Historically, how did God pull the Jewish people through this trial?
When it comes to God’s people and the topic of persecution, it is good to keep Isaiah 55:8-9 in mind:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
James is writing to the Jews in the diaspora, and many commentators believe his epistle is one of the earliest New Testament writings dated between AD 45-48. This would place James’ epistle within the context of Acts 8, which tells us, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (v. 1).
As we see throughout the New Testament, the Lord was to use the instrument of persecution to drive the church into all parts of the known world during that first century. Most of the apostles, including James, were martyred at the hands of the Roman officials, and the tension between Jews, Christians, and the Romans continued to increase with each passing year.
In AD 64 Rome itself burned and the emperor at that time, Nero, blamed the Christians for the devastating fire. Persecution of historic proportions followed. Both the apostles Peter and Paul were executed in the persecution following the burning of Rome.
This tumultuous decade culminated with the siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. The destruction of Jerusalem was not in response to Christian agitation, but was instead a response to an open rebellion by the Jews. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, commonly known as Herod’s Temple, was also destroyed, thus bringing to an end almost 500 years of temple worship in Jerusalem.
How did God pull the Jewish people through this trial? Clearly, God has his purposes and plans for our lives that are many times beyond our understanding. As we learned in our recent study of the Book of Job, while God allows the existence of evil in the world, He is not the author of evil. In fact, as we saw in Job, God is in fact restraining the natural evil intentions of mankind and of the Devil who is the author of evil.
The fact that there are representatives of all 12 tribes living today, and that God has restored Israel to the promised land, with Jerusalem as its capital is evidence of God’s ability to maintain a remnant for Himself and restore the Jews to the Land. Many theologians, including me, believe that God has set aside Israel as the focus of His presence on the earth today during this time when the earth is ruled by the gentile nations. There is coming a day, however, when God will rapture the Church and His focus will again be the people of Israel, not the church. The last days, referenced as the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” or “the day of the Lord,” are a uniquely Jewish experience in which Israel and the Jews are at the very center of the world’s attention, not the church.
How do you reconcile the issue of increasing immigration and movement of refugees during this time of Islamic terrorist aggression with this passage? Some say this is a matter of discrimination or partiality.
The issues surrounding refugees and immigration are complex with many factors and motivations to consider. We live in an age where global terrorism is a sad reality and, unfortunately, anxiety drives a great many people. We must pray for our elected leaders to have wisdom in these matters.
However, while we must take great care before evaluating the hearts of others, it does appear that some commit partiality when they subtly minimize the value God places upon each human being, including those who are hurting and in flight from oppression. Similar to the situation in James 2, Christians today can become comfortable with those who seemingly have it all together while fearing and neglecting those who have less to offer, such as impoverished immigrants. Believers must remember that refugees are also made in the image of God and many are brothers and sisters in Christ. We should see them and care from them as God sees and cares.
How do you feel we are oppressing people in today's time?
James speaks of the financial oppression in 2:6. I think the best contemporary example of this is when Christians either lose their job, their business or pay a fine because of their unwillingness to embrace same sex marriage. The bible clearly teaches that this type of sexual perversion is sin. There had been a lot of money spent to pass laws to make the biblical view on marriage and sexuality illegal and its only going to get worse unless the law is changed.