Maintain Love and Justice

Scripture Focus: Hosea 12.6-9
6 But you must return to your God; 
maintain love and justice, 
and wait for your God always. 
7 The merchant uses dishonest scales 
and loves to defraud. 
8 Ephraim boasts, 
“I am very rich; I have become wealthy. 
With all my wealth they will not find in me 
any iniquity or sin.” 
9 “I have been the Lord your God 
ever since you came out of Egypt; 
I will make you live in tents again, 
as in the days of your appointed festivals. 

James 2.1
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

Psalm 82.2-4
2 “How long will you defend the unjust
    and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Reflection: Maintain Love and Justice
By John Tillman

Ephraim was another name for the people of Israel in Hosea’s time. They saw wealth as a shield, protecting them from being found guilty. They were correct. Wealth is a double shield.

The first shield is human assumptions about wealth. The prosperity gospel assumes that faithfulness and financial blessings are linked, but Christians didn’t create this idea. Human cultures have always considered wealth and power markers of divine favor even when they had no god other than greed and success. This skews the assumption of innocence in favor of the wealthy. From street cops to the Supreme Court, the benefit of wealth grants the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of the law.

Charles Spurgeon, discussing Psalm 82, challenged the magistrates of his day to enforce the law equally: “Do not hunt down the peasant for gathering a few sticks, and allow the gentlemanly swindler to break through the meshes of the law.”

The second part of wealth’s shield is that, whether innocent or guilty, the wealthy have great resources to defend themselves in legal matters. Some people and businesses are willing to pay millions to armies of lawyers to prevent paying compensation to even one victim of their carelessness, incompetence, negligence, or criminality. The cash they can spare. What they value is the illusion of righteousness.

It is not just modern people who notice one justice system for the poor and another for the rich. Hosea saw and condemned it. Ephraim saw and abused it. In their days, James (James 2.1-9; 5.1-6) and Charles Spurgeon saw and spoke against it. But more importantly, God saw then and sees now.

Ephraim expected to continue living in lavish luxury, protected by the shield of wealth—but God saw. God promised to return them to living in tents as wanderers and exiles—and God did. 

Let us pray that God would bring justice in our day to people, rich or poor, according to their ways and deeds. May God himself expose those who assume justice cannot penetrate their defenses. May we examine our own hearts and maintain love and justice. (Hosea 12.6)

Let us challenge those who swing the state’s sword of justice rashly and wildly at the poor, yet cautiously hesitate to prosecute claims against the powerful, prominent, and wealthy. Let us advocate for our legal system to live up to its written ideals of equal justice under the law.

We must. For God sees.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me. — Psalm 101.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Hosea 12 (Listen 1:51)
Matthew 15 (Listen 4:23)

Read more about A Way Back for Strivers
As Israel lied, deceived, and cheated his relatives
We have lied, deceived, and cheated our brothers and sisters.

Read more about Distrust of God and Fraud
It is the unbelief and contempt of heaven, which make men risk it for the poor commodities of this world.

The Patience of Job

Scripture Focus: James 5.11
11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Reflection: The Patience of Job
By Erin Newton

Some English versions use the phrase, “the patience of Job.” Really? If you remember the book of Job, patience is typically not the description you had in mind. The Old Testament story of Job reveals a man in the midst of great peril and distress. He lays out his petition before God, pleading for an answer, “Why me? What did I do to deserve such suffering?” Job’s words are tense and angry. He speaks openly through his pain and spares no words.

We can look at the end of Job’s story and see that God restores him once more. We might call that “patience,” but it looks very different than what we would expect.

There is another story of Job that you might not know. The Testament of Job is a Greek version of Job’s story and was not included in the Protestant Canon. This story emphasizes the patient, long-suffering nature of Job and includes a message from Job to his children to be patient, for “patience is better than anything.”

Both stories about Job reveal the essence of patience: keeping the faith. Despite the bitterness of Job’s words in the canonical book, he proclaims, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Patience turns hearsay faith into realized faith.

Patience has been a theme of James 5. Be patient like a farmer waiting for the Lord. Be patient in your interactions with one another. Be patient like the prophets who spoke of promises and days that they would not live to see.

