"And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me."
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Our text is from the book of Job. Job had a problem. Well, actually, Job had a number of problems. He had lost virtually all of his earthly possessions. He was bereaved of all of His children. His health had fallen completely apart, and his wife was none-too-supportive. She was nagging him to "curse God and die." The only really positive thing we could say about Mrs. Job is that she could not have been after the inheritance, because, at this point in time, there was none. Added to Job's woes were his "friends", Eliphas, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu, who was closer to the truth than any of the others, had not joined in at the point at which our text takes place.
His friends were not all that much in the way of comfort. They were committed to the theology of Glory, which said, perversely, 'if you are suffering, you must have done something to deserve it - something really awful!'. Job maintained his righteousness, which admittedly could sound somewhat egotistical, except that the book began with God saying that Job was righteous, more than any other man. His friends all assumed that Job was either deluded, or that he had a problem with basic honesty. You had to have done something really awful to be suffering the way Job was suffering.
These men where completely sold out to the idea that good things happened to good people, and bad things happened to bad people. The idea is clearly as old as the book of Job, arguably the first book of the Bible to have been written, perhaps four thousand years ago, and as modern as the present news cycle, which generally has a life-span of about fifteen minutes. It is still being taught, and, even more, being assumed by many Christians today. It forms the basis of the health and wealth "gospels" of the myriad preachers on TV and Radio. They are always telling us that health and wealth and success are God's rewards to the good, to the believers, to those who trust Him enough to name it and claim it, and believe it down and pray it down on themselves!
The doctrine that good behavior is rewarded with good things and bad behavior is rewarded with bad things is as old as sin, and very appealing to human nature and reason. It just seems to make sense. That would be the way we would work it if we were in charge. Hard work and dedication will make you successful, right? Honor and decency will carry you far. That is what we are told. The flip side is also presented to us as proverbial wisdom: the one who deals falsely will pay for his misdeeds, and bad people will never get ahead. I could even quote Scriptures on this.
But that is not what we actually see in this life, is it? Good people suffer, and the evil tend to do surprisingly well, at times. The Bible also tells us this truth! The rich are not often paragons of virtue, and the poor and the downtrodden are not necessarily bad actors or immoral, at least not any more immoral than is common is society. The problem is so striking and common that books have been regularly written trying to answer the troubling question of why bad things happen to good people. One of the first books to be written on the subject, actually, was the book of Job.
No matter what Job said, his friends maintained that he was wicked. "Look at the evidence", they would say. "We know that evil things do not happen to the good, but to the wicked." We, of course, laugh at such silliness. We can see that decent people struggle and idiots and perverts often gain wealth and fame. The people who 'make it' often do so because they know someone in the right place, or they were just in the right place at the right time. Talent does not necessarily mean success, and success and wealth are not usually markers of either wisdom or purity. Judging by our celebrity caste, and the movers and shakers in our economic collapse, and looking at the nefarious sorts that inhabit politics and government, being good, or righteous, has almost no connection to wealth, privilege and power.
But we still reflexively tend to believe it. If you think I am wrong, just remember how you feel and think when something goes wrong in your life. We want to ask "Why me?"! The correct answer, of course, is "Why not you?". The feeling or the thought that somehow this doesn't belong to you, or that you deserve something else, is part and parcel of the theology of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. I know of people who have quit church because they believed that God was not holding up His end of the bargain - meaning that they had done what they were supposed to do (be good and do the churchy sorts of things), but God had not honored their righteousness with blessings. He had allowed trouble or tragedy into their world, and so they were no longer going to trust in Him.
This sort of judgment on the basis of what life looks like and feels like clings to us because it appeals to the way we naturally think, which should tell us that it is sin. Reward for holiness, and punishment for wickedness is a feature of the Law of God, but it is primarily about our eternal judgment, and it is not the promise of how life in this world will work. Besides, the standard of God in these matters is perfection. Either you are perfectly righteous, or you are not righteous at all. Job refused to accept the experience of the moment as reflecting the attitude of God toward him, or as measuring his righteousness. And so should we.
