Good morning Summit Family!!!
This is the first daily devotion on the letter the apostle James sent to the churches dispersed throughout the world following the persecution that arose in Jerusalem. The Christian world was in panic at the time. Christians were either facing persecution in Jerusalem or they had fled to other parts of the world in an effort to escape persecution. One can imagine the uncertainty Christians were facing. It is possible many were being tempted to question if God had abandoned them. Their faith was certainly being tested! It seems only reasonable that James, believed to be the lead elder in the church at Jerusalem, would feel led to send them a word of encouragement. His message to his brothers and sisters in Christ is one that can also provide encouragement to us during our current world crisis.
The primary theme of the letter in a single word is FAITH. This short five-chapter letter provides a recipe for the growth and completeness of our faith in Jesus Christ. And so James begins: “James, A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” (v.1)
He could have easily began by stating: “James, the brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Being the half-brother of our Lord would have certainly elevated his position as a biblical authority. As brothers, James and Jesus would have spent their childhoods together. James would have been an eyewitness to the “life and times” of Jesus Christ. If James wanted this letter to be about him, he could have used his close connection with Jesus to elevate his position. He didn’t do that.
He begins by sharing two critical convictions. The first is that he is a servant of God. The second is that he acknowledges Jesus Christ as His lord. One can easily read those two statements failing to grasp the depth of James’s convictions. James’ first statement is that he is genuinely a servant of Christ. It is possible today that we have a very different perception of “servant” today. In our world, it is usually associated with one who chooses to serve, similar to a “server” at our favorite restaurant. In ancient times, a servant was at the complete availability of their master and their master had complete control over their lives. They were not free to come and go as they chose. A servant did not have the luxury of refusing any request from their master. That is in stark contrast to the freedom we exercise. Most of us celebrate the freedom to refuse to do anything we don’t want to do. James is saying that he is committed to serving God at the same level of obedience those in his world would have associated with being a slave. That is an incredible commitment of servanthood! Interestingly, the Greek word used in the opening verse of James for servant was “Doulos,” which means bond-servant. It was the same term used to describe Abraham, Jacob, Job, Moses, Caleb, David, Isaiah and Daniel. That is truly a list of some of scripture’s most faithful men!
The second thing James shares is that Jesus Christ is his Lord. In his society, the word “lord” had a different connotation than it does today. Today we struggle with those who use their position or power to “lord over us.” Such an attitude of superiority is more often than not negative in its delivery. In Hebraic times, the Hebrew word “Adon” was usually translated as “lord” and it applied to both God and man. Any man who held a higher position than another would frequently be addressed as “lord” out of respect. The “lord” was often responsible for providing protection and provision for those under his care. I don’t believe James was sharing this from a negative perspective. He has already shared that he is a servant of God. I believe James is sharing that he looks to the Lord to provide for and protect him. That would have been a message Christians across the world would have needed to be reminded of.
Hopefully, we know today that Jesus Christ will provide everything we need: “Andy my God will provide all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) The early Christians seemed to be convinced of that truth. In the Greek New Testament, the world “Lord” appears 740 times, always in reference to Jesus Christ. However, it seems the conditions of the world at that time were such that the possibility that some followers of Christ were having their faith shaken was great. James seemed led to remind them that God would provide protection as their Lord. Allow me to remind you that God will protect us: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad, let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (Psalm 5:11)
Now is a time for us to declare our commitment to be servants of Christ. Now is the time for us to declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Now is the time for us to look to Him for our provision and protection. Now is the time to be reminded that He is always faithful! “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
Stayed tuned! Tomorrow James is going to give us a reason to rejoice!
Have a blessed day!