It seems crazy to me that we’re knocking out another book of the Bible today. I went back and tallied how many books I’ve written Bible studies on and here’s the list (I think): 1 Samuel, Exodus, Ruth, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, John 15, Esther, Proverbs, Job, and pieces of Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi, Isaiah, as well as a study on Advent (the coming of Christ). It’s strange to think I’ve written verse-by-verse studies for eight years now through many seasons of life.
In the beginning, I sent out my studies via email. Then I #gotwiththetimes and started blogging (before it was cool) and launched my first website called Simplistic Faith. That lasted for a couple years, and then the anti-Jesus club found me and hacked my site (I’m sure the security protocol wasn’t all that hot on WordPress back in those days) and they left me this message which I took a screenshot of for nostalgic purposes:
Fortunately, while they had successfully hacked my site, I still had all my Bible studies in a Word document. For a season, I went back to emailing studies out to my closest friends and then, I tried adding a Facebook page – which I wasn’t great at managing consistently. Finally, in September 2016 I decided to launch Divinely Interrupted and give blogging a second shot because I figured if God wanted to use me, Satan would try to get me down (i.e., like taking my site down).
Two years later, God’s done His share of daily marvels. I’ve engaged with many of my readers from different states and a few countries (hi, Canada, Philippines, and Ireland!). I’ve overcome my “just Jesus” approach on social media and allowed God to challenge me in sharing the “whole person” of who I am (I’m still a work in progress on this, but working on being obedient). It took time for me to share with the larger crowds that I’m am absolutely a lover of Jesus, but also a wife, mama, executive, and a bit of a quirky blogger. I am learning to show up unfinished, unvarnished, and a bit rough around the edges – and to be unapologetic about it because I’m still trying to figure out this “life” thing, too. #welcometotheclub
So, here we are – together. You and me. Connected not through social media or an RSS feed, but through Jesus Christ. I may never meet you on this earth, but I can’t wait to worship with you in heaven. Until then, let’s commit to running this race together. Some days, you’ll need to carry me because I’ll be broken and beat down. And, somedays, I’ll put you on my back and carry you. That’s how this gig works here on earth. We will fight the good fight, soldier on, and rejoice in the Lord as we go. Onward and upward, my friends. Onward and upward.
1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
- James was writing about spiritual maturity to the church scattered abroad (see James 1 for more deets on the context of James – it’s always important to understand context and audience when studying the Bible). Verse 1 is interesting, though, because while he’s still writing to believers, there clearly were some folks who were not using wealth as a tool for the Kingdom. Instead, they “lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” Bad juju, but we’re each guilty of this – especially living in America (btw, Happy Birthday, ‘Merica!).
- Money is not the root of all evil. It is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). That’s one of those verses which tend to get misquoted or pulled out of context. Jesus certainly had some wealthy followers (such as Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas), but Jesus clearly warned that wealth had the potential to create obstacles in your walk (Matthew 19:23-24).
- During these times, people didn’t accumulate wealth in diversified portfolios or annuities. Instead, they had crops, clothing, gold, and silver. That’s why James talks about their wealth rotting (that would be the crops), moths (eating the clothes), and corrosion (of the gold and silver). Not only did they hoard their wealth, they stole from those who had labored for them. Workers weren’t paid bi-weekly in this age – they were paid daily. They had enough for that day by working hard, then getting paid. So, these workers who were crying out literally would’ve had no way to sustain their families. They’d put in a day’s work, only to come home to their family empty-handed. That’s a different perspective than what we’re used to in this first world country. There’s something to be said about the absolute surrender and utter dependence on God by saying, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Father, forgive us for living on this earth in luxury and self-indulgence. Teach us to use our wealth as a tool for your Kingdom and clean our hearts from the pride of life.
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
- “Maranatha” is derived from the Aramaic expression that’s interpreted “Come, Lord!” It’s a cry of the heart that prays for the Lord to return. I find myself whispering this under my breath when I read or see something that breaks my heart. This world is so broken, and every day we read about the violence and hatred that is corroding our society. Maranatha. James encourages us to be patient until the Lord’s coming. We must soldier on and wait because the Lord is still growing His Kingdom. Like Jesus says in Matthew 9:37 to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Lord of the harvest, send out workers to harvest your field. I am willing. Here I am!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
- Being patient is tough enough, but enduring while suffering is a level up. For those who feel the pain of a broken and sinful world right now, know that you are seen. Stand firm and continue to work in His field because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. He sees you; He has deep empathy for you, and He is working alongside you.
- I love what Charles Spurgeon writes about patience: “A man to whom it is given to wait for a reward keeps up his courage, and when he has to wait, he says, “It is no more than I expected. I never reckoned that I was to slay my enemy at the first blow. I never imagined that I was to capture the city as soon as ever I had digged the first trench; I reckoned upon waiting, and now that is come, I find that God gives me the grace to fight and wrestle on, till the victory shall come.”
