It’s in the small changes, the tiniest acts of tishuvah (returning, repenting) that the wider body is ignited unto righteousness in Messiah.
After posting our intention to teach the Book of Yaakov at Beiyt Melekh I received comments like “sounds interesting”, “Is this an apocryphal book?”, and “I don’t see this book in my Bible, why are you teaching this extra-Biblical book?” etc.
One of the tragedies of English translational tradition is that many modern English readers of the HaBrit HaChadashah (New Testament) are unable to see in the name of the Book of James (Yaakov) a connection to this very Hebrew, even ethnically and religiously specific book. This is of course allayed by the opening verses, however, even the opening address has proven incomprehensible to some scholars and church fathers who try to explain away the ethnic, religious specificity of the opening phrasing, and instead apply it to the Gentile Church.
James is the Anglicized form of Iakobos, which is a transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew Yaakov, the English equivalent being Jacob. It’s likely that as is the case with other New Testament names shared in common with TaNaKh (OT) characters, the English translators were attempting to prevent confusion between historical figures separated by time but equally important in the metanarrative of Scripture. Put simply, they wanted to avoid confusion between the Jacob of the Old Testament and Jacob the brother of Yeshua (Jesus). However, the confusion and disconnect that has resulted through the modification of names far out ways any perceived benefit in the attempt to mitigate mistaken identities between the covenants (Old and New). The line of a country song by Lyle Lovett comes to mind, “She wasn’t good, she just had good intentions…”
I ask the reader (listener) to take a moment to consider how from the inception of the English translation of the Bible, the correct English equivalent naming of this New Testament book might have prevented a number of the misunderstandings the modern reader indulges based on the Anglicized title. This is also true of name modifications in other New Testament books. For example, using Jesus in place of Joshua, Jude in place of Judah and so on.
Simple and intrinsic common ground is found instantaneously when we read the title of the present book of study as “Jacob”. We think straight away of the patriarch Jacob who became Israel and of his 12 sons who became the collective people of Israel, and of their descendants who remain to this day. We think of Jacob the brother of our King Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and of his role in leading the early body of believers. And if we think these things our spirit is stirred to behold the continuity of the redemptive metanarrative of Scripture and of the fact that God has never forsaken His covenant agreement to redeem the Jewish people in the King Messiah Yeshua. Nor has He abandoned us to an un-discipled future. We are therefore blessed by the correct naming of the book because even before we read it, we are afforded insight into its greater meaning.
On the other hand, if we read the title of this book as “James”, we have already failed to understand one of the key themes of the writing contained within it. We may well glean basic spiritual principles but we glean them devoid of the foundation upon which they are articulated. Thank God that by His Spirit in Messiah He is come to purify the bride of Messiah in our days and to reconcile us in righteousness, both Jew and non-Jew. It’s in the small changes, the tiniest acts of tishuvah (returning, repenting) that the wider body is ignited unto righteousness in Messiah.
The Human Writer:
It seems clear, beyond reasonable doubt that the human writer or dictator of the book of Yaakov was Yaakov (James) the brother of Yeshua (Jesus) [Matt. 13:55; John 7:2-5; 1 Co. 15:7; Gal. 1:19, 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18; Jude 1:1]. Yaakov either wrote the text himself or in the tradition of ancient Scripture, dictated it to a scribe (this latter option puts death any issues over the high form of Greek used).
The text is dated approximately 48 to 60 CE. Yaakov would have written it before his death in 62 CE (Ant. 20.9.1; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 2:23).
Those who claim that Yaakov could not have written this work because of its high Greek expression, and his lowly Galilean upbringing, are unable to overcome the following obstacles: Four men in the New Testament have the name Yaakov (James). The author of this letter couldn’t have been the apostle Yaakov, who died too early to be its author in 44 CE. Nor could the remaining two men have authored the work due to their stature and unnamed influence in the early body of believers, given the author confidently names himself presuming that he is known by believers throughout the known world of the time.
In defense of Yaakov’s Galilean upbringing, it is ludicrous to presume that he was uneducated simply because he was from a rural area. Those scholars who make this claim are committing the same sin of hubris attributed to certain members of the first century religious leaders of Jerusalem. They neglect to consider that by making this assertion concerning Yaakov, they are by inference also making the same assertion in regard to Yaakov’s brother Yeshua.
