Hope in a Time of Darkness: A Sermon on Job 19: 13-27


Preached at United Reformed Church of Clifton
on Sunday, July 5, 2020 on Facebook Live.

Sermon #3 in a Series on the Book of Job: “What Good People Do When Bad Things Happen.”
To hear the sermon preached follow this link https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=217922589310663
William Blake, “The Wrath of Elihu”, Linell Set, 1826

For I know that my Redeemeer lives,
    and at last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then from my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!
(Job 19: 25-27)

Kurt Cobain was the front man for the band, Nirvana.  Although he was extremely talented and successful he struggled with addiction and depression.  In 1994 at the age of 27, he put a gun to his head and killed himself.  Prior to his death he once said, “No one dies a virgin; life f****s us all.”  Job would agree with that sentiment even though he puts it more eloquently.  In Chapter 14:1, Job says this, “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last.” In other words, no one escapes life without being wounded deeply.  Each of us bear scars from the things that we have faced.

We are continuing our series on Job, “What Good People Do When Bad Things Happen.”  Job had it much worse that Cobain, but ultimately he was not driven to suicide because he found a reason to hope.  Job did not curse God and die.  Instead kept in relation with God, arguing passionately but still maintaining his hope.

In our scripture lesson this morning, Job has reached the end of his rope.   He is totally isolated, alone and in deep pain.    In Job 19:15-19 he lists all the people who should have been there for him but who instead have put him in involuntary social isolation.

In verse 15, he says “the guests in my house have forgotten me.”  When they come into the room they don’t greet him or acknowledge his presence.

In verses 15 and 16 he says his employees disrespect him and treat him with impunity.  The maids act as if he doesn’t exist and has to beg the other servants to do what he wants. They don’t address him as sir but only do what he asks sullenly and slowly. 

In verse 17 he gets closer to home.  “My breath is repulsive to my wife.”  Years ago there was a commercial where a wife hesitantly told her husband about his bad breath and pitched a certain mouth wash.  She said that she was doing it because she loved him.  But Job’s wife tells him this with a look of disgust on her face and body language that holds him at a distance.

Even worse in verse 18, “Young children despise him.”  Can you imagine anything worse than a rude child who feels free to insult an old man?  Children are supposed to respect their elders.  To be insulted by child and to have no one correct or discipline them is as low as you can sink.  It shows just how powerless Job is.

But then he arrives at his lowest point.  We can understand how acquaintances can ignore him.  We can understand how his employees disrespect.  We can even understand how a wife might turn against him.  But his best friends?  The men who grew up with, and who have known him for 40 years? They abhor him and attack him.  (v 19). 

All of these people had a social responsibility to come to Job’s aid.  In the OT, there was an expectation that family and friends would be a “goel,” a kinsman redeemer to people in hard times.  If you came upon hard times they were supposed to help you out.  If you were forced to sell yourself into slavery because of your debts, your kinsman redeemer was supposed to pay your debts and help you get back on your feet.  When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem as widows, Boaz stepped and shouldered the responsibility of kinsmen redeemer.  He married Ruth and gave her children to continue her husband’s name.

But all of those on whom Job should have been able to count have failed him and Job is reduced to begging. Verse 20-21 say “Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me, never satisfied with my flesh?”

Job has reached his lowest point… And yet he does not give up hope and in verses 25-27 he expresses his confidence that he has a Redeemer.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!

As we think a little more about this redeemer, I want you to notice 4 things.

First, when Job calls for a redeemer he is experiencing a deepening in his faith. The late Rabbi Robert Gordis, a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary in America, in his book The Book of God and Man: A Study of Job, points out that Job takes three steps as he considers his relationship with God.  In chapter 9:33 Job seeks an umpire to adjudicate his case. To quote verse 33, “There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both.”  He’s not asking for someone to take up his cause.  Just someone to insure that he will get an impartial decision between God and himself.

In Job 16:19, however, he takes a second more profound step in his faith.  Now he is looking not for an impartial umpire but a witness who will stand by him and attest to his innocence.  Verse 19 “Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven, and he that vouches for me is on high.”  If an umpire stands between Job and his adversary, a witness stands beside Job. The witness is in his corner.

Finally, in Job 19: 25, Job expresses his faith in a Redeemer.  “For I know that my Redeemer[b] lives.”  If an umpire is an impartial referee and witness is a supportive friend, a redeemer is an active Savior.  He not only adjudicates Job’s case or attests to Job’s innocence, rather he intervenes to rescue Job.

Second, I want you to see is that Job’s Redeemer is God himself.  Verse 25 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.“  Gerald Janzen points out that this phrase “at the last” has a second more important meaning.  The Hebrew word for “at the last” is aharon.  This word can either be an adverb referring to time, (which is how our Bible translates it) “at the last”, or it can be a noun referring to a person, “the last one.”  He goes on to point out that it is most frequently used as a noun and that in 2nd Isaiah, aharon is a title for God.  It is not used for any human; it is only used for God. So for example in Isaiah 44:6 God says,  

I am the first and I am the last; (aharon)
    besides me there is no god.

So what Job is really saying is “I know that my redeemer is God himself the one who is the first and the last, the one who is creator and redeemer.”

Third notice that Job has a hope for resurrection.  Verse 26 says, “after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in[e] my flesh I shall see God.”  Gerald Janzen comments,

In conventional biblical understanding and experience, the “full circle” of human existence is indicated by Genesis 3: 19 “you will return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” But within Job’s imaginative envisagement, the “full circle” is reversed: not from dust to life and back to dust; but from life to dust and back to life. The circle is completed when the embodied living person, having suffered the calamity of death and disintegration into dust, becomes once again an embodied living person in renewed relation to God.

Gerald Janzen, Job, p. 143, John Knox Press, 1985

His hope is for resurrection.

Fourth, notice that Job’s greatest hope is not a return to normal.  He’s most concerned to have a deep relationship with God.  Verses 26-27 say this

then in my flesh I shall see God,
 whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Janzen points that the Hebrew word translated as “another” can also mean “a stranger.”  The Hebrew word is “zar” and Job uses that same word in verse 13 when he says, “He has put my family far from me, and my acquaintances are wholly estranged (zar) from me.”  The word zar describes a relationship that is stretched thin and on the verge of snapping.  But Job has a different hope from his redeemer. He will not be a stranger, but an intimate companion.

Now you may notice that all of these words of Job describe Jesus.  Now I don’t think that Job fully comprehended God’s plans, but that he spoke better than he knew.  Paul says in I Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face.” I think that Job saw in a mirror dimly, but that nevertheless he saw something, something that we are privileged to understand in a deeper way, because we have met the redeemer.

Jesus is our redeemer.  He has promised to resurrect us and to restore us to an intimate relationship with God.

CONCLUSION

What do good people do when bad things happen to them?  They hope in God.  That’s what Job did.  It didn’t take away all of his suffering; it didn’t give him all the answers he wanted but it did allow him not to curse God and die.  He remained in painful but hopeful relationship with God.

Let me close by quoting a song by Andrae Crouch, “Through It All.”

I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.

Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

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