BIBLE STUDY


by Greg Williamson © 2015, 2019 Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible*

INTRO / THE MATURE CHRISTIAN: IS PATIENT IN TESTING (1:1-11 | 1:12-27) ... PRACTICES THE TRUTH (2:1-13 | 2:14-26) ... HAS POWER OVER HIS TONGUE (3:1-12 | 3:13-18) ... IS A PEACEMAKER, NOT A TROUBLEMAKER (4:1-10 | 4:11-17) ... IS PRAYERFUL IN TROUBLES (5:1-6 | 5:7-11 | 5:12-20)** / SOURCES
THE MATURE CHRISTIAN IS PRAYERFUL IN TROUBLES - JAMES 5
James 5:7-11 vv.7-11

JAMES 5:7-11
NYSTROM: "This passage consists of one tight argument, but with three discernible components. In the first (James 5:7-8) James calls us to patience and provides an example from everyday life. He draws the conclusion that we too should be patient. Next (James 5:9) James affirms that patience must be mixed with the harmony that results from controlled speech and behavior; thus he counsels against complaining about one another. In the final section (James 5:10-11) he returns to the issue of patience, citing the biblical examples of the prophets and Job." [ref]

The Power of Patience (James 5:7–12)

7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (James 5:7-11)


When we are frustrated and distracted by people who are evil and cruel, we are to focus on our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.


In this New Testament setting, the disenfranchised believers had no way to meet their physical needs -- they were persecuted and mistreated. Like those Peter addressed in his first letter, they were treated like non-citizens. In addition to being mistreated by the rich, they had no legal protection.

In view of these difficult circumstances, James encouraged these believers:

  1. to be patient, realizing that when Christ returns, He will deliver them from their earthly circumstances (Jms 5:7-8);
  2. to not allow their circumstances to cause tensions among each other as believers (Jms 5:9);
  3. to take comfort by remembering the Old Testament prophets who suffered under those who rejected the message of truth (Jms 5:10);
  4. to continue to be honest in the midst of a culture permeated with lying, cheating, and manipulative behavior (Jms 5:12). [ref]


(click on image for Gene Getz teaching video)

OT IN THE NT: James 5:7 >> Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23 | James 5:11 >> Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; 111:4; Daniel 12:12

James 5:7-8 - Plea for Patience
KISTEMAKER: "In this part of the epistle the author assumes the role of the pastor. He has given vent to his indignation toward the rich; now he affectionately addresses the readers by calling them "brothers" (also see James 5:7, 9-10, 12, 19). He expresses his concern that they exercise the virtue of patience. He resorts to repetition: four times in succession he uses the term patience (James 5:7 [twice], James 5:8, 10) and twice he employs the concept persevere (James 5:11). And that is where James puts the emphasis." [ref]

 
MCKNIGHT:The tone of the rhetoric finds a new, pastoral level. From "you who say" and "you rich," the operative word is now "beloved" (NRSV) or "brothers and sisters" (TNIV). James shifts from rich merchants (James 4:13-17) and oppressive rich farmers (James 5:1-6) to the beloved community (James 5:7-11), who have been oppressed by the merchants and farmers. Instead of a singular focus on "you," we have in James 5:7-11 also an inclusive "we" in James 5:11. Furthermore, the tone shifts from "the Lord of hosts" to the "compassionate and merciful" Lord in James 5:11. In that tone we find the clue both to the audience and to the intent: James has shifted his eyes from the rich oppressors in the community to the faithful followers of Jesus. James 5:7-11 explains how James thinks the messianic community should respond to the oppressing rich, essentially that they should wait for the coming of the Lord, that is, for the Day of the Lord when God judges the oppressors and sets the world to rights. [ref]
 

Therefore be patient (James 5:7). {note} In light of "the coming judgment on the wicked rich," James tells "the oppressed brethren": "Catch your wind for a long race ([be] long-tempered as opposed to short-tempered)," which will require both steadfastness (James 5:10) and submission (James 5:11). [ref]

With "be patient" James refers to "a patient holding out under trial; a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially the passion of anger." [ref] GLOAG: "[L]iterally, 'Be longsuffering;' an exhortation both to forbearance toward their oppressors, and to a trustful waiting on God for deliverance. Their patience must not be short-lived, but enduring." [ref] BLUE: "The idea is to set the timer of one's temper for a long run. Think long. Focus on the final lap in the race of life. Have a long fuse." [ref]

