Counsel from the Book of Job | 1

As we continue to struggle with the Covid19 pandemic it will do us good to turn to the book of Job for some time tested counsel. In Job 1:1 we are told that he lived in the land of Uz (probably just below the Dead Sea between Edom and North Arabia). It seems most likely that Job lived around the time of the patriarchs (1950BC-1600BC) in the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are a number of reasons for making this assumption. In this book there is no mention of the Jews, or the Exodus, or of Israel, or of the priesthood and tabernacle because all of this follows after Moses. The book is structured into three sections.

a) The prologue – the first two chapters of prose.
b) The epilogue – the last chapter of prose
c) The dialogue – (3:1-42:6). This is mostly poetry.

We learn from chapter 1 about Job’s impeccable character (vrs 1, 8), that he was a hard working businessman (vrs 2) and that he had a passionate concern for his children (vrs 4, 5).

READ JOB 1&2
Chapter 1 records a series of crushing hammer-blows. In vrs 15 the Sabeans (marauding bandits) had rustled all of his cattle and donkey’s. In vrs 16, fire burned up his sheep. In vrs 17, Chaldean raiders made off with his camels. Worse was to follow. In vrs 18, 19 we read that his ten children were all killed in a terrible storm. It is hard dealing with the death of one family member let alone ten. If that were not a crushing enough blow we read in chapter 2 how his health was removed as well and he was afflicted with painful boils. His suffering was such that his own wife could no longer bear to watch. If anyone lived life in the crucible of suffering (Job 23:10) it was this man. Job can sympathise with those starting to struggle with their finances as a result of the coronavirus. Job can sympathise if we endure the pain of losing a family member. If you are struggling with poor health you will be able to relate to Job. Over the next few days we will allow Job to be our counselling guide.

JOB TELLS US WHO IS IN CONTROL
The problem with many Christians is that we can so easily buy into what I call Star Wars theology. The idea of a good force and an equal, opposite evil force (the light side and the dark side) is the world view of Star Wars. These may be good movies but they are a poor source for our theology. How would you answer these three questions? What is the opposite of good? You would say – evil! What is the opposite of above? You will say – below! What is the opposite of God? Careful! At this point many Christians would be tempted to answer – Satan! The moment you say this you have bought into Star Wars theology. Satan is not the opposite of God. He is the opposite of the angel Michael. Satan is nowhere close to being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He is capable of great evil but ultimately he is a dog on a leash. He is what Martin Luther used to call “God’s Devil!” God is the Sovereign of this universe. He has no equal. How can we subtly fall for Star Wars theology? By thinking and saying that all the good that happens to us is from God but that Satan is responsible for all the bad things that come our way. Listen to yourself (or others) speak. You misplace your car keys which make you late to set out for work? Then you get a puncture. How easy is it to say “I am being attacked by Satan.” You go for a doctor’s appointment and receive bad news. This too is attributed to Satan. Then you go to your car to go home after a day’s work only to find that it has been stolen. You say; “Satan is having a full go at me.” This is Star Wars theology. This is not the theology of the bible. Notice how our reading today teaches us who is in control.

  1. What does Satan acknowledge?
    In 1:10-12 Satan understands only too well that he can only touch Job’s flocks and herds if God removes his hedge of protection. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has . . . But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Again from 2:5, 6 it is clear that Satan could only afflict Job with painful sores when God allowed him. If we are in two minds as to who is in charge Satan is not.
  2. What does Job acknowledge?
    Job himself is crystal clear on this subject of who is in control? How does he respond to the news of the loss of his herds and family? Look at 1:21; “the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” And then when his health fails and his wife urges him to curse God and die Job can answer in 2:10 “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
  3. What does the Holy Spirit teach?
    At the end of the book the Holy Spirit summarises the whole saga in 42:10, 11 by saying; After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

As we respond to the current coronavirus we need to let Job be our counsellor. We will find no comfort in attributing the pandemic to Satan and we should not deify creation by lamenting the cruel hand “mother nature has dealt us.” We must not dabble in Star Wars theology. We should go directly to the source – the Lord himself!

Listen to how Sarah Edwards responded to the death of her husband Jonathan in the 18th century in a letter to her daughter. My very dear child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.”

Here is a lady who did not dabble in Star Wars theology. She knew who was in charge. Almighty God!!

