Isaiah 7 & James 1

Isaiah 7

    In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

    And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer's Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” thus says the Lord GOD:

    “‘It shall not stand,
        and it shall not come to pass.
    For the head of Syria is Damascus,
        and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
    And within sixty-five years
        Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
    And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,
        and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
    If you are not firm in faith,
        you will not be firm at all.’”
    
    
        Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

    In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.

    In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.

    In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey.

    In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns. And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.

(Isaiah 7 ESV)

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James 1

    James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

    To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:

    Greetings.

    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

    Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

    Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

    Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

    But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

    If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

(James 1 ESV)

James 1: James, in writing to followers of Jesus that have been scattered outside of Palestine due to intense persecution, begins his letter with a challenge to change their perspective on the suffering that they are experiencing. He describes the unique benefit of being beat down. According to James, trials test our faith, and the testing of our faith produces a steadfastness (persevering patience) that benefits us in this life.

The Greek word used here for this persevering patience literally means 'an abiding under.' Obtaining this type of persevering patience means that you are so fully submitted to God’s authority over your life that nothing can shake you. 

We need this type of persevering patience because we are called to have this type of unwavering trust and confidence in our sovereign God. It is not something we can obtain or just receive. It is something that God produces in us, and He produces it in us through trials and the testing of our faith. Suffering is the instrument used by God to reshape us, and it causes us to use our faith in areas that we may haven’t had to before. 

Suffering is the squat rack of spiritual growth. 

God cares more about our growth than he does our comfort. He may allow us to be hurt in order for us to grow in faith. This is true love. Persevering patience can not be achieved any other way. It is only achieved through experiencing trials. Books and sermons can't teach us persevering patience. It can only be produced in us by God through the testing of our faith. 

Some of us are going to struggle more with the testing of our faith than others. However, God is gracious and willing to help if we sincerely seek His counsel. When overwhelmed with the circumstances we may be facing, James encourages us to ask for wisdom. Not answers.

Wisdom is the ability to take our knowledge (about suffering, why we suffer, God’s sovereignty over suffering, and how we’re supposed to respond to suffering) and translate that knowledge into action. 

Wisdom is the power to perform the difficult task of facing trials with joy because even though we can’t always identify the specific reason for our suffering, we can know for sure what the reason for our suffering isn’t. The cross has made it clear that no matter what we may be experiencing, we can rest assured that it can’t be that God doesn’t love us or have a plan for us (Romans 8:28-39).