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James 5:7-11


        We come now to the New Testament study of the words "compassion," "compassions," and "compassionate."  I have studied every occurrence of these words in the New Testament of the NASB.  In the Old Testament, virtually every occurrence of these words was in reference to Jehovah God.  Since we believe in progressive revelation, i.e. the process of revelation in the Bible is steadily moving from lower to higher, from lesser to greater, from partial to the total, from the temporary to the final, we know that the Old Testament is preparatory and partial, whereas the New Testament is the final fulfillment.[1]  Therefore, Jehovah God's revelation of Himself, with respect to His compassion in the Old Testament, is a partial and preparatory revelation of Himself in the light of the New Testament.  In the New Testament, God gives us His latest and greatest revelation of Himself in the form of His Son.  This truth is highlighted in the following Scriptures:

Hebrews 1:1-3, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power."

John 1:18, "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

Matthew 1:23, "`Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and she shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, `God with us.'"

        Therefore, on the basis of this truth, we can study the display of compassion in the life of Jesus to understand more about the compassion of Jehovah God:  because Jesus Christ is the revelation and explanation of God; "the exact representation of His nature"; "God manifest in the flesh"!

        So, let's seek to understand more about the compassion of Jehovah God by studying the compassion that Christ displayed in His life on earth.  Let's do this by first looking at a direct statement affirming His compassion; then looking at this compassion lived out in His life; then looking at a great metaphor concerning the compassion of Jesus Christ; then looking at the why of Jesus' compassion; then looking at specific exhortations and admonitions to all Christians with respect to compassion.  This will take us all of 15 messages, but it will be well worth it.  Now let us consider a direct statement confirming the compassion of Jesus Christ.

(Turnwith me please James 5:7-11.)

        Although the direct statement confirming the compassion of Jesus Christ is contained in one clause of the 11th verse, for the sake of context, we need to study the entire paragraph which runs from the 7th through the 11th verses.  Remember a text without a context is a pretext, i.e. a text without a context is a lie!  So to avoid error in our exegesis of this text, we need to consider all the important verses.  Follow along with me in your Bibles please.

(In this paragraph, written by James to the twelve tribes of Israel who were dispersed abroad, I see:)


These exhortations and examples kind of dove tail back and forth.  So rather than dealing with them topically, let's deal with them in their order of occurrence in the text.

Exhortation #1:   "Be patient, therefore, until the coming of the Lord" (v 7).

patient 3114 makrothumeo "2. to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others; to be mild and slow in avenging; to be long-suffering, slow to anger, slow to punish" (Thayer's).

The word indicates one who has the power to avenge himself, yet refrains from the exercise of his power (Trench).  Although patience is the main ingredient of this Greek word, it denotes a certain kind of patience.  It denotes patience under suffering and trials.  A better word would be perseverance.

        Whenever we see a "therefore," we need to find out what it is "therefore."  Therefore refers back to James' indictment of the rich.  He states the fact that their ill gotten gain testified of their evil and would not ultimately benefit them.  Therefore, those who are righteous need to be patient until the coming of the Lord.  Here is an exhortation that we really need in these times.  People today are prone to quit anything entails pain and that does not bring them immediate gratification; especially Christianity.  We know litte of perseverance in these days.  We know little of delayed gratification in these days.  But the exhortation here is for Christians to persevere, i.e. to patiently bear the offenses and injuries of others until the coming of the Lord.

(Exhortation #1 is followed up by:)

Example #1:        "Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains" (v 7).

The example that James gives is the example of the farmer who has planted his crops.  After the farmer has planted his crops, He has to patiently wait for his crops to yield their produce.

waits 1551 ekdechomai {ek-dekh'-om-ai}

2)      to look for, expect, wait for, await

He must wait until his crop receives the early and the late rains.  The growth of his crop is not in his hands.  Being anxious will not bring about quick or proper growth.  Going out and digging up the seed will not bring about the proper growth.  Being anxious will not bring the early spring rains or the rains that come late in the growing season.  They are in the hands of Mother Nature which is really the laws of God.  The farmer has learned over time that He must patiently wait for the soil and the rain to produce a crop from the seed that He has planted.

        Likewise this is not the harvest, but the time of planting.  We must patiently wait for the crop of suffering that God has planted in our vineyard to produce the precious produce of righteousness which will be to our benefit at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

(James follows this first exhortation with a second exhortation:)

Exhortation #2:           "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (v 8).

