Summary: When we ask God for wisdom in the midst of painful trials, ee start discovering what really matters. We start discovering how God is working out His eternal purposes in all of the pain and all of the confusion of the here and now.
Let me begin by giving you a little bit of the background information to the book of James. The book of James is the first of what is known as “The General Epistles” in Scripture. The general epistles are seven in number. Besides James, they include 1st & 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd & 3rd John and the book Jude. They are called general epistles because unlike most New Testaments letters, which are addressed either to specific individuals or to specific congregations, the general epistles are addressed more broadly to the Christian community. For that reason too, they are not named after the recipients of the letter, but they are rather named after the writers of the letters. And so, Romans, Philippians’, Titus, Timothy, those are all named after the people to whom the letters were addressed, but James, Peter, John and Jude are the authors of the letters. And so the book of James is not written to James—but by James.
James most likely, was the brother of Jesus. There are a number of James’ in the New Testament. The brother of Jesus didn’t originally believe in him, but after his resurrection, came to faith and then went on and became one of the significant leaders of the early New Testament church.
Now what’s really important for our consideration this morning is to understand the audience that this letter is addressed to, because it is addressed to Christians who are in exile. Listen carefully again to Verse 1. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”
The Greek literally says “the twelve tribes in the dispersion”, that is to say, they have been scattered all over the Roman Empire. Commentators are virtually unanimous in agreeing that this is a reference to Jewish Christians who were forced to flee Jerusalem and who were spread out all over the Roman Empire. We know from the book of Acts chapter seven that after Stephen, who was one of the first deacons, was martyred, the Bible says in Acts chapter eight, “a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and everybody except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”
And then a couple of chapters later on in Acts Chapter 11 we are told, “While those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch preaching the good news of the gospel.”
So, here’s the picture, you’ve got this comfortable Jerusalem church, God unleashes persecution on them or allows persecution to be unleashed upon them and it was part of God’s agenda to get them out of their holy huddle, I believe, to engage in world missions. Think of it as a big pond of water, you throw a big stone in it and the water scatters and splashes everywhere. These Christians are the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. In other words they are a displaced people. Now historically speaking, a displaced people are characterized by at least four qualities. Let me try to walk you through these as quickly as I can.