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JAMES AND LEVITICUS ...

 

 

JUNE 8, 2004 (TUESDAY)

In Leviticus 19 the Holy Spirit directs Moses to say a very unusual thing.  Especially considering that it was written in the days of Law.

" ... Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."  Leviticus 19:18b

That sounds just like Paul!

That Hebrew verb for "love" is "ahab" and means to have affection for. 

The noun "neighbor" translates "rea" and primarily means a friend or companion! However in the King James Version is is used once each as brother, husband and even lover!  Therefore one must study the "context" in which the verb appears to discern the "degree" of love involved.  Here again the Spirit of God is our Teacher! He "guides us into all truth!"  (John 16:13)

"As thyself" is the Hebrew particle "k" and is a term of comparison.  It means like or as or according to.

Then God (Jehovah) identifies Himself as the Speaker. "I ... the Lord!"  Even here in what the liberals and modernists call the harsh Old Testament ... we find the very spirit of love and respect!

BUT ... how did James get this Leviticus "text" in his heart?  Why was he so familiar with it?

I don't know for sure, but could it be that His older (half) Brother Jesus quoted it often?

Listen to Jesus:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."  Matthew 5:43-45

Matthew 19:19 --- "Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."  Matthew 22:37-39

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."  Mark 12:30-31

Luke 10:27 --- "And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself."

In fact the whole parable of the "Good Samaritan" is an exposition of Leviticus 19:18b!  And those words fell from the lips of Jesus!

I'll tell you what I have come to believe.  James heard those words so often from Jesus that they were on his mind and his heart constantly!

Thus when he writes in His Epistle: 

"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors."  James 2:8

He calls it the "royal law!" 

To "fulfil" (in Greek = teleo) means to bring to its conclusion, to mature, to fully finish or to accomplish.

The Greek verb for love is "agapao," God's love!

"Neighbor" is (in Greek) "plesion," derived from "pelas," which means near!  One who is nearby! 

"As thyself" is "seautou" and means as thine own self or even thou thyself.

As for doing ... it is the verb "poieo," to make (or do) ... giving us the English word "poem!"

And "well" is "kalos" which means beautiful or excellent or noble or commendable!

James gives us a sterling example of expository preaching!

We men of God should NEVER run out of things to preach!  We have a whole Bible of 1,189 chapters! 

Little wonder Paul charged Timothy:  "PREACH THE WORD!"

Today let's live "in the Book!"

                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

JUNE 7, 2004 (MONDAY)

Today I want us to look at a verse in Leviticus and then watch how James in his New Testament Epistle expands and explains that verse.

"Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people ..."   Leviticus 19:18a

Amazing!  This verse is part of the LAW ... yet it centers on LOVE and GRACE!

The verb, "shalt (not) avenge" translates the Hebrew word "naqam."  It means to punish or to take revenge!  In our words today ... to get even! 

To "bear grudge" is the verb "natar" and means "to guard or to cherish (anger)!" Psalm 103:9 captures the meaning so very well:  "He (God) will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever." 

In this passage in Leviticus Moses is teaching us the right kinds of attitudes we need to live for the Lord!  Israel was being instructed in how to care for their own brothers and sisters.

Now ... watch James take our verse as a "sermon" text. 

James 5:9 --- "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door."

Using the very same verb (in English), James re-issues the identical command but in New Testament style.  (Or is it?)  "Grudge" is (Greek, this time) "stenazo" which means "to sigh or to groan."  It is from a verb that means "to make narrow!" 

In its very first Bible use ... Mark 7:34 ... it is translated "sighed!"  "And looking up to heaven, he (Jesus) sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened."

It is "groan" in Romans 8:23!  And it is "grief" in Hebrews 13:17!

"Another," the pronoun here, is "allelon" and means another of the SAME kind, a fellow brother or sister in Christ!  (Vastly separate from "heteros," another of a DIFFERENT kind!)

