The “Patience” of Job
The Bible is full of humor and wisdom and if you don’t believe me, read this:
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)
This verse makes me laugh and shout for joy. When you’re done reading this post, you’ll laugh and shout too. Guaranteed, or your money back.
The bit that makes me laugh
There is a long tradition of preaching on the patience of Job. You know how the story goes. Job suffered great loss but endured it patiently, a pious saint in sackcloth. He sat on the ash-heap refusing to blame God for his troubles.
It’s a nice story, but it’s a fairy tale. It’s the Disney version. Read the whole book of Job and you will find that Job wasn’t patient at all. In fact, Job was a self-pitying whiner who accused the Lord of many terrible things. A patient person would keep his troubles to himself, but for long chapter after long chapter Job whines about his misfortunes, brags about his good behavior, and wonders why God hates him.
I will not keep silent… I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 7:11)
Don’t ever hold Job up as a role model for patience. By his own admission, he was bitter and impatient:
Is my complaint directed to a human being? Why should I not be impatient? (Job 21:4)
A patient person doesn’t play the blame game, yet Job repeatedly blamed God for his troubles (e.g., Job 7:11). Job even said that God was trying to kill him:
I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me… I know you will bring me down to death. (Job 30:20-23)
A patient person would tolerate trouble, but Job had more trouble than he could bear. Things were so bad that he hated his life and longed for death (Job 7:15-16). A patient person has hope, but Job wanted to die (Job 17:13-16).
So why is this funny? Because James says, “You have heard of the ‘patience’ of Job.” We sure have. Don’t you see? It’s a 2000-year-old in-joke, for Job wasn’t patient at all. Talking about “the patience of Job” is like talking about “the bravery of Gideon.”
James isn’t saying, “Be patient like Job.” He’s saying “see what the Lord brought about for this impatient man.”
Read to the end of Job’s story and you will know that everything worked out fine. Better than fine. God blessed him super-abundantly and he did so despite the terrible things Job said. Job thought the Lord was uncaring and heartless, but he learned that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
The bit that makes me shout
There’s some wonderful context here because James is writing to encourage us, and he does this by pointing to the famous “prophets of old” (James 5:10). In other words, if you’re looking for a model of patient endurance consider Isaiah who, according to tradition, was sawn in half or Zechariah who was stoned to death.
Gulp. “James, those guys are legends. I can’t relate to them.”
“In that case,” says James, “Let me remind you about the ‘patience’ of Job. You remember that fear-filled whiner who thought God was trying to kill him?”
And immediately James has our attention because, let’s be honest, Job-the-complainer is a lot more relatable than the prophet who walked around naked for three years. If my life went down the toilet I could quite easily imagine myself sitting in the ashes of self-pity like Job.
And this is why I’m not laughing at Job at all.
I’m so glad his story is in the Bible because it shows us that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings, God is still compassionate and merciful. He does not treat us as our sins deserve but he loves us like a father and wants the very best for us.
Are you going through tough times? Then be encouraged by these words of James:
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)
The message of James is not “admire Job’s perseverance,” but fix your eyes on the Lord who helped Job persevere.
In the natural Job was a suicidal failure. Everything he trusted in – his sacrifices, his good behavior, his reasoning – failed him. But the Lord, who is full of compassion and mercy, saved him, restored him, and blessed him superabundantly.
This is good news that should make us shout for joy. If you are going through hard times and wondering if God is deaf or uncaring, then renew your mind and see the Lord who is full of mercy and grace. Fix your eyes on Jesus and see what the Lord will bring about.
The same God who loved Impatient Job loves you!
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This made me lol! It’s like we have given Job a Facebook page in our minds and he’s all photoshopped and perfect. Thank you for the reality check. (No pun intended. 😏)
I laughed when he said God was out to kill him. We know it was the devil and that God forbid the devil to kill him.
אמת – Praising the LORD.
Thank you Paul for pointing out Job’s “humanity”. James did say, however, that we should look at the “perseverance” of Job. That sounds like a positive statement about Job, doesn’t it? It does not sound as though James was pointing out his flaws, and then concludes that God was merciful to him despite his whining and complaining.
Any explanations here would be appreciated!
Some translations say patience, others perseverance or endurance. The stone cold fact is that Job was none of those things in his natural flesh, but God helped him in his weakness.