Counsel from the Book of Job | 2

We have seen that the book of Job consists of a short prologue (chap 1&2) and an even shorter epilogue (chap 42). The rest of the book consists of a series of dialogues that Job has with three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar before a fourth friend Elihu enters the fray in chapter 32. Yesterday we learned our first counselling lesson from the book of Job. We need to get a firm grip on the sovereignty of God. Today we will go on to see how Job suffered from bad counsellors. In 13:4 he complains you are worthless physicians, all of you! In 16:2 he laments miserable comforters are you all! In 19:2, 3 he says; “How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. In 16:5 Job says that if their positions were reversed my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

JOB SUFFERED FROM BAD COUNSELLORS
In 2:11 we meet Job’s friends for the first time. They have deservedly received a bad reputation but they were not bad men. Initially at least they got a few basic lessons right.

1) They visited Job – In 2:11 we read when Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

2) They sympathised with Job – Their goal was to comfort Job. Notice from
2:12 when they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.

3) They were silent – In 2:13 the narrator tells us then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Those seven days of silence were golden. Unfortunately they had to open their mouths and ruin it all.

4) In 5:7 Eliphaz starts to develop an important theme yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. Here are the beginnings of an attempt to tease out the effects of the Fall. If only he had developed this line of thinking to a greater extent he may have helped Job. All he ended up doing was adding to Job’s pain.

Although the friends meant well they went horribly wrong from the minute they opened their voices. We are on safe ground when we criticize them because even God in 42:7 tells them you have not spoken of me what is right. We do not want to be guilty of being poor spokespersons for God. What errors must we avoid?

1) Don’t regard general principles as though they were absolute. Job’s friends theology was simplistic. They could only see two reasons for Job’s suffering – either God is bad or Job must be bad. They were adamant that God is good and just and fair in the way he runs the universe. Here they were right. The only other possible reason they could see for Job’s plight then was that Job was bad. Here they were wrong (God says so). Their main error was to consistently treat a general principle as though it were an absolute principle. Listen to what Eliphaz has to say in 4:7-8 consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. In other words; “if you are experiencing trouble Job it is because you deserve it. In counseling suffering people do not make general principles absolute ones. The classic way that we do this today is the promise of healing. Just pray for healing and if you have enough faith you will be healed. Some teachers encourage Christians by saying; “God does not want any of his children sick. Claim your healing. There is healing in Christ’s atonement.” It is a general principle that God in His mercy does sometimes choose to heal but it is no guarantee. We can also mistake general principles with absolute ones in the way we apply Proverbs. For instance Proverbs 11:24-26; 13:20; 19:15; 22:6 contain general truths about stinginess, friends, laziness and child rearing. We cannot claim them to be absolute principles.

2) Instead of listening to Job they wanted to win the argument and resorted to hurtful personal remarks. Bildad jumps into the arena. Listen to his callous words to Job in 8:4; when your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. In other words – your children got what they deserved. With friends like these who needs enemies? Zophar follows the same line of reasoning. In 11:14 he says; if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm without fear. In other words; “just stop sinning Job and all will come right.” What a wonderful bed side manner. I would just love these guys to visit me in hospital – wouldn’t you?

3) In 4:12-16 Eliphaz resorted to claiming personal revelation. “A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice. We want our words to convey some authority to a sufferer and like Eliphaz we say. “The Lord told me, OR, I had a vision last night concerning you, OR, I have a word from the Lord.” When Leland Hayward negotiated the rights with Baroness von Trapp for the film “The Sound of Music” he made a generous offer. “We are portraying you in the best possible way and will give you ten percent of the profits.” He expected an immediate YES! The baroness replied; “My dear Mr Hayward. I never make a decision like this without the help of the Holy Ghost so I will go to church to consult the Holy Ghost.” She left and returned an hour later and smiled a beatific smile and said; “My dear Mr Hayward, the Holy Ghost says fifteen percent.” It is most unwise to try and clinch an argument by saying; “the Lord told me” and it is dishonouring to his name.

As we seek to help suffering people we need to grasp some of the good lessons Job’s friends teach while avoiding their errors.

Counsel from the Book of Job | 3

The first two lessons Job has to teach us is to remind us that God is sovereign and that we can add to people’s suffering if we are poor counsellors. This morning Job teaches us something about the added burdens prolonged suffering can bring to bear on someone’s life. A faith that starts out strong can be worn down over time.

JOB TEACHES US ABOUT THE DANGER OF DURATION
For a suffering person, time can be a killer. Just like termites that attack a wooden building gradually weakens the structure so too can time wear down our faith. The book of Job identifies a couple of dangers that come in the wake of prolonged suffering.

