Prosperity of the wicked, adversity of the righteous

Text Job 20, 21 Time 09/07/00 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
Asaph appears to be the name of a Levite who was one of the chief musicians in the Temple in the time of David. He is the author of some 12 psalms including Psalm 73. In that psalm Asaph explains how (2) my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. The problem began, he says (3) when he envied the arrogant, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. Asaph though to himself (4, 5) They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. They just carry on in their wickedness unchecked. They say, (11, 12) How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge? This is what the wicked are like - always carefree, they increase in wealth. Asaph, on the other hand, was a godly man but he had his troubles. That led him to think (13, 14) Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
However, having started to think like this Asaph came to see that he had been quite wrong in his thinking. The psalm has been preserved for us to help us to see how to deal with such negative thoughts. Similarly we have in the Book of Job further help in this area, the matter of why the innocent suffer and the wicked seem to get away with it.
We come this week to the final part of the second of the three rounds of speeches between Job and his three friends found in the book. In the first cycle of speeches the friends argued that in this life God always blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked, therefore as Job is suffering he must have done something wrong. Although Job speaks directly after each friend it is only in his third response that he actually says anything about their arguments. We see the same thing in the second cycle too. It is only in Job’s third reply, in Chapter 21, that he directly responds to what his so called friends have to say. After Eliphaz’s second speech and after Bildad’s he spoke of God being his enemy, but after Zophar’s he directly replies to the arguments that are used against him. Perhaps it was the stinging nature of Zophar’s assault that made Job want to reply directly (he uses you singular). It was certainly harsh.
This morning we will concentrate mainly on Job’s answer to Zophar in Chapter 21 rather than Zophar’s speech in Chapter 20. One writer has summarised Zophar as saying
"Job, you make my blood boil! You’re insulting and arrogant. What I am saying is known by everyone - except you it seems! Evil people perish quickly. They get what they ask for in the end. They may prosper for a little while, but eventually it catches up with them. God judges people like that. That’s all I have to say."
So concentrating on Job’s reply in Chapter 21 there are three main things we want to say.
1. Some reminders for would be counsellorsNegatively Do not1. Ignore words of faith from those who are suffering
In verse 19 Job makes a great statement of faith. See 19:25-27 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 I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! And what does Zophar have to say in response to that? Absolutely nothing! He does not even refer to it. There are no words of appreciation or encouragement at all. It is a great mistake on Zophar’s part. Why did it happen? Was Zophar too pre-occupied with winning the argument or did he lack a real interest in the Saviour himself? We do not know. We must not make the same mistake. When people begin to talk about the Saviour, we should immediately be ready to respond with suitable responses. There is so little talk about the Saviour, how sad when we miss opportunities to speak about him.
2. Care too much about your own honour
The very beginning of Zophar’s speech is a disappointment. It is not about the Redeemer but about his own honour. See 20:2, 3 My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonours me, and my understanding inspires me to reply. He is concerned not to defend God or speak for the Saviour but rather to preserve his own reputation! Such attitudes will never help us to counsel those who need our help. We need to forget about ourselves and our own honour. That must be laid on one side for a moment. If there is a burning building and you rush in to rescue someone the last thought on your mind will be ‘How do I look? Will this make me look good?’ In a similar way, when we speak to others to counsel them we must forget our own honour. The vital thing is to help them! We must not forget this.
Positively Remember1. To listen carefully
In the opening remarks of Job’s speech we get some more positive advice on counselling. Listen carefully to my words; says Job let this be the consolation you give me. Bear with me while I speak, and after I have spoken, mock on (2, 3). Job pleads that they will at least listen to what he has to say, which they haven’t really done so far. Surely that is the very least they could do. It is the most basic element in good counselling. If we do not listen how can we possibly help anyone? For all that is wrong with psycho-analysis and modern psychiatry they get one thing right when at the beginning of a session they announce ‘I’m listening’. Proverbs 18:13 warns He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame.2. That those who question why they suffer are arguing with God not with you
Job goes on Is my complaint directed to man? Why should I not be impatient? Now whether Job can excuse his impatience by saying he is arguing with God not men is debatable but the point he makes about arguing with God not with his friends is an important one to note. We must never get the idea that any argument we have with someone who is suffering is really with us. No, if someone suffers and is unhappy about it, his argument is not with any man but with God. It is important that we remember that. Otherwise we will be so eager to defend ourselves that we will forget what is really going on. When someone says they reject Christianity because of all the suffering in the world then they are not in dispute with me or with Christians in general but with God himself. It is with him that they are arguing, whether they accept his existence or not.
