Life-Study of Jamesby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 5:1-11. Verses1 through 6 may be regarded as a parenthetical section, and this section may be addressed, according to its contents, to the rich class among the Jews in general, since James regarded his recipients as the twelve tribes of the Jews (1:1). In 5:1 James says to the rich, “Come now, you rich, weep, howling over your miseries which are coming upon you!”
In verses 2 and 3 James says of the rich that their riches have rotted, their garments have become moth-eaten, their gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be a testimony against them and eat their flesh like fire. Then in verse 4 he goes on to say, “Behold, the wages of the workmen who mowed your fields, which has been withheld by you, cries out, and the cries of those who reaped, have entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts.” As in Romans 9:29, “Lord of hosts” is the equivalent of the divine title in Hebrew, Jehovah-Sabaoth, which means Jehovah of hosts, Jehovah of armies (1 Sam. 1:3). Such a title bears a Jewish character, color, tone, and flavor. This is a further confirmation of the fact that James still cared very much for Jewish things.
In verse 5 James goes on to say, “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and lived in self-indulgence; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” Here “fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter” indicates that they satiated their gluttonous desire in indulgence, even in a day of slaughter (Jer. 12:3), that is, in a day of judgment, when they were to be slaughtered as animals by God’s judgment. This implies that they were in a stupor, unaware of their coming miseries, their miserable destiny (5:1).
In verse 6 James says, “You condemned, you murdered the righteous; he does not resist you.” In this verse “the righteous” is in the collective singular with the article used for the class. It does not refer directly to any individual, but pictures the death of the Lord Jesus, who is the Righteous (Acts 7:52; 3:14).
It is difficult to say to whom 5:1-6 is addressed. There is some disagreement among Bible teachers concerning this point. It is rather certain that these verses were not addressed merely to believers. I believe that 5:1-6 is addressed to the Jewish people in a general way.
This understanding is confirmed by the fact that according to 1:1, this Epistle is addressed to “the twelve tribes in the dispersion.” James’ concept probably was that the Jewish believers were to be regarded as still among the Jewish people. Therefore, he addressed his Epistle to the Jewish believers but also to all the Jews. This may help us to understand why James addressed this Epistle to the twelve tribes.
If the Epistle of James is addressed both to Jewish believers and to Jewish people in general, this may help us understand what James says in chapter four about wars, fightings, and murder (vv. 1-2). Among the Jews there probably were fightings and even murders. This may mean that in 4:1-2 James speaks concerning fightings among the Jews that originated with their lusts.
As a whole, James’ writing is somewhat ambiguous. Because he was under the thick cloud of Judaic concepts, his view was not clear. Furthermore, at least to some extent James was sympathetic with Judaism. On the one hand, his Epistle touches New Testament concepts; on the other hand, in this Epistle James still keeps certain Old Testament concepts. Hence, his writing is a mixture. As we have pointed out, the title Lord of hosts in 5:4 points to the Jewish character of this book.
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