“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,”’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.”
Here we have another exhortation to patience. In verses 7,8 the apostle has had in view the persecutions which believers suffer at the hands of the ungodly; now refers to the trial of patience which arises from Christian brethren themselves.
James reminds us that the prophets of the Old Testament endured hardship, yet practiced patient endurance. We can take them as examples.
As we look at Hebrews 11, we see the endurance of men of faith. After mentioning the names of the mighty men of faith, the author of Hebrews continues: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:32-40). Yet they persisted in his ministry.
Verse 10-11a: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure.””
“Once persecuted like you, even for speaking in the name of the Lord –The very men that gloried in having the prophets, yet could not bear their message. Nor did either the holiness or the high commission of these messengers of God screen them from suffering; for an example of suffering affliction – Or persecution from the persons to whom they brought divine revelations; and of patience – In suffering. Behold, we count them happy – We commend them, and believe them to be the beloved children of God; who endure – bear their sufferings with patience, meekness, and a contented mind. The apostle’s mentioning this immediately after he had proposed the prophets as an example of patience in suffering, shows that he herein alludes to Christ’s words, (Matthew 5:11) “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you…for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.” Ye have heard of the patience of Job — Under his peculiarly heavy sufferings; and have seen the end of the Lord — Ye have seen, in the history of that good man, what a happy issue the Lord gave to his sufferings; or how much to his honor and comfort his various and heavy afflictions concluded; that the Lord is very pitiful, &c. — and that it is with the bowels of an affectionate father that he corrects his beloved children, and not for his own gratification, but with a view to their eternal advantage.” –Benson
“As much as God honored and loved them, yet they were not exempted from afflictions, but were maligned, traduced, and persecuted by men, 1 Kings 18:13; 19:14; 2 Kings 6:31; Amos 7:10; Hebrews 11; and therefore when they suffered such hard things, it is no shame for you to suffer the like, Matthew 5:12.” –Poole
Men with a gift of prophesying to whom God revealed his secrets, men who were highly honored of God, who were sent forth by Him, and prophesied in His name; and yet, though these were his favorites, suffered from cruel mockings, scourgings, imprisonment, famine, nakedness, and death. Some being stoned, others sawn asunder, and others killed by the sword; all which they endured with incredible patience. Therefore the apostle proposes them to be taken for an example, suffering affliction, and yet they were very patient under them; and through faith and patience they went through them, and now inherit the promises; and so are a very proper example and pattern for New Testament saints to follow and copy after.
Verse 11b: “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord…”
Job was a man who lived about 3000 years ago, a very godly man, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil…” (Job 1:1). He was a very wealthy man with a large family, in one sweeping moment of time…He had all of his livestock stolen, what were not stolen were struck by lightening and killed, along with several of his hired hands; his seven sons and three daughters were having dinner at the oldest brother’s house when a tornado struck the house killing all ten of them; and if this is not enough tragedy, Job contracts a disease that leaves him covered with boils. He could not even solicit the support of his wife who nagged him and even suggested that he kill himself. All of his former friends turn their backs on him and even went so far as to criticize him. Three of his best friends came and just sat and stared at him for seven days, without speaking a word.
Yes Job suffered! But with patient endurance he concludes, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
Verse 11c: “…that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
“Compassionate” in Greek is splanchnizomai. Compassion is aroused when we are confronted with those who suffer or are vulnerable. Compassion is not simply an emotion. It is, instead, a divinely inspired action compelled by 1) knowledge, 2) moral outrage, and 3) the capacity to truly identify with the object of one's compassion. We believe that if these three elements were a part of current sentiment, then the modern welfare state, as we have come to know it, would not exist.
Exodus 34:6 NLT, “ The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, ‘Yahweh!’ The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”
Psalm 78:38, “But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath.”
Psalm 86:15 NLT, “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”
Psalm 103:13 NLT, “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”
Psalm 116:5 MSG, “God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.”