That said, it is important to note the fact that

 
MCKNIGHT: [t]he simple moral virtue of patience (1 Cor 13:4; 1 Thess 5:14) is not in James's mind here, nor is the general notion of waiting for God's promise (Heb 6:15). His thinking is more specific and is shaped by eschatology. He has spoken of the opulence and violence of the rich, the oppression of the poor, the cries of the poor to the Lord of hosts, and confidence that God has heard their cries (James 4:13-5:6). When we turn to James 5:7-11 we encounter an emphasis on patience and perseverance in an eschatological framework: that is, because the Lord is coming soon as Judge, the readers are to be patient. ... James knows that hotheads in the messianic community are tempted to strike back with violence (James 1:19-21; 2:11; 4:1-12; 5:6). Once we tie James 5:7-11, where God is the Judge, to James 5:1-6, where God is about to act in judgment, the meaning of both patience and perseverance is shaped eschatologically to mean the choice to wait for God's judgment instead of taking matters in one's own (bloody) hands. In addition, it is probably more accurate here to say that James has God's act of judgment against the oppressors more in view than he does God's act of delivering the oppressed, ... though the former would involve the latter. [ref]
 

brethren (James 5:7). GLOAG: "St. James having, in the spirit of an Old Testament prophet, apostrophized the ungodly rich who were outside the Church, now returns to his readers, the Jewish Christians, his brethren both in the flesh and in the spirit." [ref]

until the coming of the Lord (James 5:7). That is to say, "Christ, when the trial of your patience shall cease." [ref] BURDICK: "The word parousias ('coming') was a common term used to describe the visit of a king to a city or province of his kingdom and thus depicts Christ as a royal personage." [ref]

The farmer waits for the precious produce (James 5:7). The farmer waits with "eager expectation" for what is "dear to the farmer because of his toil for it." [ref] From a different perspective: "Time is essential! It requires time for a crop to grow and mature so it can be harvested, Some who harshly treated their fellow-man and opposed the Good News would change. Enough time must pass, so that God's purpose could be completed. Compare Rev. 6:9-11." [ref]

being patient about it (James 5:7). The farmer is pictured "longing and hoping over his precious crop." [ref]

As one commentator explains:

 
STULAC: The description of the crop as valuable (or "precious" in NASB) would help the persecuted readers to identify with the farmer as not a wealthy landlord but a small farmer who depends on a good harvest for survival, even as the Christian readers are hanging on for survival. More important, it reminds the readers that there is something to be patient "over," something that is of more value than riches or ease. By this point in the letter, readers should be accustomed to James's conviction that the goal of becoming "mature and complete" is the goal of greatest value. James is telling the brothers to be patient over their trials to gain maturity and completeness until that process is crowned with the glorious coming of the Lord. The parallel is that farmers must be patient over their labor to gain the fruit of the soil until that fruit receives the coming of the rain. [ref]
 

the early and late rains (James 5:7). "See Deut. 11:14; Jer. 5:24, etc. for these terms for the early rain in October or November for the germination of the grain, and the latter rain in April and May for maturing the grain." [ref] (also: [ref] [ref] [ref])

MCKNIGHT: "[A]s the farmer (see James 5:4) expects crops but waits patiently for the rains, so the poor are to expect God's judgment but wait patiently for God to bring that about; as the farmer waits for a 'precious crop,' so the poor are to await their reward for obedience; and as the farmer must await the faithfulness of God to provide both the early and the late rains, so they are to wait until the coming of the Lord." [ref] (quoted verbatim)

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WAITING PATIENTLY FOR GOD'S JUSTICE
Harvesting requires perseverance, James tells the church. "Therefore, be patient brothers." He uses the rains and farming practices of Israel as an example. There are two distinct seasons of rain in Palestine. The autumn rains are like a down-payment of what will follow. This early rain begins the crop's growth, but the farmer cannot harvest until the later rains of March and April arrive. It takes this season to fully ripen the grain to harvest. The farmer must be patient and not harvest too soon.

In the midst of suffering, the poor are called to be patient until the day of the Lord. God promises categorically to right every wrong on that day. Justice does not prevail in this world, and many never will see it in this life. But on judgment day, those who exploit and oppress the poor will see all their possessions taken away. And those who are oppressed will be filled and satisfied. Our Father will turn this topsy-turvy world right-side-up. This is the promise of God. Meanwhile, the victims must be patient.

Coram Deo
In times when you felt frustrated or oppressed, have you grumbled or lashed out at others near you, perhaps those who were also in pain or need? In times of stress it is especially hurtful and silly to take out frustrations on your spouse or your children, your parents, or someone else who gets in the way. Ask God for patience in such times, and for sensitivity to those you know in such situations.