3. The suffering that those you try to help are going through
One of the reasons the friends had fallen into this leisurely debating style where they simply defended themselves was that they had forgotten just what Job was going through. He reminds them (5, 6) Look at me he says (perhaps they had been averting their eyes) and be astonished; clap your hand over your mouth. When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body. It made Job tremble to see himself but they just prattle on as if they are talking to someone who has not been touched by these things. How very insensitive they were. All insensitivity is a great drawback in counselling. We really must put ourselves in the other persons shoes and remember what it is like to be in such a position. If we forget how they are suffering we will make all sorts of mistakes.
4. That you will do no real good if what you say is nonsense or untrue
At the very end of his speech, after he has given his counter arguments Job says (34) So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood! This is pretty much true. What the friends were saying made no sense. It was based on a great falsehood. They lacked many skills as counsellors. They were self-centred, insensitive, harsh, unsympathetic. However, the biggest mistake that they made was to base their diagnosis of Job’s problems on a false view of the world. They were working from a fundamental misconception and so even if they had been the most sympathetic and thoughtful counsellors the world has ever known they still could not have given Job any lasting help. This is the bottom line, as it were. If when we are seeking to help people what we say is not based on truth then what real and lasting comfort can we give? If a child is to have an injection and you say it won’t hurt you will comfort the child for a while but when he has the injection you will have a whole new set of problems. So there are false ways of counselling that give false comfort and appear to work for a while but in the end only the truth can really comfort and the truth is found in the Word. That is why the Bible is the best counselling manual you will ever find.
2. Considerations for those who believe that the wicked are always punished in this life1. Realise that many live long lives in power, safety, happiness, prosperity and peace, despite their godlessness
In verses 7-13 Job argues that the truth is that despite all that his friends say the wicked do live long and happy and prosperous lives. Job begins with the same question Asaph asks Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? He has observed that They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not upon them. Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of tambourine and harp; they make merry to the sound of the flute. They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.Here Job is directly countering what Zophar has said.
Zophar says (20:5) The mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. And so Job asks (21:7) Why do the wicked live on, growing old?
Zophar says (20:6, 7) Though his pride reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, He will perish for ever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, Where is he?
But Job asks why the wicked (20:7b) keep increasing in power?Zophar says (20:11,21) The youthful vigour that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust … total darkness lies in wait for his treasures. A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent.… Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure.…
But Job says (21:8-10) They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry.Zophar says (20:23, 28) When he has filled his belly, God will vent his burning anger against him and rain down his blows upon him.… A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters on the day of God's wrath.
But Job says (21:9b) the rod of God is not upon them.Zophar says (2:10) His children must make amends to the poor; his own hands must give back his wealth.
But Job says (21:11, 12) They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of tambourine and harp; they make merry to the sound of the flute.Zophar says (20:15-18) He will spit out the riches he swallowed; God will make his stomach vomit them up. He will suck the poison of serpents; the fangs of an adder will kill him. He will not enjoy the streams, the rivers flowing with honey and cream. What he toiled for he must give back uneaten; he will not enjoy the profit from his trading. (11 The youthful vigour that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust).
But Job says (21:13) They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.Zophar says (20:27) The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him.
But Job says (21:14, 15, 17, 18) Yet they say to God, Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?' … Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?Zophar says (20:7-9) He will perish for ever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, Where is he? Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night. The eye that saw him will not see him again; his place will look on him no more.
