LASTING VALUES ON THE LAST DAYS (JAMES 5)
Feelings of economic gloom run deeper
The Standard, 3 Jan 2019
Many more people believe the economy this year will be worse than in 2018, says a gloomy New Year poll. Government and analysts have also been voicing such fears as the Sino-American trade war continues. The survey interviewed 567 people aged 18 and above from November 30 to December 8, and found that 34.4 percent believed 2019 would be economically worse than last year. This compared with 20.5 percent a year ago who believed 2018 would be worse than 2017.
Only 20.4 percent expect 2019 will be better than 2018, and 23.7 percent see the situation unchanged from 2018. A similar survey last year saw 36 percent expecting a better year 2018 compared with 2017, and 29.1 percent predicted no difference.
The book of James begin chapter 1 with admonition for readers to be heartened in testing; chapter 2 to be helpful to others; chapter 3 to be honorable as teachers; chapter4 to be humble in prosperity; and now chapter 5 to be hopeful in future.
Words like the last days, the coming of the Lord (most in chapter than any Bible chapters) and few chapters in the Bible have more than eight times the title “Lord” in one chapter as in chapter 5, which James intentionally used for its climax. The coming of the Lord is also known as the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal 4:5), the coming of the Son of man (Matt 24:27), the coming of the Just One (Acts 7:52), the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:7), the coming of the Lord (1 Thess 4:15) or the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). It will be a public (2 Thess 2:8), powerful (2 Peter 1:16) and penitent day (1 John 2:28),
What is the future like? What would you expect How would you expect God to treat the rich and the poor?
Profit with Precaution: Abiding Assurance
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.
This is the second “listen/go” (v 1) imperative in the book and the whole New Testament after its debut in James 4:13, both with negative connotations. The imperative is “weep” (v 1) and not “wail/howl.” The verb occurs 40 times in the New Testament, but only six times in the imperative, and all mostly imperatives commanding people not to weep (Luke 7:13, 8:52, 23:28 twice, James 4:9, Rev. 5:5) rather than weep. It is a loud expression of grief (Vine’s). It is a loud expression of grief (Vine’s). It could mean public, painful and passionate anguish and agony for the oncoming misery (plural in Greek), or wretchedness (Rom 3:16) and calamity. The verb “coming” (v 1) is in the present tense, not the future.
V 2 Rotted/
V 2 Eaten/ motheaten. V 3 Corrosion/ cankered V 3 Testify/
be a witness V 3 Eat V 3 Hoarded/heaped treasure
Decomposed Denounced Debilitated Demised
Money can lose its luster and leverage in many ways. They can be defaced, decolored, devalued (like Japanese money after the second world war), depreciated, downgraded (like gold), dissolved, defrauded and dispossessed (like my big aunt to stocks), besides deflated and decomposition.
In Canada the government announced in February 2018 that the $1,000, $500, $25, $2 and $1 bills will no longer be legal tender.
The most common causes of mutilated currency are: fire, water, chemicals, and explosives; animal, insect, or rodent damage; and petrification or deterioration by burying. Go figure. The average lifetime of paper currency ranges from 4.5 years for $10 bills to 15 years for $100 bills, according to the Federal Reserve. A paper note isn’t actually made of paper; it’s 75% cotton and 25% linen and can withstand about 4,000 double folds before it tears.
The verb “cry out” (v 4) is not crying with emotion but with energy, exclamation and exasperation, as when the devils did meeting Jesus (Matt 8:28-29), when the blind men called out to Jesus (Matt 9:27, 20:30) and when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea (Matt 14:26), or when the Canaanite woman cried for Jesus’ attention (Matt 15:22).
The Lord of Sabaoth (v 4) is the Lord Almighty, authority over heavens and earth, people and events, the living and the dead. The Lord who judged Sodom and Gomorrha (Rom 9:29) and His judgment was harsh, horrific and harmful. Everyone appears before Him, answers to Him and agrees with Him.
Verse 5’s “lived in pleasure” means feeble; “wanton” is feeding or feasting and “nourish” means fattened - softness, size or supply of food and shape, rich diet and round shape.
Proceed with Patience
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! 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. 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.
A man goes to his pastor and tells him how much he needs more patience and asks that the pastor pray for him in this matter. The pastor agrees and suggests they have prayer right there. As he prays, he prays that this man would have trials come into his life and have many struggles. Right in the middle of the prayer, the man stops his pastor. “That’s not what I asked for.”
“Sure it is,” his pastor replied, “the way to patience is through just such trials. Paul himself told us that tribulations worketh patience (Rom 5:3).”
Three classic prayers on patience:
Lord! give me patience—but not yet!
Lord! give me patience—but please hurry!
Lord! give me patience- and give it to me now!
Lord, please give me patience, but if you give me strength, I may just beat someone to death.