What is patience? Patience is perseverance. Patience is the long and steady endurance of faith. Patience is waiting for God to answer your prayer. Patience is waiting for the healing of the sick. Patience is asking God to show a miracle and waiting years to see it happen.

The trials and struggles of life will test our perseverance. Our patience with ourselves, one another, and God will wear thin. We will speak angry words in our prayers and speak judgments on our neighbors. James understands the reality of the difficulty of patience.

James’ final words are a picture of patience that wanes during trials. When perseverance fails, a person wanders from the faith. James knows the amount of patience required for one to seek out their lost friend. Yet, we consider it a blessing to persevere for Christ and our neighbors.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 10 (Listen 4:11)
James 5 (Listen 3:01)

Read more about Job’s Christlikeness
Job is an early “type” or example of Jesus. He demonstrates or proves God’s righteousness through suffering and death.

Read more about Lamenting With Job
Lament is frequent and important in the Bible and should be in our lives as well.

To Whom We Draw Near

Scripture Focus: James 4.7-8
7…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you…

Reflection: To Whom We Draw Near
By John Tillman

The writing in James is tight, terse, and tense. Its short, pithy quotables, at first glance, seem disconnected from one another. But, just like in the book of Proverbs it is sometimes compared to, larger thoughts are developing and each thought shines a light on the next.

James copies the style of Proverbs often—writing a balanced statement of a good on one side, contrasted with its opposite. In James 4, his balanced statements help to contrast living as a “friend of the world” rather than a “friend of God.”

We want to be a friend of God and of the world too but James reminds us that is impossible. We are called to have a single love and to be faithful to God alone, satisfying ourselves in God and clinging to him to the exclusion of all others. If we maintain a polyamorous relationship that includes our worldly, fleshly desires, God, in response, will distance himself from us.

James calls this being double-minded rather than single-minded. Our conflicts, struggles, anger, and rage come from attempts to achieve our worldly desires—seeking wealth, seeking power, seeking pleasures. We want God’s blessings to spend on devilish pursuits. When we choose this, we are choosing enmity rather than friendship with God, war rather than peace.

We live on Earth which rightfully belongs to God, but  “the world” is the powers, systems, and spiritual forces that usurp God’s rule and authority. We are aliens and strangers in the world, not citizens. God does not acknowledge dual citizenship with a rebellious world. We cannot keep one foot in two kingdoms that are at war.

James recommends that we choose our enemies carefully, for when we choose our enemies, we are also choosing our friends. Choosing to be near to the world is choosing to be far from God. Resisting the devil will cause him to flee from us. Coming near to God will cause him to come near to us. The distance of the devil and the nearness of God are affected by our responses.

We must choose whom to resist and whom to draw close to. May we draw close to God and be safely kept in his hand. We need not fear having the world as an enemy when we have God as a friend.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 9 (Listen 3:20)
James 4 (Listen 2:25)

Read more about Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms
There are kingdoms of this world that are passing away. These earthly kings…ask us to shed others’ blood by endorsing, normalizing, or embracing violence.

Read more about Humble in Suffering
Keep our minds sharp and aware—awake to the dangers and threats of our enemy the devil. 

Praying for Rain

Scripture Focus: James 5.17-20
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

1 Kings 18.42b-45a
42 …Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 
43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. 
“There is nothing there,” he said. 
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” 
44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” 
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 
45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling…

Reflection: Praying for Rain
By John Tillman

Early last week, our area got rain after 67 long, hot days. Social media feeds overflowed with pictures and videos of people outside, standing in the rain, playing in their driveways, yards, and streets. The joy was tangible.

Relief from a hotter than normal summer was only one part of it. Practical concerns about water levels were not front of mind. The joy came from a recognition that rain is a blessing.

James connected the story of Elijah praying for rain to bringing back to the faith those who wandered from the truth.

Prior to praying for rain to fall, Elijah had prayed for fire. He was confronting Israel for wandering and wavering between two opinions—worshiping Baal or Yahweh. He challenged them to return to God and when they did, rain returned to the land after a long drought.

