Sunday, September 2, 2018

"I know that my Redeemer lives..."

BLESSED ASSURANCE (Job 19:25-27)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2018
When you have to be someplace at a particular time, you may want the assurance of a proper start to get you there.
Lisa's youngest child was thrilled when her turn came to enter kindergarten. To make sure she had plenty of time on that first day to get dressed, eat breakfast, and drive to the school, Lisa woke everyone up early, so early it was still dark. As her daughter was getting dressed she came into her room looking troubled. "What's wrong?" Lisa asked, mustering as much cheerfulness as she could at that early hour. "This is your big day!" "You didn't tell me," her daughter blurted back, "that I was going to night school."
When you have to be someplace at a particular time, you may want the assurance of a proper start to get you there. Likewise, when you face the finality of death you may want the assurance, the "Blessed Assurance" of a proper start to get you there.

Job, a contemporary of Abraham (c. 2000 BC), is a wealthy herdsman who has a reputation for being righteous. That reputation attracts Satan's attention who attempts to turn Job away from God. Satan's attack not only knocks Job back on his heels, it causes Job to question his understanding about how God exercises mercy and causes Job to wonder if he is still a recipient of it. The counsel Job receives from those around him is not encouraging: "His wife said to him, 'Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:9) Nevertheless, Job's commitment to the Lord does not flag.

Even as Job defends his integrity to those who should be supportive, he twice issues strong assertions of faith. Despite friends' questioning his integrity and the strength of his allegiance to God, Job says: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15). Later, and as they continue to express doubts, Job issues another statement, this one expressing his belief about a future with God:
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!
This second statement is an early and strong assertion about belief in a life after death in general and about a resurrection from the dead in particular.

Most people in the Ancient Near East have some belief in an afterlife. It is populated by other spirits as well, both benevolent and malevolent. Whether the next life is pleasant or unpleasant often depends on one's status (rich or poor) and one's conduct (good or bad) in this life.

God's people in the Ancient Near East also believe in an afterlife. It is populated by angelic beings, both benevolent and malevolent. Whether the next life is pleasant or unpleasant depends on one's decision for or against God in this life. When a person makes that decision he seals his fate, because "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Heb 9:27). Job has made that decision which, despite his very unhappy present state, gives him a "Blessed Assurance" about his very happy future state.

I. Job is absolutely certain (Job 19:25).
Job 19:25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
This is one of few Old Testament passages that gives insight into how an Old Testament saint understands his eternal state. There are many things he does not know, details the New Testament will reveal, like the identity of the messiah. But he knows the essentials, that he needs a savior, and that....
A. He has a living redeemer.
...whatever his name may be. The redeemer's name does not become manifest until much later, as does his resurrected state, yet Job knows that redeemer "is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb 7:25). Moreover...

B. He has a standing (i.e., authoritative) redeemer.
...whenever he may come, and his authority will be obvious to all. As Zechariah will later reveal, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, [and] the LORD will be king over the whole earth" (Zech 14:4a, 9a).

Application: This description of Jesus still applies. He is alive and, as Zechariah says, he will return to reign over his kingdom in the Messianic Age. That is an event both Job and you will witness. So John says, "every eye will see him" (Rev 1:7). One of the great things about God's program is that it spans the ages. His plan may fill out over time, as He reveals more details, but it will never fade out over time, as if to expire. The author of Psalm 33 writes, "the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations" (Ps 33:11). You can always count on those plans being current.

Job is absolutely certain, and...

II. Job is temporally cognizant (Job 19:26).

He is aware that time marches on, that his life has an expiration date, that he will eventually "shuffle off this mortal coil." Still, physical death is not the end of one's existence. Man does not live in a closed system where what he experiences in this life is all there is.
Job 19:26 After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.
A. He faces a physical expiration.
Job's suffering has made him keenly aware of his own mortality. That probably did not occupy much of his thinking when things were going well. As his life fell apart, however, the reality of his transience came to the forefront: "I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me....so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine." (Job 7:3, 15) Job knows that he will eventually die, perhaps sooner than later.
B. He faces a physical revelation.
Even Abraham, "God's friend" (Jms 2:23) never caught a glimpse of the Almighty, despite multiple encounters. Moses had the unique privilege of seeing God's back, but he could not see God's face: "I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen" (Exod 33:23). That prohibition will not apply in eternity. At that point, the redeemed will see Him: "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads" (Rev 22:4).

Application: Have you yet faced the reality of your own mortality? It could be through a debilitating disease, a financial crisis, a relationship failure, or a combination of factors. More difficult to conceive: Have you ever considered the limitless possibilities of being with God in eternity? The Bible does not give many hints about what that second option will be like. It talks about an inheritance and a reward for the saints, but it does not specify what that entails, perhaps intentionally, because man in this life does not have the means to comprehend it: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). When it comes to your future with God, use your imagination, but remember His expectation: The Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done (Matt 16:27). Your devotion in this life will determine your compensation in the next life.

Job is temporally cognizant, and...

III. Job is personally confident (Job 19:27).
Job 19:27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
There is nothing in Job's present experience, "as he sat among the ashes" (Job 2:8), that portends a change for the better in his future. God has been disappointingly silent, which makes Job's declaration of faith" all the more unexpected. Yet he is not the least bit vague or hesitant: "I myself...with my own eyes—I, and not another" (Job 19:27). Regardless of how bleak his situation currently appears, it will improve, and...
A. He focuses on it.
Despite his wife's advice, he is not ready to "Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9) There is more to come. There is better to come. Job may not hear God now, but he will see God later, and it will be well worth the wait. This is not merely 'the power of positive thinking,' it is demonstration of devotional thinking. It is how a person who is committed to service approaches his problems, with an unwavering focus on the prize: seeing God.
B. He longs for it.
This life has lost all attraction for Job. His property and his progeny are gone. His wife and His friends offer him no encouragement. All he looks forward to now is exiting this life: "I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine" (Job 7:15). Nevertheless, Job is emotionally as well as intellectually invested in what lies beyond death, and he looks forward to that with great expectation.

Application: There is an old gospel song (commonly presented by a male quartet) that embodies Job's attitude.
This world is not my home I'm just-a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue,
The angels beckon me from heaven 's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Is that your attitude? Are you confident as Job is confident? The author of Hebrews summarizes his account of the faithful in chapter 11 by extolling the foresight of their confidence in God: "They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (v. 16) Likewise, your assurance in God now should match your anticipation of what He has for you later.
Job is personally confident.
Despite Job's suffering, despite his not knowing why he is suffering, despite the discouragement of the closest people around him, Job maintains his faith in God and his assurance of a future with God:
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 the earliest expression in scripture of belief in a savior and in a bodily resurrection. It also serves as the precursor to Jesus' death and resurrection, and to the "Blessed Assurance" of the redemption believers today enjoy.

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.