The Pearl Of Patience
“You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy.”
WE need to be reminded of what we have heard, for we are far too ready to forget. We are also so slow to considerand meditate upon what we have heard that is profitable to have our memories refreshed. At this time we are called upon to recollect that we have heard of the patience of Job. We have, however, I trust, gone beyond mere hearing, for we have also seen in the story of Job that which it was intended to set vividly before our mind’s eye. “You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.” The Romish priest professes to make men hear the voice of the Gospel by
seeing. Faith, which is the soul’s sight, comes by hearing. The design of the preaching of the Gospel to the ear is “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” Inward sight is the result of all fruitful hearing!
Now, that which is to be seen in the Scriptures is somewhat deeper and calls for more thought than that which ismerely heard. “You have heard of the patience of Job”–an interesting history which a child may understand, but it needs, Divine teaching to see to the bottom of that narrative, to discover the pearl which lies in the depths of it! It can only be said of enlightened disciples, “You have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy.” At the same time, that which is seen is also more precious to the heart and more bountifully enriches the soul than anything which is only heard. I count it no small enrichment of our mind to have heard of the patience of Job–it comforts and strengthen us in our endurance, but it is as infinitely better thing to have seen the end of the Lord, and to have perceived the undeviating tenderness and pity which are displayed even in His sorest chastisements. This is, indeed, a choice vein of silver, as he that has dug in it is far richer than the more superficial person who has only heard of the patience of Job, and so has only gathered surface truth. “The patience of Job,” as we hear of it is like the shell of some rare nut from the Spice Islands–full of fragrance. But “the end of the Lord,” when we come to see it, is as the kernel which is rich beyond expression with a fullness of aromatic essence!
Note well the reason why the text reminds us of what we have heard and seen. When we are called to the exercise of any great virtue, we need to call in all the helps which the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us. All our wealth of hearing and seeing we shall have need to spend in our heavenly warfare. We shall be forced full often to gird up the loins of our mind by the recollection of examples of which we have heard, such as that of Job, and then to buckle up that belt and brace it fast with what we have. The patience of Job shall gird us and that “end of the Lord” which we have seen shall be the fastening of the band. We shall need all before our work is done. In the present case, the virtue we are called to exercise is that of patience and, therefore, to help us to do it, we are reminded of the things that we have heard and seen, because it is a Grace as difficult as it is necessary, and as hard to come at as it is precious when it is gained!
The text is preceded by a triple exhortation to patience. In the 7 th verse we read, “Be patient, therefore, brethren,unto the coming of the Lord.” And again, “Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has of the Lord draws near.” Further on, in the 10 th verse, we read, “Take my brethren, the Prophets, who have spoken inthe name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, affliction and patience.” Are we thrice exhorted to patience? Is it not clear that we have even now much need of it? We are, most of us, deficient in this excellent Grace and because of it we have missed most privileges and have wasted many opportunities in which we might have honored God, might have commended religion and might have been exceedingly profited in our own souls. Affliction has been the fire which would have removed our dross, but impatience has robbed the mental metal of the flux of submission which would have secured its proper purification. It is unprofitable, dishonorable, weakening–it has never brought us gain–and never will.
I suppose we are three times exhorted to patience because we shall need it much in the future. Between here and Heaven we have no guarantee that the road will be easy, or that the sea will be glassy. We have no promise that we shall be kept like flowers in a conservatory, from the breath of frost, or that, like fair queens, we shall be veiled from the heat of the sun.
The voice of Wisdom says, “Be patient, be patient, be patient. You may need a threefold measure of it. Be ready for the trial.” I suppose, also, that we are over and over again exhorted to be patient because it is so high an attainment. It is no child’s play to be dumb as the sheep before her shearers and to lie still while the shears are taking away all that warmed and comforted us. The mute Christian under the afflicting rod is no everyday personage. We kick out like oxen which feel the goad for the first time! We are, most of us, for years as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. “Be patient, be patient, be patient,” is the lesson to be repeated to our hearts many times, even as we have to teach children over and over again the same words till they know them by heart. It is the Holy Spirit, ever patient under our provocations, who calls us to be “patient.” It is Jesus, the unmurmuring Sacrifice, who charges us to, “be patient.” It is the long-suffering Father who bids us “be patient.” O you who are soon to be in Heaven, be patient for yet a little while and your reward shall be revealed!
