Dear Radio Friends,
Today we are going to consider the amazing confession of Job 19:23-27, where Job says, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
“Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” Those words come from the New Testament book of James, and they tell us how we are to remember Job, and how we are to read the story of Job. It is a story of patience. In our study of this book we have already seen much of Job’s patience.
Patience is the ability to accept trouble and suffering without getting angry or upset. For the believer, it is the ability to endure the trials that God sends in our lives, without losing our faith in God. This is the patience we see in Job.
In his patience, Job is held up as an example for us to follow. But just looking at what Job does and says in response to his trials is not enough to produce patience in us. We need more than to see that Job is patient. Many read the story of Job, and have nothing of his faith and patience. What we need is to understand the secret of Job’s patience. And that is what we have in the verses today.
These verses express the hope of Job, and hope is the key to patience.
What is hope? Hope is the confident expectation of a great good in the future; and hope includes also the certainty of deliverance from present suffering.
Job has hope. Even though he presently experiences grief and pain, even though death looms, and even though death brings horrible decay; even though all these things are very real to Job, he says, “yet in my flesh shall I see God.” This is what he confidently expects, and that enables him to endure. His hope saves him from his present troubles.
In the book of Romans, chapter 8, the apostle Paul says this, “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Hope is not something we have now, but something we expect to receive; and having hope, then we patiently wait. Job was waiting for something else, something different, something better, and that was the key to his patience under trial.
What was Job’s hope? What did he expect from God that would be better than his present grief?
It was not this, that he expected his earthly situation to improve. No, Job expected death. Here in the text he describes the reality of death, of his own death, and it is not pretty. The face of death is always ugly. Job says, “Though after my skin worms destroy this body” and “though my reins be consumed within me.” The skin is a kind of covering of protection that keeps us intact, and that shows our color and health. “After my skin” refers to death. The first thing that happens when a person dies is that his skin is drained of all color and it has no purpose any more—there is no life for it to protect. After my skin, Job says, worms shall destroy this body. When he is buried in the ground, an army of worms will come, invade the wall of skin, and go on in to eat up the decaying body. When Job says, “though my reins be consumed within me,” he means that the most important parts of his body, the organs on the inside, will also become food for the worms. That is what happens. It is a reality. Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.
Job’s hope was not that he expected to be spared death. No, he expected to die of his disease, an empty, poor, grieving, lonely man.
Now we know from the end of the book of Job that God restored to Job double what he had previously, and that God blessed him with a peaceful marriage and ten more children. But Job did not know this was coming. This was not what he expected. This was not his hope. He expected that God would slay him.
That is important for us to remember. Even though, as James says, the story of Job shows “the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” this does not mean that God will always restore to us earthly peace and health when we are going through a trial. That is not our hope and that is not our comfort. As a pastor, and as members of the body of Christ, we do not say to distressed saints, “Take heart, things will get better for you here on earth.” Words like that would have brought no comfort to Job, for they are empty words. We simply cannot say that because we do not know what God has in store for us here on earth. A young mother may well die of cancer and leave her family behind. A man may remain unemployed for years and not have the means to support his family. God does not promise earthly health and wealth, and that is not Job’s hope here.
Rather, Job in hope looks beyond this earthly life, and beyond the decay of death, to the eternal reward that awaits all of God’s people. Job’s hope is in the resurrection of his body and the bliss of seeing God face to face in glory.
He says, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.”
Job’s hope is that the very same body in which he suffers, which is ravaged with disease, and which will rot in the ground, will be raised from the dead, that it will become alive again. “Yet in my flesh” he says, “I shall see God.”
Job means that literally. The resurrection is not a mystical and spiritual afterlife for the soul. Yes, at death the souls of believers do immediately pass into glory to be with Christ, but that is not our full and final hope. Our hope is that our bodies and souls will be reunited and made one again. If that were not our hope, then death in the end has the victory. In death body and soul are torn apart, but death does not have the final word. My hope is that my body will some day be raised again.