Yaakov was one of several brothers of Yeshua and likely the eldest of Yeshua’s younger brothers (Matt. 13:55). Initially Yaakov did not place his belief in Yeshua and even challenged Him, misunderstanding Yeshua’s person and mission (John 7:2-5). However, Yaakov later became an important leader of the early body of Messianic Jews:
It’s not just wrong to conclude that this work was initially written to Gentile Christians, it’s antisemitism. The writer makes clear that the work is written to “The twelve tribes of Israel dispersed abroad” (Yaakov 1:1). Furthermore, the Hebraisms employed by the writer firmly establish its intended recipients as a believing Jewish audience. The Greek equivalent Hebrew title for God “Kyrios Sabaoth”, meaning “YHVH Almighty” is used, as are numerous Hebraic idioms, mashaliym (parables), and rabbinical teaching techniques such as derashot (comparative teachings) etc.
While it’s true that the spiritual principles of the work can be applied by all believers, it’s nonetheless clear that believing Jews were the intended first recipients. We add to this the understanding that not only was this letter written to believing Jews throughout the known world, but more specifically therefore, to believing Jews throughout the various localized bodies of believers within the Ecclesia who were at that time spread throughout the known world. In other words, when the work was distributed, it was given to various believing communities of Jews and Gentiles but was addressed specifically to the Jewish believers among them. In the modern “Church” this would be considered “non-inclusive, not nice, divisive”, and yet here we have a work inspired by the Holy Spirit that had a very specific purpose in strengthening the early Jewish believers within the wider body, which by that time was becoming predominantly Gentile.
It's interesting to note that the early fathers of the faith chose to place the two books specifically written to Hebrew believers one after the other in the New Testament Canon (Hebrews and Yaakov).
My translation is a convergent one which uses the three primary languages of the New Testament: Greek (oldest manuscripts), Aramaic (next oldest manuscripts), and Hebrew (a relatively modern translation made from the Greek text). All three primary languages are intended to be understood from a Jewish religious-cultural perspective given that the human writers of the New Testament, including Luke, are clearly Jewish, just as the human writers of the TaNaKh (OT) in its entirety, are Jewish.
God chose to reveal His Word through the people of Israel, ethnic, religious, empirical. This requires humility, both for Israel and for those Gentiles who have received God’s gift of salvation and discipleship in the King Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), Redeemer of Israel and Savior to the nations.
In presenting the combined meaning of these three languages my goal is to show that our trust is in the inerrant Creator and His Spirit, Who inspires the text, and not in language or human writers. To make the claim that language (any language, including Hebrew) is authoritative or superior in and of itself is to practice idolatry. Scripture is inerrant because God is inerrant. Even the perceived scribal errors so often pointed out by scholars, are subject to God’s order and are therefore inspired. There is no scribal error in the original texts that does not affirm and or illuminate the plain meaning. Therefore, we trust YHVH and acknowledge that all things are subject to Him.
[G] = Greek
[A] = Aramaic (added when it differs from or illuminates the Greek and Hebrew texts)
[H] = Hebrew
Yaakov 1:1-15 (Author’s convergent translation from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew)
1 Yaakov, a bond servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua Messiah, to the twelve tribes which are dispersed abroad among the peoples, rejoice in peace. 2 Count it all, individually and collectively, transcendent joy, brothers and sisters of mine whenever trials continue to fall on you in a variety of ways, derivations, uncertainties, 3 knowing absolutely that the proving of you all in the faith, belief, trust, assurance, is being performed, fully worked out, producing cheerful, continuing patience, endurance. 4 And let the cheerful endurance, patience work to perfect, complete, construct well, have result, echo in you in order that you may be brought to the perpetual goal, perfection, completion, being well-constructed, and made whole, innocent, lacking in nothing, [Hebrew alt. not lacking in all word, essence, substance]. 5 But if certain ones of you leave behind wisdom, let him ask being near in proximity from God, the giver to all individually and collectively abundantly, liberally, generously and without reproach, defamation, chiding, bearing His teeth, deceit; and words, things, essences, substances will be given to that person. 6 Also he must ask earnestly in faith, trust, having been persuaded, without even one doubt, differing, contention, for the doubting, differing, contending one is like the surging wave of the sea, agitated and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person should not expect that he will receive anything, word, essence, substance from the Lord, 8 Such a person is two-spirited [double minded], unstable, inconstant, restless in all, [individual and collective] his ways, roads, paths. 9 Now the brother or sister who is low, depressed, humble, cast down is to rejoice, praise in his elevated position; 10 and the wealthy person in his lowly, humble, depressed, cast down position because like a flowering garden he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its burning heat and dries up the garden and its flowers drop off and the beauty [grace] of its face perishes; in this way also the wealthy person, in the midst of his pursuits, will be extinguished. 12 Blessed, happy is a person who patiently endures under proofing, trial; for once he has been accepted, he will receive the crown, moulded wreath of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him entirely. 13 No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, that which is worthless, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is under his own lustful desires being dragged away and entrapped. 15 Then when the lusting has conceived, it gives birth to sin, missing the mark set by God’s holiness; and sin, when it reaches its goal, brings forth the specific death.
