1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 4 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. 5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 6 O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
This psalm gives the story of Joseph its theological context and places it at the very centre of Israel’s worship in the temple. The whole psalm celebrates “the wonderful works” of God (vss.3, 5) and summons Israel not only to sing thankful praise (vss. 1a, 2), but to “make known his deeds” (vs. 1b) and to “seek the Lord and his strength… (and ) his presence forever.”
LORD is a special name for God. His people use it. They are the people who love and obey him. They are his servants, as Abraham was, verse 6. He was their father, or forefather. This means that he lived long before them. But they were part of his family, even hundreds of years later! The *Hebrew words for “Abraham your father” mean “seed of Abraham”. This gives us a picture. The seed that Abraham planted became the country of Israel! Jacob was Abraham’s grandson. The *LORD chose Jacob, but did not choose his brother Esau. The 12 sons of Jacob, and their children, and grandchildren, and so on, became the people we call Israel. Israel was another name for Jacob. The Bible often calls them “sons of Jacob”, but they lived long after Jacob did. Today we call them Jews, because Judah (say it “Jewdar”) was the last name for their country in the Bible. The word “Lord” in the verse at the start is a different word but it means the same. It means God.
“Proud” in verse 3 has a good meaning and a bad meaning. The bad meaning is this. Proud people think that they are more important than they really are. The good meaning is this. We are proud (or happy) when something good has happened. When our football team (group) wins a game, we are proud of them! The psalm tells us to be proud of God’s *holy name. His name means everything about God. This includes the fact that he is holy. This means that he has never done anything bad. He is so good that we all feel a bit afraid of him.
In verse 5, “his miracles” are the things that he did. They were things that only God the *LORD could do. Men could not do them. Jesus did many miracles, as when he made the storm quiet and when he gave life to the dead man Lazarus. Jesus could do this because he is God. But the miracles in Psalm 105 are the things that God did in Egypt and later. They include the things that he did to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. We call these things the ten “plagues” or “bad things”. Psalm 78 includes 6 of the plagues, but Psalm 105 has 8 of them. They are in verses 29-36.
Items for Discussion
- How do we as Christians demonstrate that we are “proud of our God?”
- If someone would ask you to name miracles that God did which ones would you talk about?
- How can people get it wrong, that is celebrating God’s works with pride?
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
From the middle of the third century, patristic authors cited the Epistle as written by James the Just, the brother of Jesus. This James was not one of the Twelve, but Paul described him as “the brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19 and as one of the three pillars of the Church in 2:9.
John Calvin and others suggested that the author was James, son of Alphaeus, apparently the brother of Matthew, aka Levi. It is feasible that James of Alphaeus is the same person as the author of Mark 15:40. Since very little is known about this person, this proposal does not tell us very much about the author.
It is rarely but occasionally argued that this James was the apostle Saint James the Great, brother of John, son of Zebedee. However, most conclude that the author was not the apostle James, because he died too early. Specifically, James must have been killed before 44, but the Epistle of James seems to be written in order to clear up misconceptions about Paul’s teaching on justification by faith in the 50s.
From the viewpoint of its literary form, James is a letter only in the most conventional sense; it has none of the characteristic features of a real letter except the address. It belongs rather to the genre of parenesis or exhortation and is concerned almost exclusively with ethical conduct. It therefore falls within the tradition of Jewish wisdom literature, such as can be found in the Old Testament (Proverbs, Sirach) and in the extracanonical Jewish literature (Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Books of Enoch, the Manual of Discipline found at Qumran). More specifically, it consists of sequences of didactic proverbs, comparable to Tobit 4:5-19, to many passages in Sirach, and to sequences of sayings in the synoptic gospels. Numerous passages in James treat of subjects that also appear in the synoptic sayings of Jesus, especially in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, but the correspondences are too general to establish any literary dependence. James represents a type of early Christianity that emphasized sound teaching and responsible moral behavior. Ethical norms are derived not primarily from christology, as in Paul, but from a concept of salvation that involves conversion, baptism, forgiveness of sin, and expectation of judgment (James 1:17; 4:12).
In order to understand verse 5:16 we need to start several verses earlier. James has given specific instructions for the sick in verse 14:
The one who is sick is to call for the elders.
The elders are to pray for him.
The elders are to anoint him with oil. The anointing with oil represents the joy and happiness of this occasion.
In verse 15 we see the results of this activity:
The sick person is healed by the prayer of faith.
Any sins he may have committed are forgiven.
In light of what follows (vv. 16a, 19, 20), it seems likely that the key to understanding this section is the sin of the person who is sick. The sickness in view is a result of the discipline of the Lord for sin. This is why the elders are called by the sick person. He now desires to deal with his sin. James continues this subject in the following verses, giving special attention to the importance and power of prayer in verses 16-18.
Now let’s look at verse 5:16, connecting this to what James has just said in verses 14, 15. In effect, we see a summary of these two verses in the first part of verse 16. James deals with the two matters he just covered in verse 15, only in reverse order: sins and prayer.
The word confess (exomologisthe) is given as a command. This is the normal word for confess with a preposition meaning “out” (ek) on the front. Some take this to mean an open or full confession.
to one another – This would seem to have its immediate reference to the elders in verses 14,15. The acknowledgements of the specific sins which have led to the illness are part of the process of dealing with the sin. This is not because the elders have any power of forgiveness, but as spiritual leaders of the local body they are responsible for dealing with sin among the members (cf. Acts 20:28). This would also allow for the confessing of the sins to anyone who had been wronged by them.
The second command is to pray for one another. Again, in the context the reference is to the elders who are instructed to pray for the sick person who has called for them.
so that you may be healed – This phrase expresses the purpose of the confession and prayer. This is basically the same result as was expressed in verse 15. Again the context points to physical healing.
James now emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of prayer. The emphasis in this statement might be seen in the order it is given: “Much power has the prayer of a righteous man in its working.”
The word effective represents two words in the Greek text. The first word, polus, means “much”. The next word, ishcuo, means “have power,” “be competent,” “be able.” So we are talking about something with much power or very powerful.
A righteous man is one who has had his sins forgiven by faith in Christ. In James it probably carries the added idea of a life lived in conformity to the character of Christ. Again, in the immediate context, it would seem that the elders are being considered. However, righteousness would not be limited to elders.
can accomplish much – This translates a word which means “work,” “be at work,” “operate,” “be effective.”
What James says is that prayer is very powerful in what it is able to accomplish. This prayer must be offered by a righteous man – one who has been redeemed in Christ and is living his life in obedience to the Word of God.
To demonstrate the powerful working of prayer, James gives an example from the Old Testament.
Items for Discussion
What does righteous mean to you?
Can you be righteous and not believe in God?
Can you be righteous and not believe in Christ?
What, would the role of the Holy Spirit and Christ be in helping you lead a righteous life?
- What is the role of a church in helping its members be righteous?