Blue

Even if I die


I know that my redeemer lives, 

and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 

And after my skin has been destroyed,

yet in my flesh I will see God; 

I myself will see him 

with my own eyes — I, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me! 

(Job 19:25-27, NIV)

Death is many people’s greatest fear. But these words from the book of Job show us one reason why a Christian can face it with confidence.

In this very ancient (possibly Bronze Age) Bible book, we meet Job: a man of great wealth and striking personal godliness. But in chapter one (and unknown to Job himself), Satan suggests to God that this man is only godly because God is so kind to him. God responds by giving Satan permission to test Job.

The result is that Job loses his property, his family, and finally his health: he is afflicted with a devastating skin disease. By the middle of chapter two we find this once-great man sitting on an ash dump, scratching his sores with a piece of broken pottery. To add insult to injury, three friends turn up who insinuate it must all somehow be his fault: God is punishing him. His situation looks hopeless.

But right in the middle of all this come the astounding verses above. I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God. Job knows his God, the God of the Bible, well enough to know that He is our Redeemer, our rescuer, who cares for and will vindicate His covenant people. So he reasons that his present sufferings simply cannot be God’s last word to him. 

Now since that is so, if it doesn’t happen in this life, it must happen in the life of the world to come. Hence, way back in the Old Testament, embryonically, here is the hope of eternal life.

Job’s logic is the logic of faith: he takes what he knows of God and applies it to his present situation. That is a great way to reason. It is a model for us to follow in dark times.

Moreover — and this is a wonderful thought — followers of Jesus also have so much more to go on! Edward Jennens, librettist for Handel’s magnificent oratorio Messiah, got it just right for the aria  I know that my Redeemer lives.  He bolted these words of Job’s onto the Apostle Paul’s triumphant statement But now is Christ risen (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Christopher Ash puts it in his magnificent new commentary on Job, It is precisely the bodily resurrection of Christ that gives us the assurance that Job’s confidence was not wishful make-believe but sure and certain hope.

Do you know that hope?

Alasdair

 


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