Wednesday, February 12, 2014

James 1:19-20

 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The exhortation that the Apostle James gives us here is given against the backdrop of all that he previously stated. Both our going through various trials, and of needing wisdom while in them, and most recently of our being chosen by God to be the first fruits of His new creation through Christ. And so presented here is the kind of behavior that God is looking for in us, whether we are in times of trials, times of testing, or even times of "provocation." we are to be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." vs. 19-20

Thus we are to magnify the wisdom of God, the Word of God, through our conduct. Which here is exhorting us to first be "swift to hear." Which in the context of going through various trials is first and foremost hearing God. For it is God's counsel that is to direct our lives, during times of prosperity and times of difficulty. And so hearing (or discerning) God's "voice" is something that we all must learn to do. All which begins with rightly dividing God's Word (2 Tim 2:15). Now for this we have the Holy Spirit whom God has implanted within us who believe so that we are not to be dependent on others for rightly dividing His Word's truth for us (1 John 2:27). Instead we are to be dependent on the Lord, who by His Spirit illuminates His Word to us, and thus enlightens His Will for us. That said, a wise person will always receive Godly counsel, or a hear a Godly rebuke according to God's Word, and thus they will always be very attentive to hear a Godly person who expounds the Scriptures correctly to them (antithesis Prov 12:15). For God does indeed speak to us through Godly people. And so what is being expounded here is that we have a teachable spirit. That we are "swift to hear", rather than "swift to speak" which often shuts one out from hearing anything other then themselves. And so in being attentive to listen to God we are too receive from God the truths in His Word as He illuminates them to us directly, or though others preaching, teaching and or simply sharing them with us. And thus we are to be swift to hear His voice through them for us (Consider Mark 4:24). For in putting Jesus Christ's commandments into practice we will not only grow in His righteousness and likeness, but also in peace as well (Isaiah 48:18).

"slow to speak"
Being "slow to speak" is a discipline that does not come easy, especially during times of duress. Yet it is critical to living a peaceful and Godly life, and or being a Godly leader. The many proverbs warning about the perils of the tongue testify to that fact (Prov. 10:19; 13:2; 13:3; 18:20-21; 21:23 etc.). Therefore we must learn to be "slow to speak" during times of provocation and times of duress.
For truly "The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips." Prov. 16:23 Thus the wise person is careful with his words, he or she thinks before they speak (Prov. 15:28; 17:28-29). Equally they add learning to their lips, by growing in their knowledge of God. And thus learning what is acceptable in the sight of God and what is not. In contrast the fool is only known by his many words (Prov 15:2; 18:6, 7). None of which expound God's truth or righteousness or mercy or love. Instead the fools words are filled with pride, madness and folly, and thus only propagate sin on earth and or rebellion amongst mankind (consider Prov. 14:3; 16:27; 29:20; Ecc. 10:12-14). Therefore as God's children we are commanded not to follow their ways (Eph. 5:4). For truly only those like them eagerly feed on their nonsense (Prov 15:14; 17:4; Titus 3:9-11). And so, only in regards to Godly wisdom and counsel, or discernment and understanding, do they find themselves lacking for words (Prov 15:7; 23:9; 24:7; 26:7; 26:9). Therefore separating oneself (and or distinguishing ones behavior) from those who do not regard God's Word or heed His commandments is always a wise move (consider Psalm 85:8; Prov 10:14; 10:18; 11:9; 12:13; 13:16; 14:3; 14:7; 14:8; 14:18; 14:24; 14:29; 15:21; 17:12; 18:13; 26:4-5; 26:11; Ecc. 2:13; 10:1; Isaiah 9:17; 58:4; Titus 1:10-11; James 1:26). For truly being swift to hear is the antidote to the many evils that the tongue often unwittingly expounds; especially during times of duress (consider Psalm 39:1; Prov 10:19; 13:3; 21:23; Ecc. 9:17 etc.). And so being slow to speak will serve a person well if they learn that great and wise discipline. For even the great righteous man Job had to do battle with his tongue because of the unjust assailing done to him by his so called friends. And so as we see at end of it all even Job was in need of repentance, just as we all are, and sometimes are only made aware of by going through such unpleasant trials of life. Same with reducing escalating tensions, being swift to hear allows you time to compose yourself, as well as hear the other persons "points" which more than likely have some validity to them. And so being swift to hear often creates an opportunity for civil dialogue to take place, and thus possible peace to take hold. Though that is no guarantee, for contentious and angry people will always find something to rage about. But at least in maintaining your own composure you don't give Satan opportunity to strengthen his foothold in someone's life, or give him just grounds to assail your reputation through them, or anyone else. And so these principals apply to us all when witnessing for Jesus Christ; just as they do in our daily lives. For you can be passionate for Jesus Christ and His Gospel that brings life to all who repent and believe, without being reduced to publicly arguing with those whose hearts are already hardened, or whose minds are darkened. Same with standing for God's truth, one does not need to assail others verbally in the defense of it, which is only a disservice to it. All God's Word needs to is to be rightly and publically declared, for God always takes Providential care to defend His Word's truth (consider Prov. 1:20-33).  