- R. C. Sproul

Alternate translations/versions of James 5:7 include:


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strengthen your hearts (James 5:8). Here James "communicates that the waiting is to be done not in weakness or defeat but in strength and action." [ref]

As one commentator explains:

 
MOO: As the farmer waits patiently for the seed to sprout and the crops to mature, believers must wait patiently for the Lord to return to deliver them and to judge their oppressors. And while they wait, they need to establish (stērizō) their hearts. Paul gave the same exhortation to the Thessalonians as they awaited the parousia (1 Thess. 3:13; cf. 2 Thess. 2:17) and the author to the Hebrews commended the 'strengthening of the heart by grace' as an antidote to false teaching (Heb. 13:9). What is commanded, then, is a firm adherence to the faith in the midst of temptations and trials. As they wait patiently for their Lord to return, believers need to fortify themselves for the struggle against sin and with difficult circumstances. [ref]
 

Another commentator says:

 
MCKNIGHT: The word "strengthen" (Greek, stērizō) is used of fortifying oneself with food (Judges 19:5, 8), and by trusting in the strength of God one's heart can be fortified and the will made resolute (Psalms 57:7; Sirach 6:37; cf. Sirach 22:16-17). Paul wants to strengthen, or fortify, the Romans with some spiritual gift (Rom 1:11), he prays that God will fortify hearts in holiness (1 Thess 3:13), and he is confident that good works fortify the heart (2 Thess 2:17). Not surprisingly, strength of heart comes from grace not food observances (Heb 13:9). When James says he wants the messianists to be strengthened "in your hearts," he is thinking from the inside out, from the core of their being, both in resolution and confident faith (James 1:26; 3:14; 4:8; 5:5). [ref]
 

for the coming of the Lord is near (James 5:8). The thought here is that the second coming of Christ is "drawing near. In 1 Peter 4:7 the same word [for 'is near'] appears to have an eschatological sense as apparently here. How 'near' or 'nigh' did James mean? Clearly, it could only be a hope, for Jesus had distinctly said that no one knew when he would return." [ref]

As one commentator explains:

 
STULAC: [P]atience has a specific hope in Christ's return. James tells the brothers to be patient "until" (heos) the coming of the Lord. The future return of Christ is the event that motivates Christians to persevere in the endurance of suffering. In the life of the farmer, the autumn and spring rains have a similar role. If the farmer could not hope for the rains, all the plowing and planting and weeding would be futile. Rain (literally, the "early and late [rain]") is a standard Old Testament image of God's promised faithfulness (e.g., Jer 5:24 and Joel 2:23, as well as Deut 11:14, which would have been especially familiar as part of the regularly recited Shema). The effect is to leave no doubt about how appropriate it is to be patient. God has promised these rains; therefore the farmer can be patient in laboring. Even so, God has promised Christ's return; therefore believers can be patient in their hardships. [ref]
 

One commentator explains the language used in the NT to describe Jesus' second coming:

 
BARCLAY: [T]he New Testament uses three different words to describe the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

1. The commonest is parousia, a word which has come into English as it stands. It is used in Matt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Th 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Th 2:1; 1 Cor 15:23; 1 Jn 2:28; 2 Pet 1:16; 3:4. In secular Greek this is the ordinary word for someone's presence or arrival. But it has two other usages, one of which became quite technical. It is used of the invasion of a country by an army and specially it is used of the visit of a king or a governor to a province of his empire. So, then, when this word is used of Jesus, it means that his Second Coming is the final invasion of earth by heaven and the coming of the King to receive the final submission and adoration of his subjects.

2. The New Testament also uses the word epiphaneia (Tit 2:13; 2 Tim 4:1; 2 Th 2:9). In ordinary Greek this word has two special usages. It is used of the appearance of a god to his worshipper; and it is used of the accession of an emperor to the imperial power of Rome. So, then, when this word is used of Jesus, it means that his Second Coming is God appearing to his people, both to those who are waiting for him and to those who are disregarding him.

3. Finally the New Testament uses the word apokalupsis (1 Pet 1:7, 13). Apokalupsis in ordinary Greek means an unveiling or a laying bare; and when it is used of Jesus, it means that his Second Coming is the laying bare of the power and glory of God come upon men.

Here, then, we have a series of great pictures. The Second Coming of Jesus is the arrival of the King; it is God appearing to his people and mounting his eternal throne; it is God directing on the world the full blaze of his heavenly glory. [ref]
 

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"GIVE ME PATIENCE, LORD ... NOW!"
Fully aware of their adversities, James tells his readers to exercise patience. The adverb then links the command to be patient to the preceding verses in which James describes the oppressive conditions under which the poor live. In a sense, James takes up the theme with which he begins his epistle: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2).

