Saluting an Unknown Soldier (James, Son of Alphaeus)
The twelve apostles included "James the son of Alphaeus" (Matt. 10:3).
God often uses ordinary people to accomplish great things.
Like most Christians, James the son of Alphaeus is an unknown and unsung soldier of the cross. His distinguishing characteristic is obscurity. Nothing he did or said is recorded in Scripture—only his name.
In Mark 15:40 he is called "James the Less," which literally means "Little James." That could refer to his stature (he might have been short), his age (he might have been younger than James the son of Zebedee), or his influence (he might have had relatively little influence among the disciples).
In Mark 2:14 Matthew (Levi) is called the son of Alphaeus. Alphaeus was a common name, but it's possible that James and Matthew were brothers, since their fathers had the same first name. Also, James's mother is mentioned in Mark 15:40 as being present at Christ's crucifixion, along with other women. She is referred to as the wife of Clopas in John 19:25. Since Clopas was a form of Alphaeus, that further supports the possibility that James and Matthew were related.
From those references we might conclude that James was a small young man whose personality was not particularly powerful. If he was Matthew's brother, perhaps he was as humble as Matthew, willing to serve the Lord without any applause or notice. Whichever the case, be encouraged that God uses obscure people like James, and rewards them accordingly. Someday James will sit on a throne in Christ's millennial kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel—just like the other more prominent disciples (Luke 22:30).
No matter how obscure or prominent you are from a human perspective, God can use you and will reward you with a glorious eternal inheritance.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for all those people unknown to you whom He has used to shape your life for His glory.
Seek to be more like James, serving Christ faithfully without applause or glory.
For Further Study
Read Luke 9:23-25. What did Jesus say is necessary to be His disciple?
Read Luke 9:57-62. What were those men unwilling to give up to follow Christ?
Stephen: Godliness in Suffering
“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
Because Stephen was so consistently Spirit-filled, it was natural for him to react in a godly way to persecution and death.
The cliché “Garbage in, garbage out” provides a good clue to the essence of the Spirit-filled Christian life. Just as computers respond according to their programming, we respond to what fills our minds. If we allow the Holy Spirit to program our thought patterns, we’ll be controlled and renewed by Him and live godly lives. And that’s exactly how Stephen consistently and daily lived his life.
The expression “being full” is from a Greek verb (pleroo) that literally means “being kept full.” Stephen was continuously filled with the Holy Spirit during his entire Christian life. This previewed Paul’s directive in Ephesians 5:18, “but be filled with the Spirit.” These words don’t mean believers are to have some strange mystical experience, but simply that their lives ought to be fully controlled by God’s Spirit.
Stephen gave evidence of his Spirit-filled godliness as He was about to die from stoning. Acts 7:55-56 says he looked to Jesus and let his adversaries and any witnesses know that he saw Christ standing at the right hand of God. Stephen did not focus on his difficult situation but fixed his heart on the Lord, which is what all believers must do: “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2).
Stephen’s spiritual sight was incredible and enabled him to see the risen Christ and be certain of his welcome into Heaven the moment he died. We won’t have that kind of vision while we’re still on earth, but if we are constantly Spirit-filled like Stephen, we will always see Jesus by faith and realize His complete presence during the most trying times (John 14:26-27; Heb. 13:5-6).
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would direct your mind away from mundane distractions and toward Him throughout this day.
For Further Study
Stephen established a magnificent pattern during his short ministry in Acts 6. Read that chapter, and jot down several positive things you see about how he did things.
Reading for Today:
2 Samuel 19:1–20:26
2 Samuel 19:7 not one will stay with you. Joab, who was the esteemed general of the army, was a dangerous person because of that power. He was also dangerous to David because he had disobeyed his command to spare Absalom and killed him with no remorse. When he warned David that he would be in deep trouble if he did not immediately express appreciation to his men for their victory, David knew he could be in serious danger.
2 Samuel 19:13 Amasa…commander of the army…in place of Joab. David appointed Amasa commander of his army, hoping to secure the allegiance of those who had followed Amasa when he led Absalom’s forces, especially those of Judah. This appointment did persuade the tribe of Judah to support David’s return to thekingship (v. 14) and secured the animosity of Joab against Amasa for taking his position (20:8–10).
