James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” The Bible contains several accounts that depict God’s compassion and mercy…
The wickedest king in the Old Testament. It seemed like there was no false god he did not worship and no command he did not break. He even sacrificed his own sons to Molech. God punished him by taking him into captivity. 2 Chronicles 33:12–13 records:
Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
God not only forgave Manasseh, He even restored him as king.
Some of the evilest people in the Old Testament. When they repented, God spared them. This made Jonah so angry that he wanted to die, but God rebuked him:
Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (Jonah 4:11).
The Prodigal Son
This parable reveals the heart of God the Father. Luke 15:20:
The son arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
Jesus on the Cross
When He was crucified He prayed:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
These accounts make God look “very compassionate and merciful.” But He doesn’t look that way in the Book of Job. If someone said, “Show me an example of God being ‘very compassionate and merciful,’” you probably wouldn’t point to Job.
Trials can make God look unmerciful and cruel. We tend to think if God was compassionate and merciful, He wouldn’t let people suffer. But James 5:11 says that even with Job—a man whose very name is associated with trials—God was still “very compassionate and merciful.” How was God compassionate and merciful toward Job?
First, God’s Compassion and Mercy Was Shown When He Blessed Job
God blessed Job with twice as much as he had before, and vindicated him before his family and friends (Job 42:10–11; see chapters 6 and 7).
Job 42:10-11—And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
Second, God’s Compassion and Mercy Was Shown When He Put Restrictions on Satan
We might not be comfortable with those restrictions, but they were present nonetheless:
- Job 1:12—“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’”
- Job 2:6—“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.’”
No matter how painful a trial might be—physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually—God still restricted it from being worse. As a pastor, I have regularly told people not to say, “It could be worse,” but it is true—things could always be worse. If we could see how much worse, we would be thankful for God’s compassion and mercy.
Third, God’s Compassion and Mercy Was Shown by not Killing Job
Third, although Job was a godly man, he was still a sinner. At times, Job was angry, accusing, and demanding. He thought God owed him an audience and explanation. He was self-righteous, especially when declaring his innocence. Even this criticized God, because it implied He was unjust for treating Job so poorly. God revealed His compassion and mercy when He spoke to Job, but did not kill him.
Most parents would not let their children speak to them the way Job spoke of God, but God did little more than ask Job difficult questions he could not answer. While nobody would want to be questioned by God the way Job was, this was mild considering the punishment Job deserved. The lesson for us is we deserve much worse than we receive. If God gave full vent to His wrath, we would be destroyed. Instead:
- Lamentations 3:22—“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”
- Hosea 11:8b–9a—“My heart recoils within me;my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute My burning anger” (ESV).
- Job 34:14–15—“If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.”
Fourth, God’s Compassion and Mercy Was Shown Through the “End [God] Intended”
God’s compassion and mercy to Job is shown by the words “end intended by the Lord” (James 5:11). This phrase is so important you might underline, circle, or highlight it in your Bible. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you do not forget it.
Whatever trial we experience, God has a reason for it. In Job’s case, part of the end God intended was removing his self-righteousness and pride. God might use trials to accomplish the same end in our lives. Few things humble people more effectively than trials. Suffering is an equalizer that can bring even the highest people low.
Other times God uses trials to accomplish different ends in our lives. Regardless of what God is doing, we can be confident He does not allow suffering except for His purpose.
Speaking of God “What Is Right”
God does not use highlighting, italics, bold, or underlining for emphasis. But He does use repetition. God repeated Himself to Eliphaz in Job 42:7-8:
“My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has…For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
God wants His character described correctly. He rebuked Job’s friends for misrepresenting Him, but He commended Job for speaking truthfully about Him. Understanding God’s character is always important, but it is especially important during trials. When we suffer, we are most tempted to draw incorrect conclusions about God: “God has forgotten about me,” “God has changed,” or “God does not love me.”
During trials we must turn to Scripture to be convinced of the truth and see what is “spoken of [God that] is right.” If God can be described this way with Job, then regardless of our trials, we must recognize God is still acting very compassionately and mercifully toward us.
Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section
- Which of the four examples of God’s compassion and mercy most encouraged you? Why?
- Can you think of other examples in Scripture of God’s compassion and mercy toward individuals during trials?
- Provide three examples from your life, or the life of others that demonstrate God’s compassion and mercy during trials.