The Patience of Job
November 10th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
THE PATIENCE OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-10-74 10:50 a.m.
We are glad to welcome you who are sharing the service with us on television and on radio. And this is the pastor bringing the message out of the fifth chapter of the Book of James entitled The Patience of Job. We are preaching through the epistle that this pastor of the church in Jerusalem wrote to the brethren of the Diaspora, to the ends of the earth. And our exposition today will be from verses 7 to 11 in the fifth chapter of the Book of James:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman—
the farmer, the sower—
waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Grudge not one against another, brethren . . . behold the Judge standeth before the door.
Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
Behold, we count them happy who 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.
“Ye have heard and ye have seen the patience of Job, and the end of the Lord” [James 5:11]. Yes, we have! We have heard of it, and we have seen it under the gracious hand of God. But, even though we have heard, yet sometimes we are prone to forget. And it is needful that our memories be refreshed and recreated. We have heard. Now let us hear again, for the gift of faith cometh by our hearing.
The apostle Paul wrote in the tenth chapter of Romans, verse 17, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing [by] the word of God” [Romans 10:17]. Faith—or the eyes of the soul—the insight of the soul is faith and that is the fruit of listening, of hearing. No one ever had a golden tongue who first did not have a silver ear. You must hear if you are to see with the eyes of the mind and of the soul.
We have heard. We shall listen again. “And we have seen the end of the Lord; that He is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” [James 5:11]. The end of the Lord, telos, the consummation of His purpose, and when the Lord is done His work, always His work is beautiful. It is good and it is gracious. God never purposed an evil thing for any of His creation and least of all for the crown of His glory, the soul and life of a man. The end of the Lord always for us is good. Even when the Lord looked at the beautiful firmament and the verdant earth and had finished His creation [Genesis 1:1-30], He said, “It is very good” [Genesis 1:31].
Now, before the pastor writes that admonition to us, he has a triplet of admonitions concerning our being patient, and we always need it. It is a part of human weakness to grow restive under the providences and under the hand of God. He says in verse 7, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” [James 5:7]. And he repeats it, “Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]. And then again in verse 10, “My brethren, look at the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience” [James 5:10].
The voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is patience. And the voice of the Holy Scriptures written on the sacred page is patience. And the voice of our heavenly Father is patience. And the voice of our Savior is patience. And the example, classic of all classics, is the reference of the pastor in my text: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that He is pitiful, and full of tender kindness and loving graciousness” [James 5:11].
This man Job was a patriarch. He lived in the patriarchal days, in the times of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. He lived a long, long time ago. He lived in the era of Genesis. There is no reference in the Book of Job to any event or to any fact beyond the Book of Genesis. There is no reference to the law of Moses. There is no reference to the institutions of the Jews. The only references are in the Book of Genesis, to the creation, for example [Job 38:4-36]; to Adam, for example [Job 38:25-28]; to the Flood, the Deluge, for example [Job 27:3, 33:4]. But the life of Job never goes beyond the age of Genesis. He lived among the patriarchs, long, long ago. Even the sacrifices that are mentioned in Job are never offered by a priest. They are always offered by the father as the head of the home and of the family [Job 1:4-5].
This man Job was greatly tried. He lost everything that he had, all of it. And he was an affluent and wealthy man [Job 1:14-17]. He lost all of his ten children—seven sons and three daughters—he lost all of them [Job 1:18-19]. And he himself was afflicted grievously in his physical frame [Job 2:7-8]. We can look upon the affliction, and the suffering, and the sickness, and pain of others with somewhat nonchalance, or ease, or disassociation, but when it comes to our bones and our flesh, it is something else.
And this man was greatly afflicted. He was covered with blains and boils and sores, the Book says, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot [Job 2:7], and he sat in an ash heap, on a dunghill, in misery and in agony [Job 2:8]. Every part of his body was a province of hurt, and every nerve was a road over which armies of pain did march.
He was greatly afflicted. To add to that, was his own anguish of mind. His wife, who should have sustained him, and prayed for him, and encouraged him, and caused him to look up to heaven—his wife said to him, “Curse God, and commit suicide!” “Curse God, and kill yourself! Curse God, and die!” [Job 2:9].