The noun "brethren" is "adelphos," and means "from the same womb!"

"Condemned" is katakrino, judged!  Actually it means to be judged down upon! 

"Behold" is a word that just means "look!"

The "Judge" ("krites") is Jesus, unto Whom the Father hath committed all judgment according to John 5:22.

And to James Jesus is "before the door!"  He believed Jesus was coming soon!  And He used this fact as an incentive to help believers love one another!

This is the same Bible message Paul delivered when he said:  "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Ephesians 4:32

Or that John said again and again ... in such places as 1 John 3:11 --- "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."

Folks, let's obey these words!

Bury your grudges!

Better yet ... confess them! 

1 John 1:9 --- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

                                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

JUNE 6, 2004 (SUNDAY)

One of the most interesting passages in the Epistle of James is found in his last chapter.

There he says to those of us who are saved:

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;  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."     James 5:19-20

I was amazed to recently learn that perhaps James got the "idea" for this "sermon" from an Old Testament text!  That's where the Holy Spirit gives me a lot of my "ideas" too!

Watch, please: 

"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him."   Leviticus 19:17

The Leviticus text is no doubt the basis for James' inspired comments!

What do we do if a brother "errs" from the truth? 

Notice first of all that he is a Brother!  He is saved.  He has fallen away in a moment of sin and badly needs to be restored!  The Greek noun "brethren" ("adelphos") literally means "from the same womb!"

To "err" ("planao") is to be deceived or to be misled!  The verb here is in the passive voice.  It's also in the subjunctive mood.  It has not actually happened yet ... but if it does happen ... what should we do?

James does not seem to use the first part of our Leviticus verse here at all.  Perhaps that is because he has already covered it earlier in his Epistle.  Here is what we do NOT do if our Brother errs ....  We do not hate him!  The Hebrew verb for hate ... "sane" ... means to despise someone personally!  Moses frames it as a command. God just will not allow us to hate the sinning Brother!  It is an aorist verb too!  He does not commit this sin habitually!

Next James says we are to "convert" our wayward Brother!  The verb is "epistrepho" and means to twist or turn or reverse!  This is another aorist verb ... telling us that this erring Brother is not falling into sin repeatedly ... but only this time.  Once "turned" he is through with that particular sin! 

Instead of "convert" the Leviticus passage has "rebuke!"  That Hebrew verb is "yakach" and means to judge and pronounce wrong!  It has the idea of correcting, convincing or even of chastening!  (One source says:  to prove what is right!)  Here is an Old Testament example of the verb (translated as "reproved"):  "And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away."   Genesis 21:25  Yet in Genesis 24:44 the verb is rendered as "appointed" and used in Bridal language, wedding language!  "And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the LORD hath appointed out for my master's son."

Then James does something startling!  He calls the erring Brother a "sinner!"  Even the Leviticus text is a little "cool" toward the "backslider," calling him merely a "neighbor" (and not even the usual loving term for neighbor ... but "amiyth," just an associate)!  James' word for "sinner" is the Greek term that means one who fell short of the mark, the target, or the portion he could have had!  Sin costs!

James often uses pretty stern language even when addressing the Lord's people. Once he called them "adulterers and adulteresses!"  He was trying to discourage their friendliness with the world!

To "save a soul from death" is to lead a man (or woman) back to repentance before God ... therby avoiding God's chastening hand!  A hand that can strike an erring Brother with premature death! 

1 John 5:16 teaches us for sure that there IS a sin unto death which a rebellious Believer may commit!  "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it."

And to "hide" a multitude of sins translates "kalupto," which means to cover!  It first New Testament use:   "And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep."  Matthew 8:24  Later Simon Peter also uses our verb for sins!  "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."  1 Peter 4:8

"Multitude" is in Greek "plethos" and means a great number or a bundle or a whole company!  "Pletho" as a verb means to fill to the brim!

"Sins" again is "hamartia" meaning to miss the mark ... or not to share in the prize!

