This is an emergency measure. We are sorry to hear that Rev. Lubbers is ill, which prevents him from filling this department for the present. Our readers will be disappointed that his regular series of articles on the “Signs In The Gospel Of John” will not appear for a few issues, awaiting his recovery. M ay the Lord speedily restore him to health that he may soon resume his various duties among us.
Quite reluctantly I take upon myself to temporarily fill the space allotted to him. But under the circumstances, I was also reluctant to refuse, even though the request comes on a very short notice. So together we’ll hope that this emergency is of a short duration.
It is always interesting to note that Scripture is its own interpreter. One passage often throws valuable light upon some other passage, or one section upon some other. Some new aspects are discovered. Some important facts are brought to our attention.
A passage of that nature we have in James 5:11. “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.”
In passing, we do well to note that James is spurring the readers on to patiently persevere in the midst of the trials that beset them in their present sojourn upon the earth. He realizes, as becomes evident from the first six verses of this chapter, that they must often suffer in the hands of wicked men, who are sometimes even reckoned among the members of the church. These wicked men are often in power, using their power to oppress the righteous. And because these righteous refuse to resort to force to obtain justice, it is often necessary for them to endure affliction while they voice their protest and continually send up their prayers to Him Who sees all things and judges righteously.
James admonishes them to be patient in the midst of their sufferings, always confident that vengeance belongs to the Lord, Who will recompense every man according to his works, whether good or evil. That day of recompense is not far off, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Already the Judge stands at the door.
As an incentive, these righteous are reminded of the saints who have gone before. James calls to mind particularly the prophets, who were especially privileged above their contemporaries to be mouthpieces of the Lord. Yet their unique privilege carried with it an added amount of suffering. These are outstanding examples of those who suffered affliction. And they persevered steadfastly, patiently bearing the suffering that befell them.
And then he refers to the example of Job. Even in that day they had often heard of the proverbial patience of Job. They need only be reminded of it. They have also “seen the end of the Lord”, that is, the purpose of the Lord in all His dealings with His servant Job. For the Lord had His own wise purpose in afflicting him as He did. The history of Job teaches us that “the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy.”
Job undergoes a trial of his faith. It need hardly be said that this trial comes from God. All things, including every happening and all creatures, are in the hands of the Almighty, Who is absolutely sovereign in all His works. The devil who wants to make Job utterly miserable, the Sabeans and Chaldeans who delight in robbing him of his possession, the wind and the fire that destroy what remained, are but so many instruments in the hands of God to carry out His purpose. Even Job’s wife who turns against him in his hour of distress, and his three friends who prove to be such miserable comforters, are serving the purpose for which God intends to use them.
That becomes increasingly evident as we read the book of Job. God brings His servant to the attention of the devil, reminding him that this man stands in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, is sanctified to walk in a new obedience, with the fear of God in his heart, so that he simply abhors evil. (1:8), The Lord also gives Satan power to deprive Job of all his earthly possessions, but setting a limit beyond which even the power of darkness cannot go. Job is perfectly right when he declares that the same Lord Who gave him all these things has also taken them again. (1:21). The conclusion of the entire book expresses emphatically that the Creator of all is almighty in power and unsearchable in all His ways.
Job’s faith is put to the test. His suffering is not the common lot of humanity, but is the unique suffering of a servant of God. He does not merely suffer a great natural loss and a serious physical ailment, but he undergoes a spiritual struggle. He suffers for righteousness’ sake. His faith is always brought in question. All the powers of darkness are plotting together with the wicked intent of undermining his faith.
The devil is the first to challenge it. In answer to God’s challenge to take note of His servant Job, the devil remarks: ‘‘Does Job fear God for naught?” The implication is, that man’s religion is a matter of utility. He serves God for his own personal interests. Deprive him of all that is most precious to him, and he will readily throw up his faith in God. To prove his point the devil is* ready to deprive the man of God of ail his earthly possessions, and when that fails to bring the desired result, he is ready to afflict him so sorely that death is more attractive to him than life.
