"Very Pitiful, and of Tender Mercy"

James 5:10, 11.

In a scene of contrariety, rendered such to the believer through the rejection of Christ, persecution and sorrow of many kinds must be expected. As the Lord Himself said to His disciples, "The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you"; and again, "The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." If, therefore, we are identified with Christ here in His rejection, we shall meet with the same treatment; and hence it is that they who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Not only so, but in the Lord's love to His people He passes them under the chastenings of His hand, whatever the instrumentalities He may be pleased to use to accomplish His ends. The path here - through the wilderness - cannot, therefore, be one of ease; and it is this of which James speaks in this chapter. He thus reminds his brethren of some of the sources of their sorrows, and points them for consolation to the coming of the Lord, and then to the issue of the trials of the saints in the olden days in evidence of the tenderness and mercy of the Lord in His chastenings.

First of all, after urging patience upon the poor and afflicted saints, He bids them to take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience. Then he exclaims, "Behold, we count them happy which endure." He had before said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." (Chapter 1.) By the world this would be deemed to be a dire misfortune; but the Christian who has entered ever so little into the purposes of God for His people understands full well the happiness of tried and afflicted saints, for he knows that they are in the hands of the Lord, and for rich and unspeakable blessing. God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts, and thus it often is that those for whom the light of their homes is extinguished, or those who are passing through trials of the utmost severity, are the special objects of His favour. Yea, as James says, they are the happy ones who endure. Was this not indeed exemplified in the path of our blessed Lord and Saviour through this world? One word describes its character, where He is presented as the perfect example of faith: He "endured the cross," and this word comprehends the whole of His life in this aspect.

James, to illustrate his teaching, brings in the case of Job. Did any believer ever suffer more keenly than he? Everything he held dear in this world was taken from him - children, possessions, bodily health; and then finally - the sorest trial of all - his wife, losing confidence in God, weighed down by the accumulation of their sorrows, bade him to curse God and die. Was Job then one of the happy ones? This is James' point. Not that Job felt happy when he was thus tempted almost beyond what he was able to endure, but he was happy in that he was in the Lord's care, and in that he was being conducted by Him to a sure and certain goal of blessing. His affliction for the present was not joyous but grievous, but it was about to yield him the peaceable fruit of righteousness, because he was thereby being exercised. Hence James says to his brethren, "Ye have heard of the patience" (endurance) "of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." "The end of the Lord" is found in the last chapters of Job's history, where we are permitted to see him restored to blessing and the favour of the Lord, who blessed Job, now that the end of the discipline had been reached, in his latter end more than his beginning; and thus James abundantly proves that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Do any of us, being in sorrow and under pressure, doubt it? Alas! Satan will often in such circumstances ply us with this subtle temptation. It ought to be enough, in order to repel the tempter, to remind ourselves of that perfect demonstration of the heart of God when He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. Yes, unbelief urges, but we refer to His ways with us. Well, then, let us cite a case or two of His ways with Ephraim when, indeed, Ephraim had sinned with a high hand, but was now, under chastisement, turning to the Lord: "Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 31.) And again in Hosea, with infinite yearnings of compassion, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together." The most certain thing in all the world is that the Lord loves His people, and that all His dealings and ways with us can only be interpreted in the light of His love. His very purposes of grace proclaim it; for if we learn from the Word of God that all things work together for good to them that love God, the called according to His purpose, it is because whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. The light of God's counsels has shone upon our souls, and we thus possess the key wherewith to unlock the mystery of all His ways with us. Let us therefore never doubt, whatever the pressure, that He is "very pitiful, and of tender mercy."