I think, In context, the previous line states: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered…” It is talking about blessing upon the persevering. Job did complain, thought God was against him etc etc… But, HE didn’t reject God- didn’t blaspheme him and give up the ghost as his wife suggested. Don’t you think, that was the perseverance, that James was talking about??
Nope. Understand that Job did not persevere in any meaningful sense. He was superstitious, self-righteous and expressed suicidal thoughts. He blamed God for his suffering on several occasions. So what are we applauding? To look for redeeming traits in Job’s behavior is to miss the point: “You have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
To elevate Job is to diminish “what the Lord brought about.” Job was a failure and this is what makes his story so encouraging to those going through hard times. It’s not about you but the Lord. This is what Elihu came to tell him.
Diana, good point. It shows that you are an independent thinker. That’s greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, if Job was so good in perseverance, meaning in the flesh, and not with God’s help, then his perseverance would be “works”.
And such bad works we would have as an example of good works, to continue to mess us up spiritually with our eternally frustrating efforts at the same pseudo mark(s) of perfection.
The best conclusion I can see is that God imputed His own righteousness to Job’s account, on the basis of His selection of Job, just as He selects me and you, on the basis of our disposition to love Him, when we finally get to KNOW Him.
And He knows that only He, Himself can teach us such a knowledge of Himself. Notice the emphasis He places on the importance of knowledge, as He addressed Job and His friends, asking, “Who is this that darkens counsel without KNOWLEDGE?”
He is stating by His question that all five friends lack knowledge of the Holy One. But He loves them all and wants to help them all. He teaches them based.on His judgment of their ignorance. He said to the three main “mouthy” ones:
You did not speak about Me the way my servant Job did, to paraphrase. It is, again, by the state of the heart that God judges us, individually, for indeed, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
Great point! I would also like to add that Job was self-righteous in thinking he could save his own children, but I guess that would be a different post🙂PRAISE GOD, HE IS AN AWESOME GOD!!
Indeed he was. I talk about the self-righteousness of Job in this article.
Was Job self righteous that he wanted to save his children….or was it the love Job had for his children that caused him to want to cover their sins. Even Father God had a plan to get rid of the sins of His children. Job was created in the likeness of God……not saying he had the ability to do such but definitely the desire to make his children right probably drove him to do what he did….self righteous or not….
God helps those who ask for help.
It is funny now that I realize one of the most idolized guys in the bible was just as messed up as the rest of us in his thinking about God and self.
I have been blinded with the truth about Job’s being because preachers concluded already that he has enough patient which led me not to read the whole story. Thanks Ptr. Paul that through your blogs the scales that covered my eyes from the truth eventually fell and being trampled underneath my feet. God is gracious to me!!!
Anyway I received your book “Stuff Jesus Never Said”, its worth reading for.
Super post! You nailed the truth. Thank you.
I just heard this week someone say 49 pages of complaining, Job that is. I may should go count to make sure. But really gives me comfort to know God still has mercy because I can relate to Job and I didn’t see my error I was numb from pain and bitterness and the” I am a good person why why why me? ” is totally wrong thinking. Having to move from self condemning and blaming God to I am a daughter took time. I was not the instant pour in hot water and stir kind of girl.
I am hungry for a level of closeness with our father that I can hear the holy spirit daily directing my life.
My own awesome internal GPS full of his love and mercy and humor. I know he makes me smile and giggle on occasions but I want this more frequently.
Thank you I look forward to your posts and his blessings to you and your family.
Yep, when God finally appears on scene He makes a general rebuke, (I personally believe to all five people) who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge? The great debate between all five people reveals how men try to interpret God based upon the light of their circumstances.
This startling insight of a loving Abba,laughing and shouting for
You know Paul, most of us were born and grew up in a deep religious environment that we became totally saturated wih it. Though we confess to be out of religion,for the religion to come out of us is a real grace. I dont know how much i’ve been praising Job’s patiency,but thank the lord for such an inner eye opener. It has conforted me from the multitude of times i’ve complained to the lord.
