Isaiah 8 & James 2

Isaiah 8

    Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”

    And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

    The LORD spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

    Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
        give ear, all you far countries;
    strap on your armor and be shattered;
        strap on your armor and be shattered.
    Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
        speak a word, but it will not stand,
        for God is with us.
        For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

    Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

(Isaiah 8 ESV)

James 2

    My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

    If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

(James 2 ESV)

James 2: We have this evil tendency within each of us (some worse than others) to exalt those around us based on the superficial, external basis of their appearance, race, wealth, rank or social status. For some of us, we are just more comfortable being around those who are just like us. Those that are not like us seem foreign to us, and we don’t know what to expect from them so just hanging around people like us is the safer play. However, for many of us, we can trace our discrimination toward others all the way down to a vicious intention to pursue and achieve a higher status for ourselves.

Partiality and favoritism are deceptive efforts to use people (even our closest friends) for our own personal benefit. We don’t want to waste our time and energy on those who make us uncomfortable or who don’t benefit us in some way. We assume the poor are lazy, uneducated, unskilled, irresponsible, and we keep them at a safe distance. We may write checks to organizations who care for these people, but then we'll consider our duty done towards them.

However, God has always been in the business of exalting and honoring those that the world sees unfit and unqualified.

The Kingdom of God is an upside-down type of Kingdom compared to the ways of this world. The last will be first; the least will be the greatest; the poor will be rich. When we disregard or brush off those we consider lower than us, we are violating the order of God and His Kingdom. Think about it: we tend to dishonor those God chooses to be rich in faith and heirs of His Kingdom, and we tend to honor those whom Jesus said would find it near impossible to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:23-25). We have to ask ourselves, "Are we hanging out with the right crowd?"

Now, it should be said that we are not to go so far as to disassociate ourselves with the rich and only concern ourselves with the poor. That would be a dramatic over-adjustment that would then lead to an alternate form of discrimination that many people unfortunately fall into. As James alludes to earlier in his letter (James 1:9-10), Jesus is the common denominator in which there is no discrimination. All have fallen short of the glory of God, and all are in desperate need of God's grace and mercy. We are all the poor in spirit who are spiritually bankrupt and in need of the free handout of God’s grace. Therefore, in light of the gospel, we should speak and act like people who are overwhelmed and blown away by the mercy that has been extended to us.

True disciples of Jesus seek to uphold the Royal Law of the Kingdom given by the King Himself (Matthew 22:37-40). They are so radically revolutionized by the love and mercy of God that they do not discriminate or dishonor anyone around them. Those who have been truly touched and amazed by God’s grace will radically transform into relentless givers of that same grace.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

True disciples of Jesus view the world through the eyes of their Lord and Teacher and seek the benefit of all men with the same sacrificial devotion as shown by their Savior. Pray that the Lord may reveal the roots of discrimination and prejudices in your own heart and pray He transforms you into a creature so amazed by grace that you become a relentless giver of that same grace.