Patience is a virtue possessed by few and sought by many. We are living in a society that champions the word instant. But to be patient, as James uses the word, is much more than passively waiting for the time to pass. Patience is the art of enduring someone whose conduct is incompatible with that of others and sometimes even oppressive. A patient man calms a quarrel, for he controls his anger and does not seek revenge (compare Prov 15:18; 16:32).

The old English term long-suffering does not mean to suffer a while but to tolerate someone for a long time. To say it differently, patience is the opposite of being short-tempered. God displays patience by being "slow to anger" when man continues in sin even after numerous admonitions (Exod 34:6; Ps 86:15; Rom 2:4; 9:22; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 3:15). Man ought to reflect that divine virtue in his day-to-day life.

James knows that the readers of his epistle are unable to defend themselves against their oppressors. Therefore, he urges them to exercise patience and to leave matters in the hands of God, who is coming to deliver them. Even if they were able to do so, they should not take matters into their own hands. God has said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:12; Heb 10:30).

"Be patient … until the Lord's coming." The readers know that the Lord is coming back in the capacity of Judge. They ought to exercise self-control toward their adversaries and demonstrate patience in respect to the coming of the Lord. He will avenge his people when he returns (2 Thess 1:5-6).

- Simon J. Kistemaker


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JESUS' SECOND COMING
It may be asked if [James's] advice [to wait patiently for the Lord's return and to establish/strengthen their hearts in the meantime] is relevant to us, since James bases it on the 'nearness' of the Lord. Many scholars think that James' conviction that the Lord was near was a 'mistake', a mistake that he shared with many early Christians and perhaps with Jesus himself. Were this so, the legitimacy of the course of action James here suggests would be called into serious question: of what value would such advice be when the basic understanding of the course of history on which it is based is mistaken? The accusation that James has erred on this matter rests on the supposition that James believed that the parousia must necessarily occur within a very brief period of time. But there is no reason to think that this was the case. The early Christians' conviction that the parousia was 'near', or 'imminent', meant that they fully believed that it could transpire within a very short period of time -- not that it had to. They, like Jesus, knew neither 'the day nor the hour' (Mark 13:32), but they acted, and taught others to act, as if their generation could be the last. Almost twenty centuries later, we live in exactly the same situation: our own decade could be the last in human history. And James' advice to us is the same as it was to his first-century readers: be patient, establish your hearts!

- Douglas Moo


JESUS' ARRIVAL
Very often in the Bible when a word has a special, almost technical, sense it is also used in what we might call an 'ordinary' way. In [James 5:7-8] James uses a special and lovely word for the coming of the Lord, and we can begin to enjoy its flavour by noting that it is also used in a very ordinary sense. Paul speaks of 'the coming of Stephanas' (1 Cor. 16:17; the word is parousia; note here how well the translation 'arrival' fits; see also 2 Cor. 7:6–7; Phil. 1:26) and uses the same word for his own personal 'presence' (2 Cor. 10:10; Phil. 2:12) with this or that church. In relation to the coming of the Lord, we can bring these two meanings together in the word 'arrival'. That is to say, the coming is an expected event, but when it happens it will be the Lord's personal arrival and presence with his people. Our main source of information regarding this parousia, or coming, is the Lord Jesus himself. We have, therefore, a sure foundation for our expectant faith. He taught that his coming would be preceded by signs (Mt. 24:3) and would, when it happened, be as vivid, visible and unmistakable as lightning which illuminates the whole sky (Mt. 24:27). It will happen on a day which cannot be known in advance (Mt. 24:36ff), and will bring about a separation or taking away of the people of God (Mt. 24:8ff). Those who are Christ's (1 Cor. 15:23) will be gathered for ever into his presence (1 Thes. 2:19; 2 Thes. 2:1), caught up to meet him in the air (1 Thes. 4:17), transformed into an unblemished holiness (1 Thes. 3:13; 5:23) as they are at last made fully alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22). To unbelievers the expectation of the Lord's return is a matter for cynical doubt and dismissal (2 Pet. 3:3–4), but to believers this sure hope constitutes a strong call to endure (Jas. 5:8) and to prepare by holiness of life(1 Jn. 2:28). For the Lord himself (1 Thes. 4:16) will come in power (2 Pet. 1:16), his foes will perish (2 Thes. 2:8; cf. 2 Thes. 1:7–10), and the heavens and the earth will be replaced by new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell (2 Pet. 3:12–13).

