"For I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
Job ch.19, vv. 25 & 26.
IT is probably true to say that the book of Job is not earnestly pondered by the average Christian. It provokes many questions: Did Job ever live? Is the book the record of actual and precise historical facts, or is it the product of an ample mind enriching us with its deep and profound reflection on life? If Job lived, when did he live? The question has some importance because, for example, the significance of the words of our text. For my part, I think one's view of the Scriptures as a whole requires that one should regard Job as an historical figure. He may have lived even before Abraham and the legends of him preserved by that Overruling Providence that has ever watched over the inspired literature. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a man of deep insight like Solomon may have found this literature, studied it carefully and produced it for the sacred Hebrew library. My view of Scripture that to me seems inescapable is both the Divine illumination of the writers which is there demonstrated, and also the Divine Providence in preserving their work and bringing these, invaluable MSS. into such a marvellous collection of sacred writings. To me the second is as obvious as the first.
But whatever may be these questions and our answers, the book of Job demands our consent to its place in the canon of Scripture. Whatever may be said about the content of Divine revelation within it, there is no question about the reality of the human experience. And, of course, that unfolding drama, which finds out deep responses in our human nature, is explicitly related. Job is a good man, a man of great wealth, piety and integrity. He may not know that; his wife is probably sure it is an imagination, but it is at this point that the man is seen in the setting of the supernatural. Satan among the sons of God finds himself in the presence of God. It may be easier to find a date for this book than a date for this strange and remarkable meeting. The reason why Job is such a good man is because he has every right to be good, seeing how lavishly God has spoiled him. But of course, if that Preserving hand of God should be lifted and Satan was permitted to work his evil designs, the character of Job would soon be revealed. Therefore, while Job does not know this, neither his wife nor his friends, yet this is really a test case between God and the devil, fought out in a human heart with issues that show how entirely irrelevant is the theoretical discourse of Job's friends.
This book teaches us to beware of rushing to conclusions about life. It teaches us that there are issues developed in the experience of any one of us that are of the greatest importance to us and may have resounding repercussions in heaven itself. So this book teaches us one of the outstanding truths of life:
To day the amount of the wage packet is the symbol of success. High executive positions and dazzling success are the keynotes. All that, of course, is an illusion. We might all wish it were true, but the wise man is he who thinks on facts and ceases to wish his wishes were the values of life.
The facts are that this mortal experience is fraught with much that disquiets, dismays, confounds and may cast down into the depths. Calculations of ease, prosperity, planning to escape the awkward things of life are all delusions, as we may discover when, alas, it is too late. Evil, unmitigated evil, evil right from the devil himself, may come upon us to search out every bit of integrity we possess. If we grasp this fact, and grasp it realistically, we shall be wise.
Hence, what God wants in any one of us, not for His sake only but much more for ours, is the cultivation and exercise of patience. This is the great virtue to be developed. Nothing wrecks a life like impatience. Impatience is the refusal to see any point of view but your own, to be utterly indifferent to the viewpoint of God and to plunge forward without respect to anything else except one's own calculated interests.
It is often in regard to persons. I never cease to marvel that our Lord knew who it was that should betray Him. He took nobody into His confidence. He did not even take Judas aside, but He held to the purpose of God with such tenacity that He could say to Judas as he slipped out of the room, "That thou doest, do quickly." Job found his values snatched from him. His wife was bereft of spiritual insight, and his friends came upon him with clever theories that had no relation either to revelation or to the facts of his experience. But then husbands, wives and friends are not to dictate our attitudes! If our sins have brought us where we are, there must be repentance; if we have made mistakes now bearing their fruit, we must come to God and blame nobody but ourselves. Then we must act as God requires with such patience as will mean that whatever passing values in life may disappear, we are better men and women out of the challenge. Nothing can make us any better except patience, and anything other than patience, whatever it may seem to do as we curse God and die, will only add to our troubles. Nothing can minimise disaster except patience before God. Any other attitude will make our troubles worse. People are sometimes concerned about swearing. The ethic of what is a " swear " word is really immaterial; it depends upon the quality of the emotions to which the words give rise or express. The will of God is that we shall perpetually know equipoise of spirit so that patience will be found in perfect expression in all circumstances. We take the first step to this when instead of condemning people who irritate us, we condemn ourselves that we are irritated. Hence in all circumstances of distress, pain, seeming lack of response from God, loneliness, despair, patience is exercised. We remind ourselves that above and beyond all else, God designs the development of patience as being one of the most important constituents in character and of the greatest significance in our eternal development.
