James 5:11

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James 5:11

In the previous verse, James spoke of the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, using them as his example of suffering and patience. He now states of such people, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure.” He uses a verb found only here and in Luke 1:48 where Mary says that all future generations would call her blessed.

There is a blessing for faithful endurance through suffering, and James highlights that in his thoughts. It is a commendable thing to bear up under suffering when it is for the glory of the Lord. Such was the case with the Old Testament’s premier example of suffering, Job. James brings him into his thoughts now by saying, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job.”

Though not a Hebrew, Job was known for his faithful endurance through suffering even among the Jews. The book which bears his name is an integral part of their canon of Scripture, and it reflects the high regard that the Lord had for Job as a person of righteousness and as a person willing to maintain his composure before the Lord, even in the most difficult times of suffering, loss, and sadness.

Because of this, James then says, “and seen the end intended by the Lord.” The words “intended by” are inserted for clarity. James makes this unusual statement to show that the sufferings of Job came about not because of God’s displeasure, but because He is sovereign over His creation, and this was His means of teaching both Job and those who read his account about the good end which He has purposed for His people, despite their sufferings. And that good end is found in the fact “that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

The word translated as “very compassionate” is found only here in Scripture, and it is believed that James invented the word for this particular statement. It is one which means “many-boweled.” The bowels are considered the place of the deepest emotions, and thus it signifies the multi-faceted and heartfelt emotions of God towards His people.

The other word, translated as “merciful,” is found here and twice in Luke 6:36. All three instances are speaking of the mercy of God. As HELPS Word Studies says of this word, it signifies “experiencing deep pity (lamentation) as God has for people who look to Him for help in their difficult situations.”

One can see that these two words signify both the feelings of the Lord and the act by the Lord in relation to those feelings. He is very compassionate, and that state is worked out in His being merciful.

In remembering that this is based on the sufferings of His people, James is showing us (his audience) that this is what we too can expect from the Lord, despite any sufferings we face or may face in the future. The Lord is aware of those things, and He is with us in our woeful state, bringing us to a good end.

Life application: Most people know at least a portion of the story of Job. The book begins with –

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.” Job 1:1-3

Very quickly, the narrative shows that he lost everything mentioned here and was left with only a nagging wife and boils covering his body from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Despite this, Job never swayed in his convictions and continued to praise and exalt God. He understood that God truly is “very compassionate and merciful.”

Towards the end of the book of Job, it records –

“Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters.” Job 42:12, 1

As you can see, Job was given a double portion of everything he had lost; God restored to him and added more. The sadness and pain of the time between his loss and restoration was swept away. The Lord promises to have this same compassion and mercy upon us as well.

Despite facing trials, loss, and death, we can have complete confidence that all wrongs will be righted. This is not a guarantee for prosperity in this life. Instead, we have a greater guarantee – that of eternal life and no lack or want forever. This has been guaranteed to all who follow Jesus Christ. If you are facing the years of trial, sadness, or loss, just remember they have an end. The Lord is ever gracious and merciful and He knows how to care for His beloved children. Let’s praise Him for this –

Yes Lord! We praise You and give You glory and honor for Your tenderness and care. Despite our trials and hardships, we know that You have promised full and complete restoration. May You be praised! May You be praised! Glory, honor, and majesty to You! May You be praised! Amen.

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