Upon these two things we will indulge a brief meditation. First, we are bidden to be patient and it is not an unheardof virtue. it is not an unreasonable virtue, for you “have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy.”
- IT IS NOT AN UNHEARD OF VIRTUE TO BE PATIENT–“You have heard of the patience of Job.”
Observe well that the patience of Job was the patience of a man like ourselves, imperfect and full of infirmity, for asone has well remarked, we have heard of the impatience of Job as well as of his patience! I am glad the Divine Biographerwas so impartial, for had not Job been somewhat impatient, we might have thought his patience to be altogether inimitable and above the reach of ordinary men. The traces of imperfection which we see in Job prove all the more powerfully that Divine Grace can make grand examples out of common constitutions and that keen feelings of indignation under injustice need not prevent a man’s becoming a model of patience. I am thankful that I know that Job did speak somewhat bitterly and proved himself a man, for now I know that it was a man like myself who said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” It was a man of flesh and blood such as mine, who said, “Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Yes, it was a man of like passions with myself who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
You have heard of the patience of your Lord and Master, and tried to copy it, and half despaired! But now you have heard of the patience of His servant, Job, and knowing as Job did that your Redeemer lives, you should be encouraged to emulate him in obedient submission to the will of the Lord! “You have heard of the patience of Job,” that is, the patience of a greatly tried man. That is a very trite, yet necessary remark–Job could not have exhibited patience if he had notendured trial. And he could not have displayed a patience whose fame rings down the ages till we have heard of it, if he had not known extraordinary affliction! Reflect then, that it was the patience of a man who was tried in his estate. All hiswealth was taken! Two or three servants were left–left only to bring him evil tidings–each one saying, “I only am escaped alone to tell you.” His flocks and his herds were gone. The house in which his children had met was a wreck and the princely man of Uz sat upon a dunghill–and there were none so mean as to do him reverence. You have heard of the patience of Job in loss and poverty–have you not seen that if all estates should fail, God is still your portion?
Job was caused to suffer sharp relative troubles. All his children were snatched away without a warning, dying at afestival where, without being culpably wrong, men are usually unguarded and, in a sense, unready, for the spirit is in déshabille. His children died suddenly and there was a grievous mystery about it, for a strange wind from the wilderness smote the four corners of the house and overthrew it in an instant! And such an occurrence must have connected itself in Job’s mind either with the judgment of God or with Satanic influence–a connection full of the most painful thoughts and surmises! The death of his dear ones was not a common or a desirable one, and yet all had so been taken. Not a son or daughter was left him. All gone! All gone! He sits among the ashes a childless man. “You have heard of the patience of Job.” Oh, to have patience under bereavements, patience even when the insatiate Archer multiplies His arrows!
Then, and I here speak most to myself, “You have heard of the patience of Job” under personal affliction. It is wellsaid by one who knew mankind cruelly well, that, “we bear the afflictions of other people very easily,” but when it touches our bone and our flesh, trial assumes an earnest form and we have need of unusual patience. Such bitter pain as Job must have suffered, we have probably, none of us, known anything to the same degree. And yet we have had weary nights and dreary days. Each limb has claimed a prominence in anguish and each nerve has become a road for armies of pains to march over! We know what it is to feel thankful tears in our eyes merely for having been turned over in bed. Job, however, far excels us. “You have heard of the patience of Job,” and you know how he sinned not when from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet he was covered with irritating boils!