It is striking that all James needs to say to his readers is that the Lord is coming. He does not enter into long explanations and descriptions. He can assume that they know all about it, for it was a familiar truth to the New Testament church. If we wish to be New Testament believers, and to think in terms of New Testament priorities, then the fact of this great Advent, the sure expectation of it and the desire not to be ashamed before him at his coming should be in the forefront of our thoughts. John Blanchard says that 'it is certainly probable that there are about 300 references in the New Testament, one for every 13 verses from Matthew to Revelation'.

- J. Alec Motyer

Alternate translations/versions of James 5:8 include:

SPURGEON: "The great ones who wickedly persecute the righteous will soon be reckoned with, and the poor despised child of God shall speedily have his reward." [ref]


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James 5:9 - Warning Against Impatience
KISTEMAKER: "James is fully aware of the oppression and hardship the recipients of his letter daily experience. He deals with them pastorally and advises them accordingly." [ref]

Do not complain, brethren (James 5:9). "Complain" conveys the idea of "a half-suppressed murmur of impatience and harsh judgment, not uttered aloud or freely." [ref] BURDICK: "It speaks of inner distress more than open complaint. What is forbidden is not the loud and bitter denunciation of others but the unexpressed feeling of bitterness or the smothered resentment that may express itself in a groan or a sigh." [ref] James is telling his readers to "'Stop groaning against one another,' as some were already doing in view of their troubles. In view of the hope of the Second Coming lift up your heads." [ref]

Here James "remind[s] believers not to become frustrated with each other when they are powerless and suffering. In such situations people are tempted to misdirect their anger toward those who are equally powerless." [ref]

As one commentator explains:

 
MOO: At first glance, this verse does not have much in common with its context, beyond sharing an emphasis on the imminence of judgment. However, grumbling against others is surely one temptation that accompanies the pressure of difficult circumstances. How often do we find ourselves taking out the frustrations of a difficult day on our close friends and family members! Refraining from this kind of complaining and grumbling can be seen as one aspect of patience itself: patience is linked with 'forbearing one another' in love in Ephesians 4:2 and is contrasted with retaliation in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15. The word stenazō, grumble [complain NASB] or 'groan', is usually used absolutely; only here in biblical Greek does it have an object (against one another). The meaning may be that believers should not grumble to others about their difficulties, or that believers should not blame others for their difficulties (cf. NEB). It is entirely possible, however, that both ideas are involved. [ref]
 

And as another source puts it:

 

BARTON: These believers, facing persecution from the outside and problems on the inside, may naturally find themselves grumbling and criticizing one another. James doesn't want them to be filled with resentment and bitterness toward each other -- that would only destroy the unity they so desperately need. Refraining from grumbling is part of what it means to be patient (James 5:7).

James combines the highest standard of expected behavior with a true understanding of how people often behave. Each time he focuses on a significant pattern of behavior, he almost immediately turns to a human reaction that will undermine the process if it is not confronted. In a similar passage (James 4:11), James follows his appeal about the importance of submitting to God with a warning about brothers slandering one another. Here he turns from the importance of patience to the danger of grumbling. Is it not profoundly human to avoid facing a weakness in ourselves by pointing to the same weakness in others? In this case, people who are struggling with their lack of patience can always find an example or two of someone who is even less patient than they are! But blaming others instead of facing our sins leaves us open to the judgment of God. [ref]

 

behold, the Judge is standing right at the door (James 5:9). Jesus used this same type of language in Matthew 24:33; Mark 13:29. Here James pictures "Jesus the Judge" as being "ready to enter for the judgment." [ref]

BLUE: "In view of the hope of Christ's soon return, believers should cease the petty conflicts to which James alluded in James 4:1-17. As children in a school classroom look out for their teacher's soon return, God's children should be on guard for Christ's return. In so doing, good behavior and mutual harmony are essential." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 5:9 include:

SPURGEON: "Wrongs will so soon be righted that we may well bear with them a little longer." [ref]


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James 5:10-11 - Examples
KISTEMAKER: "James takes the first example of patience from nature -- the expectation of the fall and the spring rains (James 5:7) -- and the second from Scripture. He knows that the readers are fully acquainted with the history of the Old Testament prophets." [ref]

In James 5:10-11 "[t]he models given are the prophets and Job. Here James's focus is on three elements that make up the portrait of patience at work in the believer's life: suffering, perseverance and blessing. James wants his readers to understand that these three develop in succession and that their outcome is as definite as the character of God. Suffering enters the believer's life; perseverance is the believer's response; blessing comes from the Lord, who is full of compassion and mercy." [ref]

As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience (James 5:10).

