In which the dawn speaks

by Craig on May 10, 2011

The Sun is rising as I write this. The horizon is pink and purple and blue – pastels. But there is no Sun yet – just the hints of it. Still we call it a sunrise – even before the dawn.

Birds began to sing when the hint of light – with no color – appeared on the horizon. They sang in the dark – in anticipation of the sunrise – a wake up call to the earth.

I can tell a lot from this context.

The air is heavy. The “blue time” didn’t really happen this morning. The sunrise colors are pink, purple, red-ish in nature. All of it tells me the day will begin with clouds.

I go outside and look skyward. There’s enough light to confirm what it all tells me.

Clouds.

Every piece of the dawn works in concert – and says so much.

This is the part of the Book of James without which I can’t understand the whole letter. It’s the part, that without the whole letter, I can’t understand.

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

And just like the colors and songbirds come before the sun actually rises – and tell me things. The first two words of this verse, in the Greek, do the same.

οὕτως  καὶ

(pronounced owtose ki)

Simple words, but if I take them to heart, I know not to take this verse out of its context – like we all have at one time or another.

The words are “so, also”.

They tell me that this verse ties in with verse 14 and the mini parable of 15 and 16. Those verses are part of the predawn hints.

After all of the predawn hints,

the Sun peeks over the horizon of the verse,

and together with these crucial predawn words,

announces that faith without corresponding works is ineffective to save,

it is useless,

it. is. dead.

If you’d like to take a look back at what I discovered about verses 14, 15, and 16, it’s herehere, here, and here.

But even without “study” the predawn verses read pretty clearly all strung together:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

The first words of verse 15 are crucial – “so, also”…

and this one is too…

νεκρά

(pronounced nekra – but remember that’s a Greek, slightly rolled “r” and the emphasis is on the second syllable – we can tell because of that little accent mark)

It means, quite simply, “dead”.

Some have tried to soften the word and translate it as “barren” or “unfruitful”.

But nope – dead. means. dead.

It could mean a little more…

but no less…

And this is where I get to pick up next time.

This is a cornerstone verse of the New Testament.

I don’t mind slowing down and taking in all of its sunrise.

Hope you don’t either.

Please come back…

God bless

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora May 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

I will be out there tomorrow morning to watch the sunrise. I know about those birds. . . the cardinals are the first, even in the dark. They just know. Even on the darkest of stormy days, they know the sun is coming. Can’t wait, Craig. This has been an awesome journey into sunrise for me.

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Craig May 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

You know – I never meant this to be a sunrise stretch of posts – but it’s just sitting right there – so many metaphors – and crazy when you think about it – except for the birds waking up it’s just a sunset backwards – but seems more special. No?

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A. May 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

“It means, quite simply, dead.” Wow, Craig! That one stops me in my tracks. I never noticed that. Dead. Not just weak or wobbly, but dead.

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A. May 10, 2011 at 11:24 am

OK, i hit submit too fast…then, when works are legalistic in nature, rather than reflective of love for Him, all kinds of icky things happen. it gets complicated, doesn’t it? but i don’t think it has to be complicated. so what is the simplifier that we can plug in? i have been shouted to-yes, shouted to-by legalistic ones about my failures to perform certain legalistic functions so i have absolutely been thinkin’ on this whole works/faith thing a LOT lately.

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Craig May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

The bottom I think, is which “law” we’re following, Corinthians 13 love – Jame’s perfect law of freedom or the Law of Moses – or the law of some denomination – which is all well and good as long as it measures up to Corinthians 13 – so there!! :)

Having said that – I could have saved myself some typing and just said – I agree with what you wrote, “when works are legalistic in nature, rather than reflective of love for Him, all kinds of icky things happen” Amen – God bless :)

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Alida May 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

I never thought about that verse that way… but dead is useless. Dead is dead. May our faith be ever living and ever growing stronger.

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Craig May 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Alida amen. I went to a Seminary where they skirted all over these verses without really dealing with them. But dead is dead. I have a deep study of Salvation that can happen after James maybe – but I know this much – it’s not just James that says “works” are important – Paul does too – and Jesus most of all. I’m with you Alida, may our faith be ever living and ever growing stronger. God bless you and yours.

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Kim May 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Birds began to sing when the hint of light – with no color – appeared on the horizon. They sang in the dark – in anticipation of the sunrise – a wake up call to the earth.

Craig, you’ve been singing in the dark for me lately, helping me anticipate the light. It’s dawning. Your prayers have been a gift. Thank you for your ministry.

Looking forward to reading more of where you’re going with James.

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Craig May 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Kim, thank you – truly – thanks. And praying – I heart the praying for you. The gift is mine. There is darkness – but darkness cannot swallow up the light – we just keep moving through it – candle held high – shield of faith out front – until the dawn. God Bless you Kim – and thank you,

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A. May 11, 2011 at 12:24 am

LOL, when I first read the title, Craig, I thought you were going to feature Dawn as a guest writer here! :) Pardon my simple brain.

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Craig May 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Guest posters – no – that would make things too easy. Might as well have someone write some poems for me too while I’m at it – oh – wait – hmmmmm. :)

God Bless.

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Kris May 11, 2011 at 5:21 am

Craig,
You say you struggle to write poetry and yet, here it is again. This is good stuff, and how often do we substitute words because the REAL ones send shockwaves through us? We prefer the gentle version when hard truths are involved. Dead is dead- maybe more but no less- brilliant truth. I WILL be back…. Bless you, brother.

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Craig May 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I DO struggle with poetry – poetry. hates. me. This is prose – prose hearts me. I heart prose. Thank you for NOT preferring “the gentle version when hard truths are involved”. James is a bottom liner – just like his brother – not a big mincer of the words. Thank you so much Kris – sorry so late getting back to you – it’s the spammy thing. And God Bless YOU too, sister.

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Debbie May 12, 2011 at 2:26 am

Somehow I got more behind than I usually do at this stage of the week. argh!
I like how God keeps giving you the sunrise to work with. He’s good . . .and this about James and works and faith . . .it’s really good too. Thank you!

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Craig May 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Quick – “The hurrieder I go the behinder I get” who said it? take your time – no hurry :)

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Michelle May 12, 2011 at 5:36 am

“so, also” I guess is like “Therefore.” We need to look back to see what it is ‘there for.’
Isn’t it funny how we can read something again, and again and again. And then read it and notice a word or phrase we hadn’t seen before.

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Craig May 12, 2011 at 5:40 am

I’m busy writing today’s posts – but I have to stop the writing long enough to tell you what a blessing your comments have been in what is pre dawn here. I’ve read them “live” – three comments – so useful – so insightful – and so making me smile. Thank you Michelle!!

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Michelle May 12, 2011 at 6:10 am

Your welcome!
And your pre-dawn is my nearly bedtime, so I’m going to go try catch me some beauty sleep. Enjoy your day.

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