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James to the Twelve Tribes

Many in the past have wrestled with the supposed conflict between James and Paul over the issue of law and faith. Both agree that faith needs "fruit" to be considered genuine. Spiral bound book.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 4

The Prayer that is Always Answered

James 1:5 says,

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

It is one of God's primary purposes to convey to us wisdom. Wisdom is simply the manner in which God does things on the earth. God is Power, Love, and Wisdom. His power gives Him the ability to do all things. His love is the purpose for all that He does. His wisdom is His manner of accomplishing all things in a way that manifests love.

So if we want to know how God can exercise power without deviating from love, we must ask for wisdom. Power without love is tyrannical, unjust, and self-serving. Love or wisdom without power is mere wishful thinking. Apart from wisdom, love would not know how to succeed in its desire.

When God gave Israel the law, He was teaching the people about Himself. The law was the expression of His mind and character. In it was wisdom, for we read in Deut. 4:5, 6,

5 See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. 6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

The letter of James to the twelve tribes was designed to teach some basic wisdom from the law. His plea to pray for wisdom is his introduction to understanding of the law. He knows that the heart of man is rebellious, and hence it is in need of wisdom. Without appealing to God for wisdom, it is not likely that men will truly understand the mind of God as expressed in His law. Without such wisdom, men will reject the law as unjust, as unloving, or as unworthy of the character of God.

The Lawgiver is Jesus Christ

To disagree with the law is to disagree with its Author, Jesus Christ, who gave the law to Moses under the name Yahweh. It is important to know that the Lawgiver identified Himself to Moses as Yahweh in Exodus 6:3 and that the song in Exodus 15:2 says,

2 Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.

This is repeated in Isaiah 12:2, 3. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. The name means “salvation.” It is apparent that Simeon understood from this word-name that the Messiah would be known by this name, for he waited in the temple for a child by that name to be brought there. When Mary’s 40 days of purification were accomplished, she brought Jesus to the temple and offered a turtledove as prescribed in Lev. 12:6.

Simeon may have understood from prophecy that the Messiah would be born on the Feast of Trumpets. From that he could deduce that 40 days from Trumpets a Judean mother would bring her child to the temple after 40 days. Thus, he could have known the day of the year, the place, and the child’s name. At any rate, when he saw the child, he said in Luke 2:30,

30 For my eyes have seen Thy salvation [“Yeshua”].

Jesus Himself knew the significance of His own name and how it prophesied, for in John 7:38 he quoted from Isaiah 12:2, 3 and applied the prophecy to Himself. Isaiah wrote:

2 Behold, God is my Yeshua, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua. 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of Yeshua.

Jesus said in John 7:37, 38,

37 . . . If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

In other words, Isaiah 12:3 applied to Jesus Himself. How? Because Isaiah used the Hebrew name for Jesus, thus prophesying that “God is my Yeshua,” and that Yahweh “has become my Yeshua,” and that this same Yeshua would be the source of living water.

All of this shows that Yeshua-Jesus is the God of the Old Testament and known to Moses as Yahweh, the Lawgiver.

Even if some remain unconvinced, we may appeal to Jesus’ words in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Some take this to mean that they are the same person; others that they are of the same mind. Either way, it is evident that Jesus did not come to disagree with the law or to repeal it in any manner.

Luke 1:32 indicates that Jesus was “the Son of the Most High,” which is a name-title first appearing in Gen. 14:18. Melchizedek was said to be “a priest of the Most High God,” i.e., El Elyon. Hence, the Father of Jesus is revealed under the name El Elyon, rather than Yahweh. On the other hand, Yahweh is said to “become my Yeshua.”

Faith is Hearing and Obeying

In order to understand the law and to see its wisdom and love, one must have faith in the Author—that is, one must have ears to hear. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing is manifested by obedience. That is the underlying theme of the book of James.