GLOAG: "The prophets were examples both of affliction and of patience; their afflictions were greater than ours, and therefore the patience with which they endured them was so much the more commendable and worthy of imitation." [ref]

BARTON: "When our ready response to suffering is grumbling and complaining, we reveal our misunderstanding of what God promises to do. When we are tempted to believe that patience is impossible, God reminds us of those who did endure with patience the trials he allowed into their lives. We may take or refuse to take them as an example, but we are not allowed to claim that patience is impossible." [ref]

the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (James 5:10). MOO: "The fact that these prophets spoke in the name of the Lord is added to make clear that the suffering endured by them was a result not of wrongdoing, but specifically of their faithful adherence to the will of God." [ref]

The OT prophets communicated their message "with the authority of the Lord" [ref], and many times that message resulted in their being ignored, insulted, persecuted, and even put to death. MCKNIGHT: "Their message brought them suffering, and in that suffering they patiently awaited God's vindication. Hence, prophets, who are everywhere esteemed and held out as God's special instruments, are examples for the oppressed poor of the messianic community because, though much esteemed, they, too, suffered." [ref]

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PROPHETIC ENCOURAGEMENT
A Jewish congregation would understand this simple reference that James made to the Old Testament prophets. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also used the prophets as an example of victory over persecution (Matt. 5:10–12). What encouragements do we receive from their example?

For one thing, they were in the will of God, yet they suffered. They were preaching "in the name of the Lord," yet they were persecuted. Satan tells the faithful Christian that his suffering is the result of sin or unfaithfulness; and yet his suffering might well be because of faithfulness! "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). We must never think that obedience automatically produces ease and pleasure. Our Lord was obedient, and it led to a cross!

The prophets encourage us by reminding us that God cares for us when we go through sufferings for His sake. Elijah announced to wicked King Ahab that there would be a drought in the land for three and one half years; and Elijah himself had to suffer in that drought. But God cared for him, and God gave him victory over the evil priests of Baal. It has been said, "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

Many of the prophets had to endure great trials and sufferings, not only at the hands of unbelievers, but at the hands of professed believers. Jeremiah was arrested as a traitor and even thrown into an abandoned well to die. God fed Jeremiah and protected him throughout that terrible siege of Jerusalem, even though at times it looked as though the prophet was going to be killed. Both Ezekiel and Daniel had their share of hardships, but the Lord delivered them. And even those who were not delivered, who died for the faith, received that special reward for those who are true to Him.

Why is it that those who "speak in the name of the Lord" often must endure difficult trials? It is so that their lives might back up their messages. The impact of a faithful, godly life carries much power. We need to remind ourselves that our patience in times of suffering is a testimony to others around us.

But have not many faithful Christians suffered and died without any notice or recognition? Yes, but when Jesus returns, these "obscure heroes" will receive their rewards. The prophets were killed and buried, but today their names are honored. When our Lord comes again, He will bring His reward with Him (Rev. 22:12).

This example that James used from the Old Testament prophets ought to encourage us to spend more time in the Bible, getting acquainted with these heroes of faith. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4, NIV). The better we know the Bible, the more God can encourage us in the difficult experiences of life. The important thing is that, like the farmer, we keep working, and, like the prophets, we keep witnessing, no matter how trying the circumstances may be.

- Warren Wiersbe

Alternate translations/versions of James 5:10 include:


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We count those blessed who endured (James 5:11). GLOAG: "That is[, those] not merely who are in a state of suffering, but who exercise patience in their sufferings, who endure unto the end. Such are blessed: God will not leave their patience unrewarded." [ref]

What does it mean to be "blessed"? One source explains:

 
BARTON: Beyond vague spiritual overtones, what does it mean to be blessed? The background to the English word is almost entirely religious, having to do with ceremonies or indications of God's approval. The Greek verb makarizo can also be used to mean "fortunate" or "happy," although neither of those terms carries the same spiritual weight in English as the word blessed. It is helpful to think of being blessed as having or sensing God's approval and acceptance. In this way, we could paraphrase this verse: "We consider approved by God those who have persevered." It is not a wasted effort to pause for a moment and imagine the deep sense of well-being a person experiences in knowing that he or she has been approved by God. [ref]
 

the endurance of Job (James 5:11). ROBERTSON: "Job did complain, but he refused to renounce God (Job 1:21; 2:10; 13:15; 16:19; 19:25.). He had become a stock illustration of loyal endurance." [ref] As one commentator explains further:

