Rev. Mark H. Creech
In 2019, Time did a story about the sad plight of small American farmers, saying the family farm is being threatened on every side. It’s been thrashed by trade wars, severe weather, and dropping commodity prices due to globalization. Technology makes farming more efficient than ever, but corporate farmers mainly benefit because of economies of scale.
Time says, “It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July 2018 to June 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018, 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.”
Farm debt is at an all-time high, over $400 billion, and farm loan delinquencies are continually rising, says Time.
Here’s something else that’s rising, too. Along with the loss of the family farm, some of which have been in the family for generations, there is also an alarming increase in suicides in farming communities.
Shannon Lindquist with Michigan State University Extension says:
When families lose their farms, they experience grief; they grieve for the loss of financial security, the loss of a job, the daily routine, their personal identity, and the farm-related social contacts. Many families find themselves in a low place.
Maybe you know someone who lost the title deed to the family farm. You can imagine how they must feel.
In Revelation chapter 5, John, the apostle, is still in heaven and before the throne of God. The Scripture says:
Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.
Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne (Revelation 5:1-7)
The apostle sees a scroll in the right hand of the one who sits upon the throne. The scroll has seven seals. Then, the apostle hears a mighty angel shout, “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” (v. 2).
A search is done among humanity of past and present; even the ranks of heavenly angels are surveyed to see if any might take the scroll, break its seals, and read its content. But there is no one. If there is no one of the earth and no one of the heavenly realm, there is certainly no one from hades worthy.
What is this scroll? What makes it so significant that it cannot be taken except by the proper recipient? It is none other than the title deed to the earth. Who is worthy? Who has the credentials and the means to reclaim the earth’s title deed?
At first, it appears no one is worthy. So John is said to weep bitterly.
Adam originally possessed this title deed. God gave it to him as his vice-regent on the earth. But Genesis chapter 3 records the historical account of the evil one, the devil, cleverly stealing it from him.
The devil, a fallen angel, is the prince of the air with highly organized and other mighty fallen angels at his command (Ephesians 2:1-2). He is the God of this world – the very personification of godless activities (2 Corinthians 4:4). He heads a kingdom hostile to everything and everyone associated with God (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13). Since Adam, his wicked temptations, afflictions, and deceptions, are in some way connected or at the root of every travesty on the planet.
“The devil is no laughing matter. Although people tell jokes about him and try to deny his existence, there is no question he is alive and working in the lives of individuals,” wrote George Sweeting, the former president and chancellor of Moody Bible Institute.
Ezekiel chapter 28 speaks of his origins. This chapter is the prophet’s message against the wicked king of Tyre, and it’s clear from the text that the passage isn’t simply about a tyrannical king, but also Satan, who is behind the king’s vile and criminal activities.
Satan, also called Lucifer, is a real personality, not just a malevolent force. He wasn’t created this way. He was initially beautiful, but his heart was lifted up against God so badly that he wanted to take God’s place and was thrown out of heaven (Ezekiel 28:12-19 with Isaiah 14, Jude 6, and II Peter 2:4). He committed the first sin in wanting himself to be sovereign instead of the Lord, something that is at the root of all sin – even our very own.
As W.A. Criswell, the late pastor of the First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, has said of the devil, he is the “alien and usurper who has cursed this earth and destroyed it and now occupies it.”
Cynics often hurl the accusation that if God is so good and all-knowing, then why did he ever create such an evil entity, and if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he destroy him?
The answer is two-fold. God didn’t create an evil devil. The devil chose to become evil. Moreover, Revelation 5 and the following chapters begin revealing how God will wholly and ultimately destroy him.
The monumental loss of that title deed to the evil one is too vast to comprehend. In losing it, Criswell said:
[Adam] lost the glory and beauty of his soul. He lost the perfection of his mind and character. He lost the wonder of his body’s glorious celestial mechanism. He became prey to every evil thing, wind of violence, disease and death, age and senility, all of which fell upon Adam and us. The house in which we live is cursed, the mind with which we think, cursed, the heart with which we feel, destroyed…The ground was cursed…Great desert wastes, all things that are sterile and barren on this earth…The animal kingdom was cursed…Our lost inheritance! The stars cursed, the planets cursed; the whole creation of God was lost to an interloper, lost to an intruder, to Satan, to a devil, to a dragon, to a serpent, lost to an enemy! The evil messenger reigns. Death seems supreme, and the grave never seems to be satiated. The whole earth seems forever to burn in its blistering heat in the summertime and to die in the frigid cold in the winter.
No wonder John wept uncontrollably. Who was worthy to redeem the title deed? Who would save humanity’s home, or figuratively speaking, who would save the family farm? Apparently, no one. All seemed lost – lost – lost forever. What a scene, a man was crying in heaven – the place where there should be no sorrow or tears.
But as John was sobbing, one of the elders gave hope, saying:
Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.
The person found worthy to open the scroll is, undoubtedly, the Lord Jesus Christ, the heir to all the patriarchal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 49:9,10). He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the heir to the throne of David. He is the promised Messiah who will rule the world from Jerusalem.
When John looks to see the Lion, he says he sees a lamb – the Lamb of God instead.
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne.
Merrill C. Tenney has beautifully written:
From patriarchs and kings, he [Christ] has inherited the rights of God’s covenants which enable him to take the scroll and to unfold the purposes of God. Nevertheless, he is not introduced as a king, but ‘a lamb as it had been slain’ (5:6). Not by his royal rights, but by his sacrificial death has he prevailed over his enemy…Christ died as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin. Judgment has fallen on him, and by him, the forfeited rights of humanity have been restored.
Well, wouldn’t you know it. It’s not an elephant or a donkey that gets us back on the farm. It’s the Lion and the Lamb.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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