What a wife! In an hour of such turmoil, and anguish, and misery, and suffering, and trial, and loss, to have a companion like that. But to add more grievously to his anguish of mind, there came Job’s three comforters [Job 2:11-13]. And weren’t they classics of assurance and encouragement? Job’s three comforters; they came to him and said, “You—you must be a vile sinner, for only a vile sinner would suffer like this” [Job 4:7-8]. They said, “You are a great sinner, and evidences of it is because you are suffering greatly” [Job 4:7, 11:13-20]. They rubbed salt into his wounds. They threw dust into his eyes. And they crowned his misery with suffering and agitation.
The trials of Job were not imaginary. They were real. He was no dyspeptic. He was no hypochondriac. He was no hysterical groaner over imagined evils and hurts. They were real to him. He never lost one child. He lost all ten of them. He never lost just a few hundred dollars. He lost his whole amassed fortune. And he was not just somewhat sick for an hour or a day. He was grievously afflicted and sat in pain and suffering and indescribable misery.
How do you account for that? How is it that a good man suffers? That’s what the psalmist wanted to know in Psalm 73:
As for me, my feet were almost gone: my steps had well-nigh slipped.
Because I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked . . .
They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men . . .
Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches . . .
All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning . . .
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood.
When a man gets high enough, he can see far enough, and then he’ll understand the providences of God in the afflictions of the righteous. That’s why we’ve come into God’s house, for the minister from God’s Word to explain to us the ways of the Lord. So may God today lift us up to a high eminence, maybe next to the very throne of heaven, that from that vantage point, we can bring true reckon order, true surveillance over our lives and what God purposes for us, when we meet suffering, and agony, and anguish, and frustration, and failure.
“Pastor, you are not talking to me. I have not been introduced to such provinces as that.” Maybe not now, you will. There is no one who will escape, not one. When we were born into this world, we were born into that. And someday, every heart shall have wrung from it the cry of our Lord on the cross, “Eli, lama, My God, why?” [Matthew 27:46]. And so if the Lord will thus bless us, we shall, in the sanctuary of our God, climb up to that high eminence that the psalmist ascended to, and we shall see as God sees, and then shall we understand.
Number one, number one: whatever the providence, however the turn of fortune, God is in it. You see, when you read the Book of Job, about all that you see is Satan and Satan’s oversowing. He covers the horizon from side to side. You look at him. There is the waste of death, and of murder, and of blood, and of robbery, and of violence, and of pillage, and of affliction, and of sores, and of pain and misery. He seems to cover the whole creation.
What we don’t sometimes remember is God is there also. There’s somebody besides Satan. And Satan only goes so far as God permits him. He can do thus, but not any further. He’s allowed this, but no more [Job 1:12, 2:6]. The hound of hell and the dog of damnation can snap, and bark, and growl, and snarl, but he has an iron collar around his neck, and on that collar is an iron chain. And the end of that chain is held by the hand of the omnipotent God. And he can do just so much, and God reins him in.
Don’t ever forget that the Sovereign of the universe, and the Sovereign of history, and the Sovereign of national life, and the Sovereign of political and state life, and the Sovereign of individual life, and our Sovereign is not damnation, and hell, and death, and the grave, and Satan, and the devil; it is the Lord God Almighty. He reigns on His throne, high and lifted up forever [Isaiah 6:1]. And that chain is in His hand.
One time, the Lord Jesus said to Simon, “Simon, Simon . . .” And wherever the Lord will repeat that, like “Martha, Martha” [Luke 10:41], wherever the Lord repeats that, be awake. Open your ears; there is something significant to say. “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may thresh you, sift you like wheat, like wheat poured into a thresher, he hath desired to thresh you, sift you like wheat” [Luke 22:31]. For you see, Simon had said, “I love the Lord with all my heart.” And Simon said, “If the whole world were to deny You, yet would not I too deny You” [Matthew 26:31-33].
And the Lord said:
Simon, Simon, Satan wants to talk to you about that. He wants to just find out about that. And Simon, I have given him permission. I have said yes. But, just so far, just so far and no further, for I have prayed for thee. And just so far, and then Simon, when you turn, when you are converted, when you come back, strengthen your brethren.