It is interesting that James repeats his first exhortation so quickly.  You too be patient, even as the farmer is patient.  Evidently, He saw patience as a great benefit in the lives of those to whom he was writing.  But this time He adds an additional clause exhorting His readers to patience.  This clause gives a how-to with respect to his repeated exhortation.  They were to be patient by strengthening their hearts.

strengthen 4741 sterizo {stay-rid'-zo}

1a)    to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix: to set one's face steadfastly, keep the face turned

They were to steadfastly set their intellects, emotions and wills towards patient waiting.

        You cannot wait patiently until you "make up your mind" in English colloquialism.  The Greek entails more than your mind.  You cannot wait patiently until you set your heart, i.e. intellect, emotions and will towards waiting!  Have you prepared your heart to wait patiently before God?  "Wait for what?"  I can hear you say.  Wait for whatever God wants to do in your life:  make you a good wife, husband, father, mother, brother, sister, relative, minister, church worker, leader, employee, friend, etc.

        In this second exhortation, James also adds an additional imperative by highlighting the imminence of the Lord's coming.  Strengthen your hearts because the Lord is soon to come!!!  Everything should look different in the light of the Lord's soon return.

(As I have already explained, James does not alternate an exhortation with an example, but mixes them up for his own purposes.  Perhaps he mixes them up as one would do in normal speech.  At any rate, before he gives us the second example, he moves on to a third exhortation.)

Exhortation #3:           "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door" (v 9).

James has given his readers two exhortations to be patient.  We have seen that the word translated "patience," makrothumeo, means to patiently bear up under ill treatment.  Now, the perpetrators of this ill treatment are seen:  brethren!  That's a shock, isn't it?  We expect to bear up under ill treatment meted out by sinners, but not by the brethren.  Nevertheless, that is where most of our ill treatment will come from.

        Be that as it may, when we receive ill treatment from our brethren, we are to patiently suffer under it because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

        But in this third exhortation there is more than just another exhortation.  There is a description of how we are to act when we are patiently bearing up under undeserved suffering.  We are bear up under undeserved suffering without complaining against one another.

complain 4727 stenazo "to sigh, to groan; murmur."[2]

When you complain, sigh, or murmur against a fellow Christian, it is because you have judged the person.

judged 2919 krino "contextually used specifically of the act of condemning and decreeing (or inflicting) penalty on one."[3]

You have condemned that person for his/her action and you have begun to set or inflict what you think is a proper penalty on that person.  Don't do that, unless you yourself want to be judged.  The True Judge, Jesus Christ, is very close and can hear everything that you are saying about His child that He was judged for.  You have no right to judge His child.  You can only judge yourself.

        If you judge His child, you will be judged.

(Now James is ready to give us his second example.)

Example #2:        "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold we count those blessed who endured" (v 10-11).

James' second example of suffering and patience is the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

patience 3115 makrothumia

suffering 2552 kakopatheia {kak-op-ath'-i-ah}

1)      the suffering of evil, i.e. to be afflicted

What an example!  The prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, were mistreated, not believed, persecuted, and even killed by the very people they were trying to help.  Jeremiah, for example, was let down into a pit to die.  James says that "we," evidently the church, count those prophets who endured in their ministry in the face of such ill treatment as blessed!  The word "endured" is a different Greek word than "patient" or "suffering."

endured 5278 hupomeno {hoop-om-en'-o}

2b)    to endure, bear bravely and calmly: ill treatments

Here perseverance is once again the topic, but whereas makrothumia denoted the action of bearing up under suffering, hupomeno denotes more of how to bear up under ill treatment.  We are to remain in that trial bravely and calmly.  This is much closer to the English word "patient."

(James goes right from example number two to example number three.)

Example #3:        "You have heard of the endurance of Job."

        What fervent Christian had not heard about the endurance of Job.  Here another word is used

endurance 5281 hupomone {hoop-om-on-ay'}

1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance: in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings:  patiently, and steadfastly

Job lost his sons and daughters, livestock, his servants, and his health.  If that wasn't enough, his friends were against him and his own wife was tired of him.  But in all of this he did not sin with his lips or charge God foolishly.  Job endured his sufferings!!!  He would not be swerved from His loyalty to faith and God, even by these great sufferings.  The word that comes to mind here is persistence.  Persistence is determination, purpose, stamina, and tenacity

        So persevere under trial, wait patiently for the Lord, and be persistent in your purpose to serve the Lord, without complaining and without judging your brothers and sisters.  Patience is a characteristic of love.  Paul said that love is patient.  Patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit.  God wants us to learn to wait for Him, because waiting has its rewards.

