“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain.
Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
Be patient therefore, brethren!
That word “therefore” points back to the preceding context, and specifically to the condition wherein the ungodly rich were oppressing the poor.
James had been denouncing the ungodly rich, who were heaping up treasures at the expense of the poor. And among these poor were the children of God.
No, it was not his intention to condemn the rich per se. James was not a socialist or a communist, fermenting a class struggle, and seeking for equal distribution of the wealth of the world. But he points his finger at ungodly rich men who acquired their wealth by defrauding the poor.
James denounces them for their evil practices. They kept back wages from their laborers. They condemned and killed the just, while they themselves lived in pleasure on the earth.
James warns them that their gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them would witness against them, and would eat up their flesh as it were fire. Says he, Ye have reaped treasure together for the last days. Ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you.
And among these oppressed and defrauded laborers are the children of God who cry unto the Lord Sabaoth.
O, how wonderful are the cries of the harvesters when they are content! But how terrible is their cry when they have been wronged! Though the wicked rich, the fraudulent oppressors choose to ignore these cries, their cry comes into the ears of the Lord, Who will properly deal with the ungodly according to his works, while He will give deliverance to His saints.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord!
The Lord is coming!
And this time He comes, not as the lowly Babe in the manger of Bethlehem, but as the Lord of glory. He is coming as the righteous Judge, Who will set the crooked straight, and Who will reward every man according as his work shall be.
In respect to His coming two things must be borne in mind. In the first place, not at any time will He come, as so many in our day would have us believe; but at a set time which only He knows. Evidently this. coming is at the end of the world, when all God’s counsel shall have been realized, when all of the church which is to be gathered out of every nation shall have been saved, when all of the precursory signs of His coming shall have been fulfilled. And in the second place, it must also be remembered that He is coming throughout the ages. From the moment Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father He also begins to return. It is therefore for this reason that the apostles could write nearly two thousand years ago that His coming is near, that it is at hand. This is also the viewpoint of James when he says in the latter part of our text, “for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” And this implies that He stands as it were at the door which is ajar, and is about to be opened allowing Him to appear.
Unto this coming of the Lord be patient, brethren!
Nearly all translations follow the King James and say: “Be patient therefore, brethren.” Literally, however, according to the original text, the translation should be: “Be longsuffering therefore, brethren.” This does not mean that James does not know the word “patient.” Fact of the matter is that in verse 11 James says: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” Here the word is literally “patience.” But in our text the word is “longsuffering.” It must be pointed out here that, though there is no doubt similarity between these two, there is nevertheless also a marked difference. Patience is a grace that is given unto the child of God according to which he is enabled to bear up under all oppressing circumstances and not succumb. Of the manifestation of this grace, Job is surely a worthy example. You remember how he lost all his children and all his possessions, and, if this were not enough, the Lord made him sick with boils, and so emaciated was he that his bones pricked through his flesh. Under this terrible oppression he bore up. Not once did he give up or succumb to his burdens. He maintained that the Lord gave, and it was His right to take away. He even blessed the Name of the Lord His God. Longsuffering, on the other hand, is that grace according to which the child of God is able to restrain himself over against evil doers who would afflict him, so that he does not seek to retaliate. Longsuffering always stands opposed to wrath and revenge. Remarkably, longsuffering is also an attribute of God, while you never read in Scripture that the Lord is patient. You do read that He is the God of patience, but this means, not that He Himself is patient, but rather that He gives this grace. Undoubtedly the reason why God is not patient is because He is never burdened or oppressed. He is never under adverse circumstances, so that He may or may not succumb under His burdens. But He is longsuffering, which means that He suffers long with respect to the sufferings of His people. Yea, He suffers with them until they are delivered, while He forebears the wicked until they are destroyed.
In respect to the wicked rich who oppress the brethren, they are to be longsuffering. And that means they are not to retaliate, to organize opposing forces to combat them. O, how difficult this is, when you consider that the brethren are to do this in an old nature that always rebels, that refuses to turn the cheek, that always proudly would maintain self. It takes abundant grace not to rebel against the enemies of God and His saints. It takes grace to love your enemies, and to do good to them that despitefully treat you. But that’s what Jesus said, didn’t He? Love your enemies, and do well to them that despitefully use you! That’s what James also means when he exhorts: Be longsuffering therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord!
With a view to that coming of the Lord, be longsuffering, brethren!
If their view is simply toward their wicked persecutors, toward the loss of wages kept back by fraud, toward the hardships imposed upon them by the ungodly, they will not long endure. Their viewpoint must be directed to the Lord and His coming, and to this end let the brethren be longsuffering.
James is writing to Christian Jews in the dispersion. Because of persecution they had to flee out of Jerusalem, and they scattered into every part of the Roman Empire. But so long as the Lord spared them they had to eat, and to eat they had to hire themselves out for wages. But they were subject to the tender mercies of the wicked which are always cruel. And they cried! No doubt, also to their cruel persecutors, who turned to them a deaf ear. And so their cry ascends to the Lord of heaven Who bought them with His own blood, and promised never to leave or forsake them,—to the Lord Whose alone is the prerogative of righteous vengeance, and Who in His longsuffering over His people forebears the wicked until they have filled the cup of their iniquity in order then to destroy them forever.
But James also writes to the church of all ages, and therefore to the people of God today. To God’s people who in general today live in a time of material prosperity—the most dangerous time, from a spiritual point of view, in which to live. When one looks about him, also in respect to the brethren, there is very little suffering. They are not being persecuted for their faith. Fact is, in many respects the world honors them, respects them, allows them to have houses, lands, cars, boats, cottages, vacations with pay, social security, all kinds of insurance, etc. Today they are allowed to join the unions to gain the almighty dollar, to dictate the policies formerly stipulated only by management. Today they may strike, boycott, sit down and refuse to work if they are not happy with their wages or working conditions. Even the government is in cahoots with the whole setup. Fact is, presidential candidates crawl on their knees to gain the popular vote of powerful labor organizations, giving them promises of blessing if they can ride into office. If you are a member of the church, more power to you. That is the general attitude expressed today.
As we said, a most dangerous time is this for the church. When times are prosperous in the material sense, when the child of God is not persecuted, defrauded, and maligned, generally speaking his guard is down, and he is not looking for the coming of the Lord. His religious service is often a mere formality. His walk is often in. the world, seeking the pleasures which the world has to offer. His prayer is not: Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly; but his thought is more than likely, let the Lord tarry longer in His coming.
But, brethren, these times will not continue. Perhaps more quickly than we even like to think, they shall be changed. The experiences of those to whom James writes will be repeated, only with much greater severity. So severe, says the Word of God, that if God had not shortened the days, even the very elect of God would be lost. We must expect that, and be prepared for that. Then, more than ever—Be longsuffering, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord!
James uses the example of the husbandman, the farmer. He prepares the soil, cultivating and fertilizing it. He plants the seed in season, row upon row, each according to the time of planting. He tenderly watches over that seed, destroying the tares that would choke out its life and growth. Then he waits for the early and the latter rain. In Biblical times the early rain was in October. It prepared the parched ground for plowing and planting. The latter rain came in March or April, just before the crop was ready for harvesting. The latter rain did more for the crop than all the other rains put together. Until he receives the precious fruit, the farmer is longsuffering.
The Lord is the husbandman, par excellence. The children of God are His planting, His precious seed, planted as they are in the world among tares. On that precious seed He sends the showers of His grace and mercy, and the sunshine of His Word and Spirit. And He is longsuffering over us, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all shall come to repentance, unto eternal life, and glory. He suffers long with us while we suffer, until we are ready for harvest.
As He is longsuffering, so must we be by His grace!
This is the exhortation that was necessary for the Hebrew Christians to whom James sends his epistle. They must remember that all the persecutions and sufferings imposed upon them by the ungodly are the Lord’s ripening process. They must remember that they suffer the loss of all things, not only because of the wicked, but because they are righteous. Though their cries to those who hired them brought no cure, they must learn to endure. Yea, with longsuffering they must look for the coming of the longsuffering Lord.
And this word must speak to us today!
To us, upon whom the end of the ages has come!
To us, to whom God’s Word assures us that our problems will be magnified, whose suffering will be most intense.
Brethren, have no part with the ungodly who would rebel, and who join forces to oppose the oppressor. Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. But be united in this, namely, that with longsuffering you wait for the coming of the Lord. Stablish your hearts with the firm conviction that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
He will deliver you!
He will take vengeance on your adversaries!
He will preserve His precious fruit!