James also connected rain to blessings of growth—of crops coming up from the earth. Crops and harvest are gospel language. Metaphors of seed and planting and growth sprang up frequently in Jesus’ teaching. After speaking to the Samaritan woman and describing himself as bringing living water, Jesus told the disciples the fields were ripe for harvest. (John 4.35-39) Not just one woman, but an entire town turned to God.

Before the resurrection, James was among those brothers of Jesus who rejected him, (John 7.5) were offended by him (Mark 6.3), and thought him to be insane. (Mark 3.21) Jesus, after his resurrection, poured out the rain of living water which grew faith even in the hardened heart of his brother, James.

Many of us know of and pray for those who have rejected Jesus or wandered from the truth. We know offended and doubtful people like James. We know questioning people like the woman at the well. Our family members and friends need to feel the blessed rain of God’s grace, and we do too. For in the rain, Elijah was also rejuvenated. (1 Kings 18.46) And as James would testify, even the obstinate can be won over through the winsome winds of the Holy Spirit.

Elijah and James encourage us to keep planting seeds of truth in a drought and pray for rain.  Watch for clouds, even small ones, that show that God’s Spirit is moving and working. (1 Kings 18.43-44) When the rains come, they will be a refreshment for your spirit, even as they bring life to the seeds of the gospel you plant in faith now.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture; we will give you thanks forever and show forth your praise from age to age. — Psalm 79.13

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 9(Listen -4:38)
James 5(Listen – 3:01)

Read more about The Blandness of Hell
In Heaven, we are drawn closer to God…Hell is a place of self-exile…When Sartre said “Hell is other people,” he was too broad. Hell is our self alone.

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
We need to know your favorite posts from the past 12 months. Even if all you have to say is, “It blessed me,” share it with us and we’ll share it with others.

Law of Freedom

Scripture Focus: James 2.8, 12
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 1.25
25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Reflection: Law of Freedom
By John Tillman

We have positive and negative associations with the concept of “law.” Law brings judgment. But law provides justice. Law brings guilt. But law provides accountability. Law brings punishment. But law provides peace. Law brings retribution. But law provides restitution.

When first-century Jews spoke of “the Law,” they were not referring to the law of the land. Jews believed the laws of Rome and other city or regional governments they lived under were corrupt—even sinful. They lived their lives within and under these governments, however, they followed and appealed to a higher moral code from the scriptures. 

What we call the “Old Testament” is composed of “The Law,” “The Prophets,” and “The Writings,” which correspond to the Pentateuch, the prophets, and the wisdom books such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. However, “The Law,” often referred to the entire collection. The Law was more than a civil code. “The Law” implied the wisdom of God expressed through scripture.

James, the brother of Jesus, mentions “The Law” many times. It is unlikely that he meant only the sections of the Torah that contained rules and regulations. When he referred to the “Royal Law” he quoted not just Leviticus 19.18, but Jesus from Matthew 5.43. 

James seems to make an analogy between The Law he grew up reading and following and the “law that gives freedom.” Through this law that gives freedom, mercy will triumph over judgment. James describes ways this law frees us and the effects of that freedom.

Freed from sinful personal behavior, our lives should demonstrate that our faith has an effect on our actions. (James 2.14) Freed from greed and selfishness we should act on social concern for our neighbors, caring for the poor and standing against favoritism in all its forms. (James 2.3-4, 15-17) Freed from cultural relativism, we can live according to renewed inner values, loving all without fear, regardless of how the culture or governments respond. (James 2.22, 25-26)

Christian distinctiveness from the world is not merely in exterior behaviors but in our inner being. We may live under governments that are corrupt—even sinful. Our higher moral code is the law of freedom. This law Christians live by sets us free from something but it also sets us free to something. The freedom we have in Christ is that sins can no longer hold us back from what God calls us to do.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; Lord, be my helper. — Psalm 30.11

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 6(Listen -5:10)
James 2(Listen – 3:32)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 7(Listen -5:18)James 3(Listen – 2:38)
Jeremiah 8(Listen -3:52)James 4(Listen – 2:25)

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
Tell us your favorite post from the past 12 months. We’ll repost it in September.

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
While living in political freedom, the people of Israel and Judah became spiritually enslaved.