 
MOO: Many have wondered at James' allusion to Job as a model of faithful endurance of suffering; particularly since the AV translated 'the patience of Job'. Yet even when we translate, more accurately, the steadfastness or 'perseverance' of Job, the illustration seems to be less than appropriate. Did not Job grumble about his circumstances, self-righteously proclaim his innocence and generally question God's way with him? The seeming incompatibility between the canonical portrait of Job and James' description of him has led some to think that James is dependent on the apocryphal Testament of Job, where Job is presented in a much more positive light. Yet there is still a sense in which the Job of the Old Testament can be seen as a great example of steadfastness. For although Job did complain bitterly about God's treatment of him, he never abandoned his faith; in the midst of his incomprehension, he clung to God and continued to hope in him (cf. Job 1:21; 2:10; 16:19-21; 19:25-27). As Barclay says, 'Job's is no grovelling, passive, unquestioning submission; Job struggled and questioned, and sometimes even defied, but the flame of faith was never extinguished in his heart.' [ref]
 

the outcome of the Lord's dealings (James 5:11). In the end, God chose to restore Job's family and fortune (Job 42:13). Along the way, however, God taught Job a major lesson in perseverance.

MOTYER: "The story of Job is an example of faithful steadfastness, but even more of divine purpose. The blessedness which came to him eventually was not a 'fairy-tale ending' in which all lived happily ever after. It was the objective of God from the start: above all it was the enrichment of knowing God more fully." [ref]

Job's was a long and painful lesson. The NIV reads: "what the Lord finally brought about," and as one source explains:

 

BARTON: In an age of instant solutions and results, how the word finally grinds against our will. We would much rather read "quickly" or "immediately" than be reminded again that God's timing and priorities are different from ours. But perseverance is never instantaneous. There are no shortcuts to what the Lord brings about; the pathway before us is perseverance. Any explanation of the Christian faith that overlooks or denies the importance of perseverance will disappoint those who believe it.

We can see clearly from Job's life that perseverance is not the result of understanding. Job never received an explanation from God for his suffering. This is partly because pain is often a part of life that must be endured beyond explanations. There are many things we can understand, but not everything. God's purpose is not that we just develop a mind full of explanations and answers; his purpose is to bring us to a place where we trust him. [ref]

 

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FIRST ENDURANCE, THEN BLESSING
"As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered" (James 5:11, NIV). But you cannot persevere unless there is a trial in your life. There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys. If you want the blessing, you must be prepared to carry the burden and fight the battle.

I once heard a young Christian pray, "O Lord, please teach me the deep truths of Thy Word! I want to be lifted up to the heavens to hear and see the wonderful things that are there!" It was a sincere prayer, but the young man did not realize what he was praying. Paul went to the third heaven and learned things too marvelous for words; and as a result, God had to give Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor. 12:1–10). God has to balance privileges with responsibilities, blessings with burdens, or else you and I will become spoiled, pampered children.

When do "blessings" come? In the midst of trials we may experience God's blessings, as did the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3); but James taught that there is a blessing after we have endured. His example was Job.

The Book of Job is a long book, and the chapters are filled with speeches that, to the Western mind, seem long and tedious. In the first three chapters you have Job's distress: he loses his wealth, his family (except for his wife, and she told him to commit suicide), and his health. In Job 4–31 we read Job's defense, as he debates with his three friends and answers their false accusations. Job 38–42 present Job's deliverance: first God humbles Job, and then He honors Job and gives him twice as much as he had before.

In studying the experience of Job, it is important to remember that Job did not know what was going on "behind the scenes" between God and Satan. Job's friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. "There must be some terrible sin in your life," they argued, "or God would never have permitted this suffering." Job disagreed with them and maintained his innocence (but not perfection) during the entire conversation. The friends were wrong: God had no cause against Job (Job 2:3), and in the end, God rebuked the friends for telling lies about Job (Job 42:7).

It is difficult to find a greater example of suffering than Job. Circumstances were against him, for he lost his wealth and his health. He also lost his beloved children. His wife was against him, for she said, "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9). His friends were against him, for they accused him of being a hypocrite, deserving of the judgment of God. And it seemed like God was against him! When Job cried out for answers to his questions, there was no reply from heaven.

Yet, Job endured. Satan predicted that Job would get impatient with God and abandon his faith, but that did not happen. It is true that Job questioned God's will, but Job did not forsake his faith in the Lord. "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him" (Job 13:15, NASB). Job was so sure of God's perfections that he persisted in arguing with Him, even though he did not understand all that God was doing. That is endurance.