But Job says (21:32, 33) He is carried to the grave, and watch is kept over his tomb. The soil in the valley is sweet to him; all men follow after him, and a countless throng goes before him.Job observes that despite all the advantages some men have Yet they say to God, Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him? (21:14,15). The world does not neatly divide up into blessed people who love God and cursed people who do not. It is all a lot more complicated than Zophar and others want to pretend.
2. To recognise this is not to condone the wicked
Some people fear that if we take this attitude we are somehow condoning the wicked. It is one of the problems, for example, in literature. If you have the good guys always win you are not true to life but if you have the bad guys always win you send out the wrong signals. Job is quick to say (21:16) But their prosperity is not in their own hands, so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked. His point still stands though (17, 18) Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale? Sometimes, yes, but, in this life, not always. Certainly not as often as ought to be the case.
3. It is of no use to say that God punishes others instead or that he should do so
In verse 19 Job takes up the argument It is said, God stores up a man’s punishment for his sons. A common argument. Remember the disciples question concerning the man born blind in John 9. This idea is alive and well today. Job answers Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it! He goes on (20, 21) Let his own eyes see his destruction; let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty. For what does he care about the family he leaves behind when his allotted months come to an end? A wicked man is hardly going to say ‘I won’t do this because my children will be punished after me.’ People find it hard enough to grasp the idea that what you today will affect you tomorrow or in later life, let alone the idea that you will harm a future generation.
4. Death comes to all
Some die at ease, some die in misery. In 21:22-26 Job goes on to speak of the apparently random nature of death. Can anyone teach knowledge to God, he asks since he judges even the highest? The friends had their ideas about how God ought to behave but they did not square with the facts. On the one hand One man dies in full vigour, completely secure and at ease, his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow. On the other Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both. Death is the great leveller. We all die but en route some have a relatively easy life while for others things are very difficult. Some go all their lives with no health problems, others are sick every day of their lives. There are rich and there are poor, very rich and dirt poor. There is simply no way to tell how good a man is by looking at him. A healthy body does not signify a healthy soul; a good bank balance does not mean a man is on his way to heaven. We must realise.
5. If you are sceptical about this you need to do more research
Finally Job says (21:27) I know full well what you are thinking, the schemes by which you would wrong me. He knows that they think Job is a wicked man and he is only saying what he says to defend himself. He goes on You say, Where now is the great man’s house, the tents where wicked men lived? And I would not be surprised of there was someone here who despite all I have said, consciously or unconsciously, believes that in fact the wicked do suffer in this life and things always go well with believers. They do not believe in innocent suffering. Job replies (21:29ff) Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts - that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity, that he is delivered from the day of wrath? Who denounces his conduct to his face? Who repays him for what he has done? He is carried to the grave, and watch is kept over his tomb. The soil in the valley is sweet to him; all men follow after him, and a countless throng goes before him. You too perhaps need to get out more. You need to find out a little more about what goes on in this world. I assure you there are plenty of wicked people who live lives of ease and who die at a good age but hardly give a thought to God. Meanwhile the godly often suffer. That is a fact of life. The sooner we accept it the better.
3. Things to remember when considering the apparent prosperity of the wicked and adversity of the righteousFinally, we ought to say something more about this as although what Job says is true it is not the whole story. There are at least 3 points to make.
1. God is still in control
See 21:16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands. It is only a hint but Job does remind us that although at times things seem to be out of control that is not truly the case. The wicked can go only so far. God will not let them go beyond that point. It is clear in this book that even Satan can only do what God allows. It is important that we always remember this vital truth. Further, God ha his purposes for this world. For instance his kindness to wards the wicked is intended to bring them to repentance. No-one can turn around at the end and say ‘I didn’t serve god because he was not kind to me’. In fact the very opposite is true.
2. There is a coming day of judgement when all inequalities will be put right
Further, there is a Day of Judgement when every inequality will be set right. If this were not so life would hardly be worth living. It is the quest for justice that keeps many going in this life and it is right that we should strive for justice here on earth. However, it will not happen in this fallen world. However, a day of judgement is fast approaching when everything will be set to rights. Do not forget it. It was this thought that saved Asaph from his slippery slope downwards (Psalm 73:15ff) If I had said, I will speak thus, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. If we keep this perspective on things we will not go far wrong.
