Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth…
Following the warnings for the rich, we have encouraging counsel for the poor. Yes, even the poor persecuted ones just spoken of in the previous verses. The coming of the Lord is set forth as being nigh at hand, and they are exhorted to a patient waiting till that coming be accomplished.
I. THE COMING OF THE LORD.
1. Its nature.
(1) For mercy: "to them that look for him... unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). So here, "the end of the Lord," etc. The "end" towards which God always works for his people is their deliverance; so shall it be emphatically then. Nor is the deliverance a cold, deliberate putting-forth of power; he is "full of pity." So he saves out of the fullness of love that yearns towards the oppressed. But the pity and the deliverance are both alike "of grace," for we deserve them not; so we are reminded, in that he is "merciful."
(2) For judgment: "to them that obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath" (Romans 2:8). So here, "the judge standeth," etc. The "end" towards which God is compelled to work, by the sins of men, is their judgment; so emphatically then. And the very pity of his heart becomes intenser indignation, when sin spurns his pity. And the judgment shall be one, therefore, of accumulating penalties; judgment because they "obey not the truth;" yet heavier judgment because they "obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
2. Its nearness. Certainly there is a seeming nearness in the apostolic days; how shall it be explained?
(1) Actually, it was very near, the intervening time being compared with the vast eons of God's working; so 2 Peter 3:8. And even we, studying the history of the past, can view the lapse of ages somewhat according to the measurement of God.
(2) Ideally, it was near indeed to those to whom it was the one burning, glowing hope. For illustration, the parting with a much-loved friend for a separation of many years: we dwell so fondly, in the lingering farewells, on the reunion time, that all the long interval is forgotten in the absorbing hope of that better day. So Christ, parting with his disciples: "I will come again" (John 14:3). So the disciples, looking for their Lord: his coming "draweth nigh." Yes, the high mountain-peak stood out so clear and beautiful against the distant sky, that it seemed nigh, almost as one might touch it even now!
(3) Virtually, it was near. There might be many a climb before that mountain-peak should be gained, but each ascent of the intervening hills lessened the distance towards that high summit. So the successive "comings of the Lord, through all the ages, are preparing for and bringing near that advent, which shall be, after all, but the culmination of the judgments and deliverances that are proceeding now.
(4) Potentially, as has well been said, it might be even nearer then than now, for the spiritual alertness of the Church, and the rapidity of the evangelization of the world, were the fulfillment of conditions upon which depends the hasting" of "the coming of the day of God" (see 2 Peter 3:12, margin). So, then, in all these senses it might well be said, "the coming of the Lord is at hand;" "the Judge standeth before the doors."
II. THE PATIENT WAITING. But as yet they must wait, and be patient in their waiting. For when the ideal of their hopes burned feeble and dull, and the weary routine of common life was oppressive to their hearts, how distant, sometimes, might that coming seem! And, seeming distant, it would actually become more distant, for their faith and work would slacken, and so his way would not be prepared. Yes, there must be a looking for their Lord, that they might rightly do his will, and also that they might patiently wait for his appearing. So, then, as regards this patient waiting:
1. Its character.
(1) Endurance of evil: one feature of the economy of redemption. Yes, "we call them blessed;" so James 1:2-4, 12.
(2) Strength of heart: evil without could not touch that inward strength. In this consists the "blessedness" of the enduring. Therefore "stablish your hearts."
(3) Trust in God: a God with us now; a God working for our deliverance hereafter. Having him, we have all things; and hoping in him, we shall not be put to shame.
2. Its encouragements.
(1) The processes of nature may teach us patience: "Behold, the husbandman waiteth," etc.
(2) The prophets of grace teach the same patience: "Take, brethren, for an example," etc. And the patience manifested by them was that of men who can "suffer, and be strong;" an active patience - "spake."
(3) The patience of Job is the typical example of God's dealings, so mysterious and yet so merciful; and of man's faith, so tossed and tried, yet cleaving to the God who, he is sure, will not forsake. One penalty of impatience and unfaith is mutual discontent: "Murmur not one against another." As against this, the reward of patient trust in God is "the peace of God," which "shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Therefore, for duty's sake, for society's sake, for your own hearts' sake, for Christ's sake, "be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord;" for "yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Be 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.