What did Job measure with? His confidence in God. He had answered the troubles of life with the famous, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" This was Job's way of saying that God is God, and that he is not. God is good, and God shall decide our life and its condition. Of course, those worlds do not appear in our text, and even if they did, they would not be the stuff of a Gospel sermon. Today is Quasimodogeniti Sunday, the Sunday of those who, like new-born babes, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word. Job didn't have the Word of God, not as we do today, but He knew it, somehow.
Job's comfort was what our text speaks about; "And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me." His comfort was the Gospel, and it filled him with heart-stopping joy! "My heart faints within me."
When Job declared his righteousness, he was not asserting that he was without sin. He knew better. He was first asserting that nothing in his conduct had earned the horror that his life had become - at least not compared to other men. He was a good man. What was happening to him was horrible, to him it was incomprehensible, and it made him wish that he had never been born, but it was not happening to him because he was a monster among men. He did what was right and worked at being a good person, caring about and helping the less fortunate (when there were those who were less fortunate than he was). But he knew that he was not utterly without sin. So, he looked forward to the Savior - the One he called "my Redeemer".
Job here puts the lie to the ancient assertion that men before Christ had no idea of what God was going to do, and that no one expected the Savior that the Christian faith proclaims in Christ Jesus, and that no one ever dreamed of resurrection before the Christian Church began to proclaim it in Christ's name. Job is believed to be roughly contemporary with Abraham, perhaps even earlier. Job does not appear to have been a Jew or a descendant of Abraham. Nevertheless, Job knew the promise and hoped in a Redeemer. The righteousness of Job, upon which his stubborn Faith rested, was not His own, but He expected a Redeemer to rescue him, and that he would rise from his grave to see Him, at the last, when his Redeemer took His stand, finally, on the earth.
Job answered the thought that one could measure one's standing with God by external conditions with faith in a Savior to come, and He measured the love of God by that Redeemer who was promised.
We can do the same. We can measure the love of God for us by the Redeemer who has come, and who has redeemed us with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death. Job looked forward, and we look back. Of course, we also look forward. We can look forward - with Job - to that day when we shall see our Lord and Redeemer, and shall stand in our flesh, even after the processes of decay and corruption have completely destroyed our flesh.
Job's ancient and redundant way of speaking appears to be his way of asserting that in the resurrection, he will be Job, and not another. It will be him that rises and him that sees. It won't be something else. Not, like the Jehovah's Witnesses say, someone just like you created in memory of you. It won't be some creature so different from you that no one will recognize you. It will be you that rises from your grave - your eyes will behold Jesus, as Job explains, and you will see him for yourself, and it will not be someone else looking through familiar looking eyes. In other words, in the resurrection, it is going to be you. You will look like you, and you will be knowable as you, and you will know yourself as you. All of this is because of Easter and because of Jesus.
But Job knew it already before Abraham, and before Moses, and before David, or Isaiah. He probably learned of it from Noah, or from Shem directly. Job may have been before most of the characters we know from Scriptures., but he was not before the promise, and not before some men believed.
We have all the Scriptures, and all of the promise so beautifully and clearly laid out for us. We usually do not have the sufferings of Job, although I would imagine some of the pains of chemo-therapy and various treatments for our modern illnesses are similar to some of what Job endured. But even when we do suffer with Job, we can also rest our hope in the Redeemer who will raise our bodies from our graves, and who we shall see for ourselves, and share in his heart-stopping joy!
God is not to be measured by our outward condition. His love is not visible in our health or wealth or abundance, even when things are going really well for us. His love for us is measured by Christ, who suffered the cross and death in our place to give us the very hope that Job clung to, namely the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. With job we can all confess the heart stopping joy of the resurrection, "And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me."
God grant that it be true for you, as it was for Job.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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