Thursday, November 6, 2014

BE PATIENT (James Chapter 5)

James 5:7-11, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.  You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

The preceding context of this passage has to do with the oppression of the righteous poor by the wicked rich (Cf. James 5:1-6).  The rich were guilty of hoarding their riches (James 5:2-3), not paying their workers (James 5:4), living in luxury and self-indulgence (James 5:5), and murdering innocent men (James 5:6).  In view of such oppression the brethren were exhorted to “be patient” (James 5:7).

The terms “patient” and “patience” occur four times in the passage.  They translate the Greek makrothumeo which has to do with showing forbearance towards others.  A different Greek term, hupomeno, is sometimes translated patience in our English Bibles and is translated “steadfast” by the ESV in verse 11.  It has to do with patiently enduring trials.  The first term has to do with being patient with people, the second with demonstrating patience in circumstances.  Patience is necessary because people sometimes behave badly and circumstances are not always what we wish them to be.  Both work against our determination and resolve and can cause us to lose hope.

Three examples of those exercising patience are given in this passage: the farmer (James 5:7-9); the prophets (James 5:10), and Job (James 5:11). 

The farmer waits patiently for the early and late rains which are necessary for his crops to bear fruit.  In Palestine the early rains occurred in October and November soon after the grain was sown.  The late rains came in April and May as the crop was maturing.  Both were necessary.  Expectantly, the farmer was willing to patiently wait until both rains came.  The Lord is coming.  Indeed, His coming is at hand.  We need to establish in our hearts the earnest expectation of His return.  We will inevitably be wronged from time to time in this life, but we are to respond with forbearance towards others (Cf. 1 Peter 2:20).  In His coming Christ will correct all wrongs.  Difficult people and circumstances can also cause us to lose patience with one another.  So we must be careful to not “grumble against one another” (James 5:9).  The term used here speaks of bearing an inner distress or resentment.  That the Lord is displeased with such conduct is evident in the warning that is given; “Behold, the judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).  As Frank Gaebelein notes, the judgment spoken of, though not pertaining to one’s eternal destiny, is nonetheless serious: “For the regenerate, judgment respecting eternal destiny of the soul is past; on Calvary Christ paid the price for the believer’s sin.  Yet for the regenerate, too, the Judge awaits, because the New Testament teaches that ‘we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his own body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad.’…And while no redeemed will lose his salvation, there will be many who will suffer shame as they lose the heavenly rewards that they might have had” (Frank E. Gaebelein, “The Practical Epistle of James,” Doniger & Raughley, Inc.; 1955).

The second example of those exercising patience is the prophets (James 5:10).  They experienced affliction and responded to it with patience.  Jeremiah is a good example of this.  He was beaten and put in stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2), shut up in prison (Jeremiah 32:2), and mired in the mud (Jeremiah 38:6).  Yet he patiently endured in his ministry.  We consider “those blessed who remain steadfast” (James 5:11; Cf. James 1:12).

The third example of one exercising patience is Job.  The term used in verse 11 (translated “steadfastness”) is the term which speaks of exercising patience in difficult circumstances.  Job experienced trying circumstances (Job 1:21-22; 2:10; 13:15; 19:25-27).  Though a positive outcome for Job sometimes seemed unlikely, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful,” and Job ultimately persevered.  God blessed Job by giving him “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).  

These examples all illustrate the need for the believer to patiently endure in expectation of the Lord’s return.  As Charles Spurgeon once said, “by perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Patience is a necessary virtue for the heaven-bound saint.

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