Lecture 18: Job’s Fond Hope
Course: The Book of Job
Lecture: Job’s Fond Hope
Up to this point, Job has taken a great deal of grief from his friends, but he has continued on in his pilgrimage. In this passage he gives one of his really great confessions of faith. That is where we are going to move toward today.
We are looking at chapter 19, Job’s response to the friends where he gives lamentation and yet hopes for salvation. The structure: It begins with an appeal for mercy from the friends, 19:2-6. Secondly, God’s violence has cut off Job’s appeal for justice, 19:7-12. Third, he gets only contempt from relatives, friends and subordinates, 19:13-20. Fourth, another appeal for mercy from friends, 19:21, 22. Then Job’s great confession of faith, 19:23-27. After that, a warning that the friends may face judgment from God, 19:28, 29.
I want you to notice something about this structure. This is not another chiastic structure where there is kind of a turning point in the middle. Rather, this progresses toward a climactic moment near the end, which is his confession of faith. Notice also in the structure, we have an appeal for mercy in verses 2 and 6 and then another appeal for mercy in verses 21 and 22. You will remember that that is what we call an inclusion or a book-ending pattern, where you have two similar passages that bracket a text. That means that everything from 19:2-22 is a self-contained prologue and it is the prologue to his great confession of faith. Just looking at the outline, we can see what is going on. Job is utterly worn out, he is distressed, he is begging for some compassion. He gets nothing but hostility and contempt from everyone around him; and after all of that, he makes his great confession of faith in God. Let’s get into it.
I. Appeal for Mercy from His Friends
His first appeal for mercy from his friends, chapter 19: 2 and following: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have
reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. If it is true I have gone astray, my errors remain my concern alone. 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.”
He is basically calling upon his friends to stop attacking him. He says, “What if I did something wrong? Why do you feel the need to just persecute me? But in fact, God has done this to me and I don’t know why.” He is at this point essentially begging his friends just to stop, just to put an end to all of these attacks upon him, all of these claims that he is a wicked man and that he must repent. Then in verses 21 and 22, the other end of the brackets, he says kind of the same thing.
Verse 21: “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?”
I suppose it is worth asking why it is that the friends pursue him so relentlessly. Job clearly has made his point known. They fully understand what his position is. Can they not just let it go? And even if they disagree with him, just say, “Alright, Job has made up his mind, he will have to just live with it.” But they can’t do that. They keep attacking and attacking and coming back again and again. If you would ask the three friends, they would say, “We’re ministering to Job. Job needs to repent and we are encouraging him to do so.”
But we have seen what has become of their tone, where they have moved from tact and kindness and an appeal to repent, to where now they are hardly
appealing to him to repent at all. They are just declaring him to be wicked and vile and a person who blasphemes God and who deserves everything that he has gotten. So it is clearly not that they are doing this out of compassion for Job or out of a desire to make him repent. It is two things, I think.
It is first of all, the thing we have mentioned several times, that the two friends are unable to come to terms with the problem that Job poses; and in their fear that their doctrinal world is about to collapse, just as his world has collapsed, they are trying to force him to change his mind. If they can just persuade him that he is wrong, then they can be at peace and know that this doctrinal house of cards they live in is not going to fall down. So they primarily do it out of fear and out of concern that everything they believe is wrong.
The second thing is – we have also mentioned it - when someone has embraced a heretical idea and when someone has grossly exaggerated a Biblical idea and they get contradicted, their response is anger. And when you are angry, all you want to do is win the fight. So at this point, they are voicing their anger and they are trying to win the fight.
II. God Has Cut Off Job’s Appeal for Justice
We then see how Job speaks of how God has cut off his appeal for justice in 19:7-12: “Though I cry ‘violence,’ I get no response. Though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor 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. His troops advance in force; they build a siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent.”
Job perceives himself under the metaphor of a city under siege and he sees what God has done to him as being like an army that is all around him. And just as people who are in a city under siege cannot escape, they can’t get out of the city, Job can’t do anything to escape the injustice that is being done to him. If he appeals to justice, it goes nowhere. He gets no response, nothing comes back to him. So he conceives of himself as like people in a city under siege who are starving, who are cut off, who are doomed to death.
III. Contempt from Everyone
Then, verses 13-20, he gets nothing but contempt from everybody. “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from
me. My relatives have gone astray; my closest friends have forgotten me. My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner; they look on me as a
stranger. 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 family. Even the little boys scorn me when I appear, they ridicule me. All my intimate friends detest me; those I love turned against me. I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth. Have pity upon me, my friends….” He then goes on because of the suffering he is involved in.