While the Leviticus text says for us not to "suffer" sin upon our neighbor.  That verb translates the Hebrew "nasa," meaning "to accept" (12 times in the King James Version) or to exalt or to respect or to bear!  (Don't put up with it!)

And the preposition "upon" (in Hebrew "al") means over or above or upon or against! It is quite an inclusive term. 

There's no doubt in my mind that James is using the Leviticus text as a model ... as a pattern for this last little "sermon" in his great Epistle!

Fellow Believers, don't forget the Old Testament in your studies!  It constitutes 929 of the Bible's 1189 chapters!  That's 78% of the Bible!  James sure didn't ignore it!

By the way, we have today examined the "mechanics" of the passage ... don't forget the "spirit" of the text as well!

Do you know someone who has fallen by the wayside?  (Or is about to do so?)  Help them!  Reach out to them!  Just don't let them pull you into sin in which they wallow! 

Christians helping Christians ... what a blessing!

Today at church ... look around.  I'll just about guarantee you that someone will be there who needs this kind of help!

In closing let's let Paul summarize our lesson for this Lord's Day:   "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."  Galatians 6:1

Keep that Bible open today!  And join us again tomorrow ... for more study of the Word of God (verse by verse), the Lord willing.

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

JUNE 5, 2004 (SATURDAY)

Bible teachers have made a startling discovery about the Book of James!

He seems (at least at times) to be writing an exposition of a paragraph in Leviticus 19!

For instance, Leviticus 19:16 says: "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD."

The word for "talebearer" is in Hebrew "rakiyl."  It is defined as a slanderer or an informer or a gossip!  The "root" word behind it means "to travel for trading purposes."  (Someone who travels about ... running their mouths as they go!)

The word for "blood" (in Hebrew = "dam" and pronounced dawm) means one's life!  It is blood which if shed in large enough quantities causes loss of life!

Here is someone who verbally slanders and criticizes and accuses their neighbor (in Hebrew "rea" = a friend) ... even to the point of bringing about their death!  You can kill someone's reputation with words, you know! 

Twice Proverbs tells us that one trait of a talebearer is that he or she "reveals secrets!"   (Proverbs 11:13 and 20:19)

Ezekiel 22:9 puts both thoughts together:  "In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness."

Now when James considers this verse ... here is what he writes:

James 4:11 --- "Speak not evil one of another, brethren."

The verb "to speak evil" is in Greek "katalaleo."  It means to say bad things about someone.  Literally it pictures this:  "kata" means down and "laleo" means to talk! To talk down on someone!  The verb is framed in the imperative mood by James!  He loves those commands!

"One of another" translates the pronoun "allelon" which means another of the same kind!  (As opposed to "heteros" ... another of a totally different kind!)  We "brethren" are alike because God has birthed us into the same family and filled us with the same Holy Spirit and given us the same Book to study!

Now of course James elaborates on this theme all the way through his Epistle!  My point today is just that James "strings together" a series of precious "pearls" that he gleaned from Leviticus 19:12-18.

That is called "expository" preaching!  It literally means (from Latin ... "ex" is out of and "posit" from a verb that means to place) to go into a "text" and as led of God to discern the meaning and place it out of the text and before the Lord people on a Sunday morning or evening ... thereby feeding them God's Word!

That God for His men who give us the Word!

So many of you who read these Pages are preachers!  May God bless and use each of you this weekend as you proclaim the Scriptures is my prayer!  (And those of you who are not preachers each have a Pastor for whom you could pray!  Ask the Lord to give him exactly what you need tomorrow!)

Thank you, Brother James, for preaching to us the Word ... explaining in the New Testament exactly what the Old Testament means!

And also thanks to each of you for visiting here today ... with a Bible in your hand!

                                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

JUNE 4, 2004 (FRIDAY)

It is believed that James wrote his great Epistle under the influence of a beautiful passage from Leviticus 19!