In addition to all this, Job bore what is perhaps the worst form of trial, namely, mental distress. The conduct of hiswife must have much grieved him when she tempted him to “curse God and die.” However she meant it, or however her words may be translated, she evidently spoke like a foolish woman when her husband needed wise consolation. And then those “miserable comforters”–how they crowned the edifice of his misery! Cold-blooded mortals sneer at sentimental grievances, but I speak from my heart when I affirm that griefs which break no bones and take not a coin from our store may yet be among the sharpest whips of sorrow! When the iron enters into the soul, we know the very soul of suffering! See how Job’s friends fretted him with arguments and worried him with accusations. They rubbed salt into his wounds! They cast dust into his eyes. Their tender mercies were cruel, though well-intentioned. Woe to the man who in his midnight hour is hooted at by such owls! Yet the hero of patience sinned not. “You have heard of the patience of Job.”
Job’s was in all respects a most real trouble, he was no mere dyspeptic, no hysterical inventor of imaginary evil. His were not fancied losses nor minor calamities. He had not lost one child out of a numerous family, nor a few thousands out of a vast fortune, but he was brought to sad bereavement, abject poverty and terrible torment of body and mind! But despite it all, “You have heard of the patience of Job,” and heard more of his patience than of his afflictions! What a mercy to have heard of such a man and to know that one of our own race passed through the seven-times heated furnace and yet was not consumed!
The patience of Job was the patience of a man who endured up to the very end. No break-down occurred. At everystage he triumphed and to the utmost point he was victorious! Traces of weakness are manifest, but they are grandly overlaid by evidences of gracious power. What a marvelous man was he with all those aches and pains, still bearing witness to his God, “But He knows the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” He reasons well even in the heat of his passionate zeal for his character. He reasons bravely, too, and catches up the points of his adversaries like a trained logician. He holds fast his integrity and will not let it go. And best of all, he cries, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Oh, glorious challenge of a dying man to his Immortal Kinsman!
The enemy could not triumph over Job–he threw him on a dunghill and it became his throne, more glorious than the ivory throne of Solomon! The boils and blisters with which the adversary covered the Patriarch were more honor to him than a warrior’s gilded body armor. Never was the arch-fiend more thoroughly beaten than by the afflicted Patriarch! And instead of pitying the sufferer, my pity curdles into contempt for that fallen spirit who must there have gnawed his own heart and drunk deep draughts of gall and wormwood as he saw himself foiled at all points by one who had been put into his power and one, too, of the feeble race of man! Surely, in this he experienced a foretaste of the bruising threatened at Eden’s gate as to be given him by the woman’s Seed! Yes, Job endured unto the end and, therefore, he stands as a pillar in the house of the Lord. Cannot we also endure unto the end? What hinders Divine Grace from glorifying itself in us?
We may once more say that the patience of Job is the virtue of one who thereby has become a great power for good.“You have heard of the patience of Job.” Yes, and all the ages have heard of the patience of Job–and Heaven has heard of the patience of Job and Hell has heard of it, too–and not without results in each of the three worlds. Among men, the patience of Job is a great, mortal and spiritual force. This morning, when musing upon it, I felt ashamed and humbled, as thousands have done before me. I asked myself, “What do I know of patience when I compare myself with Job?” And I felt that I was as unlike the great Patriarch as I well could be. I recollect a minister who had been somewhat angered by certain of his people and, therefore, preached from the text, “And Aaron held his peace.” It was remarked that the preacher’s likeness to Aaron reached no further than the fact that Aaron held his peace and the preacher did not. May we not penitently confess that our likeness to Job is much of the same order? He was patient and we are not. Yet, as I thought of the patience of Job, it caused me to hope! If Job was patient under trial and affliction, why should I not be patient too? He was but a man–what was worked in one man may be done in another! He had God to help him and so have I. He could fall back upon the living Redeemer–so can I and why should I not? Why should I not attain to patience as well as the man of Uz? It made me feel happy to believe in human capacity to endure the will of God, the Holy Spirit instructing and upholding! Play the man, beloved Friend! Be not cut down! What God has done for one, He can do for another. If the man is the same and if the great God is the same, and be sure He is, we, too, may attain to patience in our limited circle! Our patience may be heard of among those who prize the fruits of the Spirit!
II. I will not detain you, lest I weary you, except to say, in the second place, IT IS NOT AN UNREASONABLE VIRTUE TO BE PATIENT for, according to our text, there is great love and tenderness in it. “You have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy.”