Even Job’s wife turns against him, urging him to curse God and die. And his friends accuse him of having committed gross sins that have brought these visitations of God upon him. They proceed from the assumption that prosperity is an unerring sign of God’s favor, while adversity is necessarily always a token of His curse. This man has been prosperous, but now he is utterly miserable. The conclusion must be, that he is now receiving a just recompense for his sins. God’s visitations are upon him, so that he is doomed to go to the grave childless, as an outcast who is cut off from the land of the living, like a tree that has been uprooted, never to rise again. And when Job pleads his innocence in this matter, he is branded as an unrepentant, self-righteous hypocrite.
You have heard of the unique suffering of this righteous man. You have also heard of his patience.
Not as if true patience is ta natural virtue in which some men excel above others. A mere natural patience is often nothing more than timidity, verging on cowardice. It could never have persevered under the strain of this kind of a trial. His patience was an act of faith, which is a gift of grace, powerful enough to bear up under every affliction and able to sustain him in all his distresses.
Not as if true patience is a natural virtue in which patience, you find that he slips into sin, sinks deeper and deeper into the mire that threatens to swallow him up. At the end of chapter one it can still be said, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” But in chapter two, verse ten, this statement is repeated only with definite reservations. There we read, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” But in the third chapter this can no more be said, for he curses the day of his birth. He even reaches a stage that is well-nigh despair. Until finally he is forced to confess to God, “Behold I am vile; what shall I answer Thee?” (40:4). And again, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:6).
Yet even so his faith triumphs, for true patience is a gift of God. Job does not understand God’s dealings with him, but he acknowledges his trust in the Lord. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” (13:15). Although he knew that he was a sinner and was ready to confess his sinfulness, he also knew that he was just in the sight of His Maker, in the confidence, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” (19:25). And although he could not possibly explain why all this misery should come upon him, he never entirely gave up his hope in the salvation of God. “And though after my skin worms shall destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (19:26).
Who can fail to see the purpose of the Lord in all this? For he shows clearly in this whole history “that He is full of pity and of tender mercy”.
God’s pity is rooted in His love. It is the manifestation of His love towards the objects of His love in distress. His sympathy goes out to them. Not as a mere passing sentiment that arises for a moment and soon fades away. But He yearns for them, grieves over their afflictions and pities them as a father pities his children. He is eager to deliver them and to bestow some great good upon them.
He is also of tender mercy. The Dutch calls Him an “Ontfermer”. God does not merely entertain a strong desire to deliver His people from all their troubles, but He is also able to do so. He does not stand by in desperation, but He is mighty to save. Therefore God’s mercy means, first of all, that He is intensely interested in the welfare of His people, so that even when He sends them afflictions, He does so in His compassion for them. It means, moreover, that He will not allow them to suffer one moment longer than is necessary for their good. Their tears are vprecious in His sight. And it means finally, that He delivers them at the earliest possible moment and bestows upon them the great good of His eternal salvation. In all these things He shows that He is full of pity and of tender mercy.
That was also His purpose in the affliction of Job.
The three friends are put to shame. Before their eyes Job is justified and restored to his former position of honor before God. His possessions are doubled, his family is once more complete. It becomes evident that the Lord often chastises those whom He loves.
Job is humbled to the dust. He learns the invaluable lesson, that he is a great sinner, prone to all evil, liable to fall and never able to stand in his own strength. He learns to distrust himself, to become bitterly afraid of his own weaknesses and to trust entirely in his God.
And God is vindicated. He is the living God, almighty in power and sovereign in all that He does. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! His work withstands the fiery trial that He sends. His grace is sufficient, His pity is great and His mercy is boundless. He is ever faithful, for He changes never. Therefore His people are not consumed.
The conclusion of the matter is, that God never punishes those whom He loves. He does chastise them but His chastisements prove that He deals with them in love as His sons and daughters. He does send afflictions, but He does it to purge, not to destroy.
“We count them blessed who endure.” And rightly so!
To express it in the words of Jesus. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
He who so endures to the end shall be saved.