His “but God” revelation, a refrain of faith and hope used repeatedly in the Bible, promises that no matter what evil may befall us, God can redeem and use it for good in ours, and the lives of others.
“I want to know Him.” Philippians 3:10
It was some thirty years after walking with and serving Jesus that the apostle Paul wrote these words. Some would think it a bit curious that one as experienced in the things of God as Paul, would still be driven by that one over-arching desire, to know Him better. But it was the all-encompassing pursuit of his life ever since his Damascus road conversion when Jesus first revealed Himself to him in a blinding vision with the words “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” The unfathomable grace of this Jesus, who would choose to arrest a man from being a persecutor and call him rather to be an ambassador, forever captured Paul’s heart. Paul’s life from that moment on was dedicated to getting to know this Jesus better and better, who had intervened and shown him such unmerited grace and mercy.
Norman Grubb, beloved Christian author of the past century, wrote an autobiography entitled “Once Caught No Escape.” I have often thought that title aptly encapsulates the story of every follower of Jesus who like Paul has been apprehended by His grace. It is lifelong quest to seek to comprehend such grace and mercy calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light, even while we were yet sinners, separated from Christ, without hope and without God. (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 5:8 &Ephesians 2:12)
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)
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) 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.