James’ readers were going through serious suffering. James anticipated their, “You don’t know how hard life is for me” reaction. In support of his call to patience, James offered two shining examples: the prophets and Job.
Jam. 5:10-11 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (11) Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
James didn’t mention any specific prophet, but suffering was a common theme in their lives. Here are some passages that highlight that fact:
2Ch. 36:15-16 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: (16) But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
Mat. 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (12) Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Mat. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
“We count them happy,” James says. We still read about them, talk about them, and are inspired by them. They are the heroes of our faith. Could it be that God wants us to do more than admire them? He wants us to follow their examples.
Most scholars think that the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. For thousands of years, people have known his story of suffering. He lost his wealth, his livestock, and his children. He lost his health and the support of his wife and friends. We relate, from a safe distance, to his struggle to make of sense his suffering.
We know how the story ends – an advantage Job didn’t have as he endured gut wrenching tragedy. We see that God blessed him, and made him a blessing to us:
Job. 42:12-17 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. (13) He had also seven sons and three daughters. (14) And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. (15) And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. (16) After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. (17) So Job died, being old and full of days.
The obvious application for us is that we can trust God in our suffering. We can be confident that, like Job, God will bless us and make our hardships a source of blessing.
How Are You Doing?
- Are you admiring the example of the prophets, or following it?
- Do you believe that God will ultimately turn your tragedies into triumph, like He did for Job?
Meditate on James 5:12 for tomorrow. What do you think this passage forbids? Why?