“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”
James owns his readers as his own family, the family of God.
take the prophets,
The prophets suffered even though they had a high calling. James mentions the prophets because they were men of the Word. It was their understanding of the principles of the Word that sustained them in a trial.
who spoke in the name of the Lord,
The prophets represented the Lord in what they said. People rejected them as they represented the Lord while preaching the Word. The prophets told them things they did not want to hear, so the people persecuted them. Elijah fled from Jezebel. They put Daniel into prison. Micaiah refused to speak anything but the Word of God to Ahab, so Ahab put him into prison.
as an example
An “example” is a sign suggestive of something, a figure, form, copy. The Greek word is composed of two words: under and to show. An example is something that is shown under; hence, a sign suggestive of something, a representation. An example is something that we should imitate, a model, pattern. The example of the prophets is something to which we can point our finger. Jesus is an example as well.
Jn 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
of suffering and patience
The prophets were examples of how to handle suffering and express patience under duress. The word “suffering” comes from two words: evil and to suffer. A person who suffers undergoes evil, trouble, distress. This is an afflicted person. The prophets were afflicted people. They were men of God and spoke in the name of the Lord, yet they suffered from the hands of men. They endured poor treatment from those who rejected their message.
2 Ch 36:15-16, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”
“Patience” is the long holding out of mind before it caves into its passions. The prophets did not give into resentments because of their persecutions. The higher ideal of the will of God gave them self-restraint.
God’s standard is that we hold out long under suffering before we cave into our passions by accepting the will of God for our lives.
Affliction is part of the Christian life. We will not be free from trouble until we go to be with the Lord. If we try to live a trouble-free life, we head for frustration. There is no such ethereal state before we get to eternity. God does not promise us freedom from affliction until we go to be with Him.
2 Ti 2:8-10, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
God wants us to imitate the virtue of the prophets — patience with people under suffering. Our reactions are more telling sometimes than our actions. God wants us to react to suffering with patience. He wants us to do it with loooongsuffering. God’s standard is that we hold out for a long time before we give in to our passions or anger. We do not allow resentment to grab hold of us.
2 Ti 4:5, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Longsuffering under trial produces tenacity of soul.
Ro 5:3, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”