Yaakov 1:1-15 (Line upon line)
1 Yaakov[H] (follower), a bond servant (doulos[G], eved[H]) of God (Theos[G], Elohiym[H]) and of the Lord (kurios[G], Adoneiynu[H]) Yeshua[H] (YHVH is Salvation, Jesus) Mashiyach[H] (Christos[G], Messiah, anointed one), to the twelve off shoots, tribes (phule[G], hashevatiym[H]) which are dispersed abroad among the peoples (diaspora[G], b’am’me[A], shebagolah[H]), rejoice in peace (chairo[G], s’lam[A], lish'lom[H]).
1 Yaakov, a bond servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua Messiah, to the twelve tribes which are dispersed abroad among the peoples, rejoice in peace.
The writer names himself confidently, aware that he is known to the wider body of believers as both a leader of the Jerusalem council and the brother of Yeshua. Yaakov humbles himself as a “Servant who has bound himself willingly” to God and to “the LORD Yeshua the Messiah”.
For Yaakov the brother of Yeshua this is a confession based on repentance , he has turned from his disbelief in Yeshua and has decided to submit to his older brother Yeshua’s person as both man and God with us, the promised King Messiah of Israel. Not only had Yaakov overcome familial pride of place as the next brother in line to the rule of his earthly family, he had also come to acknowledge that Yeshua is the manifest Word Essence and Substance (ha Davar emet) of God.
Yaakov writes to his Jewish brothers and sisters dispersed throughout the known world and among the various bodies of believers in numerous cities and towns.
We note that the great Rabbi Gamaliel, teacher of Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) [Acts 22:3] opens his epistle, which is recorded in the Talmud Bavliy in a similar way, writing:
“To our brothers, inhabitants of the dispersion… great be your peace always.” -Rav Gamaliel, Talmud Bavliy, Sanhedrin 11.b
Yaakov’s letter is specifically written to the “twelve tribes of Jacob (Israel) dispersed abroad among the Gentiles”. To say as some do, that the “twelve tribes of Israel” referred to by Yaakov are a reference to the Church, is to perpetuate the antisemitic and satanic lie of Successionist (Replacement) Theology. To you who say this, I say “Repent before it’s too late!”
The conclusion to Yaakov’s greeting in Greek is not “greetings” as many mistranslate, but “rejoice!” The conclusion in both Aramaic and Hebrew is S’lam & Shalom, “peace, wholeness, wellbeing!” Working together the inspired languages remind the early Jewish believers to “rejoice in the peace, wholeness and well-being of the Prince of peace, wholeness and well-being.” Later in the text (v.4) the “well-constructed” nature of God’s peace is again alluded to.
2 Count (hēgeomai[G]) it all, individually and collectively (pas[G]), transcendent joy (chara[G], lesimchah[H]), brothers and sisters (adelphos[G], echay[H]) of mine (mou[G]), whenever (hotan[G]) trials (peirasmos[G]) continue to fall on you (peripiptō[G]) in a variety of ways, derivations, uncertainties (poikilos[G]), 3 knowing absolutely (ginōskō[G], sheyod’iym[H]) that the proving (dokimion[G]) of you all (humōn[G]) in the faith, belief, trust, assurance (ho pistis[G], emunat’chem[H]), is being performed, fully worked out, producing (katergazomai[G], liydeiy[H]) cheerful, continuing patience, endurance (hupomonē[G], savlanut[H]).
