My Redeemer Will Take His Stand
Introduction: In spite of the unanimous and cascading onslaught on Job’s calamity as an indication of deep-seated corruption and evil in Job, he refuses their analysis and thus their theology. Indeed, God seems to be against him, but Job wants to hear from God himself about this (chapters 17 and 19). Zophar’s rebuttal (chapter 20) to Job’s expression of mystery and even hope in the midst of calamity resumes with literary flair the same theme expressed by Bildad in chapter 18. Zophar invests his argument with even greater bitterness and absolute condemnation. In what is now a tiresome theme, reworked with a variety of images and some new flourishes of rhetoric, Zophar reiterates the received wisdom of the day that the wicked always receive quick judgment. They may have some brief time of prosperity, and some quick moments of delight, but everything soon turns to poison. Every pleasure flees and brief security gives way to terror and darkness and wrath and bitterness. “In the fullness of his sufficiency he will be in distress,” Zophar warned. “This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.” None need wait until the final day to sort out God’s ways with the righteous and the wicked, it is already occurring and is clearly revealed in this life. Job had not received such a conclusion, and the response of chapter 19 prompted this consummate verbal oppression.
I. 16:22 and Chapter 17 – In spite of all that is against him, Job refused to concede that the kind of hope for which he looks, and that he indeed gradually demonstrates, is a misty illusion. Such a longing of the soul, such a desire for an audience with God does not arise from nothing; it must instead be drawn from the soul by the soul-maker.
A. 16:22-17:2 – Job is convinced that the near future holds death— “I shall go the way of no return. . . . The grave is ready for me.” The present will be characterized by mockers constantly perfecting their art of provocation. “Surely mockers are with me, and my eye gazes on their provocation” (17: 2). Biological life will soon terminate and the social relations until then hold no joy but only the presence of bitter self-righteous accusers.
B. 17:3-5 – Here Job seems to ask God to provide a surety for him. “Lay down, now, a pledge for me with Yourself.” He begins to wonder who would be qualified for such a task “Who is there that will be my guarantor?” None of his friends will do this. They only blame him; who will intercede? Matthew Henry noted, “Some make Job here to glance at the mediation of Christ, for he speaks of a surety with God, without whom he durst not appear before God, nor try his cause at his bar.” Job also seems to think that since all earthly friends indicate that they have no understanding (God has not opened the minds of any of them to help Job sort out these issues), their analysis cannot be the final word. Their viewpoint will not triumph, so God himself will provide an answer.
C. Verses 6-10 – Most observers continue to mock him and find him despicable. He cares nothing for them and their words do not phase him at all. “I shall not find a wise man among you” (10). The righteous have no answer, but nevertheless, continue to serve God and resist the way that the self-righteous stab at Job with their words. “The upright are appalled at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless” (8). In spite of the lack of an exhaustive explanation for the trouble, and even in the face of its continuance, the true worshipper of God will remain steadfast and will find himself more purely devoted to divine truth and not human platitudes (9).
D. Verses 17:11-16 – Job now looks to the rapid approach of death. He considers whether death and the silence of the grave, and the corruption of the body in the soil is actually to be the final word. Is he, a man, no more than the pit in which he is thrown or the worms that will live along side his decaying body? The loftier aspirations of his soul, his unquenchable thirst for God, to see his face, to stand in his presence, to learn the purpose of such an exquisite display of destruction,–are all of these things nothing? Is the grave, the silent abode of death, that seemingly inescapable prison of breathless stillness the final identity of soaring desires that rise above the despicable appearance of his physical state? If one concludes that such is the true final state of man, then it is just as rational to call the worm, “My mother” or “my sister.” Job cannot bring himself to believe that that is the truth. His own state and the false and implacable rigidity of his increasingly strident accusers render it unthinkable to Job that hope shall die with his body. He does not speak of hope in the abstract as a thing in humanity in a general sense, but his peculiar hope, the hope that irrepressibly surges in his own breast. “Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (15, 16)
II. Chapters 18, 19 – A bitter speech from Bildad; while Job knows that God alone is his hope.
A. Verses 18:1-4 – Bildad upbraids Job for refusing to listen to him and the others as if they were stupid and the settled philosophy of good and evil were somehow wrong. He has utter confidence both in himself and in his evaluation of the moral philosophy of the ages. “Why are we counted as cattle? . . . Shall the earth be forsaken for you.”
B. Bildad gives a narrative of the unremitting woes of the wicked, clearly implying that bad things happen to bad people—a net, a snare, a trap, frightening terrors, calamity, bodily demise, satanic intimidation, brimstone, loss of ancestors and of posterity, darkness, absolute isolation, and a horrifying appearance (5-21) concluding “such is the place of him who knows not God” (21).
C. Chapter 19: Job reasons his way to an affirmation that since God is his adversary, and none can oppose him or explain accurately his ways, then God alone can be his redeemer
- 1-7 – The dynamic of this moral contest pits Job’s friends against him, Job’s adamantine resistance based on self-knowledge, and the increasingly mysterious silence of God.
- Job wonders why these friends see it as intelligent or merciful on their part to torment him with accusations. Why do they seek to magnify themselves by using his disgrace as an argument against him? They crush him with words, they insult him, and they seek to prove his disgrace by a self-righteous posturing of their safety and prosperity in the face of his misery. They believe he is recalcitrant and is hiding and caressing some secret evil, for none of these things would have happened if that were not the case.
- Job finds it impossible simply to concede to their argument and manufacture some false repentance for a crime he does not know he has committed. Job is looking for justice. If God does not meet with him and tell him his fault, he must conclude that God “has wronged me.”
