A hope-filled message from Job

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5 (NIV)

I just completed my annual pilgrimage through the book of Job.   It always falls at the end of the year in the Robert Roberts Bible reading plan that I follow.  One of the extraordinary things about reading passages of Scripture again and again is having the Holy Spirit illuminate things one has never seen before.  This year I specifically read Job seeking to discover fresh insights into the nature and character of God.  I was not disappointed. 

Since I knew, from my familiarity with the book, that Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were rebuked by God in the end for not faithfully representing Him I thought I would skim through their portions of dialogue in order to give more time to concentrate on the dialogue of Job and the fourth observer Elihu.  “He (God) said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  (Job 42:7 NIV)

We know from the outset that Job is someone worth listening to because God Himself singles him out as a man who has an exemplary relationship with Him.  “Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’”  (Job 1:7 NIV)

We also know that the dialogue of Elihu is worth studying because he challenges the advice of the three friends and is not rebuked by God for what he says. 

As I read through the discourse of these two men to make sense of Job’s sufferings one salient hope-filled theme emerged.  It is the message of promised redemption.  More specifically, and I had never really seen this before, it is the message of the presence of an unseen redeemer who is mediating on behalf of those who are crying out to God in their affliction.

All those who have read the book of Job know that it is a story about redemption.  In the beginning Job loses everything but his life and his wife, but in the end has everything restored to him.  “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:12 NIV)

The most famous Scripture verses from the book of Job, read frequently at funerals, speak of redemption.  It is a portion of Job’s complaint in which the veil of suffering is drawn back and he has a revelation in which he utters these 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.” (Job 19:25-26 NIV)  This of course is a great comfort both to him and to us, to know that “in the end” we “will see God” and know that He has not abandoned us. 

But all of us, including Job, long for God’s presence and His redemption to be more imminent than that.  At one point early on in Job’s discussion with Bildad, he expresses this very thing.  “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me so that terror would frighten me no more.” (Job 9:33-34 NIV)  We gather from this verse that Job’s cry is for a mediator, a redeemer in the here and now to undertake on his behalf.

Several chapters later, in Job’s response to Eliphaz, he seems to be finding an answer to his plea for God’s immediate engagement in his life.  “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.”  (Job 16:19-21 NIV)  This is a remarkable confession.  My belief is that it is a Messianic revelation of none other than Jesus, the Christ, the one whom the New Testament tells us “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)

But it is Elihu who brings this understanding of God’s ever-present redemptive grace, expressed through His Son Jesus Christ, full circle.  First, he describes Job’s suffering and the human condition in which all of us share: “His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death.” (Job 33:21-22 NIV)

Then he expresses everyone’s desperate need, mixed with hope, for a mediator to undertake on our behalf – someone to be gracious to us and ransom us from deaths door. “Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down to the pit I have found a ransom for him’— then his flesh is renewed like a child’s; it is restored as in the days of his youth.” (Job 33:23-25 NIV)  Can you see Jesus as that “angel” and that “mediator”?

And finally he summarizes the process whereby redemption and restoration take place.  “(1) He prays to God and finds favor with him, (2) he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; (3) he is restored by God to his righteous state. (4) Then he comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.’“ (Job 33:21-28 NIV)

As a result of these verses I am convinced more than ever that Jesus our mediator is both present with us in our trials and working behind the scenes, as only He can, to do us good in the end.  I pray that you are encouraged by these redeemer/mediator insights from the Book of Job as well and will see “God’s face and shout for joy” just as Job did. 

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