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May 13: James 5
Numbers 22; Psalms 62–63; Isaiah 11–12; James 5
The “rich” that James has in mind are not just wealthy, but are those who defraud their workers (4) to get and stay wealthy. In our day, we are faced with insane wealth pooled in the hands of a very few, by unjust, thieving means. But God is not mocked; even the wealthy reap what they sow: the very wealth that surrounds them belongs to the defrauded, and it cries out to God for justice, just as Abel’s did from the ground (Genesis 4:10).
And justice will come, so wait for it (7), patiently. Part of the Christian’s grounding today is his or her hope in the future judgment of sin and sinners (8). Ironically, this hope is how we avoid becoming judgy judges ourselves - by remembering that the only Judge stands close at the door (9).
For this patience and steadfastness, God has given us the prophets of old, from the Old Testament (10). They worshiped the same God; He does not change. And the result for all of them was the same: their steadfast love and loyalty to God brought them blessing (11). To wit: remember Job. He was a paradigm for how God treats all His own - all Christians. Yes, He leads us through fiery trials, but even in them, His purpose is compassion and mercy (11b).
Glorious grace through judgment. The way of Christ.
The command is as simple as it is profound: whatever your situation, respond to God accordingly. Suffering? Pray. Cheerful? Sing (13). Sick? Call upon the elders of your local church, to pray for you (14). Not that internet preacher you love - call for these ordinary men, for they are conduits of God’s extraordinary grace.
They will first place oil on your head (14). This is an ancient way of signifying that the smile of God is still upon the you, despite your illness. It’s also physical, signifying that God is utterly sovereign over very molecule and atom in your body.
Then there will be a call to confess your sins. In our suffering, God is doing 3,000 things, and one of those is to separate us from our sins. Sometimes, there are certain sins that we cannot bring ourselves to see and repent of unless God slows us down by illness. But when He does, we should confess those sins to a trustworthy brother or sister: one who will not crush us, but who will encourage us toward repentance.
Then the elders will pray. In illness, it’s just flat-out hard to see God and trust Him. So you’re borrowing from their faith, leaning on their prayers, to call down heaven. Many times God heals or revives simply because an ordinary but righteous man prayed for it. Then He gets all the glory, and we, all the good.