God made a covenant with Israel that He would bless them if they would obey His Laws (see Deut. 11). This led to the idea that, if you were wealthy and comfortable, you were blessed of God; but if you were suffering and poor, you were cursed of God. Sad to say, many people have that same erroneous idea today. When Jesus said it was difficult for a rich man to enter heaven, the disciples were shocked. "Who then can be saved?" they asked (Matt. 19:23–26). "The rich are especially blessed of God," they were saying. "If they can't make it, nobody can!"

The Book of Job refutes that idea; for Job was a righteous man, and yet he suffered. God found no evil in him, and even Satan could not find any. Job's friends could not prove their accusations. Job teaches us that God has higher purposes in suffering than the punishing of sin. Job's experience paved the way for Jesus, the perfect Son of God who suffered, not for His own sins, but for the sins of the world.

In Job's case, what was "the end [purpose] of the Lord"? To reveal Himself as full of pity and tender mercy. Certainly, there were other results from Job's experience, for God never wastes the sufferings of His saints. Job met God in a new and deeper way (Job 42:1–6), and, after that, Job received greater blessings from the Lord.

"But if God is so merciful," someone may argue, "why didn't He protect Job from all that suffering to begin with?" To be sure, there are mysteries to God's working that our finite minds cannot fathom; but this we know: God was glorified and Job was purified through this difficult experience. If there is nothing to endure, you cannot learn endurance.

What did Job's story mean to the believers James wrote to, and what does it mean to us today? It means that some of the trials of life are caused directly by satanic opposition. God permits Satan to try His children, but He always limits the extent of the enemy's power (Job 1:12; 2:6). When you find yourself in the fire, remember that God keeps His gracious hand on the thermostat! "But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

Satan wants us to get impatient with God, for an impatient Christian is a powerful weapon in the devil's hands. You will recall from our study of James 1 that Moses' impatience robbed him of a trip to the Holy Land; Abraham's impatience led to the birth of Ishmael, the enemy of the Jews; and Peter's impatience almost made him a murderer. When Satan attacks us, it is easy for us to get impatient and run ahead of God and lose God's blessing as a result.

What is the answer? "My grace is sufficient for thee!" (2 Cor. 12:7–9) Paul's thorn in the flesh was a "messenger of Satan." Paul could have fought it, given up under it, or tried to deny that the thorn existed; but he did not. Instead, he trusted God for the grace he needed; and he turned Satan's weapon into a tool for the building up of his own spiritual life.

When you find yourself in the furnace, go to the throne of grace and receive from the Lord all the grace you need to endure (Heb. 4:14–16). Remind yourself that the Lord has a gracious purpose in all of this suffering, and that He will work out His purposes in His time and for His glory. You are not a robot caught in the jaws of fate. You are a loving child of God, privileged to be a part of a wonderful plan. There is a difference!

- Warren Wiersbe

that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful (James 5:11). The Lord's being full of compassion and mercy is a major theme in the OT (Exod. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Ps 86:15; 102:13; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2). [ref]

As one source explains:

 
BARTON: God does not enjoy watching his people suffer. He allows them to face such pain because a greater good will be produced. Some who have suffered a great deal more than any of us have unashamedly praised God: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail" (Lamentations 3:22 niv; see also Psalm 103:8; 111:4). In the meantime, James encourages his readers to trust in God, wait patiently, persevere, and remember God's incredible love, compassion, and mercy for his people.

Here, as in [James 2:13], when James has led us to a place of real challenge, he makes the challenge possible by adding the hope of God's mercy. Left with our own resources, perseverance is beyond us. Our trust in God must combine the desire to persevere and the willingness to receive God's help. God can help us persevere. He can even help us want to persevere. But he will not force us to persevere if that is not our desire. "For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13 NRSV). [ref]
 

Regarding God's compassion and mercy, one commentator notes:

 
MOTYER: We could better translate compassionate [full of compassion NASB] as 'tender-hearted' or, even more accurately, 'abundantly tender-hearted'. Merciful requires a much more emotional rendering, for we see from its background that it sums up that moving of the heart of God towards us from which all his blessings and saving mercies flow. Behind all that God has ever done for us lies his heart of love -- behind his choice of us, his gift of his Son, the temporal and eternal blessings of his great salvation, his daily and nightly care for us, his provisions for body, mind and soul, his presence day by day, and the hope of glory. The wonder of the day of Christ's coming is that then the full content of that heart of love will come home in experience to the people of this great and tender-hearted God. [ref]
 

Alternate translations/versions of James 5:11 include:


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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe | ^Except where indicated otherwise, paragraph formatting follows that of the NASB.