So Job had patience. He did not curse God with his lips, he sustained the criticisms of his friends, and he submitted to the painful conditions for which Satan was responsible and for the blame for which his wife would have laid upon God.
When we come to look at the secret of Job's patience, we find it in our text. It is a remarkable assertion because it springs from the lips of one to whom our New Testament was unknown. He of course, as a spiritual man, understands the conception of a Redeemer, a Kinsman who takes the place of one dead. The book of Ruth gives the finest example of such a Kinsman Redeemer in Boaz. He believes that his Redeemer is living. His fellowship with God as a just man has brought him into a pure and true perspective of revealed truth, and in spite of his pitiable condition and the disconcerting criticisms of his friends, yet he is not only sure of God, but of the Kinsman-Redeemer, in some way living. He is his Vindicator, the One Living One Who will so mediate in all the deep and impenetrable issues of his life as to prove Himself completely, justifying both Himself and Job. He also believes concerning Him that in the latter day, whenever that day may be, this same Kinsman-Redeemer shall stand upon the DUST. Dust takes us back to Genesis, to the inevitable end of Adam and all his descendants, but Job has already reached by revelation into the truth has in purpose the Man of the new Creation, Who shall stand upon the dust of the Adamic creation as it disintegrates in death. I know He lives; He lives above the dust of human mortality and one day, in the latter day, He shall stand triumphant upon the dust of the disordered Adamic creation!
It is this Man's victory, to which He is pledged that Job owes all his inspiration. Through the enervating, exhausting days the revelation that was basic to his entire acceptance with God has been tested out in the fires of experience. Each day, as trial upon trial arose, he has stepped out more confidently in the Kinsman-Redeemer. The things most firmly believed have been given new energy as he has been thrown back on God and has looked up into the face of the MAN WHO LIVES. He LIVES and therefore, by His grace and the actual mediation of Divine strength, Job has lived victoriously, sustained by strength he now proves. With every fresh challenge the truth and power of his Redeemer grips him the more mightily. If any one of us is handling any matter God's way, no matter how distressing, every submission we make in patience will mean an increase of the power of God within our common frail humanity. But Job declares a step further. As I have often observed, no man knows any truth about God by revelation until he sees by grace his participation in it. The glory of the Kinsman-Redeemer was by a marvellous enlightenment clear to Job, but he went on to see something for himself. His life was being blighted. He had lost his possessions and his family and was misunderstood by his friends. He had been brought low physically until his very aspect was a misery to his friends. It seemed as if his very body was being eaten away before his eyes. You noticed these facts in the chapter, but Job is living above them. We may not know exactly what are the thoughts of Job here concerning himself, but there is no doubt about the ultimate conviction. What matters what happens to his mortal, suffering, diseased and despicable body? Even if his reins are consumed within him, yet out of his flesh shall he see God. Here Job reached the high pinnacle of revelation and illumination, which meant everything to him.
You will notice that verse 28 seems very far removed from the text. It would seem that wonderful revealing shafts of eternal light have unveiled eternal mysteries for God and for himself and then departed. There could be nothing permanent for Job; the light he saw was true, but the revelation itself waited the unveiling of Bethlehem, Calvary, Resurrection, Ascension and the glory revealed by the Holy Spirit Himself transforming mortality into the marvel of immortality.
This is our privilege. God declares to each one of us that we ought far to exceed Job in patience. We ought never to lose our temper. We ought never to speak the hasty word. We ought to be able to sustain any and every human relationship in the power of the God-Man in heaven! That which was the secret of the patience of Job can prove itself to be the secret of our patience, too.
Job was sure he should one-day stand with Him. Faith in this Kinsman-Redeemer meant His power in Job even when reduced to skin and bone. We too may be sure. From within our straitened circumstances, with clearer vision by the Spirit, we may see the Living Lord. In an inspired confidence and faith in Him, with its outreach far beyond the present evil that affects us, will mean all the power of the One so revealed to fortify us in and to carry us through the dark hour that now is!
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