What do we have here? Job has given a catalog of all the relationships that he has who ought to be compassionate to him, but are not. He mentions subordinates who have a duty to help him when he is in need. He mentions his wife, who ought to show love for him as his wife; and he mentions people like little boys, who ought to show respect for an elder, for an older man. But what he gets is nothing but contempt from everyone. Everyone despises him; everyone wants to be far from him. He is entirely cut off.
When we think about this in terms of the New Testament concept of suffering, we can sort of imagine it like this; we can sort of come to terms to it in this way. In one sense, all of our suffering, our righteous suffering, is done alone. The great paradigm for this is Jesus Himself. When Jesus was suffering, his friends were nearby, but they all fell asleep; and Jesus at Gethsemane was alone before God, praying and weeping, having to finally accept the cup that was coming to him. So in that sense, all suffering is done alone. That is kind of parallel to what Job is experiencing. No-one is sharing with him, no-one is joining in what he is doing, no-one is supporting him.
We see something of this in Paul, but we also see another side to it in Paul. Paul in his many accounts of his suffering for Jesus, where he speaks of how he was stoned, how he was shipwrecked, how he was imprisoned, how he was beaten, how he has been hungry and in want, how he has been out under the weather in cold and heat, to some extent, Paul just had to bear that himself. Yet, on the other hand, Paul could be thankful for fellow members of the church, fellow members of his entourage, who were around him and who suffered with him and who supported him, people who took him in after he had been beaten and who ministered to him in his suffering.
So what we should understand from this is, there is an aspect of suffering that we must bear alone before God. On the other hand, it is a sign of righteousness to participate in and to give comfort to those who are suffering. Job’s friends and family refused to do that. Of course, again we are reminded of the teaching of Jesus: “I was naked and you clothed me. I was hungry and you fed me. I was in prison and you visited me.” This is what we are called to do in righteousness and this is what Job’s friends failed to do.
IV. Job’s Confession of Faith
Job has come thus far and he has described everything that could possibly go wrong and we have talked about how this part of the passage is kind of book-ended and closed off. Things could not be worse for Job. But then, in verses 25-27 we get his great confession of faith.
I will begin with verse 23: “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 a rock forever! I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on 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!”
When you read this passage in isolation, it appears to make no sense because Job has just spoken of how he is completely miserable, how he is completely broken. We have seen in speech after speech where he considers himself to be attacked by God and unjustly treated by God. Suddenly, it seems out of nowhere he makes this great confession of faith. It does make sense, however, if we consider it in light of the pilgrimage of Job we have been describing, where Job first thinks, “If only there were an intercessor between me and God.” And where Job says, “I know I’m going to die, but I can’t give into death because that would be abandoning all hope of vindication.” Then Job says, “I do have an intercessor. He does stand between me and God.” Then finally he gives this great confession that combines his hope for an intercessor, a redeemer, with his hope for resurrection in the One Person.
The Hebrew of this passage is a little difficult, but it is also very beautiful. I am just going to read it to you, to give you a sense of the nature of the Hebrew text. [Reading Hebrew] What do we have here? It could be translated in this way: “I know that my redeemer lives and that the final One will rise against the dust. After they have done away with my skin, from my flesh I shall have a vision of God. I will have a vision that is a vision for myself. My eyes will see that he is no stranger. My heart yearns within me.”
If you were listening closely, you will have noticed my translation is a little different from what you might see in some other translations. Let me kind of
unpack what I think is going on here.
A. The redeemer who lives
First of all, he speak of his redeemer who lives. The redeemer can be identified with the intercessor that he earlier has said will stand between him and God. The next line is sometimes translated as something like, “In the end” or “and in the end” he will arise against the dust. I don’t think that is correct. I think it should be translated, “The final one will arise against the dust.” The word actually means “last” or “final one.” It is not an adverb that means “at the end” or “at the last.”
B. The final One
What is “the final one?” It turns out, this is a term that is used for God elsewhere. It is used for God in Isaiah 44:6: “This is what the Lord says, ‘Israel’s king and redeemer, the Lord, the Almighty, I am the first and I am the last.’” That is that same word, in Hebrew, [speaks Hebrew], “final one, the last.” “Apart from me, there is no God.” He uses the same word in 48:12 where Isaiah says: “Listen to me, Jacob, Israel whom I have called, I am he, I am the first and I am the last.” The [speaks Hebrew], the final one, the last one.
In this context, in the context of Job, what would it mean to speak of the redeemer as the final one, the last one? Here is what I would suggest. It means
that there is going to be what we Christians would call “an eschatological salvation;” that ultimately there will be a great work of God, a heavenly act; and
this ultimate, final eschatological act will involve this One who comes as a redeemer. What I am saying here is that the redeemer and what I am calling the
“final one” are the same person. It is the One who again in Christian terms brings eschatological salvation to his people.