- He knows that this is God’s doing, but he does not know what is the root of it. He cries “Violence,” that is, an unabashed infliction of suffering for no good reason. Job shouts for help, that is, mental relief by God’s giving him a sense of the moral root of this infliction or of the eventual purpose that it will work for good. Nothing comes: “there is no justice” (7).
- verses 8-12 – These verses demonstrate, not only the continuing pain of Job but his unshakeable conviction that God has done this.
- God has so completely walled Job in and stripped him of every common grace that his condition is utterly helpless and hopeless, all being shrouded in darkness.
- Job looks at the past honor with which he was regarded and sees that God has stripped him of that. His exalted position—“the crown”—is removed.
- Everything that gave Job status, security, trustworthiness in the eyes of people has been laid aside so that the Job that then was no longer is: “I am gone.” In fact he sees no way of recovery for the entire debacle seems irrational, thoroughly unexplained: “He has uprooted my hope like a tree” (10).
- Job has become the object of God’s anger. This omnipotent, divine adversary has unleashed all the weapons at his disposal. Unless God himself relents, Job has no place of safety for God’s troops surround him. He cannot bargain, he has fallen into the hands of an angry God.
- This increasingly desperate lament shows how the absence of revelation enshrouds us in darkness. One beam of light from the eye of God informing Job would press away the darkening cloud of unknowing. Whereas Paul exclaims concerning the immutable purpose of God to save, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Job sees the other side of this, saying in essence, “If God be against us, who can be for us?”
- verses 13-22 – Not only does it appear that God has chosen Job as one on whom he will demonstrate the strength of his anger, but all the mortals who are equally as susceptible to such sovereign displays of unexplained intimidation have turned from him.
- God has turned every person in his social and familial circle against him. Brothers, relatives, close friends servants, guests, wife, siblings, children of the community, and intimate friends make him and his condition the topic of their conversation and a reason to avoid him.
- He pleads with these friends for compassion. Why should they add pain to pain by removing their friendship when he has done nothing but show kindness to them. “All those I love have turned against me” (19).
- God may have some legitimate reason for his affliction of Job, a reason that he has not cared yet to reveal, but what could these people have against Job? “Pity me, pity me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me” (21) Why do they act as if they were as justified as God in their removal of favor from him?
- 23-27 – Job has reached a clear conclusion about this matter. The extremity of the condition, the rigidity of the tit-for-tat explanation of his friends, the silence of God in not revealing either the wrong or the reason have conspired to bring Job to an insight of revealed truth.
- He now speaks as if a theophany has occurred. He wants his utterance to be recorded for all succeeding generations to see. He wants an iron stylus to engrave this conclusion in stone as an eternal truth (23, 24).
- He has gradually been moving to this viewpoint but now gives a clear statement that, in light of the justice of God and the silence in this life concerning his suffering, God will appear on this earth as the Redeemer of Job. He has not abandoned forever his lovingkindness and left his people to the ravages of nature and the rejection of other mere creatures. God will come to this earth in the capacity of a Redeemer.
- Not only will God stand on the earth, but Job, in his flesh will stand before God. He will appear before God in the flesh even after his death. And, as none but God can inflict such humanly inexplicable trouble on a man, none but God can bring redemption from such trouble. God will stand upon the earth, and even after the destruction of this present sore-ridden body, in his flesh Job shall see God. The conclusion is overwhelming. “Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see an not another. My heart faints within me!” (25-27).
- Verses 28, 29 -Job then warns those that continue to pursue him with and ridicule him for some secret extravagance of sin, that they make themselves liable to judgment.
- His detractors act as if they consulted with each other to see how they can add misery to Job and continue to saturate his conscience with a sense of guilt (28).
- If they truly see this as the great moral reality that dominates this life, then they, for their unrighteous and compassionless intentions toward Job should be prepared for a sword of wrath against themselves. They must steady themselves even now for judgment.
III. Comment: What a marvel of consistency and beauty is divine revelation! How this book, so ancient, explores questions that are indeed timeless; so enmeshed in one culture, sustains an extensive dialogue intrinsic to all cultures; so particularized in the experience of one man, intrigues and bares our hearts to the experience of all; so hard in the tragedy of pervasive loss, sustains a solicitation for a revelation of the wise purpose and benevolence of God; so dismally silent at each advancing mental and spiritual crisis, blares in our ears the message of divine prerogative and sovereignty; so hopeless from a human standpoint, yet nurtures a deeper hope that a witness, even a neighbor, will open up floodgates of mercy; so intent on obliterating hope, yet refuses to admit that the hope of a man before God can perish. Beyond that, the periodic flash of insight into the way in which a downtrodden man under the severity of divine testing may look for redemption prepares the soul for the matchless wisdom and redemptive beauty of the incarnation. At the same time, we must recognize that this particular struggle and this manner of questioning God and reasoning about one’s personal afflictions were brought to pass and recorded for posterity before the time of the prophets, the incarnation, the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Job’s struggles are not recorded as a model as to how we are to question God, but that we might know the transcendent profundity of the redemption we have in Christ and the great clarity that the gospel has given to these questions. Matters of both redemption and the existential struggle with pain have been given a great clarity and an extensive foundation of purpose since Job struggled toward his answers. We have the word of the prophets made more clear and to this advance in clarity through the Scriptures we do well to take heed as to a light that shines in a dark place. In next week’s lesson we look to the necessity of revelation for the attainment of wisdom and the true fear of the Lord.