Psalm 145:8 NLT, “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”
Matthew 9:36, “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
2 Corinthians 1:3,4 GW, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. 4 He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God.”
Verse 11d: “…merciful.”
What is the difference between compassion and mercy? Mercy is a synonym for compassion.
Romans 9:15,16, “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion…”
Compassion is having an understanding, mercy is love in action. Compassion is seeing the need, mercy is doing something about it. John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” God looked on the condition of man and had compassion, then He gave his only Son, that’s mercy. God is merciful! He feels the pain we do.
In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, about the Jewish man who is half-dead on the road, when someone finally feels compassion, a despised Samaritan, who “ Going over to him…soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here’” (Luke 10:30-35 NLT). The surprising turning point in the story is not simply the compassion itself, but the one who does something about it, mercy. Jesus concludes with a question, “‘Wow which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same’” (Luke 10:36,37 NLT).
Verse 12a: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath…”
You may be asking, “What on earth do oaths and swearing have to do with patience, endurance and suffering?” Why would James suddenly say, “Above all brethren, don't swear?” Well, in that day there was a tendency to use oaths to get around a commitment rather than to reinforce it. And James, just like Jesus, is attacking that kind of usage of oaths. But, that still doesn't answer the question. Why in the world would James bring this up?
James is talking about living the Christian life, watching for the coming of the Lord. Perhaps James had in mind the oaths that Peter once took about how faithful he was going to be to Christ. “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ But he spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You! Lord if everybody leaves You. I will not leave You. Lord, if I have to die to save You, I’ll die in Your place.’”
Then we hear Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest, “Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.’ But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’ And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”.” (Luke 22:55-60). These words from the same man who he had sworn to follow Jesus to the death a few hours before! His oath did not mean much!
James is saying that in the Christian life, patience is not manifested by grand verbal promises, but by quiet talk that follows through. Our patient endurance will be shown, not in the grandiosity of our verbal commitments, but in our endurance under trial.
The word “swear” here does not mean profanity, blasphemy or dirty talk. The New Testament uses the word “swear” for affirming or denying by a solemn oath. The word means to affirm, promise, threaten, with a religious oath. This gives a religious guarantee to validate their statement.
“Honesty is becoming a scarce commodity. Perjury under solemn oath is epidemic. In our courts, in our sacred vows of marriage, in the assertions of our highest offices... ‘Their tongues practice deceit‖ (Romans 3:13).
One of my favorite television shows is “Cops,” So many times I hear a perpetrator say, “I didn’t do anything, I swear to God.” “I wasn’t driving that stolen car, I swear to God.” “It wasn’t me, I swear to God.” There they stand, caught red-handed, with the evidence staring them in the face and on camera, yet they say, “It wasn’t me, those drugs you found in my pocket are not mine, I swear to God.”
This is the oath that one must say to join the Masonic Lodge, “Binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut, my tongue torn out by its roots, and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath and obligation as an entered apprentice Mason, so help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same. Binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my left breast torn open, my heart plucked out and given as a prey to the wild beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my body severed in twain, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes, the ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven so that no more trace or remembrance may be had of so vile and perjured a wretch as I, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn obligation as a Master Mason, so help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.”
It's incredible, isn't it? You just swore before God to kill yourself if you ever violated the vow you took to be a Mason.
Now the Bible does not forbid the swearing of all oaths, only against the swearing of deceptive, unwise, or flippant oaths. On occasion God Himself swears oaths, “The oath which He swore to our father Abraham” (Luke 1:73). “So I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest’” (Hebrews 3:11). “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Hebrews 6:13). (such as in Luke 1:73, Hebrews 3:11, and Hebrews 6:13).