And Satan sifted the apostles. He threshed them. He put them into the machine—and it cast out Judas altogether [Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50, 27:3-10; Acts 1:18-19]. And Simon Peter swore and cursed and denied the Lord [Matthew 26:69-74]. Satan sifted him, threshed him, shook him, but when it was done, there came out of the fire and out of the trial a different kind of a Simon Peter—he was a different man. In the first epistle of Simon Peter, chapter 5, can you believe that’s the man who wrote these words? “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due season; casting all of your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:6-7].
When Satan was done with him, in the permissive will of God, there was a lot of chaff in him that was blown away and a lot of dross in him that was burned out. That’s the Lord! He is in it all.
And so in the life of Job, this man was sorely tempted. Said his wife, “Curse God and commit suicide” [Job 2:9], but Job never failed in his witness to the Lord. And Satan cast him on a dung heap, on a manure pile [Job 2:8]. But he made the dung heap a throne in the presence of the great God. And Satan afflicted him with sores and boils and blains [Job 2:7]. Job made them signets of honor! They were citations and medals all over him. And Job made Satan eat his words. Job made Satan confess that he was a liar [Job 2:5, 10].
God was in it all [Job 1:12, 2:6]. Not only is God in the trial and in the fire, in the fury and in the furnace: but God also purposed to give Job double of everything that he possessed [Job 42:12]. You see, Satan had a purpose, but Satan is not the only one that has a purpose. God has a purpose also. And God’s purpose was to give Job twice as much as he ever had [Job 1:2-3, 10-13]. Now, to give Job twice as many camels, and twice as many herds, and twice as many fields, and twice as many flocks was easy.
Why, some of you men have done that yourselves. You’ve taken what you had, and you have doubled it. And sometimes you quadrupled it. To do that for God was easy, to give Job twice as much substance and abundance and affluence as he had before. But you see, God doesn’t just think of us in terms of silver, or gold, or bonds, or stocks, or lands, or herds, or flocks, or cattle, or real estate, or things. God doesn’t think of us just like that.
God purposed to give Job a double of everything that he had. He was going to double his grace and double his experience and double his love for the Lord, and double His mercies and double His tender kindnesses; and double all of the sweet, precious, spiritual endowments that can only come from the hand of heaven. And to do that, Job had to suffer, for those things don’t come in any other way than through great trial and through great suffering [Job 1:13-19, 2:7-8].
That is why I had you read from the holy text this morning—and Job said:
I have said things that I did not understand. And I have darkened counsel without knowledge . . .
O God, I have heretofore just heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, from afar off; but now, O God, mine eye seeth Thee face to face:
Wherefore—wherefore—I abhor myself, and repent in dust and in ashes.
This is a man, this is a man who has found greatness in bowing, in kneeling, in yielded submission, in loss, in misery, in pain, in tears. This is a man who has come to glory under the hand of God. That is the purpose of the Lord for us that we might be not only soldiers of the Golden Fleece, but soldiers of the iron cross. In the furnace of the fires of the trial of God, the Lord also has a purpose.
Number three: from that vantage point, looking as God views our suffering—number one: He is in it [Job 1:12, 2:6]. Number two: He purposes for us a double portion of His grace and kindness [Job 1:14-17, 42:12]. Number three: God would bring Job to glory [Job 42:7-10].
Look, tell me honestly, had Job just remained a rich man and that’s all, a good man, a generous man, supporting the work of the Lord, but just a rich man, are there not thousands of men just like him? He had thousands of cattle, do not they? Thousands of sheep, do not they? Thousands of oxen, do not they? Thousands of herds and flocks and fields and acres of land, do not they? Had Job been just another rich man, you’d never heard of him.
Tell me; don’t you imagine that his friends were also affluent and wealthy? Seemingly to me, wealthy men when they go to their clubs and when they go to their convocations and their organizations, their corporate meetings and their boards, seems to me they sit among their peers. Well, Eliphaz must have been a rich man. Bildad must have been a rich man. Zophar must have been a rich man. The three men who came to visit Job in his affliction [Job 2:11]; did you ever hear of anybody turning to Bildad or Eliphaz or Zophar? I never heard of it in my life, nor would it have occurred to me, nor would it have occurred to anybody else nor will I ever hear of it. But the apostle himself here says in the text, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job” [James 5:11]. I have, so have you. It was the purpose of God to bring Job to glory. God had a marvelous, marvelous thought in His mind when He looked at Job and saw how fine he was, and how good he was, and how responsible he was [Job 1:8, 2:3].
