God’s Word for You
James 5:4 God of Armies
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 25, 2020
4 Behold, the wages of the workers who reaped your fields, which you refused to pay them, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Armies.
One kind of greed is to rely on one’s possessions in place of God (verses 1-3). Another kind of greed is to cheat people, including (and especially including) workers who were promised a wage and then got cheated out of it. James rises up like a prophet once again and proclaims that the wages themselves cry out against such a wicked man. And more than that, the cries of those cheated workers reach up to the ears of God, the Lord of Armies.
When a group of us were working on the Bible translation known today as the Evangelical Heritage Version, our chief editor, Dr. John Brug, encouraged us to follow a list of rubrics (standards for translating) so that the finished product would be more uniform. In other words, when a phrase or expression appears in one part of the Bible, we tried to be sure that it would be translated in a similar way all throughout the Bible wherever this was possible or appropriate. One of the earliest of these was Rubric 64: “Adonai Sebaoth is Lord of Armies.” While “Almighty” is often used in translations, “armies” is really the meaning of the word sebaoth. The imagery is that God commands many millions of angels who fight invisible battles in his name against the demons (Psalm 91:11, 148:2; Revelation 12:7). Although the battles are invisible, they aren’t imaginary. They are very real. This makes James’ threat more potent. Those who rebel and sin against God are aligning themselves not merely against some Kindly Creator, mighty in the sense of making the grass and the trees and the little fishes and the butterflies we catch with our bare hands, but rather the God and Commander of Armies, vengeful and wrathful against those who reject his holy Name.
This is the same God who has rescued you from your sins. He and his armies of angels are on your side, battling for your sake every day against the temptations and tempters who attack you. But long ago that battle was already won. God sent his Son Jesus to pay the ransom for your debt of sin. This is the victory of Christ over sin:
1, We sinners have been declared to be forgiven by God. By his grace alone he declares human beings who have fallen under the sentence of eternal punishment on account of their sins to be not guilty of those sins and to be righteous for the sake of Jesus Christ. This is without any merit or action on the part of the sinner, “for a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).
2, The essence of this justification is this: The righteousness (perfection and holiness) of Jesus Christ is imputed to the sinner. His value is assigned to us by God. “You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us… our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
3, This justification is offered by God through Word and sacraments. It is received by the sinner through faith. The inheritance of Christ depends upon the promise: “God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (Galatians 3:18), and it is received by faith: “No one is justified before God by the law, because ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11). This can be illustrated by medicine, or by a sailing ship. The Word and sacraments carry God’s grace to the sinner the way that medicine is carried into the arm of a patient through an I.V. line (or nourishment through a J-tube or any other feeding tube). The food or medicine is the Gospel, and faith is the tube that receives. Or we can think of a ship. The Gospel is the wind God sends, and faith is the sail that the wind fills to drive the vessel forward.
4, God offers this salvation through justification to all who trust in him and have faith in him. Since God offers this through his Word, the forgiven sinner should be certain of this always. He never needs to doubt. “Through him, everyone who believes is justified” (Acts 13:39).
James has shown us, like a good coach, that while we are saved through faith alone, our faith is in fact never alone. Bless God with your thanks and service today. Share your love of Christ as you share your love and your life with the people around you. And if you have workers who earned a wage, pay them without holding back, because the God of Armies blesses us without holding anything back.
Just as I am without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God I come, I come.
Just as I am, thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. (Christian Worship 397:1,5)
Pastor Timothy Smith