The End or Purpose of the Lord

James 5:11  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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"Ye... have seen the end of the Lord."
The Lord always has an "end" or object in view in all that befalls His people, particularly when sicknesses and similar troubles come upon them. It is exceedingly important that we have that fact firmly established in our hearts, for if we know "the end of the Lord," it will enable us to pass even more joyfully through the period of trial. And the more firmly we are convinced of the fact, the lighter the trial will seem and the shorter its duration.
The Apostle Paul, in his unparalleled afflictions, knew that "the end of the Lord" was a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." With that prospect in view, his present affliction seemed to be light as to its character, and for a moment as to its duration. (2 Cor. 4:17, 1817For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17‑18).)
There is a great difference between looking for the end of the trial and looking for "the end of the Lord." It is natural to be looking for the former, and if the trial is a sickness, then the usual thing is to send for a doctor and take remedies in order to escape it. However, we are expected to take care of these bodies we now have. But it takes faith to look for the "end of the Lord," for that is one of the things that are "not seen." "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb. 11:11Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).
The Lord's Purpose
In this connection it has occurred to me that the people of God rarely seek for, or even think of, the Lord's purpose in permitting affliction to fall on them. His purpose may be preventive as with Paul's thorn in the flesh or productive as in John 15, as well as corrective. Sometimes the saints of God suffer needless trials, diseases, and hastening of death, because of their ignoring one of the very plainest and one of the most practical lessons taught in the Word of God. It is certain that if we believed and acted upon the simple fact stated in James 5:1111Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11), we would in every trial and trouble of whatever nature, ask and diligently seek to learn, not how we can escape the trial, but what purpose does the Lord wish to accomplish by means of it? The end of the Lord is "for our good always." (Deut. 6:2424And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. (Deuteronomy 6:24).) His chastenings are invariably for our "profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." No lesson of Scripture is more plainly taught than that, but how often do the people of God act in accordance with it? And who can say how much they lose through slighting and ignoring it?
How Much They Lose
The Apostle James in the verse from which we have quoted, sums up in a few words, the lesson of the extraordinary afflictions of Job saying, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." That is, he emphasized the endurance Job had in the many things he suffered and what God purposed in it all.
This Scripture is very important. It refers back to the great Bible lesson given in the book of Job concerning human sufferings, and especially bodily sicknesses which are the most common of them all. It leads into the practical directions which the Lord has given to be followed by His people when ill. It carries us on to the effectual working of the "prayer of faith" as exemplified by Elijah, "a man subject to like passions as we are." He prayed until the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit which is the great "end of the Lord" who is the "husbandman [who] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he [it] receive the early and latter rain." James 5:77Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (James 5:7). Rain is a symbol of God's blessing.
Like Plows and Harrows
We would remember that afflictions are like plows and harrows that prepare the soil by painful operations to receive the seed. The soil is put into condition to drink in the rain when it comes. "For the earth [or land] which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God." Heb. 6:77For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: (Hebrews 6:7).
The reference in James 5:1111Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11) is the only allusion to the book of Job in the whole Bible, although Job's name is twice mentioned in Ezek. 14. Job, in all his explanations of his afflictions, attributed them to God's actions, but he did not recognize that God had any beneficent purpose in them. The only prospect of escape from them that Job could see was by death. The difference between Job's view and that of His three friends was that Job maintained that God sent evil upon men, just as He sent good, and that being God He had the right to do as He pleased with His own creatures. Therefore men must accept evil uncomplainingly just as they accept good at God's hands. Job's words to his wife state his views: "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." Job 2:1010But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:10).
Job maintained this until he had silenced his three friends.
Job's Three Friends
His friends maintained the contrary. They said that afflictions were punishments for sins and were always in exact proportion to the nature of the sins. By this argument it was made plain that Job, being the most afflicted of all men must be the most wicked of all men. The great discussion came to an end without any of the four men indicating that he had the faintest idea of the purpose of God, in spite of the many excellent things they said about God.
God's purpose in permitting afflictions is to bring the afflicted one into blessing through self-judgment, confession, and correcting of their ways. None of them had the faintest thought of the "end of the Lord" or that "the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." In all that those four men said about God, the words, love, mercy, kindness, goodness, compassion, pity and the like, did not once occur. Notwithstanding all their great thoughts about God, they did not know Him well. "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." Jer. 9:23, 2423Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23‑24).
Elihu sums up Job's contention in chapter 33:9-11: "I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, He findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for His enemy; He putteth my feet in the stocks, He marketh all my paths." That is, God did all these things arbitrarily, though Job was in his own eyes clean without transgression and innocent.
Elihu dismisses that view of the matter by saying briefly, "Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man." Then he proceeds to show that in all God's dealings with men, His purpose is to save them from going down to the pit, and to bring them into the light of the living. He showed that God first speaks to men once and twice, in a vision (there was no written Word then) and if that fails, He chastens him with pain upon his bed, perhaps with sickness that brings him "near unto the grave.”
Casual Happenings
Is it not strange that with only a few exceptions, the Lord's people fall into the error of Job? They are just as blind as he was to God's purposes in afflicting the children of men and especially His own people. With few exceptions they view their sicknesses as mere casual happenings, the ordinary mischances of life. It is sometimes expressed as the mysterious workings of an inscrutable Providence, the common vicissitudes of men to be endured patiently and certainly to be escaped from as soon as possible. There seems no regard whatever for the "end of the Lord.”
We often act as if we did not have any inspired "Interpreter" to tell us plainly the meanings of these things, One who will tell us that "the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." There is One to reveal the fact that He Himself "has found a ransom" in the Person of His own beloved Son. He will freely open the storehouse of His rich mercies to every man, saint, or sinner who will say, "I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not." Job 33:2727He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; (Job 33:27).
It is no wonder the people of this world are blind to the purposes of God in permitting wars, diseases, and other grievous afflictions, seeing that God's own people are in darkness in regard thereto. How can we expect the unconverted to realize God's desire to save them, and expect them to hear the Interpreter, and count upon the merit of the Ransom when we ourselves are so blind to all this?
God's First Lesson
It does seem as if God's first—lesson to which the entire book of Job is devoted—were also His last, both to His own people and to the children of Also His Last men. As to the former, Elihu concludes his lesson with the words in Job 37:2323Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict. (Job 37:23): "Touching the Almighty, we cannot find Him out: He is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: He will not afflict." In regard to the latter also it is written, "But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." Lam. 3:32, 3332But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. 33For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:32‑33).
One may be inclined to ask, "Why did the Lord allow this?" But we know His ways are so much higher than ours, and He knows the end from the beginning. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." How often God's children have to learn the hard way. The old German saying is sure: "Who will not hear must feel." The gracious pleadings of the Lord pass by unheeded till each time it must be more plainly spoken. We see that first in Job 33:14, 1514For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. 15In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; (Job 33:14‑15). Next by instruction in verse 16, and chastening in verses 19-22. Often He has to bring man up to the grave before He can tell him the gracious gospel of Christ and the glory of Christ. In many cases the one that is dealt with breaks down and gets saved. But even then some refuse to hearken so we read Prov. 1:24-3124Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: 30They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. (Proverbs 1:24‑31) and 29:1. "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded.... Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way.