  1. DESPAIR – In Job 1:20, 21 we see that Job initially responded with great faith. He fell to the ground in worship. When he lost his health his faith remained strong in 2:10 shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job does not remain so strong forever. When the friends arrive it is clear he has been suffering for some time because we read in 2:12 they could hardly recognize him. In chapter 3 we can see that the sheer duration of his suffering wore him down and he eventually breaks down and curses the day he was born (3:3). In 7:7 he prays; remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. “I will never get better!” “I will never be happy again!!” “Lockdown will never end!” When a sufferer uses words like “I will never . . .” we may sense the beginning of despair.
  2. DEPRESSION – Look at Job 3:24; for sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. A suffering person’s sighs and groans are frequent as they face day to day activities and their appetites are blunted. In Job 7:4 we read; when I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. In 7:13-16 we can detect the signs of depression; when I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning. What can we suggest to people experiencing depression as a result of protracted suffering? I have always found the wise counsel of Elisabeth Elliot helpful. She endured the martyrdom of losing her husband Jim. During the months that followed simple domestic jobs became huge burdens. When Elizabeth Elliot was asked how she coped through that dark period she replied; “I did the next right thing.” If that was to get up in the morning and make children breakfast then she would do that. Those who sufferings are prolonged need to learn this lesson of simply doing the next right thing.
  3. ANGER – In 6:4 he says; “The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshalled against me.” In 6:11 he continues; “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? . . . Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze?” In other words; “Lord just how much more do you think I can take. I’m not made of metal. Cut me and I bleed.” In 7:20 Job continues with his tirade; “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” Why are you singling me out for “special” treatment? Of course Job is going too far. His great sufferings are making him strike out and say things that ought not to be said. There are times when Christians undergoing severe trial have an outburst of anger. The temptation is to immediately correct them and slap them over the knuckles. In time those thoughts will definitely need to be challenged but it is not necessary to do it immediately. A sympathetic pair of ears is far more helpful and more often than not your suffering friend will correct their own outburst themselves. A 17th century pastor once counselled a depressed women by saying “I bid you, vent your rage into the bosom of God.” He was not counselling anger towards God but allowing it to press you closer to the heart of God.
  4. STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS – in 19:13-19 Job explains how his ongoing sufferings had put stresses on the relationships of those around him. 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. Notice how Job highlights his other family members, workers, wife and even neighbourhood kids. How easy is it to aggravate a family member who is struggling with terminal cancer or the earlier stages of dementia by talking about them and not to them. At the same time we need to be sympathetic to the struggles of the family members themselves.
    As we counsel suffering people or go through the fires ourselves it is comforting to meditate on Job 23:10 _but he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold._As we wait let us keep in mind these four characteristics of prolonged suffering.

Counsel from the Book of Job | 4

Job’s three friends adopted a “cause and effect” world view which implied that problems (like human suffering) are analogous to maths problems. They might look hard at first, but they are easily solved once you apply the right formula. For them it was simple – either Job was bad or God was bad. In response Job offers two further simple observations.

  1. JOB HIGHLIGHTS THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE – JOB 21
    Job agrees with his friends that God is good and fair but he disagrees with them that he has sinned. There must be another explanation for the suffering of innocent people. The friends are missing an important piece of the puzzle. The mystery of God’s providence. In chapter 21, Job invites his friends to have another look at the world around them. In vrs 7 Job asks; why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? In vrs 9 Job points out that the wicked enjoy safe homes, vrs 10 their bulls breed successfully, vrs 11 their children flourish and vrs 13 after years of prosperity they have peaceful deaths. In vrs 17, 18 Job asks the honest question; 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? Job concludes his argument in vrs 34 by rebuking his friends; “So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!” Job’s observations are dealt with at greater length by Asaph in Psalm 73. Job is analysing the world correctly. This is the world we live in. One couple who enjoy a blissful marriage suffer from the premature loss of their spouse while others who fight like cat and dog endure each other into old age. One couple who would make ideal parents struggle to fall pregnant while another who don’t care for their children are super fertile. One person is healed from serious illness while another dies. One missionary is delivered from peril while another is martyred. We are dealing with the mystery of God’s providence. Job gets it but his friends don’t.
  2. JOB WARNS US OF THE DANGER OF FALSE EXPECTATIONS – JOB 31
    Many Christians cherish an unspoken assumption – “I’ve been good God, now you have to be good to me. I’ve tried to keep my end of the bargain and now you must do yours. Remember in the Sound of Music when Maria and Captain Von Trapp finally acknowledge their feelings for each other. Maria sings; “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could. Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” She thought that her present joy must be a product of past goodness. Well life is not as simple as that. Maria’s theology is off base. How many people are there who encounter tragedy and the first words that emerge from their tortured hearts are “what have I done wrong.” All too often the answer is – nothing! Notice how Job reviews his life in chapter 31. In vrs 5-8 he says that he has avoided deceit and pursued honesty in his dealings with others. In vrs 13-15 he insists that he pursued justice in his dealings with people. In vrs 16-20 Job is adamant that he consistently cared for the poor and less fortunate. In vrs 24, 25 he claims that he did not worship his money and nor did he worship creation vrs 26, 27. In vrs 29 he offers proof that he loved his enemies and according to vrs 33 never covered up his sin. As we read Job 31 we are forced to conclude that this was a life well lived. This chapter is a powerful reminder to us not to cherish false expectations. Just because we are Christians and love the Lord and His church does not mean that our house will never get burgled, or get retrenched or get seriously ill.

