Have you seen it? The context of this statement in James is most interesting. We can say that we have seen the purpose of the Lord in many things, in particular in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but note the particular context in which James makes this statement.
“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (5:10,11).
The Lord does nothing without a purpose, but do we always recognize that purpose? Our reading of Job illustrates God’s purpose with him in developing his character. The prophets all went through similar character development, although only in the larger books is this fully apparent. Studies of Jeremiah and Isaiah are revealing on this subject. James was writing when the nation of Israel was soon to be destroyed. In 5:3 he calls them “the last days” and he has many ideas suitable for our last days of the Gentile era. Patience and steadfastness were vital qualities. The Greek words could also be translated as endurance.
It is God’s will that we go through trials (see James 1:2-4). James’ life was a steep learning curve. If we consider that his mother was Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that Jesus made a special appearance to him after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7) James is writing as he reaches the climax of his life. Historical records indicate that he was martyred in AD 62.
So James marvelled at the purpose of the Lord in his life and he is exhorting others to see the same in their lives – and so remain steadfast under trial: “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (verse 8). What an appropriate message for us as we near the end of 2021 and the events especially around God’s Holy Land show the latter day “purpose of the Lord” unfolding. And God’s purpose will become increasingly clear to those who know His word.