In fact I believe the whole New Testament is in some ways a "commentary" on the Old Testament.  It helps us understand so many texts we would have never comprehended.  (The Holy Spirit is a Great Teacher!)

Let me give you an example.

Leviticus 19:15 --- "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour."

James' word for "unrighteousness" comes from the Hebrew word "evel."  It means evil.  It is derived from a "root" that means to twist or to distort!  That's what sin is! A perversion of God's original plan!

The noun for "poor" (in Hebrew = "dal") means the needy or the weaker or even the lean ... as well as the poor.  It can mean sickly too.

The verb "respect" is "nasa" and means to bear or to carry ... but in this setting "to exalt."

While "honour" (in Hebrew = "hadar") means to glorify or to put forward or to show partiality!

"Mighty" translates "gadol" and has the idea of great or high or loud!  (Proud and insolent!)

"Righteousness" is that which is straight and correct in God's Eyes.  The word is "tzsedeq."

"Judge" is a legal term and means to pass sentence.

Then "neighbor" (not the usual word) in Hebrew is "amiyth" and means a companion, a comrade or even a kindred person.  It is derived from a verb that means "to associate."

It is quite plain that Moses (really ... the Lord) here in Leviticus is forbidding the showing of any kind of favoritism due to one's possessions or money or standing! We are to "do right" no matter who is involved!

Now ... to the Epistle of James.

James 2:1 --- "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons."

James 2:9 --- "But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors."

Truthfully, James' whole paragraph (chapter 2 verses 1 through 13) is a classic!  He condemns partiality in a masterful way!  His reasoning is just perfect!  This sin ought never to be committed again by a Christian!

Incidentally, notice what James calls Jesus in 2:1.  "The Lord of Glory!"  (This James was fathered by Joseph ... the one who was NOT Jesus' Father ... and Mary, who was the mother of the humanity of Jesus!  Do remember Mark 6:3 --- "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him." This James is the "half-brother" of Jesus!  The same Mom ... NOT the same Father!  He was late to believe on Jesus!  Only AFTER the resurrection did he get saved!  And even still he calls the One with Whom he worked daily in the carpenter's shop ... THE LORD OF GLORY!  James had learned!  He had seen!  Jesus was (I mean ... is) GOD!)

The term "respect of persons" is in Greek "prosopolepsia!"  Now "pros" means in front of!  "Ops" means one's face!  And "lambano" means to hold on to!  To be so impressed by someone's face, possessions, position that you base all your actions regarding them upon their PERSON ... and not upon justice!

And in James 2:9 the verb "commit" is interesting.  It is "ergazomai" and means to to work, to labor, to exercise, to perform!  This pictures sin as something that ought to be HARD for the Christian to do!  And as we all know sin sure exacts a toll from us ... as does hard labor!

The word for "convinced" is once translated in the King James Version "convicted!" James is here teaching that if we violate a part of the law ... we become transgressors of the whole law.  We are sinners therefore! 

This "respect of persons" therefore is an important matter!  James is against favoritism in any way! 

Doesn't THIS need to be preached in our churches across the land today?  Too often the affluent get "picked" as deacons and teachers and committee members and the poor get ignored!  Or we preachers (perhaps without realizing it even) have "favorites" on whom we lean again and again ... ignoring others who might be willing to help.

I guess money and prestige still "talk."

Preach it, Brother James!

And WHERE did James get his vital text for that great chapter 2 sermon against partiality and favoritism?

Right out of Leviticus 19!

He is doing "expository" preaching if I've ever seen it!

Exactly as they did in Ezra's and Nehemiah's day!

Nehemiah 8:8 --- "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."  To "give" is "sum" in Hebrew and means to set or place before someone!  And "sense" is one of their words ... "sekel" ... for prudence or wisdom.  The verb "caused to understand" is "biyn" and means to distinguish, discern or consider (levels of meaning) in a text!