- One of my favorite stories is in 2 Kings 3. Summary version: Israel and Judah joined together to fight Moab (Moab = bad guys). The armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom are stranded in the desert without water (also bad). The godly Jehoshaphat seeks the Lord, and Elisha the prophet speaks on behalf of the Lord saying, “Make this valley of ditches.” Why would you dig ditches in the middle of the desert? It’s hot, it’s dry, and it never rains. Ditches are hard to dig. The armies are already tired and thirsty, yet the Lord told them to dig the ditch. Friends, dig your ditches. Fight and wrestle on in the battle because victory will come. Digging the ditch takes work – it is sweaty and it is hard. However, the Lord is faithful and this seemingly impossible work of filling the ditch with water is “an easy thing in the sight of the Lord” (see 2 Kings 3:18 for this verse – write it on your heart). If you read the rest of the story, you’ll find out that not only did the Lord fill the ditches with water, the Moabites were defeated. Keep digging the ditches, beloved. Every. Single. Day. Even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re tired, even when it seems impossible. Dig the ditch. Study your Word. Guard your prayer time. Choose Him. Dig the ditch.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise, you will be condemned.
- Give it to us straight, James. Your ‘yes’ is enough. Yes is yes. No is no. ‘Nuff said.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- This next section focuses on prayer. I think this is the perfect conclusion to the life of spiritual maturity that James is prodding us toward. James may not be your flavor in life – he’s like a bold shot of espresso. But you know what, you’re not everyone’s cup of tea either (XXOO). Regardless of how we feel about James’ personality or approach, there is no question that he speaks Truth. That’s the key friends: Be You. Speak Truth.
- One point we want to note is that it says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Righteousness hinges upon what Christ did for us, not how we behave. Of course, James preaches that faith without works is dead, but he also knows that we are made right in Christ Jesus. So often we want to work and strive and labor to “be good: or to be a “better” Christian. Yet, our human efforts fall disgustingly short. Let Christ’s work be enough for you. It was enough for God.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
- James’ illustration of Elijah is not something we want to quickly dismiss. In 1 Kings 17, we are told that Elijah told Ahab, “As surely as the Lord lives, no rain or dew will fall during the next few years unless I command it.” But James clues us in on the point that Elijah “prayed earnestly that it would not rain.” There are two categories of prayer (at least in my mind): conversational and concentrated. Conversational is your every day, in-the-moment discussions with God. As you’re reading this study and something strikes you, learn to converse with God about it. When someone pops in your mind or makes you wonder, talk it through with God. The more we learn the converse with Him, the less we rely on our own deceitfully wicked hearts ((Jeremiah 17:9).
- In these verses, James said that Elijah prayed earnestly. This is concentrated prayer. It speaks of travail, like a woman experiences in childbirth. I had two of my boys without epidurals, and travail doesn’t seem to be a strong enough term. But, it’s one I can relate to because it requires concentration and effort. We know that in 1 Kings 18:42-44 that Elijah prayed for the rain to come after 3 ½ years of drought. Let’s read about it because there’s an important lesson for us to tuck in our hearts:
o “But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally, the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”
- This event is so awesome. While God is concerned with the posture of our heart, we see in this story that Elijah bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees (which, ironically, was the position women labored in during childbirth). We also see that the cloud didn’t come the first time Elijah prayed, Or the second…or the sixth. Again and again, Elijah prayed and asked the servant to “go and look out toward the sea.” You may think the Lord was making Elijah beg. However, God wasn’t testing Him to see if Elijah could pray hard enough or if he really had what it takes. The Lord knew that Elijah needed to log time with Him because, after the rainstorm, Elijah would run in fear from Jezebel and go into a depression. God knew Elijah needed to persevere in prayer and spend time in His presence because a storm was coming into Elijah’s life. If the rains don’t come right away, friends, stay on your face. Once you see that tiny cloud forming – that tiny Truth about the size of a man’s hand – know that your rain is coming. Keep digging your ditches.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
- James final words remind us of restoration. As we learned in James 3:2, “We all stumble in many ways.” I stumble. You stumble. We limp our way through this race at times. Yet, we are humbly retold of the restorative work of Christ. James spoke to believers scattered about the region; some were living rightly, others rotting in luxury and self-indulgence. His final message was of hope. Regardless of where you are today, beloved, know that God desires to (1) restore you, (2) save you from death, and (3) cover over a multitude of sins. #signmeup
- I’ll leave you with a few lyrics lifted from one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Each time I pray these words, my heart cries, “Maranatha!” and I ask the Lord to bind my wandering heart to Him.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above