If a man does not have ears to hear some portion of the Word, then he lacks true faith in that area of life. James recognized this in verse 6,

6 But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Because the Hebrew word shema means both to hear and to obey, and because faith is derived from hearing/obeying, it is plain that any appeal for wisdom must be done with open ears and with an intent to be obedient. It is the peculiar pride of the carnal mind that obeys only when it agrees with what God says. The carnal mind retains for itself the right to edit Scripture and to choose which commands to obey. The carnal mind gives itself the right to judge God's motives, for if a man does not yet understand the wisdom and love rooted in His commandments, his carnal mind believes he has the right to reject His Word.

In its pride the carnal mind thinks it is God.

The proper way of life is to be obedient regardless of understanding, but where there is any lack of understanding, let him ask for wisdom so that he comes to share the mind of Christ in full agreement.

I recall many times in my early study of biblical law where I lacked understanding and was ready to toss the Bible across the room. The problem was not the Word of God, but my lack of wisdom. I found, however, that God was always faithful to reveal His intent and the meaning of each law as I inquired.

For example, I had been reading from Exodus 21 the various laws about marriage. Being married to a bondwoman was treated differently from being married to a free woman. I thought that this was rather arbitrary and unjust. In my frustration, I said to God, “What is this??” I admit that my tone of voice did not reflect a great deal of respect, but He chose to ignore this and answered my question, saying: “Abraham had two wives.”

That revelation imparted the understanding that God recognizes two types of marriage relationship. We can have a Hagar-style relationship with God, or a Sarah-style relationship. This is the basis of Paul's commentary in Galatians 4. God's love is manifested in that He is willing to accommodate our slave-mentality by actually having a relationship with us that is less than the ideal. Its purpose is to give us time to grow into spiritual maturity, when we are able to relate to Him as the freewoman (Sarah).

The mercy and love of God is manifested in this. But if we view the Hagar relationship as a dead-end marriage, we will see only bleak oppression, being enslaved to do forever what we do not wish to do. We must see that no one is locked into a slave relationship with Jesus Christ. His ultimate purpose is to teach us of something better, a relationship that does not focus on obedience, but sees agreement as its goal.

The Church usually focuses upon our obedience to Christ, viewing Him as the Head of the relationship. This is good, but it is not the end or goal of the relationship. We can view Christ as the highest Authority, and illustrate it by the Husband-wife relationship, without understanding that Jesus Christ is looking for more than a subservient Hagar-bride. He is looking for a Bride who shares His mind, His views, His desires, His interests—in short, a Bride who agrees with Him and does not need to be told what to do all the time.

Christ is looking for someone who is ONE with Him. This is the ultimate meaning of Gen. 2:24, “they shall become one flesh.” Authority is certainly of God, but it is necessary only because people are not in agreement. The purpose of true authority is to bring agreement. Carnal men use authority to make others agree with their carnal views or actions, but Christ uses authority to bring men into agreement with the perfect law of God.

Israelite Tribes Dispersed for Rebellion

So James writes to the twelve tribes, knowing their history of rebellion against God. He appeals to them to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Author of the divine law. They had been driven into captivity over 700 years earlier on account of their refusal to keep the law of God; but now that some had begun to have faith in Christ, they were to repudiate the life style of their fathers and hear the Word of God.

Their forefathers' disagreement with the law had caused spiritual blindness in them as a whole, and only sincere repentance could heal that blindness. Any time we reject any portion of the Word of God, an unseen veil comes over our eyes. Ultimate blindness is when we do not even know that we are blind. But if we find ourselves in disagreement with God in any way, you can be sure that a veil exists somewhere in our lives. The solution is to follow Jesus' example in Matt. 4:4,

4 It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

When a man discards or despises the law for any reason, a veil blinds him in that area of life, and only sincere prayer can lift the veil and open his eyes. I have been there; I know what blindness is by personal experience. I once knew something was wrong, but could not see its origin. It took a month of prayer and fasting to see it. But I did ask for wisdom, and God was gracious enough to intervene, for I found it impossible to heal my own blindness.

James tells us that divine wisdom is readily available to all of us, if we will ask for it. The only caveat is that we must ask in faith, having ears to hear and a heart that is willing to be obedient.