We need more and more Preachers who will "give us the sense" of the whole Word of God!

We are so glad you have visited today!  And although I can't see you ... I'm quite sure you have a Bible nearby ... perhaps even in your hand!

                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

JUNE 3, 2004 (THURSDAY)

I am excited to learn just how much of an expository preacher James really is! 

It looks to me like James is carefully explaining Leviticus 19 in much of his Epistle!

This is much like what happened in Nehemiah 8:8 --- "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." 

For example, it appears to me that the following table holds true throughout James:

Leviticus 19:12 ............................ is explained in  ..................................... James 5:12 Leviticus 19:13 ........................ is explained in ................................... James 5:4 Leviticus 19:14 ...............................is illustrated by ............................... James 3:1-12 Leviticus 19:15 ............................. is explained by ........................... James 2: 1 and 9 Leviticus 19:16 ............................... is explained by .................................. James 4:11 Leviticus 19:17 ............................... is illustrated by ..................................James 5:20 Leviticus 19:18a ........................... is explained by ...................................... James 5:9 Leviticus 19:18b ...............................is explained by ....................................James 2:8

Let's take a look today at Leviticus 19:14.  It's one of the harder examples to prove in reference to James' preaching and writing.  "Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD."  

The verb "curse" (in Hebrew = "qalal") means "to make light or slight or trifling."  In the Piel stem (which we have in this case) it can mean to curse.  Those who are "deaf" (in Hebrew = "cheresh") are the folks whose ear(drums) have been scratched or ploughed rendering them unable to discern sound! 

The verb "put" (in Hebrew = "nathan") is the basic verb "to give!"  The noun "stumblingblock" (in Hebrew = mikshol")  means anything which trips a person, making them fall.  (From a root verb ... to totter, to waver, to falter to stumble)  And the word "blind" is from a background noun that means hide, leather or skin ... and is believed to be a pictue of a covering over one's very eyes ... rendering him sightless!  The preposition "before" (in Hebrew = "paniym")  means "face!"  The FACE of the blind!

"To fear" (in Hebrew = "yare") means to reverence to be afraid of ... then to respect deeply ... even to worship!  Then to give further power to the admonition ... Moses uses both of God's major Names ... Elohim (God) and Jehovah (Lord)!

Now to the Epistle of James ...

I believe James emphasizes two major facts of Leviticus 19:14. 

The first is the "helplessness" of the deaf and the blind!  If one should "curse" the dead ... they couldn't hear the curses!  And if one did put a trap before the blind ... they would not be able to discern such a trick!

So what does a deaf man need?  Something he can see!  The deaf CAN see, you know!  And that's exactly what James supplies all the way through his Epistle ... but especially in chapter 3!  (Word picture after word picture!  For example, the "tongue" is like a "bit" guiding the large horse!  Like a "rudder" steering a ship!  Like a "fire" beginning in a dry field!  Like a stain that defiles!  Like a "wild beast" that cannot be tamed!  Like a deadly cobra ... full of poison!  Like a fountain sending forth varying qualities of water (sweet and bitter)!  And like a tree with unstable fruit production (one year olives ... another grapes ... then figs)! 

And what part of the body does one use to "curse?"  The "tongue," of course!  So James rebukes our using the tongue to curse!  Instead we are to bless!  See James 3:9-10 please!  "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be."

And what does a blind man need?  He needs words ... loud words ... words of instruction on how to avoid the pit!  Blind men CAN hear!  Again, James comes to the rescue!  He provides clear words of deliverance through the whole of his five chapters ... but especially in chapter 3!  In fact, the word "behold" in James 3:4 (the opening word both in English and Greek) literally means "LOOK!" And it's an imperative, a command! 

And do notice this too.  Whether a man is deaf ... or blind ... he or she can still TALK!  Both need instructions on how to use one's words!