3. Until then there will be many things to perplex us
Meanwhile there will be things that take our breath away, that we can hardly imagine. Like Asaph we have to take ourselves in hand, seeking to avoid bitterness and grief, senseless and ignorant thought or lack of it. We need to remind ourselves as believers (23ff) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory. We ought to be able to say Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Do you know the Living Redeemer?

Text Job 18, 19 Time 02/07/00 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
The third part of Handel’s Messiah follows the famous Hallelujah Chorus at the end of part two. It begins with a soprano aria (you may know it) which commences with the words, "I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Though thou destroy this body yet in my flesh shall I see God."
Where do those words come from? It is the old King James version of Job 19:25, 26. They are among the most famous words in Job, perhaps in the whole Bible. They come towards the end of Job’s reply to the second speech from the second of the three so-called friends, Bildad the Shuhite. Bildad’s speech is pretty unremarkable, chiefly a repetition of wrong views already expressed, to the effect that as Job has suffered as badly as he has, he must have committed some sin, regardless of his protests to the contrary. He was obviously a wicked man and was getting what all wicked people deserve and receive in this life. Though Job’s words in 19:25, 26 are wonderful ones full of great insight and worthy material for a Handel aria there is not really anything even in Job’s own words (19:1-22) to lead us to expect such a wonderful outpouring. Yet in verses 23 and 24 Job suddenly says Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock for ever! This prepares us for these wonderful words (25-27 NIV) 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 I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! I want us to focus on these words today but let’s begin with what leads up to them, first in Chapter 18 and then in 19:1-22.
1. The dangers of a closed and one track mind
In Chapter 18 we have the second of three speeches by the second of the three friends, Bildad the Shuhite. He begins by rebuking Job, then describes the certainty of God’s judgement on the wicked. It is clear that he includes Job among these wicked ones. That is why Job suffers – because he has sinned against God. One writer summarises Bildad’s speech like this
‘Job, you are behaving like an idiot. How long are you going to argue like this? Let me spell it out to you again: wicked people are punished. They lose their health, their homes and their offspring. Do I need to say any more? Everyone else can see it, Job, except you. Are you really that stupid, or what?’
Bildad carries on where Eliphaz left off and says nothing new. In fact, much of it repeats Eliphaz. Other parts are similar to his own first speech. Some of what he says is also like Eliphaz’s first speech. The only difference is that Bildad stresses the way the wicked cause their own downfall and the outward signs of their fall. Also there is much less reference to God and a more caustic attitude to Job than the first time he spoke.
In verses 1-4 he denounces Job and in verses 5-21 he describes the downfall of the wicked.
1-4: When will you end these speeches? he asks Job. Be sensible, he says and then we can talk. Why are we regarded as cattle and considered stupid in your sight? You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger (it is Job doing it not God), is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place? Why should God change the course of nature for Job?5-21: This description of the fall of the wicked is obviously intended to apply to Job. He begins, The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning. The light in his tent becomes dark; etc. His life is extinguished and his apparent flourishing comes to an end.
In verses 8-11 there are references to all sorts of traps - His feet thrust him into a net and he wanders into its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast. A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path. He goes on, Terrors startle him on every side and dog his every step. Calamity is hungry for him; disaster is ready for him when he falls. Then in verse 13 he heartlessly refers to Job and says It eats away parts of his skin; and death’s firstborn devours his limbs. And so he comes to death itself - He is torn from the security of his tent and marched off to the king of terrors. Fire resides in his tent; burning sulphur is scattered over his dwelling. He is not finished though. After death His roots dry up below and his branches wither above. The memory of him perishes from the earth; he has no name in the land. He is driven from light into darkness and is banished from the world. He has no offspring or descendants among his people, no survivor where once he lived, etc. So it is the same old message from Bildad. Why?