We must have seen, in Job’s story, if we have regarded it aright, that the Lord was in it all. It is not a narrative inwhich the devil is the sole actor–the great Lord of All is evidently present. He it was who challenged Satan to consider Job and then questioned him as to the result. Less seen than the Evil One, the Lord was nevertheless present at every act of the drama. God was not away while His servant suffered! In fact, if there was any place where the thoughts of God were centered more than anywhere else in Providence at that time, it was where the perfect and upright man was bearing the brunt of the storm. The Lord was ruling, too. He was not present as a mere spectator, but as master of the situation!He had not handed over the reins to Satan–far from it, for every step that the enemy took was only by express permission from the Throne of God. He allowed him to strip his servant, but he set the limit, “Only upon himself put not forth your hand.” When to complete the test, the enemy was permitted to plague his body, the Lord added, “But save his life.” The ruling hand is always on the curb. The Dog of Hell is allowed to snap and snarl, but his chain is not removed and the collar of Omnipotent restraint is on him. Come, dear Friends, you that are in trouble, remember that God is in your sorrow, ruling it to its desired end and checking it that it should go no further than according to His will! And you neither have suffered, nor in the future will suffer any more than He in Infinite Love permits!
Moreover, the Lord was blessing Job by all his tribulation. Untold blessings were coming to the grand old manwhile he seemed to be losing all. It was not simply that he obtained a double portion at the end, but all along, every part of the testing process worked out his highest good. Now have we seen the end of the Lord and that end is unmingled goodness! The Lord was standing by every moment to stop the refining process when it had come to the proper point, so that no more of it should happen than was really beneficial and, at the same time, no less than should secure His gracious purpose. True mercy is bound, at times, to seem rough, for it might be a great and lifelong evil for the surgeon to stop the knife before its work is done. The Lord was wisely tender and tenderly wise with Job–and even in his case the sore affliction was not allowed to proceed a single degree beyond the necessary point of intensity.
And when we come to look all Job’s life through, we see that the Lord in mercy brought him out of it all with unspeakable advantage. He who tested with one hand supported with the other! Whatever Satan’s end might be in tempting the Patriarch, God had an end which covered and compassed that of the destroyer–and that end was answered all along the line, from the first loss which happened among the oxen to the last taunt of his three accusers! There was never a question, in the heights of Heaven as to the ultimate issue! Eternal Mercy was putting forth its irresistible energy, and Job was made to bear up though the trial and to rise from it a wiser and a better man!
Such is the case with all afflicted saints. We may well be patient under our trials, for the Lord sends them. He is ruling in all our circumstances. He is blessing us by them, He is waiting to end them and He is pledged to bring us through. Shall we not gladly submit to the Father of our spirits? Is not this our deepest wish, “Your will be done”? Shall we quarrel with that which blesses us? Shall we repine when the end of the trouble is so near and so blessed? No! We see that the Lord is full of pity and of tender mercy and, therefore, we will be patient.
Beloved, let us accept future sorrow with joy, for it is Divine Love which will add to our years whatever sorrowful seasons may yet come to us. Job’s life might have ended in the first period without the trial, but if the Patriarch, with perfect knowledge of all things, could have had his choice, would he not have chosen to endure the trial for the sake of all the blessing which came of it? We would never have heard of the patience of Job if he had continued in his prosperity–and that first part of his life would have made a very poor commonplace history as compared with what we now find in the pages of Scripture! Camels, sheep, servants and children make up a picture of wealth, but we can see this any day! The rare sight is the patience–this it is which raises Job to his true glory! God was dealing well with His faithful servant and even rewarding his uprightness when He counted him worthy to be tried. The Lord was taking the surest and kindest way to bless and honor one who was a perfect and an upright man–one that feared God and eschewed evil.