And God said, “I will elevate him. I will lift him up. I will bless him beyond what he ever thought for in just having possessions. I will add to them a shekinah, an aura, a glory, a presence, as though it was given, bestowed, bequeathed from heaven itself.”
Did you know trial does that? And without the trial there is no glory. None! Abraham is the only man in the Scriptures called “the friend of God” [Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23]. Abraham? When was Abraham called the friend of God? When the Lord told the old patriarch to take his son, born of his own loins; born of the womb of Sarah, his wife, his own son whom he loved, begotten in his old age when he was a hundred years old. God said, “Take him, and on Mount Moriah build an altar, bind him, put him on the stone. Raise up the knife, plunge it in his heart. Murder him, pour out his blood on the ground” [Genesis 22:1-13].
Abraham, not staggering before the promise of God, just trusting against trust, believing against belief, Abraham persuaded that God would raise the boy from the dead, Abraham built the altar, bound the lad, lifted up the knife, and in figure received him from the dead [Hebrews 11:17-19]. It was the trial that made him great. It is the fury of the furnace of the fire that makes the gold pure. And this is the purpose of God for us; God having purposed some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
It is hard for us to say it, but truly, truly looking at it from God’s vantage point, just to be at ease, just to be wealthy, or just to have an abundance of things, that, God says, is to be poor. But to be rich toward God [Luke 12:21], to have experiences of grace, and to trust God in trial, and to believe God against hope and promise when everything God says seems to be against what God says; ah, the glory God purposes for His saints, when we endure affliction and trial like the prophets, like the apostles, and like the patriarchs, like Job.
I must conclude. What does God reveal to us when we come into His sanctuary, and when we are lifted up high, and when we can see as God sees, and we understand as God understands? One: God is in it all. He has an iron collar and an iron chain on Satan. He can go just so far and not beyond [Job 1:12, 2:6]. Number two: God purposes for us double everything that we have; double grace; double experience; double love; double everything [Job1:2-3, 42:10-13]. Three: God would bring us to glory. In the trial, God would refine us and purify us [Job 42:5-6]. Number four: God would through us—as He did through Job [Job 42:7-10]—God through us would make us a blessing to others [2 Corinthians 1:3-4].
The Lord put a thorn in his nest. The Lord tore up his house of ease, and the Lord pushed him out and over the cliff just like an eagle does. Tear up the nest and take the little eaglets and push them out. But over that vast cliff, the blue atmosphere that yawns beneath, the little thing learns to fly. God does that for us. He makes us mature and grown up. And we come to that consummation of that telos, that end that God hath for us in order that we may be a blessing and an encouragement to others [2 Corinthians 1:3-4].
Look, John Bunyan was a fine preacher; a magnificent preacher. He was a Baptist preacher in the 1600s—a wonderful preacher, but he was just a fine preacher. That was all. And people loved to hear him preach, that was all. And God took him and put him in Bedford Prison for twelve years! And out of that Bedford jail was born the most glorious book penned by a mortal man outside of the Holy Scriptures—Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress. It was born in the tears of incarceration.
The apostle Paul spent most of his ministry in prison, in dungeon, and in jail, but out of that imprisonment, came the letters that form most of our New Testament, our Holy Bible. And the Lord allowed Jesus to be nailed to the cross. And in suffering and in agony, there did He die [Matthew 27:32-50], but out of death came life; and out of suffering, came salvation [Romans 4:25, 5:18]; and out of His burial in the tomb came our promise of a better resurrection [Matthew 27:57-28:6].
This is the purpose of God. What befalls you is not unknown to Him. And the sufferings that you experience are not strange in His eyes. He is just bringing us to glory. “Oh, blessed,” as the pastor writes, “blessed are they who endure” [James 1:12], who keep their faith, who look up in prayer and yielded surrender to heaven, and who glorify God in crucifixion, or in suffering, or in hurt, or agony, or tears, or pain, or providences that wring from our souls the agonizing cry, “O God!” Blessed are they who look in faith and trust to Him through it all [Psalm 84:12].
Our time is spent. To give your heart to the Lord who loves you, or to put your life in the fellowship of the saints of God, down one of these stairways, there’s time and to spare, come! On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I am, pastor, I have made that decision in my heart and I’m coming. This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. Come now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.