1. His mind is closed. The idea that Job could be suffering for any other reason is not contemplated.
2. He has a one track mind. All he can think of is persuading Job to agree with him. The idea of comforting Job or standing back a little to consider does not occur to him. What a danger for us all.
2. Why you need a Redeemer
Here in Chapter 19 we come to one of the great peaks that forms a highlight in the beautiful skyline of this masterpiece. In the first part of Job’s reply he begins by expressing his understandable unhappiness with his friends. He then goes on to express his resentment against God and indeed against everyone around him. None of us has been through what Job has, nevertheless it should not be so difficult to imagine how he felt. It is the way we all feel when everything seems to be against us. It is when we feel like this that we realise our great need of a Redeemer.
1. Have you found that those who seek to help you often seem only to work against you?
Both of Bildad’s speeches began How long? Here Job comes back with How long will you torment me and crush me with words? He goes on Ten times (perhaps we may say umpteen) now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. In verse 4 he says If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. He was not admitting to sin but says even if he had sinned it was not against them and their job was not to be God and deal with him, as they seemed to think. And so he says If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. They needed to know that in fact it is God who had trapped Job and (as far as he was concerned) wronged Job. Now thankfully, not all counsellors are as useless as Job’s were. However, often we find in this life that those who seek to help us also do us harm. Certainly, when it comes to unbelieving counsellors who do not point us to Christ, their efforts will work against us. Have you seen this? To realise this is to take a step in the right direction. While we still rely on human counsel alone we have not found the Redeemer Christ.
2. Have you found that God appears to be against you?
Job is insistent that not only have his friends let him down but God has wronged him too. He complains Though I cry, I’ve been wronged! I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. In verses 8-12 he lists the things that God has done to him:
There seems no way forward - He has blocked my way so that I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. Further, He has stripped me of my honour and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies. Job is under siege - His troops advance in force; they build a siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent. That is how it seemed to Job. Job has said before that God is his enemy. Here he repeats the idea. As we have said, the one thing that all agreed on was that God was doing this. The friends said it was because of Job’s sins; Job said it was simply unfairness.
Can you identify? Do you feel at times that you are in the position where God seems to be against you and there seems no reason for it? He seems to be turning everything against you. Why would God allow us to feel like that? Why would he put someone through something like that? One of the reasons is that we need to see our need of a Redeemer. We need to see that on our own God is against us.
3. Have you found that everyone seems to be against you?
To be paranoid is to believe that everyone is out to get you. It is merely a state of mind. The joke is often made that just because it is a state of mind does not prove that they are not out to get you anyway. Job is certainly convinced that he is alienated from everyone. In verses 13-19 he says He has alienated my brothers from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My kinsmen have gone away; my friends have forgotten me. My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger; they look upon me as an alien. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. It is a complete alienation. And may be you can identify with such feelings. ‘There is no-one willing or able to help me’ you feel. It is not a pleasant conclusion to come to but when you do come to it you will see that you need a Redeemer.
4. Have you come to the end of yourself?
Finally in verses 20-22 Job says I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped by only the skin of my teeth. That has become a cliché in English although it could mean ‘I’ve escaped only with my gums’ his teeth having fallen out. And so he cries out Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh? In frustration he bursts out. He is at the end of himself. Now it is from this point that he begins to rise. We too need to come to this point. We need to come to an end of ourselves. Have you? If you do not, you will never see your need of a Redeemer.
3. Have you found a Redeemer in Christ?
Convinced that death must be near it is at this point that Job expresses his desire to have his greatest longing recorded for permanent preservation. I went to see my mother’s gravestone recently. It is a very simple thing – black stone with gold engraved lettering recording her name, dates and the words ‘Now at rest’. Such things are done in stone to make them last. In verses 23 and 24 he says Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, or better that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock for ever! Of course, although Job’s desire was not met in one sense (as far as we know) yet it has been met way beyond what he could ever have imagined. Today (perhaps 4000 years later) we are reading the very words he uttered then.
