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.
III. Be patient like the examples from Scripture. (vv. 10-11)
a. Take as an example to follow the patience and the suffering of the prophets.
As James encourages his readers to be patients he actually commands his readers to take the prophets as an example of patience in the midst of a difficult situation. James writes, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” By having his readers look at the prophets suffering, patience, and service to the Lord James was reminding his readers that they were following in great footsteps. Jesus gave a similar encouragement in Matthew 5:12 when he said: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In the OT the prophets patiently waited in the midst of suffering for the Lord to accomplish His purpose. James is calling for this same prophet-like faith from his readers. They were to wait patiently even though the rich land owners were persecuting them because Jesus is coming back. And when he comes back we will see just how great our “reward in heaven” is. And we will see just how small the suffering on this earth was. The challenge is to try and see this now on this earth. That is why it is important that we look to the prophets as an example. Hopefully by looking at the prophets we will be able to see things from an eternal perspective. Just from what James tells us we know three things about the prophets. 1) They suffered, 2) they were patient, 3) and they spoke in the name of the Lord. We could look at each and every one of the prophets and see these three things to some degree. But there is no OT prophet who had to deal with more suffering than Jeremiah. Jeremiah endured so much suffering throughout his ministry that he is known as the weeping prophet. That is why it will be profitable to focus our attention on him in this study.
Jeremiah ministered as a prophet during a difficult time in the history of Israel. He was the greatest spiritual leader in Judah during a time when Judah did not want to follow God. After the reforms under King Hezekiah the ungodly king Mannaseh reigned (2 Kings 21:1). During his reign he made close associations with the Assyrians, and he allowed the worship of the Assyrian gods into Judah. Mannaseh was an evil king who hated God (2 Kings 21:11). The people of Judah, under Mannaseh, had abandoned their God.
By the time Jeremiah began gaining popularity in his public ministry Josiah had become the king. Josiah was a godly king who attempted to reform the nation from the sin into which Mannaseh had led the people. Jeremiah fully supported the reforms of Josiah (2 Kings 23:1-3), and he with the king called the people to repent to the Lord. Tragically Josiah was assassinated by the Egyptians and because of the ungodliness of Judah Josiah’s reforms did not last long. In the midst of all of this Jeremiah had a difficult message to preach to the people. Jeremiah’s message was that Judah and Jerusalem were going to be destroyed by a nation from the north and the people would be carried into captivity all because of their sin (Jeremiah 4:5-9; 6:22-26). You can imagine how hard it would have been to preach this message to the people, but Jeremiah had to because just as James said he spoke in the name of the Lord. And this was the message of the Lord (2 Kings 21:26-27). Jeremiah proclaimed God’s truth and unsurprisingly aroused bitter opposition from everyone.
As all of this was going on in Judah the world powers were struggling for supremacy. Babylon was struggling for power against Egypt. Eventually King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon defeated Egypt to become the world superpower. With Babylon taking over as the superpower King Jehoiakim, who came after Josiah, was looking for counsel as to what to do. The counsel that Jeremiah provided for the king did not make him any friends. Jeremiah’s counsel was that it would be futile and contrary to God’s will to resist Babylon. Can you imagine preaching the theme of unconditional surrender to your enemy? It was from this point on that Jeremiah faced constant hatred and suffering. There are many accounts that illustrate this in Jeremiah’s life but one in particular stands out to me.
A series of events led to Jeremiah’s imprisonment. In Jeremiah 38:4-6 we find the King and his officials trying to decide what to do with Jeremiah. Ultimately they threw him into the cistern. This cistern was a giant pit that had been filled with water. However, because the city was under siege they had used up the water from the cistern. All that was left in the bottom was thick mud. We do not know how deep this pit was, but it must have been deep because they had to lower him down with ropes. At the bottom of this pit Jeremiah couldn’t sleep, or eat, or drink, and he had nowhere to relieve himself. Ultimately the Lord delivered Jeremiah from this situation, but it serves as a good example of what Jeremiah’s ministry looked like.
Jeremiah was patient throughout his entire ministry. He knew what God’s word was, and he proclaimed it. Jeremiah remained faithful in spite of the difficult situations that he faced. In the end Babylon took Judah into captivity, and Jeremiah was forced to move to Egypt. There Jeremiah ended his ministry and his life. We do not know exactly how Jeremiah died, but it is likely that he was stoned to death in Egypt. Not exactly a story book ending, huh?
After hearing the story of Jeremiah’s life you may be wondering why on earth you should model anything in your life after Jeremiah. From an earthly perspective everything that could have gone wrong did! However, from an eternal perspective, which is what James is trying to get us to see, Jeremiah received the ultimate reward. Look at these words from Jeremiah found in Lamentations 3:55-59:
I called on Your name, O Lord, Out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, “Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, From my cry for help.” You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life. O Lord, You have seen my oppression; Judge my case.
Jeremiah may have faced earthly trials that we cannot imagine, and he may have never seen the fruit of his ministry on this earth, but in the end Jeremiah was redeemed by God. God would take care of the unjust oppression he had faced. This is the perfect example for James’ readers to look at. James is not promising that this life will ever be easy, or that we will ever see the evil of this world punished. In fact, the bible tells us that as Christians we will face persecution because of Christ. We must not take from this passage that things will get easier in this life if we just be patient. No! The point is that like Jeremiah things may never get easier, but it will be worth it when Jesus comes back! For then we will see the “great reward in heaven” that has been promised to those who follow Jesus.
b. Those who endure are blessed; just look at how Job endured until he saw the merciful and compassionate result of the Lord.
James gives us another example to follow in v. 11. James writes, “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.” From the beginning James states his purpose in using Job as an example. His purpose is to demonstrate that those who endure are blessed, and thereby encourage his readers to endure. The story of Job demonstrates to us that the Lord is not vicious or unjust in his dealings, but rather He is compassionate and merciful. In order to see this clearly we must take a closer look at the life of Job.
From a spiritual perspective Job was a noteworthy man. God Himself described Job as “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” There were none like him. Additionally, from an earthly perspective Job was the most successful man in the known world. No one had attained as much wealth and prosperity as Job. When you try and understand how wealthy Job was just imagine the wealth of Donald Trump and Bill Gates combined! Job had everything going his way.
Then in Job 1:7-12 something happens that will completely change Job’s life. It is a dialogue between God and Satan. Quickly the conversation comes to the point when the Lord asks Satan to consider Job. Satan’s reply is that Job is only faithful because of his earthly blessing. God’s reply is shocking. He puts Satan in his place and says “Ok, take away his earthly blessings and see what happens.” And this is exactly what Satan did. We find the details of Satan’s work in 1:13-19. Everything that Job had, one after another, was taken from him. What would your response be? We find Job’s in 1:20-22. In all of this Job did not sin! He understood that God was in control of his life in the easy times and in the difficult times. This would not be all that Job would have to endure, in chapter 2 Satan is permitted to affect Job’s health. Here is a list of all that Job endured with respect to his health:
- Inflamed, ulcerous sores (2:7)
- Persistent itching (2:8)
- Facial disfiguration (2:12)
- Loss of appetite (3:24)
- Depression (3:25)
- Sores that burst open, scab over, and ooze with pus (7:5)
- Worms that form in the sores (7:5)
- Difficulty breathing (9:18)
- Foul breath (19:17)
- Constant pain (30:27)
- High fever (30:30)
Job literally ended up out by the town garbage dump scraping sores off of his body with pieces of broken pots. In a very short time Job lost everything and he went from being Donald Trump and Bill Gates combined to the guy you see sleeping underneath the overpass.
To add to Job’s misery Job’s wife was not handling the grief of her loss very well. It is understandable that a mother, after losing 10 children, would be upset. Mrs. Job was exactly that, and she vented those feelings on Job. In 2:9 she tells her husband to curse God and die! Job’s response is the essences of endurance:
“But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (2:10)
Later in the book of Job our example of endurance did have his difficulties handling God’s work in his life. But ultimately he endured. The end of Job’s story is much different from that of Jeremiah. Job was able to see the outcome of God’s work here on this earth when God restored his wealth twofold and blessed him with more children.
The point in this example is that, as was the case with Job, the believer can be confident that ultimately every situation he faces will result in good (Romans 8:28). However, the material blessings that Job received for his endurance are not necessarily what James has in mind. God may bless you in that way, or he may bless you the way that he blessed Jeremiah. Really it doesn’t matter. The blessing that James is looking to is the blessing that believers will receive when Jesus comes back. John Calvin speaking on this matter said, “Afflictions ought ever to be estimated by their end.” James had this same idea in mind in 1:12,
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
We are going to face hard times in our lives. And if we are going to make it we must look to the good and perfect end for which God is working. We must be patient for the Lord is coming back at any time now.