The Lord was full of pity to permit sharp trial to come upon Job for his good. There was more tender mercy in subjecting him to it than there would have been in screening him from it. False pity would have permitted the good man to die in his nest, but true pity put a thorn into it and made him mount aloft as the eagle! It was great mercy, after all, which took him out of the state in which he washed his steps with butter, and cast him into the mire, for thus he was weaned from the world and made to look the more eagerly for a better portion.
No doubt, in Job’s character, the Lord saw certain failings which we cannot see, which He desired to remove and perhaps He also marked some touches of Grace which needed to be supplied–and Divine Love undertook to complete his perfect character. Perhaps his prosperity had sunned him till he had grown somewhat hard in tone and sharp in judgment and, therefore, the Lord would soften and mellow his gracious spirit. The things lacking were no common virtues, for in these he was perfect, but certain rich and rare tints of the higher life–and these could not be imparted by any other means than severe suffering. Nothing more could really be done for Job but by this special agency, for doubling the number of his camels and sheep would only enlarge his cares. Since he already had enough children, too, he had a sufficient family and of all earthly things, abundance. But to give him twice the Divine Grace, twice the experience, twice the knowledge of God, perhaps twice the tenderness of character he had always possessed, was a mode of enrichment which the tender and compassionate Lord adopted out of the greatness of His wisdom and favor. Job could only thus be made doubly rich in the rarest of all treasures–and the All-Merciful adapted that method.
Examining the matter from another point of view, it may appear that Job was tried in order that he might be better able to bear the extraordinary prosperity which the Lord had resolved to pour upon him. That double portion might have been too much for the Patriarch if he had not been lifted into a higher state. If abundance is hard to bear, superfluity is even worse and, therefore, to those He loves, the Lord gives more Grace.
Job by his trials and patience received not only double Grace, and double wealth, but double honor from God. He had stood very high in the peerage of the excellent as a perfect and an upright man before his trial, but now he is advanced to the very highest rank of spiritual nobility. Even our children call him “the most patient man under pains and suffering.” He rose from the knighthood of sincere goodness to the peerage of heroic endurance. At first he had the honor of behaving admirably amid wealth and ease, but he was in the end elevated to sit among those who glorify God in the fires. Benevolence, justice and truth shone as bright stars in the sky of his heavenly character, but now the moon of patience silvers all and lights up the scene with a superior beauty! Perhaps the Lord may love some of us so specially that He means to put upon us the dignity of endurance–He will make us knights, not of the golden fleece, but of the iron Cross! What but great pity and tender mercy could plan such a lot for our unworthy selves?
Once more, Job by his trials and the Grace of God was lifted up into the highest position of usefulness. He was useful before his trial as few men of wealth and influence have been, but now his life possesses an enduring fruitfulness which blesses multitudes every day! Even we who are here this afternoon “have heard of the patience of Job.” All the ages have this man for their teacher. Brothers and Sisters, we do not know who will be blessed by our pains, by our bereavements, by our crosses if we have patience under them! Specially is this the case with God’s ministers, if He means to make much of them, their path to usefulness is up the craggy mountain’s side. If we are to comfort God’s afflicted people, we must, first, be afflicted ourselves. Tribulation will make our wheat fit to be bread for saints. Adversity is the choicest book in our library, printed in black letters, but grandly illuminated! Job makes a glorious comforter and preacher of patience, but no one turns either to Bildad, Zophar, or Eliphaz, who were “miserable comforters” because they had never been miserable. You, dear Sisters, whom God will make daughters of consolation to your families, must in your measure pass through a scholarship of suffering–a sword must pass through your own hearts if you are to be highly favored and blessed among women. Yet, let us all remember that affliction will not bless us if it is impatiently borne. If we kick at the goad, it will hurt us, but it will not act as a fitting stimulus. If we rebel against God’s dispensations, we may turn His medicines into poisons and increase our grief by refusing to endure them. Be patient, be patient, be patient and the dark cloud shall drop a sparkling shower! “You have heard of the patience of Job.” Imitate it. “You have seen the end of the Lord.” Rejoice in it. “He is full of pity and of tender mercy.” Yield yourselves to Him. Divine Spirit, plant in us the sweet flower of patience, for our patient Savior ’s sake! Amen.