7 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. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 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.
In the previous verses (James 5:1-6) James described for his readers the evil deeds of certain rich individuals. These individuals were the enemies of God because they treasured the things of this world above God (4:4). James’ final indictment against these rich individuals is that they oppressed righteous individuals who were unable to resist them. These rich individuals lived their live as if they would never be judged for their actions. But what these individuals did was evil, and for that evil they would face the judgment of God. James graphically describes this judgment in v. 5 with these words, “…You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” These evil rich individuals would be slaughtered in judgment for their actions. Ultimately all that these rich individuals had to look forward to in the age to come were “miseries.” Thus James’ command to them in v. 1 was to “weep and howl” over these miseries. In stark contrast to the previous verses in vv. 7-11 we will see that Christians can anticipate a very different future. This very different future centers on the Return of King Jesus. Our Christ will return to vindicate his followers, and judge his enemies. This was the hope that Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 1:13:
“…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The problem that we face is that it is not always easy to fix our hope on the return of Christ. When evil men seem to be thriving, and injustices prevail it can become easy to loose our eternal perspective. We wonder why God isn’t doing anything. Or, why God would allow these things to happen. It is usually in these times that we try to takes things into our own hands. In fact, this was exactly what was happening in many Jewish communities during this time. The Romans were ruling over the Jews, and the Jews were becoming unsettled. In their minds they were God’s chosen nation, and the Romans should not have had control over them. Eventually a group of rebels became known as the Zealots. These Zealots opposed the Romans militarily and eventually degenerated into a group of assassins. They were the first century version of terrorists. In the end they resorted to violence because they were not patient for God to fulfill His promises to Israel from the OT, and in reality they did not trust God’s promises. They wanted to bring about justice by their own means.
The Jewish believers to whom James was writing were no doubt familiar with these Zealots, and additionally they were being unfairly oppressed by the rich individuals. The temptation for them would have been to try and seek justice for themselves through revenge, but James’ command was to “Be patient until the coming of the Lord.” (v. 7) We too can face this same temptation when we become weighed down by the trials of this world. What we must remember is that Christ is coming back for us, and everything in our lives is leading up to that end. This is why we must follow the examples of patience that James has provided for us in these verses, and heed the warning that he has given us here as well.
I. Be patient like the Farmer. (vv. 7-8)
a. The Farmer patiently waits for the rain. (v. 7)
The first example of patience that James provides for us is the patience of the farmer. James says, “The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” As we saw in the previous verses the primary industry in this part of the world during the first century was agriculture. This meant that James’ readers would have been very familiar with this example, knowing that it takes a great deal of patience to be a farmer. It takes time to plant, cultivate, and reap a good crop. Additionally the farmer must depend on the weather. James reminds his readers that to have a good harvest in Palestine it takes early rains and late rains. The early rains would arrive in the fall just before the planting season. This rainfall would soften the ground and make the sowing possible. The late rains would fall in the spring before the harvesting season. This rainfall, along with the warmer temperatures, was important for the maturing of the crops. The point is that the Farmer had to wait patiently for God to supply the needed rain for his crops. There was nothing that he could do to make spring come faster, his only course of actions was to trust that God would provide. What makes James’ reference to the early and late rains even more interesting is that every reference to the early and late rains in the OT is used to affirm God’s faithfulness to provide for his people (Deut. 11:14; Jer. 5:24; Hos. 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zech. 10:1). In the end the harvest of the crop would be well worth the wait and the farmer’s trust in God would be vindicated. James describes this harvest as precious because it was the farmer’s livelihood. The crops that he harvested would provide for his family for the entire year. In light of the patience that the farmer exhibited we also must be patient. In fact, it should be even easier for to be patient because what we are waiting for is even more precious than the crops that the farmer was waiting for. As James reminds us again in v. 8, we are waiting on the return of our King, Jesus.
b. You be like the farmer being patient and strengthening your heart for the coming of the Lord draws near. (v.8)
In v. 8 James explains how we are to be patient, and what we are to base our patience on. James writes, “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James first explains how his readers were to be patient by telling them to strengthen their hearts. As they were waiting on the return of the Lord the believers needed to strengthen their hearts so that they would be ready to face the temptation of impatience, and the trials of difficult circumstances. This strengthening of the heart is in stark contrast to the fattening of the heart that the evil rich individuals were pronounced guilty of in v. 5. The evil rich individuals fattened their hearts with self-centered materialism. However, the strengthening of the heart that James speaks of comes from God-centered faith. When our faith is fixed on God and his sovereign control over the entire universe our hearts will indeed be strengthened. Through a faith strengthened heart we will be able to be patient. And it is the coming of the Lord that our patience is based on. As Christians we are waiting patiently for the arrival of your Lord. James describes this arrival as “near.” It is important that we understand what James means by “near” because here we are around 2000 years after James wrote this and that arrival of Jesus has not happened yet. The nearness of the 2nd coming of Jesus must be understood within the context of the entire plan of salvation. Now that Jesus has died, been resurrected, and the Spirit has been given to the church we have begun what the NT calls the “last days.” Ultimately these last days will be brought to completion with the arrival of Jesus. So even though we do not know the exact time of this arrival we do know that it is the next event on God’s “salvation-historic” timetable. Every generation of the Church, including this one, must live with the awareness that the arrival of King Jesus could happen at any time. This awareness must impact the way that we live our lives. Unlike the rich individuals who lived as if they would never be judge for their actions we must make our decisions and choose our priorities with the arrival of Jesus in mind. The day when Jesus returns to set things right is coming soon. When we live with the thought of Jesus’ arrival constantly on our minds we will be able to be patient and endure difficult situation and even difficult people. This is exactly how James wanted this thought to impact his original readers. He wanted them to continue to be patient with the evil rich individuals who were oppressing them. He wanted them to do what God is doing and endure human evil for a season, knowing that Jesus will return and justice will be done.
The final result for the patient farmer was a precious crop. How much greater is the final result for those who will be patient until the coming of Jesus?