Patience – Bind the sacrifice with cords
“And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
We have noted that the virtues are natural attributes, common to humanity, that must be cultivated in a person’s life to be effectual. They are not exclusively Christian traits. But for the follower of Christ whose spirit has been enlivened by the Spirit of God, the virtues take on a new dimension. Patience, for example, is a outgrowth, or ‘fruit’ of being filled and led by the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit in our lives is, over the course of our lifetime, conforming us into the image of Christ, so we gradually begin to act, talk, and think like Jesus. And since Jesus was the perfect human expression of all the virtues, one of the byproducts of a Spirit-filled life will be virtuous fruit, that is, our lives will produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Just like an apple tree produces apples and a plum tree bears plums, the Spirit-filled life produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).
For the Christian then, there is unseen assistance in cultivating the virtues, and in the case of patience, most of us can use all the help we can get. For even in our modern society of instant everything, there are some things that can’t be accomplished immediately.
Jesus likens patience to farming in the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed sown on good soil ‘brings forth fruit with patience’. That is, good trees in good soil product good fruit, but not immediately, it takes time, it takes patience on the part of the farmer, because the process has to be honored in order to reach the desired result. The parable analogy is the effect of the Word of God sown into a person’s heart which, over the process of time, will produce the fruit of repentance, that is, a changed life by the Spirit of God.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Life change takes time. The Bible says that we have been ‘crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:20), that is, the old me died with Christ and was ‘buried with Him in baptism’ (Romans 6:4). It might seem that new life with Christ would be sin-free and virtuous, but that isn’t how it works. It’s a struggle to be conformed into the image of Christ. There are adversaries everywhere, as close as your own heart.
There’s a curious verse in Psalm 118 that says, “… bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (v27). There were large protrusions on each corner of the altar that resembled bulky animal horns that were part of the altar design. There are many explanations for the purpose of the horns in various commentaries, but binding the sacrifice is curious in general, because the animal would have been slain prior to its carcass being arranged on the altar by the priest. Why tie a dead animal to the altar?
One idea is that the symbol here is for an age long after the sacrificial altar was taken out of service, after Jesus Christ had once and for all, become the sin-offering as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish, who took away the sins of the world. Now people come to God through blood of Christ, by faith. But we are still meant to offer ourselves to God, only not as slain but as living sacrifices.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1
Sometimes I think the horns on the altar were meant to tie guys like me to the altar – people who tend to wiggle off the altar when the heat is turned up. Virtuous patience is submitting to the process, endurance, staying on the altar, remaining on the cross, when everything in my flesh is saying to run, jump off and take the easy way of the world.
If I want to be like Jesus its going to take a lifetime and it’s worth every lesson, every challenge, every denial of my flesh, it’s worth it. Jesus is worth it.
“… He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6
I know God will complete what He’s started in me. Lord grant me the virtue of patience for the journey. “Bind the sacrifice (me!) with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” I’m in for the long-haul.