Isaiah 11-12 & James 5

Isaiah 11-12

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
        and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
    And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
        the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
        the Spirit of counsel and might,
        the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
    And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
    He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
        or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
    but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
        and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
    and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
        and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
    Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
        and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
    The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
        and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
        and a little child shall lead them.
    The cow and the bear shall graze;
        their young shall lie down together;
        and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
    The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
        and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
    They shall not hurt or destroy
        in all my holy mountain;
    for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
        as the waters cover the sea.
        In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

    In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

    He will raise a signal for the nations
        and will assemble the banished of Israel,
    and gather the dispersed of Judah
        from the four corners of the earth.
    The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
        and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;
    Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
        and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
    But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,
        and together they shall plunder the people of the east.
    They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,
        and the Ammonites shall obey them.
    And the LORD will utterly destroy
        the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,
    and will wave his hand over the River
        with his scorching breath,
    and strike it into seven channels,
        and he will lead people across in sandals.
    And there will be a highway from Assyria
        for the remnant that remains of his people,
    as there was for Israel
        when they came up from the land of Egypt.

    You will say in that day:
    “I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
        for though you were angry with me,
    your anger turned away,
        that you might comfort me.
    “Behold, God is my salvation;
        I will trust, and will not be afraid;
    for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
        and he has become my salvation.”
        With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

    “Give thanks to the LORD,
        call upon his name,
    make known his deeds among the peoples,
        proclaim that his name is exalted.
    “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
        let this be made known in all the earth.
    Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
        for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 11-12 ESV)

James 5

    Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

    Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

    But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

    Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

    My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

(James 5 ESV)

James 5: In a very unrelenting rebuke, James brings the hammer down on those who foolishly abuse wealth through self-indulgence, and those who accumulate their wealth through unjust methods. Then, James urges those that are mistreated to not envy those who have more than they have because God will avenge all injustice suffered under them. He encourages those oppressed by the wealthy to be patient and to continue to hang in there with those who abuse and mistreat them. 

James warns those who are being mistreated to be careful of seeking to bring judgement on those who harm us. It is our duty to patiently endure the evil done to us and to confidently trust in God’s duty to uphold us who remain faithful to the end. Radical disciples of Jesus abandon acts of retaliation and await the Lord’s retribution.

Here in this passage, James is specifically addressing wealthy land owners who fail to pay proper wages to those who work for them. And while we may not be wealthy land owners abusing our servants through unjust pay, the Biblical principle is more specifically the sin of using unjust methods to accumulate wealth. This could include:

  • falsifying information on your tax return
  • falsifying information on expense accounts
  • false advertising
  • bribing those who can “give you a better deal”
  • being cheap towards those you could bless
  • holding back on your giving towards gospel-centered ministry

Horrific imagery is used to describe what these types of people have heading their way, and later declares that the perfect Judge is “standing at the door” and His coming “is at hand” to set things right. 

Soon, we will all stand face to face before the Lord Jesus. What is the likelihood of us being among those who:

  • had been unfaithful stewards of their wealth
  • had missed countless opportunities to serve others through their wealth
  • had been filled with covetousness and selfishness in regards to wealth
  • had cut corners and practiced unfair employment practices to obtain wealth
  • had sought their security in material things rather than the Lord
  • had used their wealth to indulge themselves and hoard earthly stuff

The Bible never assumes that it is a sin to be rich, but the Bible clearly warns of wrongfully hoarding riches (Matthew 6:19-21). James says the corrosion (or disuse and decay) of all our stuff that we have accumulated will be evidence against us on that day of judgement before God. James says we are storing up wrath against ourselves when we store up treasures here on earth, and it’s going to be a horrific experience to finally see the cruelty behind our self-indulgence. 

We live in a world where thousands of people die daily from starvation and over half of the world’s population has never heard of Jesus. In such a world, how do we then justify the extravagance of the American church and the typical American Christian? After seeing the teachings of Scripture, the desperate needs of the world, and the example set by Jesus, how can we so thoughtlessly spend the Lord’s money on excess and self-indulgence?

James concludes this intense rebuke toward self-indulgence by comparing our spending habits to animals that fail to realize that as they fatten themselves up, they are closing in on their execution and slaughter.

What will our condemnation be before God if we have had the resources for helping to spread the gospel but have failed to use it? If we have hoarded material things when some of that money might have been used for the salvation of souls?