Isaiah 10 & James 4

Isaiah 10

    Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
        and the writers who keep writing oppression,
    to turn aside the needy from justice
        and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
    that widows may be their spoil,
        and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
    What will you do on the day of punishment,
        in the ruin that will come from afar?
    To whom will you flee for help,
        and where will you leave your wealth?
    Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
        or fall among the slain.
    For all this his anger has not turned away,
        and his hand is stretched out still.
        Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
        the staff in their hands is my fury!
    Against a godless nation I send him,
        and against the people of my wrath I command him,
    to take spoil and seize plunder,
        and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
    But he does not so intend,
        and his heart does not so think;
    but it is in his heart to destroy,
        and to cut off nations not a few;
    for he says:
    “Are not my commanders all kings?
    Is not Calno like Carchemish?
        Is not Hamath like Arpad?
        Is not Samaria like Damascus?
    As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
        whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
    shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
        as I have done to Samaria and her images?”
        When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. For he says:

    “By the strength of my hand I have done it,
        and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
    I remove the boundaries of peoples,
        and plunder their treasures;
        like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
    My hand has found like a nest
        the wealth of the peoples;
    and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
        so I have gathered all the earth;
    and there was none that moved a wing
        or opened the mouth or chirped.”
    Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
        or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
    As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
        or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
    Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts
        will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,
    and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
        like the burning of fire.
    The light of Israel will become a fire,
        and his Holy One a flame,
    and it will burn and devour
        his thorns and briers in one day.
    The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land
        the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,
        and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
    The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few
        that a child can write them down.
        In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.

    Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”

    He has come to Aiath;
    he has passed through Migron;
        at Michmash he stores his baggage;
    they have crossed over the pass;
        at Geba they lodge for the night;
    Ramah trembles;
        Gibeah of Saul has fled.
    Cry aloud, O daughter of Gallim!
        Give attention, O Laishah!
        O poor Anathoth!
    Madmenah is in flight;
        the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.
    This very day he will halt at Nob;
        he will shake his fist
        at the mount of the daughter of Zion,
        the hill of Jerusalem.
    Behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
        will lop the boughs with terrifying power;
    the great in height will be hewn down,
        and the lofty will be brought low.
    He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe,
        and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.

(Isaiah 10 ESV)

James 4

    What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

    Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

(James 4 ESV)

James 4: Submission and humility are two characteristics contrary to our self-seeking sinful nature. If we are honest with ourselves, the main reason we speak badly about other people and judge others according to our own standards is for self-exaltation. One natural way to exalt ourselves is to bring others down.

We like to impose our own rules of life on others and confidently condemn anything that displeases us. This allows us to take on a role that belongs only to God. Sadly, the moment you begin to consider yourself the authority over spiritual standards is the moment you have exalted yourself as the one who sets and supervises those standards rather than being someone in submission to those standards. 

Although we may not openly claim any superiority over God, we do have a tendency to exalt ourselves in subtle ways that reveal our lack of humility before Him. Not only do we attempt to judge the behaviors of those around us, but James also mentions how easily we forget our weakness and dependency on God for life itself. We falsely assume we got life under control and time at our disposal and fail to realize that saying “we will” or “I will” is the essence of sin. Such confidence in what we’re going to do in the future subtly gives off a sense of self-reliance that disregards God’s sovereignty. God is the One in complete control, and we ought to act accordingly:

  • If God is the One in complete control, we shouldn’t make assumptions. It doesn't make sense to assume too many things because of the uncertainty of tomorrow and because of our fragile immortality. We need to stop thinking so much about ourselves. This world isn't about us. We ought not to be so arrogant as to claim more control over our lives than we actually possess.
  • If God is the One in complete control, we should actively submit to His authority. We should live our lives exercising our complete dependance on God. It's okay to make plans and set goals. Good to have direction, but we must remain open to detours because ultimately we are not the ones meant to steer the wheel. We ought to accustom ourselves to actually use the phrase, “If the Lord wills” when speaking of our future plans. (Acts 18:21, Romans 1:10, 1 Corinthians 4:19)

If we know that we ought to constantly acknowledge God’s sovereignty and live in daily dependence upon Him then it is clearly a sin to fail and do so. To speak as one in control over the lives of others and your own life is to speak like an atheist. We must acknowledge the sovereignty of God through a full surrender to His authority.