Saturday 31 January 2015

Bible Book:

“O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book!” (v. 23)

Job 19:1-27 Saturday 31 January 2015

Psalm: Psalm 92


Like many passages in Job, it can prove very difficult to stripthis section of its modern Christian interpretations. As we haveconsidered earlier in the week, in the majority of the OldTestament there is an absence of belief in life after death. Jobclings instead to the hope that his name on earth will be cleared;he wishes for his innocence to be written down and "engraved on arock for ever" for all to see (v. 24). The subsequent verses ("ForI know that my Redeemer lives…" (v. 25)) have, over the years, beenset to music and used frequently to providecomfort and reassurance for the dying and the bereaved. However,they have also caused a great deal of debate and consternationamong scholars. The meaning of the Hebrew is unclear, but the useof the word "Redeemer" may be misleading for modern Christians. TheHebrew word used here means a person's next of kin whose duty itis, after a death, to buy back land that has been sold outside ofthe family (see Ruth 4:1-6) and to avenge the dead if he or shewas murdered. Job, therefore, is not seeking redemption as we mightunderstand it, but vindication - he hopes and believes that afterhis death, his name will be cleared and justice will be done.

Job's words read through the lens of Christianity have providedmany with a hope that the original author almost certainly did notenvisage - a testament to God's power to speak new truths throughold words and to work through people to bear fruit they cannot evenimagine. There is, perhaps, another source of hope to be found inthe fact that the Bible is not a saccharine, rose-tinted text butcontains speeches like this (and like many of the Psalms) thatplumb the depths of human anguish and pain. Faith is no guaranteeof a life free from pain - far from it - but like Job, we areinvited to place our trust in God and to cling to him through thestorm.

To Ponder

  • Do the probable original intentions of the author mean that thecomfort these verses has provided for the dying and the bereaved isany less valid? Why?
  • If you were Job's friends, how would you respond?
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