Lastly, let me mention the two Names for God in Leviticus 19:14.  (God and Lord! Elohim and Jehovah!)  James too emphasizes in his work both the Father and the Son!  (God's two main New Testament "Titles!")  For "Father" see James 1:17 and 27.  Then see James 3:9!  And for "Jesus" see James 1:1 and 2:1 plus a host of allusions (if not quotations) to things which Jesus said!

If James did not use Leviticus 19:14 as an outline for his material (which I think he DID) ... the beloved (half-brother of our Lord) did glean direct instruction from Leviticus on how to help people ... even the deaf and the blind!  And He did so with a healthy reverence to both the Father ... and the Son!

James just may have been an Old Testament scholar!

May we be too if we prepare ourselves in a spirit of dependence on our Lord!

Let's learn to study and teach (and preach if one is called of God) the Old Testament Scriptures too!

Read some today in Leviticus!  It is NOT a dead book!  (Or Deuteronomy, one of Jesus' favorites! Or ANYWHERE in the Jewish Scriptures!  You WILL find them "profitable!")  2 Timothy 3:16 says it best:  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable ...."

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

JUNE 2, 2004 (WEDNESDAY)

If you want to talk about New Testament preachers who knew how to expound Old Testament texts ... then James just must be on your list.

For example Leviticus 19:13 says --- "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning."

To "defraud" (in Hebrew = "ashaq") is to "press upon" or to violate to to wrong or to injure! It is even once translated "deceived" in Leviticus 6:2, its first Bible occurrence.

To "rob" is to "tear away, to seize or to plunder." This is a violent word. The noun "wages" means a payment or recompense or reward. To "abide" means to lodge or to pass the night!

Now the meaning of our Leviticus verse is quite clear. Donít wrong your neighbor. Donít cheat on him in any way! And those whom you employ are to be paid immediately! In that day hired servants (especially poor ones) were to be paid daily! Remember Jesusí parable of the laborers in Matthew 20?

Now watch what James does with this great Leviticus text. "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." (James 5:4)

James is quite well known for preaching against sin. And thatís exactly what heís doing here. The businessmen of Jamesí day had hired employees ... allowed them to work ... then failed to pay them (or at least to pay them in full)!

The preacher here (James) is condemning wicked business practices!

And the interesting thing here may be how he handles the Leviticus text. He does not try to exegete it word for word ... but rather to glean the spirit and meaning of the verse and turn it into a sermon!

He is condemning unjust wages and broken contracts. And he is doing so bluntly!

He furthermore is drawing other Scripture into his total thought. For example, Deuteronomy 24:14-15. "Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: at his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee."

It also looks to me like James is trying to use the tool of "shame" to control the sinning wealthy employers. "Behold" (in Greek = "idou") means, Look! (And it is an imperative.) He is drawing the attention of the Christian community to the actions of the rich crooked bosses!

He also incidentally here preaches on the power of prayer. Especially the prayers of the poor and needy! God hears and answers them! He is their Protector! For example, "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." Psalm 68:5

And James even teaches a bit in his exposition! He uses one of Godís less known Names, Lord of the Sabaoth. This is the Name thatís usually translated "Lord of Hosts." It is Godís fighting Name, His army Name. These "hosts" are either armies of angels or armies of men, and God is The Commander! I believe that this particular Name of God is used when His people have become backslidden and need correction.

James sure got a lot of preaching out of one short Leviticus verse!

May preachers today do the same.

Pray for that preacher you love and appreciate. Ask God to make him a master at the exposition of the Word. YOU will benefit thereby!

Thatís why we all keep meeting on these Pages ... with open Bibles in our hands!

                                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

 

JUNE 1, 2004 (TUESDAY)

I learned this one day last week while flying to a meeting.  I don't know why I had not seen it before.

I am talking about the relationship between Leviticus 19 and the Epistle of James!

I am beginning to wonder if James' Epistle is perhaps a kind of New Testament "exposition" of the Leviticus Passage.

First let me show you the Leviticus text:

Leviticus 19:12-18

 12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.

