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[Inner Wheel] > Isaiah 59 – Samekh - Works Righteousness

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This is an Inner Wheel or Cycle article. Click to read the introduction. This is an Inner Wheel or Cycle article. Click to read the introduction.

Spoke 15

Works Righteousness

Isaiah 59 chain James

Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

Isaiah 59.6

If there is one theological controversy associated with the Book of James, it is the question of justification by works. The reason for this difficulty is obvious. In Romans 4.2, Paul explicitly states that Abraham was not "justified by works", whereas James 2.21 just as emphatically states that Abraham was "justified by works." The problem is exacerbated by two facts: 1) Paul and James used exactly the same Greek phrase, and 2) this phrase is used nowhere else in Scripture! If there were no other information to go on, it would appear that James not only was contradicting Paul, but that he was doing so deliberately!

The opposition between the two uses of this highly specific theological phrase has caused an enduring difficulting for numerous students of Scripture. It is a perennial question with an ancient history. Even strong believers have been challenged in their effort to explain this apparent contradiction which undoubtedly contributed to Luther's reference to James as an "Epistle of straw."

The miracle of God is that He has designed the structure of Isaiah to cast His divine light onto this question. Isaiah chapter 59 corresponds to the Book of James. The correspondence between these two geometrically correlated portions of Scripture is truly astounding. Isaiah 59 explicitly addresses the question of justification by works, saying "they shall not cover themselves with their works." And who was Isaiah refering to? He spoke of the unrepentant evil doers, whose works are "works of iniquity." James, on the other hand, spoke of works done in faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11.6). The solution to the question of works righteousness may be stated quite simply as follows: It is impossible for the righteousness of God to come out of a man before it has entered him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Wicked Lying Tongue

To see the depth of God's divine integration of Isaiah 59 and James, I will simply do a verse-by-verse analysis of Isaiah 59. Beginning at Isaiah 59.1 we read:

Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

Anybody familiar with the Book of James should imediately recognize the spirit of that great prophet in these words, penned hundred of years before his birth by the Prophet Isaiah. Compare them with these words from James 1:

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Note the reference to the tongue, vanity, and defilement. Searching the entire KJV for all passages containing tongue, defiled or undefiled, and vain or vanity within a few verses of each other yields but one other verse, Isaiah 59.3, as quoted above. We have, therefore, the following KeyLink:

KeyLink: The Wicked Lying Tongue
Isaiah 59chainJames

This theme also manifests strongly in Psalm 59 in the Inner Cycle of the Psalms.

The Cycle of Sin

Yet this is but the beginning of the divine integration. Note this sequence beginning in Isaiah 59.4:

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

This is the Cycle of Sin detailed in James 1:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Note the sequence:

1) Temptation/Trusting in Vanity
2) Conceive mischief/lust
3) Bring forth Iniquity/Sin/Death.

Note also how close the phraseology is: Isaiah 59 uses the phrase "bringeth forth iniquity", whereas James uses the phrase "bring forth sin." These verses are further integrated with two KeyLinks:

  • (Conceive*, Bring*, Forth*, Sin/Iniquity)  Isa 59.4 - Jam 1.15 [Verify]
  • (Conceive*, Bring*, Forth w/i Death/Die*)

Using gnotation, we represent this KeyLink as follows:

keyKeyLink: The Cycle of Sin
PIsaiah( 59 ) chain PBible( 59 )

The Tongue that Defiles

Yet for all this, we have just begun! There is another KeyLink between Isaiah 59 and James. Searching the entire KJV for all verses containing the set (Tongue, Defile*) [Verify] yields exactly two verses, Isaiah 59.3 (quoted above) and James 3.6. I will begin at James 3.3 for context:

Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

We have now a first order projective KeyLink, since both the Chapter and Verse numbers of Isaiah correspond to the Book and Chapter numbers of the Bible:

keyKeyLink: The Tongue That Defiles
PIsaiah( 59, 3 ) chain PBible( 59, 3 )

Its important to realize the depth of divine perfection represented by this KeyLink. The point P(59,3,6) in the three-dimensional space representing the whole Bible casts its shadow exactly onto the corresponding verse in the two-dimensional plane of Isaiah, as represented in this image:

Evil Works shall not Cover

Yet the integration continues deeper than this. Continuing in Isaiah 59, we read verses 7-8:

Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

The end of James chapter 3 answers this verse:

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Note that both Isaiah 59 and James make a double reference to peace in these verses. This integrates with the chapter structure of Genesis, where the first occurrence of peace is found in Genesis 15, corresponding to Spoke 15 which contains the Book of James.

Continuing in Isaiah 59, we read (verses 9-15):

Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.

Compare this bitter cry for justice with the words found in James 5:

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Isaiah 59 declares "he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey." James answers, saying "Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you."

James' reference to the motheaten garments that are utterly unable to cover the naked sin of these corrupt, greedy, and murderous men links back to Isaiah 59.6f, which speaks of garments made of spider’s webs (lies), and their acts of violence:

Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

And this brings us back to the perennial controversy that has always surrounded the Book of James, works righteousness. Every student of the Bible has had to wrestle with the relation between works and faith as presented by James. Isaiah 59 addresses this controversy, specifically stating that neither shall they cover themselves with their works. This theme finds its origin in Psalm 15 where we find the first occurrence of the set (work*, righteousness) [Verify].

We also have a KeyLink between Isaiah 59 and James based on the set ("works" w/i 1 cover/naked):

Isaiah 59 (vss. 6f) James (vss. 2.14f)
Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

We have the KeyLink:

KeyLink: Works Righteousness
Isaiah 59chainJames

These verses from Isaiah 59 attribute our alienation from God to our sins, symbolized, in part, as hands defiled by blood. James addresses this problem too, saying,

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Samekh - Uphold, Support

The integration of Isaiah 59 and James also includes the meaning the name of the Fifteenth Letter, Samek. As discussed in the introductory article, Samek is variously translated as support, help, uphold and sustain. This word is found in Isaiah 59.17:

And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained (Samekh) him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.

Finally, the Lord's promise to lift up and uphold his followers is found in the last few verses of Isaiah 59:

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.

This corresponds to the words from James, where the essence of Samekh is revealed (vs. 4.10):

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Yet for all this, we have hardly touched upon the divine integration of Isaiah 59 with James and the Fifteenth letter Samekh. Such is the infinite wisdom of the Lord our God! Praise His Holy Name!





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