Great points. I so wish tradition would actually use James 5 to interpret Job. What they do instead is look at the oldest book in the Bible, see a man who had no Word of God to rely upon for true info, he had no revealed covenant with God like Abraham did or Noah, he had no knowledge of who God is, he didn’t know the devil existed. he didn’t know God isn’t the one who brings tragedy and pain and neither did his friends including the young man, and yet with their limited understanding of God, religious tradition holds Job up as an example of theological truth. They insist upon using Job as an example of how God deals with His Family, post cross. What the New Covenant admonition is, is to look at the end of the Lord as James states and see that God is full of tender mercies and compassion. We’re not told to look at Job’s suffering, the debate between the five people, but only to see the compassion and goodness of God.
Good points John.
For me, Understanding that Job was an example(for us) of a man without a covenant changed how I saw God’s progressive plan to save us.
If Abraham was the subject of Satan’s attention (accusation)the story would read
“Get out of my face Satan, I curse you. Of coarse he is blessed, he has a covenant and he has Faith in the “One God” to complete the terms of that covenant”. And then, very very shortly after those words, a distinct absence of the accuser.
Tradition loses the point of the story when they mould Job to fit their theology.
Thanks you Paul for challenging tradition.
A quote attributed to Mark Twain states: “Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’till noon.” Perhaps this explains Job’s persistent renown as a patient saint–despite much evidence to the contrary. It’s like the elephant in the room that nobody seems to notice or the emperor’s “new” clothes, only exposed after a young lad shouts, “He’s naked,” or as Dr. Ellis made us finally realize about Job, “He’s human.” So enlightening!
God bless you and increase your knowledge, even ours too!!
Hello Sir, I’m blessed(on a regular basis) by your writeups. God bless you and increase our knowledge of Him. There are of course some verses of the Bible I don’t understand fully. One of such is 1cor9:27. Help me understand it, if u already have something on it give me the link. And if not, u could write something on it. Thanks and God bless. The church is marching on, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Keep spreading the Gospel!
Please see the Archives > Scripture Index. Thanks.
Thanks for your insight here, Dr. Ellis. It is obviously true that Job was not as patient as we were told. And we also know that David committed adultery with Bathsheba even though he was called a man after God’s heart. Abraham, also was not perfect in Faith though he was commended by God as faithful. God trusted this earthly man, saying, ” I know Him that he will command his house aright. And we return one more time to our dear brother Job. Did our God not do a little boasting over this brother, asking Satan the question, “Has thou considered my servant Job, a man who loves righteousness and hates iniquity? In this sense I think you made a wonderful point in showing that although we are not perfect the Good Lord loves us so much that seeing our true state and condition having fallen already in sin, He judges us not based on what sin has done to our nature, bur He judges us based on what we can become by His mercy and grace towards us. Seeing it from this angle is also very encouraging. And thank you for bringing this view shot to our attention. After all, who out there does not believe Job was superior in patience.
I questioned you on this verse in James months ago and you said you were working on a post. And here it is! Yay!
I hope it was worth the wait. 🙂
Paul: I added in a comment a day ago for this posted article. If you are still reviewing it then alright. If this is not the case, did my input not meet your expectation or standards for airing on the blog. And if this is the case then tell me if I’m wasting my time contributing to these posts, and quit now.
No idea, but please note that comments that are longer than 250 words or do not otherwise conform to E2R’s Comment Policy are deleted before I read them. Thanks.
That’s why Job does not figure in the “Roll call of Faith” chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews.
Maybe not so, for that would suggest that those who were mentioned in the role call in the book of Hebrews, were better than Job. Remember that those who made that list could not have saved themselves by their own righteousness. They got their righteousness from God, by simply being what Ephesians 2:8-10 says. God offered them grace, and they accepted His grace, because they loved God, who first loved them, and by which love, they were able to love God back. Remember that honor was commended upon Job by God, Himself, speaking to Satan. God said, that Job hates evil and loves righteousness. He abhors evil. And who really knows but God, the true meaning of his (Job’s) complaints? Could they be directly or more indirectly related to his hatred of evil, expressed in the imperfection of his human, fallen nature? Remember, too, that the Bible states, “Be angry and sin not.” Noted how humbly, reverently, and timely Job apologized to God, after he had gained more knowledge of the Holy One? Job could have made it on that list just as easily as you could have made it there, simply based on whether you would have loved God for loving you first. I guess the writers or the Holy Spirit only selected a certain number for that list, and no more faithful people could be placed on it. Certainly we all can’t make it on the list, but we all can be saved.
