“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
(James 5:10-11 NIV)
In verses 7 – 11 of chapter 5, James is speaking about the test of patience, specifically, patience with people, even those who are unkind to us, or treat us badly. James says our response is not to retaliate or seek revenge, and our attitude must not be one of grumbling or complaining.
Today, James offers two more illustrations of patience: the Old testament prophets, and Job. The common thread between both of these illustrations is their patience through suffering.
Once again, James makes sure his audience is paying attention by addressing his hearers as “brothers and sisters”. So what’s the important point he wants his hearers to understand?
James’ point is simple: You are not alone in your suffering for the sake of Christ.
James first recalls how the prophets of old suffered for their stand for God. James’ wording is very similar to Jesus’ summary in His Sermon on the Mount, specifically, the first section of the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV)
Were Jesus and James referring to the Old Testament prophets in general, or were they referring to one or two individuals in particular? I think the answer is both. The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:32-38) provides the most condensed list of prophets who stood their ground and spoke up as God led them, and suffered for their beliefs and words.
And what did the writer of Hebrews say about these group of folks that paid the price for walking with God and telling His truth to God’s people? “… the world was not worthy of them.”
Note that the prophets were not persecuted for their conduct, but for the truths that they proclaimed. James emphasizes this point: “… the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (underlining mine)
By way of application, may we be as bold as the prophets of old, to speak God’s truth as He directs.
James brings up his next example of a life well lived: Job.
James does not use Job’s example for the suffering illustration alone. Rather, James points us to the end result of Job’s endurance through suffering – God’s blessing. As you may recall, God blessed Job with twice his family and possessions as before his suffering (Job 42:10-17).
So what is James’ conclusion to enduring through suffering, with patience?
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (v. 11)
Job loosely quotes God, when God expressed His heart verbally when speaking to Moses during the writing of the Ten Commandments the second time around. Here is what God says about Himself:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
(Exodus 34:6b – 7a NIV)
And what was Moses’ response to God’s description of Himself?
“Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.” (Exodus 34:8 NIV)
May we have the patience of Job, and the humble heart and worship response of Moses today.