2 Count it all, individually and collectively, transcendent joy, brothers and sisters of mine whenever trials continue to fall on you in a variety of ways, derivations, uncertainties, 3 knowing absolutely that the proving of you all in the faith, belief, trust, assurance, is being performed, fully worked out, producing cheerful, continuing patience, endurance.
Yaakov tasks his fellow Jewish believers with numbering all their individual and collective experiences as transcendent joy in Messiah. Even their experiences of trial, in the many forms that trials come. These opening verses (v.2-3) address the trials of life in general as well as those trials faced by Jewish Messiah followers in particular. Whereas the latter verses which use the same Greek root refer to moral trials, specifically temptation to sin (v.13-15).
In the counting of, paying close attention to, numbering, contemplating how God is outworking His perfect purposes in trials, the Jewish believers both individually and collectively are affirmed in “Knowing absolutely”. That is, having accepted the King Messiah, they have dispensed with the doubt of disbelief and view their trials as evidence of God’s redemptive purposes at work in their lives. This knowledge, which transcends mental prowess and is centred in the lev (core being), produces enduring patience because the Spirit of Messiah in them bears the fruit of limitless patience (1 Tim. 1:16).
We note that there is an order to the maturing of the believer. Focusing on the person of Messiah in God precedes all else. Once focused we are able to see Messiah at work in all things and in all circumstances the evidence of God’s purposes becomes clear both within and beyond this fallen world. The unity of trust in Messiah and evidence in circumstances produces the fruit of cheerful and patient endurance.
4 And let the cheerful endurance, patience (ho de hupomonē[G], vehasavlanut[H]) work (ergon[G]) to perfect, complete, construct well, have result, echo in you (teleios, echo[G], sheleimah[H]) in order that (hina[G]) you may be (es[G]) brought to the perpetual goal, perfection, completion, being well-constructed, (teleios[G], sheleimiym[H]) and made whole, innocent (holoklēros[G], utemiymiym[H]), lacking in nothing, [Hebrew alt. not lacking in all word, essence, substance] (en mēdeis leipō[G], kol-davar[H]).
4 And let the cheerful endurance, patience work to perfect, complete, construct well, have result, echo in you in order that you may be brought to the perpetual goal, perfection, completion, being well-constructed, and made whole, innocent, lacking in nothing, [Hebrew alt. not lacking in all word, essence, substance].
The perfecting or completing of the patient endurance of the believer is said to be a perpetual action within time and space that echoes so as to be heard, witnessed, received by others and results in a rhythm of wholeness within the believer.
The work of the Holy Spirit in us causes us to become well-constructed where we were in disarray and falling apart. He repairs and makes whole that which was damaged in us and returns us to innocence. We enter into a lifestyle that transcends this world while walking in it. We find that when others see us as lacking a great deal, we are in fact lacking nothing.
Those who have Messiah Yeshua and are reconciled to God through His blood have received their role as sons and daughters of the King of the universe and are therefore heirs to all things in God. If then we have access to everything in God, we lack nothing.
We note that the ancient Aramaic affirms what the Hebrew says “not lacking in all word, essence, substance (kol-davar)”. The Hebrew text is saying that having been redeemed by God through Yeshua we do not lack Yeshua, Who is the Davar, Word, Essence, Substance by which all creation is held together, in Whom all things exist and have their being (John 1; Col. 1:16-17). Therefore, it’s because we do not lack Yeshua that we are able to patiently endure in innocence.
5 But if certain ones (tis[G], veiysh[H]) of you leave behind (leipō[G]) wisdom (sophia[G], chochmah[H]), let him ask (aiteō[G]) being near in proximity (para[G]) from God (Theos[G], meiElohiym[H]), the giver (ho didōmi[G], ha-notein[H]) to all individually and collectively (pas[G], lakol[H]) abundantly, liberally, generously (haplōs[G], bin’diyvah[H]) and without reproach, defamation, chiding, bearing His teeth, deceit (oneidezō[G], hona’at[H]); and words, things, essences, substances (devariym[H]) will be given (didōmi[G], vetinatein[H]) to that person (autos[G], lo[H]).
5 But if certain ones of you leave behind wisdom, let him ask being near in proximity from God, the giver to all individually and collectively abundantly, liberally, generously and without reproach, defamation, chiding, bearing His teeth, deceit; and words, things, essences, substances will be given to that person.
