Be Patient in Suffering (James 5:10) ~ A Daily Devotion for March 27, 2014

“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” ~ James 5:10

Explanation of the Text: James logically moves to practicality of the teachings that he has been expressing. He points to the prophets as the example of what it means to suffer and be patient. It is an important to note that the verb ‘take’ is not used here necessarily in the command form, but instead it is an admonition to the readers pointing them to how they can implement the previous appeals.[1] In other words, the call to be patient in the midst of oppression can be put into practice just as the former prophets did, and they can be looked to as examples. The noun form ‘example’ comes from the verb ‘to show’ and connects the concept to a model that is meant to be imitated.[2] In using this terminology, James is not only directing readers to use the prophets as an example, but also to imitate them in their lives.

Those men that James refers to, the Old Testament Prophets, were part of God’s plan and are used as examples throughout the New Testament. In fact, these men were highly privileged in the role they were able to play in God’s plan, and yet they were still not protected from persecution.[3] They had a very special opportunity in that they were able to proclaim God’s very word to the people, and yet even this did not exempt them from suffering.[4] D. Edmond Hiebert even points out, that in being honored with the opportunity to proclaim God’s very word, they actually provoked opposition and thus did not escape the maltreatment.[5] Whether the proclaimer was Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Hosea, or any other prophet, the people often ignored their prophecies and the leaders of the time were hostile towards these men, and even still, the prophets bore this opposition with great patience; even more important, these men endured, meaning that they still continued to prophesy even in the face of hostility.[6]

Examination & Application of the Text: One of the most notable examples of enduring under persecution is that of Jeremiah as found in Jeremiah 20. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus closes out the Beatitudes exhorting believers in the midst of persecution. In the context of believers being blessed in the midst of this oppression, he states, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). Jesus points to the same prophets as the very example. However, Christ gives practical application as well in saying that believers are to rejoice and be glad. Why? Because they have a future mindset, focused on the coming time of heaven. It is the same future mindset that James has continued to exhort believers to remember in James 5:7-9). Therefore, rejoice, because the trials, the suffering, the persecution will produce Godly character as is desired (James 1:2-4). Paul joyously writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are no worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” What an example Paul is! It is this type of attitude that each of us should maintain, seeking to glorify God in the middle of our trials and tribulations, or sufferings and persecution.

 

[1] Chris A. Vlachos, James, B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, Ed. Murray J. Harris & Andreas J. Kostenberger (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2013), 174.

[2] Craig L. Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell, James, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 229.

[3] J. A. Motyer, The Message of James: The Tests of Faith, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 182.

[4] Homer A. Kent Jr., Faith That Works: Studies in the Epistle of James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2005), 173.

[5] D. Edmond Hiebert, James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2009), 275.

[6] Daniel M. Doriani, James, Reformed Exposition Commentary (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 182.

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