“All swearing is not forbidden, any more than Matthew 5:34; (for oaths are made use of by holy men in both the Old and New Testament, Genesis 21:23, 24; 24:3; 26:28; 1 Kings 17:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; and the use of an oath is permitted and approved of by God himself, Psalm 15:4; Hebrews 6:16) but such oaths are false, rash, vain, without just cause, or customary and frequent in ordinary discourse.” –Poole
“Our Savior has taught us that a man's mouth speaks from that which fills his heart (Luke 6:45). And while few Christians would even think of using strong profanity and lewdly vulgar words many, it seems, are unconcerned by the kind of thoughtless use of oaths and vows that treat the name of God with irreverence, and thus take the edge off their testimony before the world. We can tell that the Bible is a book from God, in that it takes very seriously what many of us naturally think of as unimportant and harmless.” –bethanybible.org
Luke 6:45 NLT, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Verse 12b: “But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.”
This simply means, when you say “yes” you mean “yes.” When you say “no” you mean “no.” We parents are probably the most guilty of this. When our children do something wrong, we tell them “no” then the next time they do the same thing we ignore it. So we are constantly sending mixed signals.
The legalists of JameS’ day, the Pharisees, would add additional statements and clauses to their testimony, swearing by heaven, swearing by Jerusalem, swearing by their head, as a way of assuring others of the veracity of their promises.
But Jesus says that His followers are to be such people of integrity that there is no need to back up their words or embellish them with an appeal to any higher authority, holy name, holy place, or on pain of losing a part of their body. He says simply, “let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” anything more may bring you into judgment.
Your word is your bond! Honor your word! Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down.
As God's people, we are to represent Christ in honesty and obedience and reflect Him in our daily conduct. Because of this, we do not need to swear in God's name to back up our word. Therefore, a Christian should simply say “yes” or “no” according to what he honestly believes to be true, even in legal matters. As Jesus says, anything we try to add to the unvarnished truth is Satan's handiwork. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it”( John 8:44). In short, a Christian's word should be his bond.
This is simply “Integrity,” This word comes from the same Latin root as integer and implies the wholeness of person. Just as we would talk about a whole number, so also we can talk about a whole person who is undivided. A person of integrity is living rightly, not divided, nor being a different person in different circumstances. A person of integrity is the same person in private that he or she is in public. It is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Someone has defined integrity as. “What you are when you are all by yourself.”
Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks with integrity walks securely…”
Proverbs 11:3, “The integrity of the upright will guide them…”
Proverbs 20:7, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.”
“So let’s each just do a little integrity check here for a moment.
•How’s our integrity with God? Are we keeping the vows and commitments we have made to Him? When we chose to call Him Lord and Master, we decided that He would be the owner of our life, our time, our resources and all that we have. How are we doing on that commitment? What portion of His resources are we spending on those things that will advance and expand His Kingdom and what on ourselves? Are we constantly seeking to bring our lives into alignment with God’s agenda or are we too busy promoting our own?
•How’s our integrity with the church? When we joined we vowed to participate by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. How are we doing in those departments? How is your prayer life? How much time of each day is spent in heart-to-heart conversation with God about the things that are on His agenda? How often do you lift up your brothers and sisters in prayer? How regularly do you show up and actively participate in the worship life of the church? Just when it is convenient or doesn’t clash with other priorities? How are we doing in terms of offering and using the gifts and talents God has given us in His service? When we joined the church, we accepted the fact that we became a member of a body, not a member of a religious club. Members of a club can frequently do their own thing, attend when they want to as long as they pay their dues. Members of a body are integrally joined to and responsible for and dependent on one another. Which members in this body are you dependent on and who are you responsible for?
•How’s our integrity towards the one we vowed ‘to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part?’ How are we doing in communicating our love and commitment in word and action in such a way that our beloved feels honored, cherished, and precious?
•How’s our integrity toward our families – our children and our grandchildren? When we presented them…we vowed that we would nurture them in Christ’s holy church and by our teaching and example guide them to accept God’s grace for themselves and to profess their faith openly and lead a Christian life. We committed ourselves to do all in our power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love. When last did you talk with your children or grandchildren about Christ and encourage them to draw closer to Him?”
–Sermon Central: Integrity: Where Your Word Is Your Bond, Contributed by Johann Neethling (slightly edited)