We note that godly wisdom is essential. Not the wisdom of intellectual learning or that gleaned from life experiences, but the wisdom that emanates from God’s Spirit at work in us.
This verse is directed at certain ones among the Jewish believers who lack such wisdom. The advice given is that in faith they should request the divine gift of wisdom from God, Who is eager to give such wisdom to His beloved children. They need not be afraid that God their Father will bear His teeth at them for asking or deceive them, because it is not in His character to do so. Thus, they can ask with confidence in Messiah for the wisdom present at the creation of the world in the mouth of the Word Essence Yeshua (Prov. 8:1-4, 22-31).
We note that it is the words, essences, substances (devariym, pl. of davar [logos]) that God gives to the one who asks. Simply put, God will give the one who asks the manifest words of Yeshua, from Whom wisdom comes.
“15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, so that He may be with you forever; 17 the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” -John 14:15-17 NASB
6 Also (de[G]) he must ask earnestly (aiteō[G]) in faith, trust, having been persuaded (pistis[G], be’emunah[H]), without even one (mēdeis[G]) doubt, differing, contention (diakrinō[G], safeik[H]), for the doubting, differing, contending one (diakrinō[G], safeik[H]) is like (eikō[G]) the surging wave (kludōn[G]) of the sea (Thalassa[G], hayam[H]), agitated (anemizō[G]) and tossed (rhipizō[G]) by the wind (baruach[H]).
6 Also he must ask earnestly in faith, trust, having been persuaded, without even one doubt, differing, contention, for the doubting one is like the surging wave of the sea, agitated and tossed by the wind.
The doubt being spoken of hear is not the doubt that is the counterpoint to faith, after all, within the fallen world faith cannot exist without doubt, rather it is the doubt that is defined as being in direct opposition to the will of God as heard in response to asking of God. The Greek “diakrino” translated as “doubt” means “to differ, contend”. Put as a simple question and answer conversation between the believer and God we could understand its use as follows:
“God, we need provision of food for our community,”
‘I will give you food tomorrow in the form of quail and bread from heaven’,
“No you won’t!”
The doubter in this context is like a student who asks his trusted teacher for an answer to a difficult question, and upon receiving the answer, doesn’t like what he hears and responds, “No, that’s not right!” Furthermore, the student continues to oppose his teachers instruction.
Therefore, we could read “For the disagreeable one who contends with God after receiving an answer to his request…should not expect that he will receive anything…”
We note that Rav Shaul (Paul) uses similar imagery in his letter to the Ephesians:
“14 [a]As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness [b]in deceitful scheming;” -Ephesians 4:14 NASB
Likewise John’s gospel informs us that if we have had an opportunity to receive the Messiah but have chosen to refuse Him, we stand condemned already.
“16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” -John 3:16-18
Yaakov challenges the believer to cry out for wisdom and when it’s given, to receive it without objection.
“For if you cry out for insight,
And [a]raise your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” -Proverbs 2:3-6 NASB
7 For that person (vehaiysh[H]) should not expect (oiomai[G]) that he will receive (lambanō[G]) anything, word, essence, substance (tis[G], davar[H]) from the Lord (ho Kurios[G], mei’eit YHVH[H]), 8 Such a person is (anēr[G], iysh[H]) two-spirited [double minded] (dipsuchos[G]), unstable, inconstant, restless (akatastatos[G]) in all, [individual and collective] (pas[G], bekhol[H]) his (autos[G]) ways, roads, paths (ho hodos[G], derakhayv[H]).
7 For that person should not expect that he will receive anything, word, essence, substance from the Lord, 8 Such a person is two-spirited [double minded], unstable, inconstant, restless in all, [individual and collective] his ways, roads, paths.
The person who wants to argue with God’s answer to their request has proven their lack of true faith and should not expect to receive what they have asked for. Why? Because they have refused to receive it. Their doubt is not uncertainty, rather, as I have explained, their doubt is defined as rejection of God’s answer.
The person in question is sitting on the fence. An Agnostic, neither believing or disbelieving. By inference Yaakov calls this person a disbeliever. The person in question is undecided in all areas of their life, in every path they take, in every decision they make, not listening to and walking in the direction of God but refusing His directives and doubting Him at every turn.
