Today: [James 5:] Patience and Answered Prayer. In this concluding chapter of James, the writer encourages us to exercise patience when facing difficult people and situations. People may disappoint us and even difficulties such as sickness and affliction challenge us, but God will come to us and deliver us as the rain comes to the earth as we walk in humility and accountability to the Father.
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[Jas 5:1-20 KJV] 1 Go to now, [ye] rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon [you]. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned [and] killed the just; [and] he doth not resist you. 7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. 12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. 13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. 19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
The epistle of James ends with scathing criticism of the wealthy with an apparent word of knowledge directed at specific individuals who were defrauding their laborers. The tone of this rebuke is reminiscent of the circumstances that befell Ananias and his wife Sapphira in the early days of the church in Jerusalem. There is every indication that the people James has in mind are not unbelievers but members of the church who were conducting themselves in this way. Their conduct was so egregious as to even gone so far as to cost the lives of some because of their neglectful and abusive behavior. Due to the abrupt shift in tone between v. 6 and 7, some scholars suggest that v. 1-6 were added in later as often happened at the beginning and ending of the epistles during the time that they were copied by hand on stitched together codexes.
In v. 7 James comforts the people with an exhortation to patience in waiting for the coming of the Lord. The early church community lived in anticipation of the immediacy of the return of Christ. Today that sentiment is not widely encouraged in Christian culture but is instead characterized as the vain hope of immature believers. The comparison that James gives is that of a vinedresser waiting for the ripening of the crop until the rains come to nurture the vines to full maturity. Again there is a mention of the early and latter rains.
Through the Old and New Testaments, the moving of the Spirit of God is often described in terms of approaching weather. In Luke 10:18 Jesus spoke of Satan being brought down as lightning from the heavens. In Matthew 24:7 He specifically describes His return as the appearance of lightning during a summer thunderstorm. Electrical storms are accompanied by clouds and rain. In Mar. 13:26 Jesus describes Himself as coming in the clouds and Heb. 12:1 speaks of the saints as a cloud of witnesses. In Hosea 6:3 speaks of an outpouring of the Spirit of God as rain at the time of His coming:
[Hos 6:3 KJV] 3 Then shall we know, [if] we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter [and] former rain unto the earth.
The hope that we can draw from this is no matter how evil, and godless the world around us may be that the Father is ever working to counter the work of the enemy with the moving of His Spirit on the hearts of men. In the natural clouds appear and gather when there is a low-pressure system. The word humility in the Bible means to “go low.” What can we do to position ourselves where the rains of God’s Spirit are about to fall? We can choose to humble ourselves in the sight of God and under the hand of God in anticipation knowing that if we do so as James says in v. 8 the Lord will draw near as we establish our hearts with patience (or, calm endurance without complaint).
In v. 9 James again as he did in ch. 4 warn us as believers not to hold grudges against one another because the Judge stands at the door. This reflects thinking that is somewhat foreign to popular Christian concepts today. People today generally just think of God as a loving God toward all, patient, kind and ever tolerant. When you look at this verse ask yourself if the Judge is at the Door – who is the Door? In John 10:9 Jesus declared that He is the Door and the Bible affirms in many places that the Father is the Judge of men’s hearts. If we step out of Christ in regard to the character of our behavior we expose ourselves to consequences that we would otherwise be sheltered from in Christ. The only clemency of God toward sinners is that of providing a savior. If we having tasted of the Salvation of God turn aside in our conduct from His Lordship that is for us a regrettable choice with unavoidable consequences.
We are to take the prophets (v. 10) such as Jeremiah as examples of patience under fire. Remember that the context of James’ remarks do not reference mistreatment by those outside of Christ but rather by our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In reminding us of the patience of Job (v. 11), we remember that it was Jobs so-called friends who gathered around him in his suffering, not with words of comfort but words of harsh reproach in the midst of the intense suffering. What was the end of Job – God show mercy upon Job – when he prayed for the very friends that mistreated him so bitterly. Of all the pain inflicted upon believers the most common and deepest wounds come most often not from the world but from those they share the table of the Lord with.
In v. 12 James warns against taking oaths lest we fall under condemnation. We are to let our yes be yes. In ancient culture, oaths were taken as a means of measuring the sincerity of the person making a commitment. If he swore by Jerusalem, it meant he intended to do what he promised if at all possible. If he swore by the temple, it meant that he would go to great lengths and sacrifice to keep his word. If he swore by the altar it meant at the risk of life and limb his commitment would be fulfilled and so on. James is saying to forget all that and just be a person of your word.
In v. 13 if we are afflicted, we are to pray for ourselves, but in v. 14 if we are sick, we are to call on the elders of the church. We need to understand the difference between affliction and sickness in James’ mind when he wrote this. If you have people lay hands on you and you are not healed, then you don’t just shrug your shoulders and assume God wants you to be sick. You are to take that as a sign of compounded affliction of the enemy against you and then from that point you take the responsibility to pray over yourself. In either case, the goal is that the prayer of faith (either by the individual or the elders) will save the person so suffering. Note that mention is made of searching the heart regarding sin if healing is not made manifest. There are times that prayers are not answered because there is unfinished business of the heart between the person of God.
We are to (v. 16) confess our faults one to another and pray one for another. Notice it doesn’t say confess your sins, or give specific details of any particular transgression. Why? Because that is between you and God. We are to confess after self-examination the faults in our hearts that led to the sin that we take up between us and God. Why do we do this? So we may then get healed. Thus this passage makes a clear connection between undealt with sin and not getting healed. Is that what we assume if someone lays hands on us for healing today? No, we just shrug our shoulders and say “oh, well I guess it wasn’t God’s will…” when James is saying that personal transgression is more often the case.
Lastly, we are reminded that Elijah was a man of identical passion just like we are yet received an answer to his prayer. Answered prayer even for the nation is not reserved for the super-spiritual. You may be struggling as Elijah often did, but God will still be found faithful as we cry out to Him in faith-filled expectation of an answer.
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