James 5:1

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! James 5:1

James now speaks in a manner similar to verse 4:13. There he said, “Come now, you who say…” Here he begins with, “Come now, you rich.” This is his way of calling to attention an error in thinking that needs to be corrected. In 4:13, it was to the boastful. Here, it is to the rich who trust that their riches mean they are in God’s favor, and/or that their riches will save them in the day of disaster. Both are decidedly errors in thinking. To show how true this is, he will continue with this thought until verse 5:6.

For those who are rich, he says, “weep and howl.” This is similar to what he has already said in verse 4:9, “Lament and mourn and weep!” James is showing that haughtiness in the Lord’s presence is unacceptable. As he later said, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” This is the same thought process that he will continue with here.

In this verse, the Greek more precisely reads, “weep, howling…” The thought is active and alive. The word translated as “weep” is the standard and common word signifying sobbing, or wailing aloud. However, the word for “howl” is used only here in Scripture, ololuzó. It is an onomatopoetic expression (the sound resembles what it signifies) which means to cry out audibly in order to express feelings which are too intense for mere words. One can think of the mid-eastern sound still made by Arabs today as they wail in agony or shriek for joy – olololololololo (or, ulululululululu).

James tells the rich to sob out and howl in this way because of “your miseries that are coming upon you!” For those who trust in riches, their end will be misery. This is a thought which echoes the words of the prophets. For example, Isaiah says of the coming judgment of Babylon –

“Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty.” Isiah 13:6

Ezekiel shows the folly of believing there is value in being wealthy when the judgment of the Lord comes –

“They will throw their silver into the streets,
And their gold will be like refuse;
Their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them
In the day of the wrath of the Lord;
They will not satisfy their souls,
Nor fill their stomachs,
Because it became their stumbling block of iniquity.” Ezekiel 7:19

Such imagery is found in numerous places in Scripture. This is now what James also begins to explain to those who are wealthy in the world, but who have not taken their state before the Lord into consideration.

Life application: One of the great mistakes of our society, and one from which Christians are not immune, is to make assumptions based on wealth:

1) God favors me because I’m rich.

2) I am important because I’m rich.

3) My wealth will save me during times of crisis.

On today’s TV, there are hosts of companies and commercials which speak of the security of gold. But when the ball drops and the economy collapses, that gold will be useless – just as it was in Ezekiel’s time.

What is the time of the Lord’s wrath? Read the terrifying words of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Such was the case for the Lord’s wrath upon Israel, and such will be the case on a worldwide scale someday. They are words so appalling that despite the gruesome horror of movies we may sit and watch, those shows can’t even compare to the reality of God’s wrath –

“The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, 57 her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.” Deuteronomy 28:56, 57

Horror lies ahead for those who fail to come to Christ and to be healed from their lives of sin. If you are trusting in wealth, gold and silver, or fancy objects, then your trust is in vain. Weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Instead, be secure in the joyous covering of Christ and in the hope of the rapture of the saints. Those left behind will face unimaginable sorrow.

Lord Jesus, may our souls delight in You alone. May our very lives be dedicated to You and Your service. And Lord, may our eyes never stray from Your glory to any lesser object – no, not even gold or gems. All wealth is perishing, and a trust in riches is vanity. But for those who place their trust in You, there is safety and life. Thank You for the hope of life that we possess because of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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