The Midrash on Psalm 119:46 describes the double minded who are tossed around as being like those “who grasp the rope at both ends”, who choose both God (YHVH) and Ba’al (Chief Canaanite deity) [1 Kings 18:21], and therefore fail to obtain salvation.
9 Now the brother or sister (ho adelphos[G], ha-ach[H]) who is low, depressed, humble, cast down (tapeinos[G], hashapeil[H]) is to rejoice, praise (kauchaomai[G], yithaleil[H]) in his elevated position (hupsos[G], beromamuto[H]); 10 and the wealthy (plousios[G]) person in his lowly, humble, depressed, cast down position (tapeinōsis[G]) because like a flowering (anthos[G]) garden (chortos[G]) he will pass away (parerchomai[G]).
9 Now the brother or sister who is low, depressed, humble, cast down is to rejoice, praise in his elevated position; 10 and the wealthy person in his lowly, humble, depressed, cast down position because like a flowering garden he will pass away.
Yaakov now turns to a distinct but related matter. There is a connection between the double minded person blown about by the wind and the person who takes pride in their high position and worldly wealth.
It’s the humble, even depressed and down trodden believer who should rejoice because God lifts up the humble (Psa. 147:6; Yaakov. 4:10). However, the one who is in a high position, being self-reliant and self-assured should consider himself lowly, humbled, depressed, because the temporal things he has placed his trust in will fade away like a seasonal garden, along with his very life.
11 For the sun (hēlios[G], hashemesh[H]) rises with its burning heat (kausōn[G]) and dries up (xērainō[G]) the garden (chortos[G]); and its flowers (anthos[G]) drop off (ekpiptō[G]) and the beauty [grace] (euprepeia[G]) of its face (prosōpon[G]) perishes (apollumi[G]); in this way (houtō[G]) also the wealthy person (plousios[G]), in the midst of his pursuits (poreia[G]), will be extinguished (marainō[G]).
11 For the sun rises with its burning heat and dries up the garden and its flowers drop off and the beauty [grace] of its face perishes; in this way also the wealthy person, in the midst of his pursuits, will be extinguished.
The Sun in this mashal (parable) or drash (comparative teaching), is the greater power, a metaphor for God, and the garden along with its flowering plants are a metaphor for humanity.
We note that it’s not wealth that is the problem but the pursuit of it. The pursuit of wealth is the love of mammon[G] (worldly things), and is therefore idolatry (1 Tim. 6:10).
12 Blessed, happy (makarios[G], ashreiy[H]) is a person (anēr[G], ha iysh[H]) who patiently endures (hupomenō[G]) under proofing, trial (peirasmos[G]); for once he has been accepted (dokimos[G]), he will receive the crown, moulded wreath (stephanos[G], ateret[H]) of life (zōē[G], hachayiym[H]) which the Lord (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]) has promised (epaggellō[G]) to those who love Him entirely (agapaō autos[G], leohavayv[H]).
12 Blessed, happy is a person who patiently endures under proofing, trial; for once he has been accepted, he will receive the crown, moulded wreath of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him entirely.
For the follower of Yeshua blessing and happiness are measured in a transcendent way that is counter intuitive in this fallen world. In the believer patient endurance under trial produces blessing and happiness that go beyond circumstances. The one who endures by trusting in God is accepted and given a wreath (a Greco-Roman laurel given to a victorious athlete or military leader) of victory pertaining to life everlasting. This is promised to those who love God entirely. What does it mean to love God entirely? It means simply to listen to and do what He has commanded (John 14:15-31). When we place our belief in the Son we are accepted by the Father.
The Hebrew text rightly understands the Greek Ho Kurios to refer to YHVH.
13 No one is to say when he is tempted (peirazō[G], ha-menuseh[H]), “I am being tempted (peirazō[G], menuseh[H]) by God (Theos[G], HaElohiym[H])”; for God (Theos[G], HaElohiym[H]) cannot be tempted (apeirastos[G], menuseh[H]) by evil, that which is worthless (kakos[G], bara[H]), and He Himself does not tempt (peirazō[G], yenaseh[H]) anyone.
13 No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, that which is worthless, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
In this verse the Greek verb translated “tempted” refers specifically to temptations that test a person’s moral strength.