Let us acknowledge the mystery of God’s providence and not embrace false expectations from the Christian life.

Counsel from the Book of Job | 5

In JD Greear’s book “Not God Enough” he invites us to imagine a seven year old on a field trip to Cape Canaveral to observe a rocket launch. The child begins lecturing the rocket scientist about why the rocket won’t fly. “That rocket is too heavy. It’s the wrong shape. It needs wings.” The scientist might try to explain to him why he is wrong, but it’s unlikely that the child will understand. Instead, the scientist might simply say, “Um, no, son. Sit back and watch.” The scientist’s ability to do invalidates the challenge from the child. This is essentially how God deals with Job in the later chapters of the book.

JOB ANSWERS OUR WHY QUESTIONS – READ JOB 38-40
I do not know of a more commonly asked question by a suffering person than why? Why is this happening to me? I know that we all have to die one day but why did my loved on have to suffer for so long? Why did my child have to die before me? Why did you have to do it this way? It is perfectly natural for us to ask “why” questions. The psalmist does it all the time (Psalm 22:1; 43:2; Psalm 73). In fact Jesus himself takes up the cry of Psalm 22 when he is hanging from the cross and agonisingly asks “my God my God why have you forsaken me?” Job also asks an abundance of “why?” questions (3:11; 7:20; 10:18; 13:24). In 3:11 he asks his first “why” question; “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” In 10:18 he has the same grumble; “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me.” In 7:20 his questions become more barbed; “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me our target?” In 13:24 he asks the forlorn question; “Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy.” Why! Why! Why! “Lord I think you have made a mistake and I want to argue with you.” How did God set about answering Job’s questions in chap 38-40?

  1. How does God respond to Job’s why questions in chap 38-40? After the arguments between Job and his friends had ground to a halt God finally speaks at the beginning of chapter 38; “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer me.” In chapter 38-40 God takes Job on a tour of creation. “Where were you Job when I laid the earth’s foundations . . . who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb . . . when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, this far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt? . . . Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place . . . can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?” For a few chapters God continues to ask Job questions like these. The only answer Job can give is “No. I don’t know. No. I don’t know.” The Lord continues with his questioning; “Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, here we are . . . Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of the earth stick together?” The only answer Job can give is “No. I can’t do it!” The Lord continues. “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of lions.” Answer – No! “Can you provide food for the ravens?” “NO!” “Can you master the complexities of flight that enables hawks to spread their wings and eagles to soar in the heavens?” “No!” I believe that all in all God poses Job seventy seven questions.
  2. What impact did Job’s tour of creation have on him? In 40:3, 4 then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer -twice, but I will say no more.” After the barrage of questions were thrown at Job he replies in 42:3-6 by saying; “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know . . . my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job had encountered God. You see in the midst of his sufferings what Job really needed was not information as much as a Person. It is almost as if God is saying to Job; “You cannot even begin to understand the complexities of the universe how then could you possibly understand my dealings in the lives of 5 billion people. You trust me to order the universe correctly don’t you? Can’t you trust me with your life as well? I am not going to give you information. Instead I will give you me.” In response to Job’s “why?” questions God never told him how his story would be used in generations to come to help millions of believers. His questions were never answered. But he did encounter the person of God and that was enough.
  3. Would Job’s life have been any easier had God given him comprehensive answers to his questions? It would not have ended his pain. He would still have to wake up the next morning and see ten empty chairs at the family breakfast table. Knowing why does not always ease our pain – it just generates more questions. Suppose you were sick and could not go to your matric dance. What if God whispered a reason into your ear? “I let you get pneumonia so you wouldn’t develop a relationship with that guy – and so that your parents would go to the shops to get your favourite pudding and see a poster advertising jobs. You applied for the job and met a girl who would become your best friend and would help you in twenty years when your husband got cancer” “Wow. A husband! What’s he like? Why would you let him get cancer?” “To teach you to grow in Christlikeness and help you be a better servant, and help your servant to depend on me and draw your children and grand-children closer to me.” “Children! Grandchildren! Boys or girls? How will they deal with their father’s cancer?” Do you see where questions lead? More questions and still more questions.” To ask “why” is not always the best question. Perhaps there are better questions that we could ask. “What can I learn from all of this?” “How can this problem teach me more about you?”