I really do appreciate this post. Because when I started going to this church and I moved in with a women who is obese, I became the house maid. I lost, car, “job” and pretty much everything. First time I read this story, my heart dropped. Literally. My view of God changed. And I don’t understand. “Why”?
A good point to remember that James is bringing up is the end of the Lord, His merciful kindness and great goodness. The book of Job is so simple, yet is so full of debate, and theologians debate it still. If you look at the book as a whole, all five people, are discussing suffering and God. All four of the men Job speaks to try to assign the suffering to some cause or as Elihu states as some form of chastisement. But God gives a general rebuke to all five persons because they are speaking without full knowledge. Elihu couldn’t be some sort of mediator between God and Job nor could he be considered some spokesman. Why didn’t God acknowledge Elihu if he was some sort of spokesman? He basically ignores him after the general rebuke. Elihu stated that once Job heard him he wouldn’t need to speak to God, yet God did speak to Job, proving again Elihu was not fully correct in his speech. The reality was simply Job was under an attack from satan and Job’s sinfulness had nothing to do with it. That’s why God pointed out the existence of the devil to him. In a nutshell the debate was pointless between the five because they didn’t understand or have knowledge of satanic attacks.
its so encouraging how God honored Job even if he was not perfect. God helps us also in the same way even if we are impatient and complain at times
Thank you so much for sharing
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”
I have been studying the Bible little by little and I come to Philippians 1:29 BANG!.
How is Suffering a gift of God? Please explains this for me. It says here that we are graciously given 1) faith to believe on him 2) and suffer his behalf.
I can understand Faith was a gift Eph 2:8, but suffering??
Suffering from God or the devil? IF not how do I joyfully witness to people that my Father will make you suffer? My father loves me so much He wants to graciously give me cancer? This verse seems to go against all I understand. The idea that suffering is friendly fire instead of coming from the enemy is not good for a soldiers morale.
I just came out of 5 surgeries in 18 months and am healed and ready go back to workI need to clears this idea out of my head. If God wants me to suffer more I will just become a Buddhist.
Does this make sense to you? Suffering, affliction, and oppression a gracious gift from God? What does he mean?
I understand when the road get tough (from the enemy) that God gives us the strength to overcome. I understand we become mature and develop faith in trials. But God giving us suffering??? What did Paul mean in Phil 1:29?
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Php 1:29). The suffering the Philippians were experiencing was not the result of illness but persecution (see verse 28).
Paul understood from first-hand experience that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). To “suffer for his sake” is to be persecuted on account of Jesus. This is not such a bad thing. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt 5:11-12).
If you are persecuted on account of Jesus, you can cry about it, or you can embrace it as a badge of honor. You’re in good company.
Paul , Job is mentioned ONE time in the New Testament, Abraham is in there 70 times in 66 verses. Why don’t we notice that its about the patience of Job AND the END (result) of the Lord? He came out twice as well off as before, and in about a nine to twelve month period of testing, not a lifelong trial.
Paul,God is good and gracious beyond that we can imagine . He does not need our help to make Him look good and gracious by twisting the holy scriptures. In these few interactions I had with you on Job,a couple of times in straight forward way you claim the opposite of what the word says! You are doing here again. James talks about the patience of Job and you wrote a whole article of the impatient of Job!
Nowhere do the scriptures say Job was patient. In fact, the opposite is true. The Word tells us that Job was far from long-suffering. He complained bitterly (Job 7:11, 10:1), he blamed God for everything that happened to him (Job 1:21, 6:4, 13:27, 27:2), and he wished himself dead (Job 7:13-16). Even Job said he was impatient! “Why should I not be impatient? Look at me and be appalled; clap your hand over your mouth” (Job 21:4-5).
Thank you for this explanation Paul. You are correct, understanding it in this light does fill one with joy and even relief. I think one can apply this principle to many other pieces of scripture that was not always truthfully represented. One that is personal to me is Habakkuk 3.
We were so focused on the lack of crops and livestock that we miss the wonderful revelation of God in verses 18 – 19. We, as with Job, even wrote songs of lament this. Key however is not the circumstances but our God who is with us and will help us in the midst of it all.
Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.