12 November 2007

Job 19:23-27a

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth." (v.25)


The central 'plot' of the story of Job is the apparently undeserved, and extreme, suffering of a man who stubbornly proclaims his innocence in the face of those who, in line with the 'wisdom' of the time, insist that he must have done something wrong to deserve suffering. The righteous innocent will be blessed and prosper, only the unrighteous wicked suffer.

This is nonsense, of course, but some people still seem to believe it today. So, at one level, the story of Job is a necessary challenge to such 'wisdom'.

But there's more to it than that. The opening and closing chapters set this story within the wider framework of a 'cosmic bet' - Satan, one of the 'heavenly' 'sons of God' (and there's a tricky one!) bets God that Job, a righteous, prosperous happy man, will eventually crack and curse God if enough bad stuff happens to him. God accepts the bet, and allows Satan to do whatever he wants to him, short of killing him. Again, tricky stuff!

Those who look to the story of Job to find comfort in their affliction will, perhaps, not find the answers they are looking for - any more than Job does when he finally argues with God (and who can blame him?). The only answer God gives is that he alone is God, and Job has no right to question him. There is no final answer here to the question "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

So this is not an easy read for Christians, any more than it was for those who first read this story. And we need to bear this in mind when we look at our key verse for this week, which comes not from the New Testament (or from Handel's Messiah) but from this difficult book.

It is the cry of a faithful man who dares to believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that God will, one day, reveal himself to him and declare him to be truly innocent as one of God's people.

The words translated 'my Redeemer' are misleading - the passage is not a prediction of the risen Christ (nor of resurrection in general) - and are better translated as 'my vindicator', or 'one who declares me innocent'. And that, perhaps, is the heart of true faith - the conviction that there is a God who cares about the plight of human beings, despite so much evidence to the contrary.

To Ponder

Some Christians certainly believe that God rewards faith with blessing. Is 'real life' like that?

If faith is not rewarded, what is the point of believing in God?

What do the words "I know that my Redeemer lives" mean to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Rhymer

The Revd David Rhymer has done a number of things over the last 40-odd years - including teaching (science), publishing (theology), full-time ministry (Baptist and Methodist) and national Methodist Team work (training & development officer for Cornwall). More recently he has been responsible for a part-time theology degree course at Exeter University, and until 2017, was involved with teaching students preparing for ministry in the south-west.