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Visiting, Restoring

by Dave Cruver Published Dec 17, 2012

When the least of these (i.e. vulnerable children) are cared for, other people will be cared for as well– relationships are restored.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~James 1:27

What does visit mean?

Let’s unpack James’ use of “visit” by looking at other passages that could be informing his understanding. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?”

The Greek translation of the Old Testament word for “visit” in Psalm 8:4 is the same Greek word for “visit” in James 1:27. In Psalm 8:4, “visit” refers to God’s gracious care for man. In James 1:27, it is used to refer to the Christian’s gracious care for orphans in their affliction.

Is there a connection?

Psalm 8 informs our understanding of James’ use of “visit” but in a vague way. Hebrews 2, however, provides some specificity in our understanding:

It has been testified somewhere, ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet. ~Hebrews 2:6-8

What I find helpful in filling in our understanding of James 1:27 is what the writer of Hebrews does after quoting Psalm 8. He clearly identifies Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of David’s words (verse 9). The writer essentially tells us that Jesus was “for a little while made lower than the angels” (i.e. he was made man in weakness) in order that he might accomplish the climax of God’s redemptive purposes. Notice the purpose-indicating “so that” in verse 9.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone ~Hebrews 2:9.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus became man in order that he might redeem us from our fallen condition (relationships restored), that he might rescue us from the power and fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). According to Hebrews’ use of Psalm 8:4, Jesus is the one in whom God the Father’s redemptive work is accomplished– He restores relationships.

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