30 September 2010

Job 19:21-27a

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


Job has had a hard time. Despite being a righteous man of faith, God has allowed Satan to take from him all his many livestock, his children and to cover him with painful sores. Job's friends were initially sympathetic, but after he complained they began to suggest that since God is just, Job must have done something to deserve all his misfortune. Given the scale of this misfortune, Job must have done something very bad indeed. Then for the last 15 chapters Job has been debating with his friends and insisting that he has done nothing wrong.

In today's passage Job asks again for the pity of his friends, reminding them that God has taken his riches and family away. He asks why his friends are being unjust to him and seem to be intent on chasing him just like God is. His wish for his words to be written down is ironic: as a character in a story the wish has already been granted.

The passage ends with a striking declaration (verses 25-27): all that has happened to him has not diminished his faith at all. In his frail state Job looks forward to the time when his redeemer will come to stand on the earth and Job will see God. (The original text in the Hebrew is less clear than the NRSV translation - that this redeemer who will stand on the earth is God - though this is clearly one interpretation.)

Job's patience and hope continue to be remarkable. He believes God has been unjust to him; he knows his friends are being unfair and unkind. And yet he has confidence that in time all will be well, that the truth will be made known and that he will see God face to face. The text inspired the famous Samuel Medley hymn:

I know that my Redeemer lives -
What joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my everlasting Head.


To Ponder

How do you respond to Job's cries to his friends in this passage?

Are you familiar with other examples of holding on to faith in tough circumstances, like Job? What impact does this have on you?

Medley's hymn takes a decidedly Christian interpretation of Job's words and assumes Job is talking about Jesus. To what extent does this respect the verse that inspired him?

Bible notes author

David Clough

David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. He is a Methodist local preacher, a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment and the Faith and Order Network and drafted recent reports on peacemaking and climate change on behalf of the Methodist Church.