Counsel from the Book of Job | 6

Joni Eareckson Tada once spoke to a former pastor on the phone. He had broken his neck in a motor cycle accident. As a result he had to resign from his pastoral position. He was deeply depressed. His wife had asked Joni to contact him. She shared her own life story with Ron and read him scripture over the phone. There was no response. She sang to him and there was still no response. Finally she asked him “did you see the movie The Shawshank Redemption?” The movie is about a man called Andy DuPhrane who was unjustly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. One day in the prison yard he instructs his friend Red, that if he is ever freed that he was to go to a certain town and under a tree in a certain cornfield, to push aside some rocks. He would discover a tin can with some money. He was to use that money to cross the border to a little Mexican fishing village. Red does what he is told and in that tin can he found a note from Andy DuPhrane which said; “Red, never forget. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” At that moment, Red realises that he has two choices. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” As Joni shared these words with the former pastor he spoke for the first time. A few months later he attended a Joni and friends family conference and shortly after was wheeled behind a pulpit to preach again.

JOB POINTS US TO OUR ULTIMATE HELP – READ JOB 19
In vrs 1, 2 Job castigates his friends for tormenting him with their words. In vrs 9-12 Job bares his soul and says that he feels as if God is against him. In vrs 10-12 he says; 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. In vrs 14, 19 he laments the loss of friends, in vrs 15, 16 he complains about servants disrespect. In vrs 18 he says even the children scorn him. In vrs 17 he turns the spotlight on his own family; my breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. In vrs 20, 21 he laments his weakened physical condition. I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth. “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. I guess we can safely say that Job is suffering from spiritual depression. Nevertheless even in the doldrums he still has hope. He would have understood the words “get busy living or get busy dying.” In vrs 23, 24 he says that if he were given a hammer and chisel and a piece of rock he would know exactly what to chisel on his tombstone. He would chisel vrs 25-27. What hope filled words! 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! It is often said that there is no real expectation of the afterlife in the OT. While the resurrection of the body is certainly not as pronounced as in the NT there are definite OT references that point us to our hope beyond the grave. In Isaiah 26:19 we read; but your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. In Daniel 12:2 we read; multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Notice three quick thoughts about this hope.

  1. It is a personal hope
    As Isaiah 26:19 says we will not just rise in ones or two’s but the entire company of the dead will rise. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 notice the references to being with one another in the resurrection. In vrs 14 we are told; God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. In vrs 17 we see that after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds. These words imply ongoing personal relationships.
  2. It is a material hope
    The Scriptures do not just say that our souls will go to heaven but that our redemption involves our bodies. Notice Job’s insistence that after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. Christianity does not promote a spirit only future, but a renewed heavens and earth – a perfected material world devoid of suffering, tears, disease and death. We will not be immaterial – floating around like ghosts – we will walk, eat and hug. Job grasped this and this was part of the hope that sustained him.
  3. It is a beatific hope
    Lastly, and most importantly Christian hope is a beatific hope. What was it about the resurrection that thrilled Job the most? It was not the possibility of ongoing human relationships or even the renewal of close human relationships. What thrilled him the most? In vrs 26, 27 he says 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! It was this wonderful expectation of seeing and being with God that gripped him and gave him hope. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18 Paul is intrigued at the prospect of being with loved ones again but what gripped him the most? And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

If Job, could experience such hope in the midst of such despair we have all the more reason to. We can look to a risen Lord and declare along with the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:10 that he has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

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