God defines good, He cannot sin, lie, tempt etc. Therefore, while He allows human beings to choose whether they will give in to their fallen nature or resist it in Messiah, He Himself does not tempt, nor can He be tempted by evil.
Additionally, it’s impossible to tempt the Creator of the universe in Whom all things exist. What could He be tempted with? Power? Wealth? Dominion?
Those who claim that God is tempting them are impugning God’s character. It’s an act of blasphemy. In claiming that God is tempting them they are looking for an excuse for their wilful sin response to trial and or temptation.
After committing sin I have often caught myself thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” This is an attempt to excuse myself. I am essentially saying, “I couldn’t help it, it’s in my nature.” This is a lie. We can help it, despite the fact that we have an evil inclination as human beings as followers of Yeshua, Messiah in us gives us the strength to resist evil by His Spirit.
The question is not “What’s wrong with me?” I know what’s wrong with me. The question I should ask is “Why did I sin?” For the Messiah follower the answer is “Because in that moment you forgot who you are in Messiah. Repent, refocus, be the Messiah essential you.
As Messiah followers, when we sin, we are deceiving ourselves into becoming that which we are not. In Messiah we have already passed from death into life everlasting (John 5:24).
Put simply, when a Messiah follower sins he is acting against his nature (Messiah in him), whereas when a disbeliever sins he is acting according to his nature (yetzer ha-ra, evil inclination).
14 But each one is tempted (peirazō[G], yenuseh[H]) when he is under (hupo[G]) his own (idios[G]) lustful desires (epithumia[G], bata’avat[H]) being dragged away (exelkō[G]) and entrapped (deleazō[G]). 15 Then when the lusting (ho epithumia[G]) has conceived (sullambanō[G]), it gives birth (tiktō[G]) to sin, missing the mark set by God’s holiness (hamartia[G], cheit[H]); and sin (hamartia[G], ve’hacheit[H]), when it reaches its goal (apoteleō[G]), brings forth (apokueō[G]) the specific death (Thanatos[G], et ha-mavet[H]).
14 But each one is tempted when he is under his own lustful desires being dragged away and entrapped. 15 Then when the lusting has conceived, it gives birth to sin, missing the mark set by God’s holiness; and sin, when it reaches its goal, brings forth the specific death.
When we give in to temptation we have no one to blame but ourselves. Note that not only does Yaakov say that we should not blame God for our tempting, He also by inference says that we cannot blame Satan either.
We give into sin when we wilfully choose to entertain temptation. For example, when a man looks at a woman and finds her figure attractive, he is not sinning, but if he is them tempted to think of having sexual relations with her he has a choice to make. If he chooses to turn away and seek the mind of Messiah he will avoid sin, however, if he chooses to dwell on thoughts of defiling that woman he sins. In this scenario it is the man who is responsible for his response to temptation. Likewise, when a woman hears a rumour from a friend, she is tempted to remember the details and pass it on to another friend, at this point she has a choice to make. If she decides to keep the rumour to herself and determines not to pass it on she has resisted temptation, however, if she gives in to the desire to gossip and passes on that information to others she sins. She is responsible for her decision in the face of temptation.
God will hold each of us to account for our decisions regarding temptation. At the judgement we will not be able to say “The Devil made me do it”, or “It’s because I have a fallen nature” etc.
The three stages in the progression of sin alluded to here: desire, sin, and death (v.15), reflect the temptations of both Eve (Gen. 3:6-22) and king David (2 Samuel 11:2-17).
When temptation is entertained it becomes sin, a missing of the mark set by God’s holiness. When sin is manifest it produces death. When we practice a lifestyle of entertaining temptation and choosing to sin, numbing ourselves and choosing to be wilfully unrepentant, we will inevitably suffer the ultimate end of perpetual sin, that is the second death. This is why the Greek text very specifically says “and sin, when it reaches its goal, brings forth the specific death.” The writer is speaking of the second death, eternal torment (Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Rev. 2:11, 20:6, 14, 21:8).
The Good News is that in Messiah Yeshua we have been redeemed and are being sanctified so that overcoming in Him we need not fear the second death (Heb. 10:14). Sin gives birth to death, but “In outworking His will God the Father gave birth to us by Yeshua the word (Davar/Logos) of truth, so that we would be made into a certain type of first fruits among His creatures.” (v.18)
“the person who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” -Revelation 2:11
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” -John 3:16-18 NASB
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.