"slow to wrath"
Again probably one of the hardest disciplines to master when one is passionate for the Lord and His Word in a world that simply isn't, and is sadly growing more and more hostile towards it (consider Isaiah 26:9). And so what the Apostle James has in mind here is not a prohibition against hating what God hates (consider Psalm 15:4; 97:10; Prov. 8:13; Hosea 9:17; Rom. 12:9; Eph. 4:26). It is though a prohibition against hating others, and or letting ones anger control oneself (Matt 5:43-48; Gal. 5:20; 1 John 2:9-11; 3:15; 4:20). For truly as God's Word says "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly." Prov. 14:29
And so given against the backdrop of believers going through various trials or persecutions, we are commanded here, and elsewhere, to put our wrath/anger away (consider Psalm 37:8-11; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). For truly wrath is not something God wants His children too harbor, or be quick to exemplify, even when faced with ongoing provocation. For not only does a quick temper intrude upon and or overthrow sound decision making (Prov 14:17), it is again the mark of the fool (Prov 14:16). And thus must be put away before one can even be considered for church oversight (Titus 1:7). For again as the Apostle James says "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God". For the wrath of man does not, nor can it equate with, the perfect understanding and infallibility of Almighty God, who alone is perfect in understanding and judgment. Thus in the Scriptures God's Wisdom is said to be found with him who is slow to anger, not with the one who is quick to exemplify it, and or is justifying his own (consider Prov. 12:16; 14:17; 14:29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11; 27:3; Ecc. 7:9 etc.). For in the Scriptures it is clear that though God is slow to wrath, often delaying His judgment in the hope of repentance (Rom 2:4), He never forsakes His Word, and world, to those of it (Prov 16:4; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; Rom 9:22). Hence the incumbency upon us all who believe in Jesus Christ is too exemplify the same sort of longsuffering disposition towards all (1 Thess. 5:9-11).
For though man may be the means by which God executes His just wrath on earth, just as He did through the Old Covenant Israelites, who were then commanded by Him too destroy the ungodly nations in the Promised Land, and or punish the transgressors amongst themselves (Psalm 149:5-9). As with the Old Covenant, in the New Covenant we must be very careful never to take this upon ourselves for the wrongs done to us, or others. For you will not find any Scriptural exhortations exonerating anyone who does so. And so throughout the Scriptures we see and read of God's Sovereign right and prerogative to execute His just wrath, only when He deems it time to do so (Deut. 32:39-43; Isaiah 13:11; 27:21; 34:8; 35:4; 59:16-20; Micah 5:15; Rom 12:19-21 etc.). And so in the Scriptures we also read of dutiful inquirers of the Lord, both asking for, and waiting on His verdict, rather then seeking to do this themselves (consider Psalm 7:6; 21:8-13; 37:8-11; 56:5-7; 58:1-11, vs. 10-11; 59:12-13; 69:19-28; 79:6; Psalm 94; Jer. 15:15; 20:12; Lam 3:58-66; Nahum 1:2-3; 2 Thess. 2:6-10, vs. 8; Rev. 19:1-5 etc.). That said we must put all these under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to whom all judgment belongs. For truly God has appointed all judgment too His Son (John 5:22-23, 27). Therefore our mandate given us by Him, because of what He has done by His crucifixion death for the salvation of everyone who believes in Him. Is that we be about the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-21). Seeking the reconciliation of all, both "good" and bad. For truly we are commanded by Him too pray not only for those we wish to be saved, but for all those who hate us and or persecute us as well (Matt 5:43-38). And thus we must wait on Him for His salvation (hopefully), or for His judgment on those who reject Him. And so as we read the Old Testament we also understand that God's judgment always begins with His own people then the nations around them. For truly judgment always begins at the house of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. " 1 Peter 4:17-19
And so given against the backdrop of believers going through various trials, we are commanded here and elsewhere to put our wrath/anger away from us, and let God work His Will and purposes in this world and in our lives.

Scripture Citations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

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