The Book of James: The mercy and grace of Sabbath rest.
length: 85:27 - taught on Mar, 5 2023
Suday March 5, 2023
Title: The Book of James: The mercy and grace of Sabbath rest.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
The rich, the influential, walk into the church and they are fawned over. Why do we do this? Do we admire them? Are we jealous? Do they just feel more important to us? Does the pastor court them in the hope of a big donation, maybe even to himself personally?
Standing right behind the rich man is the homeless guy off the street. He’s dirty, smells, probably owns nothing but the clothes on his back. What is he here for? Do we assume he’s here to take something, perhaps even steal from the church? “I pray he doesn’t sit next to me.” Do we see him as a lesser human being? Is he less worthy of redemption, of the kingdom of God than the wealthy?
Here on earth, we can find ourselves being shortsighted. Shortsighted means that heaven has not come into my purview. But, right at the start of this paragraph, James points our gaze towards heaven.
Think to yourself; could you imagine Jesus fawning over a rich person and ignoring the needs of a poor man?
“glorious Lord Jesus” - Jesus’ origin and abode is heaven where the kingdom of God is pure holiness.
A place of infinite mercy and grace.
Why is this important to us? Remember the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Your earthly existence, the heart that is in you, the invisible one that comprises and identifies you and affirms who you are, is to be formed according to the pattern of heaven.
Our Lord Jesus, our Savior, our Brother, our destiny, is heavenly. Paul’s favorite designation for the believer is “in Christ.” He is ours and we are His. He is our identity, our affirmation, our entire worth.
Such a splendid origin for Christ makes any kind of earthly wealth and glory appear drab and worthless by comparison.
What really was the Sabbath? A day off? A time to do nothing? It was to be a rest. Rest doesn’t mean to do nothing. All of us know that we could be doing nothing and not be at rest - where our souls are stressed and burdened.
The theme of the Sabbath is blessing in God’s kingdom by grace.
Given to Israel, the Sabbath was more than a mere token, but was a sign of the entire covenant that God had made with them. The day was not just rest, but was to be made holy, which reveals its greater purpose. It was also prophetic. It promised the restored rest that the fall had lost, which is the fulfillment of the covenant and becomes the basis for the promise
The promised land, as if it were a replica of Eden, was repeatedly connected with God’s rest for His own. The Israelites in the wilderness were prevented from entering God’s rest because of rebellion and unbelief.
"For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 "Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest."
This truly gets to the heart of James’ theme, but in our paragraph today on our love of others and our grace and mercy toward them no matter what possessions they have. Without heaven’s glory as our attitude toward all others, we also will not enter God’s rest.
It’s a long walk back to the Garden of Eden. It’s not an option any more. But God has provided something far better - heaven itself. And through our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we have heaven in ourselves now. Now, we can enter God’s rest, even if we were the poorest person alive.
Spiritual rest (Sabbath) is obedience to God, being a witness of faith (the faith), live in the hope of the promises of rest both now and in eternity.
"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." [new covenant]
This line is actually the prophetic aspect of the Sabbath.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
So often, the rich whom they fawned over protected their wealth with tooth and claw. Put any of their wealth in jeopardy and you’re likely to end up in court. James is opening their eyes to reality. Heaven is not like this.
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Heading up the hill of the Sabbath, we leave the weekly Sabbath and come to the Sabbath Year.
Sabbath Year: Sharing all things in common.
No sowing or reaping.
Our unfamiliarity with the practice leads us to think that it’s just a year of doing nothing. Doing nothing is not good for the soul. And, it is not rest. Rest is God’s glory, remember. Rest is being surrounded by God’s glory. They didn’t plant or harvest and all debts were forgiven and the slaves emancipated (if they choose to leave … they could choose to stay and become bond-servants). And realize, they still all had to eat and thrive and exist with one another in society. This meant that the rich got a little poorer and the poor got a little richer and, if all were to thrive (and that was to be your goal - not just getting by), all had to share all things in common.
The whole country became one vast common, open to all people and animals, which was especially appreciated by the poor and the stranger. There was to be no partiality within Israel.
The Sabbath Year also had the benefit of hope.
Hope of future relief. No matter how much labor loomed over you, there would be relief.
You do not despair. Great picture of our current life - faith leading to hope that God would fulfill His covenant promises.
[Communion] The Day of Atonement during the Jubilee, the ram’s horn was sounded throughout the land. That would be an ultimate Day. Atonement was the ultimate festival for the work of Christ on the cross and Jubilee was the ultimate release of all captivity and debt.
Jubilee means nothing if it is just an observance. Without atonement, no one is set free.
Put yourself there [close your eyes]. Imagine yourself a slave for the last 6 years, working off debt through 14 hour days of back breaking physical labor; knowing that your family home was sold off long ago. You own nothing, you have no status, you have no social standing, you are the poorest and least respected … and then, the day comes. Imagine yourself the day before Jubilee anticipating the sound of the horn. You probably hear it before it sounds. And when it sounds, your whole life is restored to you; family, property and all.
And then, some months later, while you work your own fields and sleep in your own house, the Day of Atonement comes. The one day in 50 years that the ram’s horn is blown throughout the land, proclaiming liberty to the captives. Why did you get your land back?
So too it is because of the death of Christ that the gospel has come to all sinful humanity to proclaim its tidings of good and wealth of salvation; that spiritual blessings are inherited by the believer; that the church will enjoy the sabbatic glory of rest and release in the world to come; and that the eternal jubilee will make all things new, especially a completely new social order of freedom and bless. In light of this, what is the value of the current social order? It is comprised of all the evils that God removed, if He was obeyed, in Israel every 50 years - debt, slavery, destitution, and exhausting toil.
By Christ giving His life, He has given us the Jubilee of the future in eternity and He has given us the spiritual reality of Jubilee in our hearts right now. If you possess the very glory of Christ, and if you are a believer, you do, then there is nothing in this life, including physical death, that should frighten you, and every good thing in this life, up to exceeding joy, should be experienced in Christ. Still, there is a reason for the Book of James and the rest of Scripture - our hearts have to be changed at their core. No superficial facades or forms of godliness. It has to be lived, and if we don’t go for it all - giving our whole life to God as Christ gave for us, then we will fail to see it in this life. If you haven’t yet committed, you are forgiven; your life is remitted to you; you have a fresh start. Confess, repent, and till your land again. Find the treasure that is buried there. When you get a glimpse of it you will give all you have to fully dig it up. You need faith that is true, but it need only be tiny, like a little mustard seed. Plant the seed in the right soil and know with hope that it will grow to a mature tree that lives every day like the Jubilee.
the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.