He then says, “After they have done away with my skin, in my flesh I will have a vision of God.” The translation of “done away with, done away with my skin” is a word that is used for cutting away underbrush, brush that you mean to throw away, that you mean to burn up. It is used this way, for example, in Isaiah 10:34. Job assumes that his physical body will become worthless, it will be a dead body and there is nothing to do with it but bury it or burn it or in some way, get rid of it. He thinks he is going to simply be disposed of as a corpse. Yet, he believes that this eschatological redeemer, this final one, will arise against the dust. Against the dust, I would say, means against mortality, overcoming death; so that after Job himself has died, and they have thrown away his body as something worthless, yet from his flesh he will have a vision of God.
This is resurrection. He says, “I will have this vision for myself.” I believe it should be translated, “My eyes will see that he is no stranger.” Some translations will say, “My eyes will see it and not a stranger’s.” Again, it is possible, but I think it should be translated, “My eyes will see that he, God, is no stranger and the redeemer is no stranger.”
Up to this point, God has been treating Job like an enemy. God has been attacking him like a siege of a city. God has been attacking him like a man shooting arrows, like a warrior in battle. But he expects to see God, not as a stranger or an enemy, but as a friend; and so he says, “My heart yearns within me.”
Job’s yearning for an intercessor and his hope for resurrection have come together here. In the middle of his deepest dejection, he triumphantly asserts his
faith. Job’s redeemer will overcome death; that is, he will arise against the dust; and he will conquer human mortality and in so doing, redeem Job himself.
V. Messianic Hope in Job
A. Two universal human needs
Let’s say a little word about Messianic hope in Job. Throughout the book, Job points to two universal human needs. First, the need for an intercessor/deliverer, someone to stand between us and God because Job has made it clear over and over again, God is high, God is powerful, God is above all humans and God sees all. There needs to be someone to stand between us and this almighty figure. The book has pointed out the need for redemption from death. Death is the great enemy. Job sees a world full of pain, at the end of which everyone dies. He no longer looks upon death as a kind of release from suffering; he now sees it as kind of a giving up; and he wants redemption from death and that redemption comes in this eschatological redeemer, this final one.
B. Messianic theology in Job compared to the rest of the Bible
We need to say a word about messianic theology in Job compared to the rest of the Bible. There is a distinct difference, although they point to the same solution. In the rest of the Bible the messianic hope is centered around the election of Israel. God chose Israel as his chosen instrument. God made a promise to Israel in Genesis chapter 12 that “Those who bless you, I will bless; those who curse you, I will curse; and all the nations of the earth will find blessing in you.” Then we have the whole story of redemption in the story of Israel. Israel has been chosen by God. The line of David was chosen by God and God gave a special promise to David in 2 Samuel 7. The prophets speak of a son who will come and bring redemption as in Isaiah 17. Or they speak of the branch of the house of David, who will come and redeem his people; the shepherd of the house of David, who will guide his people. So you have all of these promises of messianic redemption that all flow from the fact that God has chosen Israel to be the agent of bringing salvation into the world; and it is finally fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
In Job you have no reference to Israel whatsoever. There is not the slightest hint of anything about the covenants, about Abraham, about the election of Abraham. There is nothing whatsoever about the promises to David. There is nothing at all, not even an echo of this history of redemption that we find in all the other literature that focuses on Israel’s election. But what does Job do? Job focuses much more broadly and generally on the human condition and the nature of God. Job says, “This is what people are and what they are like. This is what God is and what he is like.” It also focuses very plainly and without blinking at all on the evil and all the suffering that exists in the world. And it says that in light of all of this, is there any way out? Is there any solution? And we have this in the great confession of Job.
This is not the whole story because the book is not over and we still haven’t gotten to God’s speech. But what I am saying to you is this: Both works point
toward the need for a savior; but Genesis and 2Samuel and Isaiah and all these other books, they do it by looking at the history of redemption as told in the story of Israel and how God chose Israel. This book does it, if you will, much more theologically and even philosophically. It looks at the concept of God and the concept of humanity and the nature of suffering and the nature of human mortality and our condition. It says, there must be some kind of solution. And Job in his pilgrimage of faith has said, “The solution is to be found in the heavenly redeemer, the eschatological redeemer, who will arise against the dust, who will stand between me and God and speak to each of us as to a friend; who will overcome death, so that even though I die, yet I will arise and I will see God.”
Again, you would think at this point, the whole book could be over. But it is not because there is still a lot more for the book to explore; and we will continue that next time as we look at the speech of Zophar.