Be patient is an imperative, twice – in verses 7 and 8. It is also translated as bear long (Luke 18:7), suffers long (1 Cor 13:4), patiently endured ( Heb 6:15) and longsuffering (2 Peter 3:9). It comes with the prefix “macro” or “long” and the noun “passion.”
The coming of the Lord is mentioned specifically in 1 Thessalonians (2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23), 2 Peter (2 Peter 1:16) and James (5:7, 8). Not only are we to be patient, but also to stand firm (v 8), both in the imperative. Stand firm means unshakable, unwavering and untroubled.
Grumble or grudge (v 9, don’t grumble) is translated as sigh (Mark 7:34), groan (Rom 8:23) and grief (Heb 13:17). It comes from the word “narrow” or “to hem in closely, i.e. (figuratively) cramp” or the narrow gate (Matt 7:13. 14). It means don’t be confined, cramped, curbed, covered, contained, cornered, curtailed, choked or checked.
Take (v 10, take the prophets) is an imperative. It is translated as receive (Matt 7:8), caught (Matt 21:39), accept (Luke 20:21), obtain (1 Cor 9:25), call (2 Tim 1:5) and attain (Phil 3:12). It means to regard, respect reaffirm, recognize and respond, not to reject, refuse or resist. Prophets are not for an exhibition but an example. It is translated a a pattern (Heb 9:23). The most common welfare of the prophets are blood of the prophets (Matt 23:30-31, Luke 11:5, Rev 16:6,18:24), killed (Matt 23:34, Luke 13:34, Rom 11:3) and persecuted (Matt 5:12). Prophets are not only suffer, but “suffer evil” (KJV). They were beaten, butchered, beheaded or betrayed, but never bowed, broken, begged or blinked. This is the fourth time “patience/patient” (makrothumia) is mentioned, including three times as verb (vv 7 2x, 8). Many suffer, but fewer suffer evil. Some suffer evil, but few in the name of the Lord (v 10).
Persevere with Prayer
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. 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. 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.
Did you count your blessing or do a countdown the end of last year? The second most important thing in 2018 was recovery from a stroke, but what could be more important than recovery of the body from a stroke? The salvation of the soul, specifically my mother’s salvation the day after Christmas.
Last year I wanted to visit her on my birthday but I had a minor stroke and was hospitalized days before my trip after buying tickets and all. I told family members not to tell her I had a stroke because my 80-year old mother had fell as many as 14 times due her weakened legs around that time and was hospitalized off and on.
Four months later when I visited, unknown to me, the Lord had prepared her heart to accept Christ. When I visited her, along with my former pastor, who lives in Singapore, I noticed the idols she worshipped not been attended to for a long time. Not too long after she prayed the sinner’s prayer following my former pastor’s lead.
Better still, the day before I returned to Singapore a friend suggested for us to visit the church across her home. My mother had mentioned the pastor often called on the neighbors. This time I found the pastor’s father across the street, who called his son. The pastor’s father (Uncle John) says, “Oh, that’s your mother. She is fierce!”
On Wednesday I remembered writing to the church and found the e-mail (through search) I wrote to the same church in 2006, more than ten years ago: “I am a contributor to Sermon Central too and I will be in Singapore June 8-11 to visit my mother who lives across the street from your church! I request a Cantonese person to share the gospel with her and follow-up on her too.”
The three most repeated words are Lord (vv 4, 7, 8, 10, 11 2x, 14, 15), brethren (vv 9, 10, 12, 19) and prayer (vv 13, 14, 17, 18). Prayer, surprisingly, is more prominent, powerful, passionate, purposeful and proven in the last days. On the last days while many false prophets shall rise, and iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold (Matt 24:11-12), the Holy Spirit will be active and prayer will be felt.
How should we pray on the last days? There are three ways to pray. First, pray for yourself (v 13), or personal or private prayer, which is in the imperative mood. Along with that, sing psalms is a command too.
Second, collective prayer (v 14). Call and pray are in the imperative mood. The sick are the weary (Heb 12:3), not necessarily the body but the heart, even possibly weary from sin. The prayer (v 15) of faith is translated as “vow” or well wishes. The verb form “pray” in verse 16 is to “wish well” the heart condition and not the prayer hands.
Third, pray for each other (v 16), or mutual or reciprocal. The next verse talks about confessing (v 16, imperative) sins to one another. The verb “pray” in verse 16 is more like a wish for others’ welfare or well-being.
As in the apocalyptic book of Jude, the climax of the book is confession and correction, and not condemnation or criticism. James did not continue with retribution, recrimination and reprimand but with renewal, reconciliation (v 16) and redemption. Bring back (v 19 epistrepho) is return (Matt 10:13), convert (Matt 13:15) and turn about (Mark 5:30).
Conclusion: Charles Dickens said, “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Are you discouraged by the condition of society today? Do you pray with them?