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The Lord’s Purpose: Compassion and Mercy

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:9-11 ESV)

Life is hard. I realize that statement isn’t a newsflash to anyone, but knowing this fact doesn’t make it any easier to accept it, does it? And our world doesn’t help. The world tells us in so many ways that life should always be good, fun, happy, and enjoyable. But that’s not reality. Life is a struggle on many levels. We will face challenges, stress, and hardship. We’re living in a delusional fantasy land if we think life is going to be a piece of cake.

But again, knowing that doesn’t make it easy for us to accept it. And when life is hard, one of the first things we do is grumble against one another. “It’s someone else’s fault that I’m having a hard time” we reason. And so husbands and wives snap at each other. Parents become overly demanding of their children. Children resent their parents. Teachers become impatient with their students.

What good does this grumbling really do? Perhaps it makes us feel better for a moment, but ultimately, it does us no good at all. In fact, it just makes things worse as we damage our relationships with others and sin against God. And, as our text tells us, “the Judge is standing at the door.” May the Lord lead us to repentance for such sins.

But it’s also comforting to hear that Jesus is at the door, because it means that there will be an end to all our trouble and pain. James encourages us to consider the example of the prophets. Events in the lives of the believers of old are recorded carefully in Scripture that we might learn from them. They had much that they could have been stressed out about; they had much that they could have grumbled about. They were rejected and worse. They remained patient and steadfast. Moses, for example, after he was driven out of Egypt, spent forty years tending sheep in Sinai before being called to his life’s work. Job, the example given in our text, trusted God even when everything in his life fell apart. His riches, his livelihood, and his children were all lost to him. In spite of his many woes and griefs, Job persevered in faith until God responded to his questions and showered him with abundant blessings.

Beyond being something for us to mimic, God has a higher purpose for these examples of the Old Testament believers. God wants us to see “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” We have been given the careful record of the lives of these people of faith so that we can see the Lord. All along, He is there with His people. In His mercy He never allows them to suffer more than they can bear. In His compassion He provides them complete salvation.

The Lord’s purpose in all this is to get you to know His compassion and mercy. His purpose is that you would look to Him constantly, that you would tear your gaze away from all those annoyances, all those grievances you have, all that taxes your patience, and look to His cross, where His mercy forgives you and His compassion saves you for eternity in heaven.

Robert Sauers is pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions