I was torn yesterday morning between believing, as I do, that throughout this last week the Spirit was guiding my preparations to preach from the letter of James, and, at the same time, desiring to say a word about the events of the last weekend within this nation – events centered in Charlottesville, VA – and what that says about our nation, and about other evils that have transpired throughout the world this last week, in places like North Korea, and what that says about this world.
And so, before turning to the letter of James, I briefly addressed these matters.
In our time together last Sunday morning, we spent quite a bit of time examining the book of Job and the book of Ecclesiastes – two of the books of wisdom found in the Old Testament. Not so much the proverbial wisdom of the book of Proverbs – meaning principles for wise living – but rather the contemplative wisdom that tries to respond to the brokenness of this world where things don’t go the way they should.
Tightly related to the contemplative wisdom of Job and Ecclesiastes are the songs of lament found throughout the Bible. Cries to God asking one of two questions: “Why, O Lord,” or, “How long, O Lord?”
Not, “Why have these things happened?” That’s not the question, for it’s evident why: the hearts of men and women are corrupt and full of evil (Gen 6:5) – the evil of pride and hate – hate for anyone who is different from yourself, thus exalting yourself in your own eyes.
Hate-filled pride – this is the root of racism, nationalism, and terrorism. The question is not, “Why have these things happened”, but, “Why, O Lord, have You allowed them to happen,” and, “How long, O Lord, will You allow this evil to continue?”
What answer do we find in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, or the songs of lament? God does not explain Himself. He instead draws our attention to the ways that He has already proven His wisdom, goodness, and power in the things He has made, and in the works of redemption that He has performed. He asks us to humbly trust Him.
In the letter of James, God offers us wisdom, if we will ask for it in faith. If we are willing to lay aside our complaints against the way that He is ruling this world, He will grant us the wisdom to see His proven character and to trust Him for what we cannot see and do not understand.
It is right for us to lament and to ask ,“Why, O Lord,” and, “How long, O Lord”, granted that we do so in faith, humbly submitting to His purposes for this world and asking for the wisdom to trust Him. Let us do so now.
Father, we cry out to you, with hearts burdened by the brokenness and the evil that surround us.
We yearn to know things that we cannot know – to know why, and how long.
Lord, help us to hold fast to what we do know: We know of your wisdom, your goodness, and your power, for you have proven these in sending your Son to live, to suffer, and to die in our place, so that undeserving sinners such as us may be forgiven our sins – though we deserve death.
Lord, grant us the wisdom to see you so clearly that we are then empowered and inclined to trust you for what we cannot see.
We plead with you, Lord, that the most vile, proud, and hate-filled men and women of this world would cease from their reign of terror and would be given new hearts transformed by your love, as our hearts have been transformed by your love. We pray that you would glorify yourself in their salvation, as you have glorified yourself in our salvation, and that you would spare others from any further suffering at their hands.
Lord, help us to see the ways that we can confront hate-filled pride wherever it may be found, especially if it be found in us.
Lord, by your Spirit, help this family of faith to be a beacon of light in the darkness – a picture and foretaste of the diverse gathering of the saints in heaven where people from every race and culture and nation and language will worship before the throne and before the Lamb forever (Rev 7:9).
In and for the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria,