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“Job, when I took away everything you had, I was being compassionate and merciful.”

The Lord didn’t say this to Job, but James, the half-brother of Jesus, claimed this was God’s heart in His dealings with this trial-laden man. In the fifth chapter of his letter, James encouraged the believers to be patient in their suffering. He didn’t tell them to put on a happy face and hang in there because their situation was bound to improve just over the rainbow; rather, they were to wait patiently as they endured. Why? The “coming of the Lord is at hand”:

“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” (James 5:7–8).1

Clearly, James was instructing his brothers and sisters to take an eternal view of their difficult circumstances. This is the ultimate, just, loving view Christians are to embrace. This world and all that occurs and befalls us here is not the sum total—sometimes, by turns, seemingly meaningless or cruel—of all there is. The coming of the Lord, the final crescendo of the Lord’s salvific work, James wrote, will come as surely as the harvest—and as long as the earth remains, there will always be a harvest (Genesis 8:22).

Then, James wrote, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9). Why this admonition in this context? It’s possible that the Church was enduring persecution, and believers were perhaps thought to be compromising themselves to avoid it. Maybe there were food shortages, and some weren’t sharing it as others thought they should. We are not told, but in the previous section (verses 1-6), James excoriated those who were rich and unjust. They were laying up “treasure in the last days” and fattening their hearts as in “a day of slaughter” (verse 3 and 5).

Then, to encourage, James wrote,

“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” (James 5:10–11).

James gave biblical examples of behavior to emulate during tribulation. The godly prophets and—no surprise here, I suppose—Job. James’ readers have “seen the purpose of the Lord” in these biblical sufferers. And what is that purpose? In all this affliction, we learn that He is compassionate and merciful.

There is compassion and mercy when a believer is persecuted or poor. He or she is pressed to trust in God and thus comes to know His goodness and love. And, in the case of Job, there is compassion and mercy when the Lord allows all one owns and loves to be purposefully destroyed.

Job didn’t see it that way at all early on. He complained about his miserable condition. This, at the close of the story, earns God’s rebuke. The Lord accused him of darkening counsel without knowledge. To enlighten Job, in chapters 38 through 41, our sovereign Creator ran through a magnificent recitation of questions about the natural world which asked, in sum, “Who do you think you are, Job?” The result of this dressing-down is Job’s confession:

“I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2–6).

Truth about God birthed from unimaginable pain.

A glorious, scarred, life-filled declaration.

Job now knew God.

Was it compassionate and merciful for the Lord to allow temporary pain and suffering to accomplish this necessity?

What do you think Job said when he entered God’s heavenly kingdom?

What do you think he will say to us when we meet him there?

 

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.