Steadfast Like Job (James 5:11) ~ A Daily Devotion for March 31, 2014

“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 5:11

Explanation of the Text: James originally points to the prophets of an example of patience through suffering. He know turns his attention to Job as a positive example. The concept of Job as a positive example of endurance is a bit confusing because one can look back at the book of Job and see that even in not sinning against God, Job lamented greatly over the situation.

As we look at this verse, it is good to recognize that the blessings that God gives to people are not necessarily based on doing great things, but rather being faithful and enduring.[1] This verse also exposes a great irony in life in that people are often willing to refer to others blessed when they enduring hardship and suffering, however when faced with the similar context and situation, those same people do not have an interest in undergoing it themselves.[2] This verse, in exposing that irony calls on believers to remain steadfast, remembering the purposes of the Lord, and that He is both compassionate and merciful.

In calling someone blessed, this does not necessarily mean happy. “Blessed is an objective, unalterable approval and reward of God.”[3] One who is blessed finds full satisfaction in God and God alone. James indicates that those who remain steadfast, those that persevere, are the ones who may be called blessed. This is because their perseverance is maintained through a close relationship with God. In one’s fullness in Christ, a person has the Holy Spirit to carry him through those times in which steadfastness is needed.

James then refers specifically to the example of Job. This is the only place in the New Testament where Job is directly referred to. Clearly those who are receiving the letter already know about Job, because James offers no explanation and moves straight into his example. This suggests there was no need to give an explanation because these individuals already knew. While is seems confusing that we see Job as an example of remaining steadfast because of his lamenting, one can look to Ezekiel 14:14 and 20 where Job is named with Noah and Daniel as examples of personal righteousness (which shows he held an honorable place in Jewish thought).[4] And indeed, Job did remain steadfast. This is known because it is mentioned that Job did not sin, and we see that he never succumbed to the suggestions of his friends, or even of his wife.[5] Homer Kent points out the uniqueness in the wording in this verse. In describing Job as steadfast, instead of using the typical Greek word for longsuffering, which is μακροθυμιχ, James chooses the word ὑπομονὴν which is typically referred to endure; Kent suggests that this is perhaps because Job was not necessarily patient as evidenced by his complaints, but he rather endured the trials as the work of God.[6]

In the same context of the example of Job, James indicates that the believers have seen the purpose of the Lord. The word purpose can be a bit confusing in that three is question as to exactly what purpose does James refer to. The word that is used is often used to indicate the end, referring to the Lord’s ultimate plan. However, it can also simply refer to the purpose specifically in Job’s life. Based on the context, it is best to see the word purpose here as meaning ‘outcome’ which would refer to the completion of events in Job’s life as they are outlined in Job 42.[7]This also makes sense when considering the final context which declares the Lord compassionate and merciful. These attributes can be seen in the way that God restores Job at the end of the account. The term for compassionate literally means “many-boweled” which is a reference to the stomach being the seat of all emotion. Therefore, to say that God is many-boweled is to say that God has an enormous capacity for compassion on people.[8]

Examination & Application of the Text: The call of this verse is to remain steadfast in trials. As James gave an example in verse 10 for patience by looking to the prophets, the same can be said here in looking at Job. The Lord has graciously given examples to people to act as an encouragement. In those difficult times, the Old Testament Saints are proven examples not only of how to endure, but are examples of the faithfulness of God.

Likewise, one should remain steadfast because of the recognition of who God is. The very character of God should motivate people to continue on the path that God has sovereignly directed in His control of all things. Trusting in who He is, knowing that He is faithful in His compassion and mercy, each of us should seek to be faithful to Him as well.

 

[1] John MacArthur Jr, James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 260.

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

[3] Douglas Moo, James, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 176.

[4] D. Edmond Hiebert, James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2009), 276.

[5] Homer A. Kent Jr., Faith That Works: Studies in the Epistle of James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2005), 174.

[6] Homer A. Kent Jr., Faith That Works: Studies in the Epistle of James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2005), 174.

[7] William Varner, The Book of James – A New Perspective (Woodlands: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), 184.

[8] John MacArthur Jr, James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 262.

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