If you want to have favor with God, you must do what is right, suffer for it, but patiently wait for God.

1 Peter 2:20, "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God."

When you wait on the Lord, you inherit the multitude of promises that He has promised us.

Hebrews 6:11-12, "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

I'm going to wait for the Lord, because He promised

Everlasting life

A well of water springing up on the inside

Eternal companionship and Divine company

A reward and a manion

Joy unspeakable and full of glory

If you wait upon the Lord, He will hear your prayers.

Psalm 40:1, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry."

Wait He will answer your prayers.

He's going to give me the desire of my heart in righteousness.

He's going to give me the power I desire in preaching.

He's going to give me the souls that I desire to see saved.

He's going to give me the Christian growth I desire to see in His people.

He's going to give me a new nursery building.

He's going to give me a new Family Life Center.

He's going to give me a new 2500 seat sanctuary.

If you wait on the Lord, He will give you what you desire in righteousness.

If you wait on the Lord, He will give the strength to go through.

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV), "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Wait, I say on the Lord, because He is coming again!!!

Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."

        So we have three exhortations to patience.  We are exhorted to persevere, to be patient, and to be persistent.  We also have three examples of the kind of patience that James is exhorting his readers to in the farmer, the prophets, and Job.  But what is the reason or encouragement for these exhortations?

(Well, let's go ahead and consider:)


(The reason, motivation or encouragement for these three exhortations to be patient under suffering is what they had seen.)

1.      What They Had Seen?

seen 3708 horao {hor-ah'-o}

They had seen, perceived, or come to know from experience the outcome of the Lord's dealings with the farmer, the prophets, and Job.  The farmer's patience is rewarded with fruit.  The prophets' patience is rewarded through endurance and blessings.  Job's patience was rewarded with double everything that he had lost.  But the outcome of the Lord's dealings is described in two ways interesting ways:

1)      The Lord is full of compassion.

This particular description of the outcome of the Lord's dealings actually describes the nature of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, as to His nature, is full of compassion.  That is the description and revelation of Jesus that we were looking for.  This phrase "full of compassion" is

polusplagchnos 4184 extremely compassionate.

This word comes from two Greek words:

polus 4183 much or many and

splagchnon 4698 an intestine

splagchnon "b. the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the more tender affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence equivalent to our heart, [tender mercies, affections, etc.]."[4]

The Deity of Jesus Christ is seen in the fact that He is full of compassion.  Who else is full of compassion, but Jehovah God?  We spent 14 messages in the Old Testament highlighting, defining and illustrating God's revelation of Himself as a compassionate Being.

        We have already studied the fact that compassion is a deep feeling for misery and suffering that is grounded in the understanding thereof, which often issues into a conscious desire to relieve that suffering.  It is a spiritual consciousness of and selfless tenderness towards the personal tragedy of others.

        So, if you wait patiently for the Lord, you will become aware of the greatly compassionate nature of Jesus Christ.  You will experience His tender feelings for you, His understanding of you, and His deliverance of you!!!

(The second description of the outcome of the Lord's dealing is:)

2)      The Lord is merciful.

Whereas the first description of the outcome of the Lord's dealings describes more the demonstration of the Lord's love, which is compassion, the second description of the outcome of the Lord's dealings deals more the paticular feelings that Jesus has towards those who are suffering.

merciful 3629 oiktirmon

This word is also translated compassion in the New Testament.  It denotes "emotions, longings, manifestations of pity."  Pity is, according to Webster, "sympathetic heartfelt sorrow for one that is suffering physically or mentally or is otherwise distressed or unhappy."  So, this word denotes more of the feelings of compassion than the demonstration fo compassion.  They had seen that Jesus was full of heartfelt sorrow about their suffering.

        Those of us who have learned to wait patiently on the Lord have experienced both His compassion and His mercy!!!

        Hence, we can be patient under suffering because we know and realize that Jesus, our Savior, is a compassionate God who is full of heartfelt sorrow about our suffering!

        We did all of this study so we see clearly this statement of the compassionate nature of Jesus Christ in this passage.  We are now ready to explore the demonstration of the compassion of Jehovah God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Robert A. Traina, Methodical Bible Study, Francis Asbury Press, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985, pp. 156-157.  

[2]  Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, p. 587.  

[3]  Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, p. 361.  

[4] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nineteenth Zondervan Printing 1978, pp. 584-585.

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