15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.

17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

I do not know how familiar you are with James ... but just reading that Leviticus 19 paragraph reminds one of him and his preaching!

Today let's just take the first verse of the paragraph and study it.

LEVITICUS 19:12 --- "And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."

NOW JAMES 5:12 ---  "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."

I trust you see the similarities!

The Hebrew verb (used in Leviticus) for "swear" ("shaba") means "to seven oneself!" Literally, to say something seven times!  In the ancient mind, if a man said something seven times he would surely keep his word!

God in the Leviticus text forbids swearing falsely.  To promise something using God's Name (as a witness) would be the same as taking His dear Name in vain.  (Lying in God's Name!) 

The adverb "falsely" comes from a verbal root meaning to cheat or to lie!

To "profane" (in Hebrew "chalal") means "to bore" ... implying "to wound" or to injure!  In the King James Bible the word is translated as:  pollute, defile, break, wound, prostitute or stain! 

Now when James picks up the Leviticus verse he "expounds" it.  He elucidates it, throwing more and more light upon the intentions of Moses (and the Lord)!  He "exegetes" his text!  (To lead out the meaning from a passage!)

James attaches a sense of urgency to the command!  "Above all things, brethren!" This is a priority!  I searched for the string  "above all things" in Scripture.  Here's what I found: 

Jeremiah 17:9 --- "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

Ephesians 6:16 --- "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."

Colossians 3:14 --- "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."

1 Peter 4:8 --- "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."

3 John 2 --- "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

James is in pretty good "preaching" company, isn't he?

Also note that James, as "hard" a preacher as he is ... still injects a sense of love and tenderness here by saying --- "my brethren!"  (I find 15 times in James' short Epistle where he uses the word "brethren!"  Three more times if you count the singular --- "brother.")

The verb (in Greek = "omnuo") means to affirm or promise with an oath.

(I think not that God is here prohibiting all swearing as in a court of law or in a solemn situation!  God "swears" throughout Scripture.  For example in Hebrews 6:13 we're told:  "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself.")

It appears also that James is correcting a deceitful "loophole" that had grown up around this Levitical commandment.  Folks had quit swearing falsely in the Name of God ... and had started swearing falsely in the name of heaven ... or earth ... or the Caesar, or other people or things. 

Hey, folks!  To swear falsely is to sin no matter who or what you call into witness to your lying promises!  And it certainly "cheapens" God!

Now James hammers home the point of it all!  Speak the truth!  Let your YES really mean YES!  (The word means yes!  truly!  even so!  verily!)  Keep your word!  Don't speak in such a way that folks don't believe you ... that you have to make some kind of special promise to them!

Likewise if you say NO ... let it be NO!  The word means "not!"  (1,453 times in the Bible!)  God doesn't seem to mind saying the word (NO) a good bit! 

One Bible teacher believes that things had become so bad in the first century word that most folks placed an oath of some kind onto every statement they made.  If so, Jude seeks to stop that.

Just tell the truth!

That's "classical" Jude homiletics ... and hermeneutics!

"Lest" is so arranged in this sentence that it must mean "that not!"  In Greek it is "hina me!"  (In order that NOT ...!)  He is trying to help the people!  (Not condemn them!)

And that last word "condemnation" translates "hupokrisis," our very word hypocrite! James can't stand hypocrites!  Play actors!  "Put-ons!" 

In closing today let me make one more observation.  The Leviticus verse just gives a bare command.  The "facts" only!  James goes beyond that in his explanation of the Old Testament demand.  He applies the truth.  The "danger" --- you could fall into condemnation!  (James ... always wanting us to be better "doers" of the Word ... not "hearers" only!)

We have in today's verse a paradigm (a pattern) for Biblical preaching!

Be sure that wherever you go to church Sunday ... you do hear the unadulterated Word of God!  That's critically important!

We are thrilled that you came by again today ... with a Bible in your hand!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

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