2 Samuel 20:11 one of Joab’s men. Joab was reinstated as commander of David’s army by his troops. It is a striking illustration of Joab’s influence over the army that he could murder the commander whom David had chosen, a killing right before their eyes, and they would follow him unanimously as their leader in pursuit of Sheba.
Proverbs 16:33 lot. Casting lots was a method often used to reveal God’s purposes in a matter (Josh. 14:1, 2; 1 Sam.14:38–43; 1 Chr. 25:8–31; Jon. 1:7; Acts 1:26). The high priest may have carried lots in his sacred vest, along with the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:30).
John 8:24 if you do not believe. Jesus emphasized that the fatal, unforgivable, and eternal sin is failure to believe in Him as Messiah and Son of God. In truth, all other sins can be forgiven if this one is repented of. I am He. “He” is not part of the original statement. Jesus’ words were not constructed normally but were influenced by Old Testament Hebrew usage. It is an absolute usage meaning “I AM” and has immense theological significance. The reference may be to both Exodus 3:14 where the Lord declared His name as “I AM” and to Isaiah 40–55 where the phrase “I am” occurs repeatedly (especially 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12). In this, Jesus referred to Himself as the God (Yahweh—the LORD) of the Old Testament and directly claimed full Deity for Himself, prompting the Jews’ question of v. 25.
DAY 24: How is Jesus the light of the world?
In John 8:12–21,the word “again” indicates that Jesus spoke once more to the people at this same Feast of Tabernacles (7:2,10). While Jesus first used the water-drawing rite (7:37–39) as a metaphor to portray the ultimate spiritual truth of Himself as Messiah who fulfills all that the feast anticipated, He then turned to another rite that traditionally occurred at the feast: the lighting ceremony. During Tabernacles, 4 large lamps in the temple’s court of women were lit and an exuberant nightly celebration took place under their light with people dancing through the night and holding burning torches in their hands while singing songs and praises. The Levitical orchestras also played.
Jesus took this opportunity of the lighting celebration to portray another spiritual analogy for the people: “I am the light of the world” (v. 12). This is the second “I AM” statement (6:35). John has already used the “light” metaphor for Jesus (1:4). Jesus’ metaphor here is steeped in Old Testament allusions (Ex. 13:21,22; 14:19–25; Pss. 27:1; 119:105; Prov. 6:23; Ezek. 1:4,13,26–28; Hab. 3:3,4). The phrase highlights Jesus’ role as Messiah and Son of God (Ps. 27:1; Mal. 4:2).The Old Testament indicates that the coming age of Messiah would be a time when the Lord would be a light for His people (Is. 60:19–22; see Rev. 21:23, 24), as well as for the whole earth (Is. 42:6; 49:6). Zechariah 14:5b–8 has an emphasis on God as the light of the world who gives living waters to His people. This latter passage probably formed the liturgical readings for the Feast of Tabernacles.
“He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The word “follows” conveys the idea of someone who gives himself completely to the person followed. No half-hearted followers exist in Jesus’ mind (Matt. 8:18–22; 10:38, 39). A veiled reference exists here to the Jews, following the pillar of cloud and fire that led them during the Exodus (Ex. 13:21).
May 24 - Three Aspects of the Divine Will
“‘“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”’” (Matthew 6:10).
God’s Word reveals three aspects of His will. First is His will of purpose—His sovereign, ultimate plan for the universe. “Surely, just as I [God] have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (Isa. 14:24; cf. Eph. 1:9–11). It has been within God’s purpose to allow sin to affect the world for a time. But that situation will end precisely according to His plan and foreknowledge.
Within God’s will of purpose is His will of desire. This will is more specific but not always fulfilled in the present age. For example, Jesus desired His people, the Jews, to be saved. However, only a relative few believed in His message. Jesus prayed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together … and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34). Like the Jews, most Gentiles are also unwilling to come to Christ for salvation (John 5:40; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
Third is God’s will of command, which is His desire that believers obey Him fully, as only they of all people can, with the help of the Spirit (see Rom. 6:16–18). Pride is the great enemy set against all of God’s will. But for us to obey His will, we must forsake self-will and “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; see also v. 1).
Understanding the many-layered aspects of God’s will is not nearly as important as being obedient to every aspect you do know. Don’t you long for His purpose, desire, and command to be met with full acceptance in your own life? Submit to Him in some new way today. Conform to His will.