding our own frailty, and that this world is so empty. If we have any anxiety, it will be about how we will stand before the Lord because we need not be anxious about food or clothing.

This is the same gospel which was preached by Isaiah pertaining to the increase of the Lord Jesus Christ in ISA 9:6-7, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."

John the Baptist was preaching the increase of the Lord Jesus Christ as he said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." As we grow in grace, we see the increase of the name of the Lord; we see the increase of the "Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." There will be no end to His government and peace; there will be no end to how His government controls us. We will see what it is like to walk under that government. Satan will no longer sit on the throne of our heart, but we will enter into the kingdom of heaven; that means we will enter into the service of the Lord. We will come under His government and law. Our love and affections will be toward Him.

The importance and authority of the Lord will increase and self- interests will decrease in our lives as we learn to walk under His Kingship. The Apostle Paul found this also as we read in PHI 3:7-9, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. [As Christ increases, we decrease.] Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, [That is the gospel that is preached unto you! that frailty of man, that emptiness of the human heart by nature.] And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." As we grow in grace, Christ will increase in our soul while we decrease. Clay shows no resistance to the potter's will, and so it is with those whose will has become totally dissolved in their Redeemer's will.

There is something very beautiful in "...that which is through the faith of Christ..." Our faith gives us no claim to righteousness; it is only obtained through Christ's obedience of faith. We need the imputed faith of Jesus Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith; HEB 12:2 says, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." He stepped into death, as an act of obedience. We cannot separate obedience and faith from each other. When we understand that principle, it becomes the faith, the obedience, the righteousness of Christ that must be imputed to us. Then we see the blessedness of imputed faith.

The apostle qualifies this gospel so beautifully in the following verses, PHI 3:10-11, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." He begins to increase when He becomes our everything, He becomes our altogether lovely; the chiefest among ten thousand. When we learn to know the power of His resurrection, we know what it is to be raised above the power of sin. We become loosened from the things of this world. In our afflictions we find fellowship in the temptations and sufferings of Christ. He becomes a brother in adversity. He died unto sin once, ROM 6:10. To become conformable unto His death means that we become dead unto sin.

The Lord will bring His hand upon us to prepare us as a proper candidate for His time of refreshing. You cannot fill a full vessel; the Lord will empty us before He fills us. COL 1:12 says, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." The word meet means prepared, to be fit in character.

ISA 51:12-13 says, "I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?" The Lord is teaching us wherein true comforts lie; the things we should be seeking are these times of refreshing and comforting from the Lord.

This gospel which is preached unto us admonishes us to rejoice when we are made low instead of setting our hearts on earthly riches. That is against human reasoning, isn't it? In JAM 1:9- 10 we read, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways." If we begin to feel rich in ourselves, finding security in our richness, our false security will wither as the grass.

After all our trust in the flesh has been mowed down, we experience the time of refreshing from the Lord. Tremendous comfort for those who have become spiritually needy can be found in PSA 72:4-7, "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." Again we find ourselves being compared with the grass; when He has come with affliction, adversity, and the pruning process that mows us to the ground, then He comes like rain on mown grass with His refreshing Spirit.

This doctrine of the abasement of man and the exaltation of Christ comes as showers of blessings upon those whom God has mowed down from the pride of self-exaltation. DEU 32:1-3 says, "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God." Isn't that beautiful? The Word of God shall distill as the dew!

Have you ever had a time when one of those tiny drops of dew refreshed your soul? Have we known times when our hearts felt like mown grass? Then the Word of God will come as the distilled dew with refreshment or as the rain. He also comes as the former and the latter rain and leaves a more lasting blessing upon the mown grass.

This is this lesson the Lord Jesus is teaching us when He tells us we should behold and consider the grass and the lilies of the field. He is telling us that this is the gospel that is preached unto us. Do you see the abasement of man, the insecurity in the flesh, and the fatal disease of sin that will take away our life? We will not live in this life forever.

When the Lord hides the countenance of His face, then as the psalmist we see ourselves as grass. PSA 102:2-4 says, "Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread." The frailty of man is the gospel that is preached unto us; it is the same as Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount. If we understand that frailty, we will have no concern about building an empire in this world, obtaining the things of this world, or being concerned with the future and things of time and sense. We are to seek first the kingdom of heaven. The longing desire of the psalmist was for the nearness and fellowship of the Lord; we join in that desire when our priorities are in the right place.

Times of barrenness are sent to teach us our frailty and the blessedness of learning our dependence upon the Lord. Watch what we see in PSA 102:11-14, "My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O LORD, shall endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof." There is a time when the Lord comes with a refreshing dew. This time comes when one sees his frailty, the emptiness of this life, and his dependence upon the Lord. The set time is when the posture of the heart is in the right place and one fully understands his need of the Lord.

Our text teaches us our nothingness in self and our dependence upon our heavenly Father by showing that "Solomon in all his glory" was not raised above the lily, or the grass of the field. We may be striving for something in this life, but we are like Solomon in all that he had was still like the grass of the field. He was not exalted in any measure above the grass; the lilies excelled in their glory.

MAT 6:28-30 says, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

The gospel which is preached unto us in the Sermon on the Mount is for us to consider, to learn thoroughly, to note carefully, to concentrate upon, to think about our frailty, and our dependence upon the Lord for our every need. With this evidence before your eyes of God's tender, Fatherly care in the smallest things, why would we be anxious about the greater. We are as frail as the grass, yet the Lord cares for it, then why would we take thought for the things of this life? Our Saviour's teaching is that our heart should be centered on His kingdom and things to come. If we see and understand our frailty, why do we labour, struggle, and strive?

A while back a person was telling me the many ways he wanted to expand his business because he wasn't quite making it. I asked him, "If the Lord was really blessing what you already had, wouldn't you make it?

"Oh, we would make it very well."

"So you are going to expand it so you can do without the Lord's blessing?" I replied.

We need to think about this principle. If we have the Lord's blessing on our labours, we wouldn't have to struggle and strive in our own strength. We must see our need to rest upon the Lord. Sometimes the Lord will bring us to see this by letting us go on and on until we can go no further. Then we see the emptiness. Isn't that what happened to the prodigal son? The Lord allowed him to go so far that he was eating with the swine; then he came to himself. That was when he returned to his father's house where there was bread enough for all and some to spare. He understood that he didn't need to struggle so much, for in his father's house was plenty.

We must come to the point where we see that our first priority must be our eternal welfare. For what reason are we trying to build an empire? We are here today and gone tomorrow. The Lord asks us where our treasure is. We can't serve God and mammon. If we understand our frailty, we can never set our hearts on the things of this earth. The things of the earth become so insignificant. Now we can understand, "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" MAT 6:28-30.

The Lord is teaching us to place our priorities and our heart on Him. He wants a heart religion. The gospel preached to us is the frailty of man; "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," MAT 6:33. Amen.


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