The Invariable God

James 1

James, the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, is reckoned the most austere of all the New Testament writers, and certainly he is most sternly unsparing in his denunciation of sin and folly; but how attractively he presents God to us in the first chapter of his Epistle, "Do not err, my beloved brethren, " he says. Let nothing deceive you as to this; don't look around or within for good, for the world and the devil and temptation are around, and lust is within, but LOOK UP. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above."

In looking up we shall not be disappointed, for the gifts are good and the giving is perfect; the gift and the giving are one. We have known men who have given gifts, but have done so grudgingly, and with such ill grace, that the gift has turned to gall; but not thus are these heavenly gifts. With them the giving exceeds in blessedness the gifts themselves, if that is possible. "God . . . gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" (v. 5). His manner of giving enhances the blessedness of the gift, and reveals His own perfect graciousness.

And these gifts are not only from above like the sunshine and the rain, so that we look up for them, but they are from the Father of lights; they are personal gifts from a personal God to intelligent persons. And He is the Father of lights. We cannot do without lights, and all lights proceed from God.

Most certainly those in the physical universe proceeded from Him, for "God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years . . . He made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth" (Gen. 1:14-17). We see the wisdom and kindness of our faithful Creator in these lights above us and we enjoy them and give thanks for them. Life would be impossible without them; they bring order, and method and variety and guidance into our lives and he who would live well and long must not ignore "the signs and seasons and days and years" for which these lights were made. The shipmaster steers his vessel with safety if he can take his bearings by the lights in the heavens; many a gallant ship has been lost because steered by dead reckoning. Those lights proceeded from God to guide the mariner over tempestuous seas.

Those physical lights are a parable to us. They speak clearly, for "Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Ps. 19:4). They not only proclaim God's power and wisdom, but they remind us that we need more than physical light, we need the knowledge of Him who made the lights and set them in the heavens. This light also proceeds from God. He is the Father of it. All else is darkness. The lie proceeded from the devil in Eden and has blinded the minds of men — "The god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not" (1 Cor. 4:4), says the sure Word of God; and if we enquire as to what that same Word says about the emanations from men's minds — their philosophies and schemes — we learn that there is no light in them, as they vainly suppose, but that their understanding is darkened, that they are "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:18).

"Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the suns" but the sweetest and most blessed light of all is the light of the knowledge of God. And He, "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). God has sent forth His light and His truth. They came into the world in the Person of His beloved Son. Thanks be to God for this good and perfect, and unspeakable gift.

But more, with God who is the Father of lights there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." These, I understand, are astronomical allusions. With the heavenly bodies that give us light, there are parallaxes; they appear to change their position when viewed from different points; they act and react upon one another, and as they turn they cast shadows one on another; hence the eclipses. But with God there is nothing of this kind, with Him there is no "parallax." From whatever point we observe Him He is the same, and nothing that He has created can move Him from His purpose or cast an obscuring shadow upon Him. The works of His hands shall wax old as doth a garment, but He changes not. We turn from all created light to Him as we hasten to the city that has "no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Rev. 21:23).

And we have been begotten of Him of His own supreme, unchangeable will by the word of truth, the living and ever-abiding word, which is as unchanging as Himself, that we might be like Him and it — a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. He would have us to be a sample, a pattern of what He would have all His intelligent creatures to be. Not fickle, wavering, unstable, changeable, traitorous, like sinful man, the children of disobedience, as we once all were, but steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, taking our character from Him who has begotten us, and bearing His features, "being imitators of God as dear children."

We surely desire it, but how can it be? If we are begotten of God by the word of truth we have the nature that not only desires this God-likeness, but is capable of producing it — but how? Does not verse 5 of our chapter answer the question, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him." And God being what He is, and His word being the word of truth, there is no room for doubt as to this, "It shall be given him;" so we continue, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." Why should he waver since God is the unwavering God, and His word the word of truth? "For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed." And it is plain that such a man does not please God, for "Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing from the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."

It is the knowledge of the invariable God, who has created great gifts for our good and gives them with unstinted grace, but who is greater than all He gives, and who proposes to be our Guide through the intricacies of life and to give wisdom and power for the right way, that will enable us to endure temptation and preserve us from the variable ways of men, and to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that in the end we may receive "the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love Him (v. 12).