‘What do you know?’ is an expression that can be used in different ways. What did Job know? Already he has told us, rightly or wrongly, that he knows God is his enemy, he will soon be dead; he has no hope of vindication from God; he is innocent. But here, rather unexpectedly, he tells us something else he knows. Already (in 9:33, 14:14, 16:18-22) he has come close to saying this sort of thing but this is the climax of his expressions of faith. There is a paradox here – at perhaps his lowest point in many ways, here he gives his highest expression of faith in the Lord. As Paul wrote so much later out of his own bitter experience of suffering When I am weak, then I am strong. It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we are ready to know the blessings of the Redeemer. Job tells us what he knew. Do we know the same things?
1. Do you know your Redeemer lives?
Verse 25 I know that my Redeemer lives. The word used for Redeemer is sometimes translated Kinsman-Redeemer as the Go’el was always a near relative. Near relatives had various duties under Israel’s Law including hunting down and killing someone who murdered a family member or buying back (redeeming) family property for one who had fallen on hard times or buying them out of slavery where necessary. In Ruth you remember, Boaz took on the duty not only to deal with Ruth’s need of food and land but also married her to raise up children in her dead husband’s line. The idea of redemption was a common one in Israelite law – all first born sons had to be redeemed and in certain cases a man who deserved death could redeem his life by a payment of money.
When Job talks about a Redeemer then, he is thinking of a near relative who would be willing to pay the price, whatever it was, to get him out of the terrible situation he finds himself in. He believes that such a person exists and is willing to pay the price necessary to set him free that is to give him back his life. Even though everyone else has let him down, he is sure that there is one who will not. Now Job did not understand about the Lord Jesus in the way we can now in this New Testament era but he did by faith look forward to what God was going to do. It is not that there are two Gods as such but that God is a Trinity, including Father and Son. Have you seen it also? Are you looking to Christ as your only Redeemer? Whatever God allows to happen to us – we can be confident if we know the Redeemer.
2. Are you confident of vindication through him?
Job continues and that in the end he will stand upon the earth literally dust which could be taken as "on my grave". Job was confident that even though it all seemed so unfair in this world there was one who would vindicate him in the end, in the world to come. He looked forward to the day of judgement with confidence because of his Redeemer. Are you the same? Can you say ‘I am ready for the judgement for I am looking to Jesus Christ the Redeemer who through his perfect life and death will vindicate me’? If we are looking to Christ, we can be totally confident that there will be no injustice, no unfairness. He will vindicate us.
3. Are you confident of resurrection through him?
There is some debate about this but what Job seems to do next is to look forward to his own death (which he thinks is imminent) and then beyond that to the resurrection. It could be an anticipation of the turn around that comes at the end of the book but it seems more than this. It is more than just a wish too. He says with great confidence (26, 27) 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! The final phrase expresses Job’s intensity of feeling. Liberal commentators do not like the idea of such a strong statement of resurrection in the Old Testament but it was clearly an Old Testament belief, one held to by the later Old Testament students the Pharisees and by others. There should be no surprise that Job states it so well. Do you have the same confidence – that through Christ the Redeemer you will live again, regardless of what may happen here on earth? If you are truly looking to him, you ought to. Those who trust in him know life forever.
ConclusionVerses 28, 29 do not seem the obvious thing to say after such a high point but Job is turning confidently to his persecutors and warns them that they too need a Redeemer. If you say, How we will hound him, since the root of the trouble lies in him, you should fear the sword yourselves; for wrath will bring punishment by the sword, and then you will know that there is judgement. We all need a Redeemer.
There is no slick answer to the question of how we can have a relationship with a God who does bring innocent suffering but as we struggle (as Job struggled) in God’s grace we will see that there is a living Redeemer in whom we can trust. One writer on Job 19 takes us to the story of Jairus’s daughter and the point where the daughter dies and people tell Jairus to give up. But Jesus says ‘Don’t be afraid. Just trust in me.’ That is the message this morning. It will not bring immediate and automatic relief from suffering or trouble but it means that God is no longer simply an enemy, someone who makes life a misery but one who saves from hell and who gives a glorious future to all his own.