That is why the Bible describes the burial of the believer’s body as sleeping. As Christians we fall asleep in Jesus Christ. The body is laid to rest in the ground, in hope of the resurrection—much like when you lay down to sleep at night, expecting to wake up refreshed in the morning. So also the Bible compares the burial of our bodies to the sowing of a seed. The seed of the body is put in the ground, and one day it will sprout up and live again.
And it will not be a new and different body. In the resurrection God does not create a brand new body for us, but it will be the same body that we lived in here on the earth. Job emphasizes that when he says, “my flesh” and “my reins,” and when he says, “My eyes shall behold him, and not another,” or, more literally, “not the eyes of a stranger.”
Yet, at the same time, it will be a changed body. In the resurrection, Job’s body will no longer be covered in boils. No, it will be changed and glorified, and fitted to live eternally in heaven. Which means, that all the diseases and physical and mental imperfections that plague God’s people in this life will be gone too. A blind believer, who in this life could never see, will be able to see. A deaf man, who never heard a word on earth, will hear the choirs of heaven and the voice of Jesus Christ. A mentally handicapped child, who could never function on her own, and who had trouble learning the simplest things, will have a sharp and clear mind. This is Job’s hope. That is our hope too. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed.
But that is only a part of Job’s hope, and it is not the main thing that he hopes for. The resurrection has this purpose and goal, that in “my flesh shall I see God.” Job looks forward to the day when all the clouds that seem to hide God from him will be removed, and when he will see God face to face as He is. This is the fullness of Job’s hope that sustains him in his affliction. Now we see through a glass darkly. Here on the earth we do not always enjoy the fullness of God’s fellowship. There are clouds of sin, and clouds of trouble and affliction that seem to stand between us and the enjoyment of God’s gracious face. But then, we will see him face to face.
That will be the joy of heaven: to bask in the grace and glory of God. To look up into His loving eyes, to be embraced in His eternal arms of love. To know Him as He is. Jesus says, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Jesus’ prayer is, “that we may be with him where he is, to behold his glory.” Glory, for man, is to see God in all His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. God is an invisible Spirit, and He dwells in a light to which no man can approach. But God has revealed Himself fully in the person of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus could say, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen my Father also.” When we get to heaven, and see Jesus, then we will be forever satisfied.
But when will that happen? Job says, “in the latter day.” The latter day refers to the day of the coming of Jesus Christ. From his Old Testament perspective, Job could not distinguish the first and the second comings of Christ. He speaks of them in one breath. But we see things a little more clearly, now, in the New Testament. The latter day, when the Redeemer shall stand upon the earth, is the day when Jesus will visibly and bodily come again on the clouds of heaven. Then, Job says, He will stand upon the earth, or, more literally, upon the dust. He will stand on the dust, and command the dust that was our bodies to arise.
(Jesus describes this day in John 5:28-29 when He says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Paul describes it as the day in which Christ shall descend on the clouds of heaven with a shout. He will sound a trumpet, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.)
That Christ will stand on the earth indicates also that He will come as judge. All will be raised, yes, but some will be raised unto damnation, their bodies changed to live eternally in hell. Job is aware of this too, for later in the chapter he lovingly warns his cruel friends that their words will be judged, that they ought to be afraid of the sword, for there is a judgment.
But for himself, Job is not afraid of that judgment day. A part of his hope is that he will be vindicated on that day. Presently he is being falsely accused and persecuted, but he knows that in the resurrection, when Christ stands as judge, he will be vindicated.
Job’s hope is that in his body he will be raised, that with his eyes he will see God, and that then he will be forever cleared of the judgment of God.
(Is that your hope? This is written in Scripture so that believers in every age might make this confession and might cling to this hope. This is the secret of the patience of God’s people, the spiritual power that will enable them to endure every kind of affliction in this life. We have a confident expectation of a great good in the future, and the certainty of deliverance from all present suffering.
Is that your hope?
The alternative is the hopelessness and darkness of hell, where God’s gracious face is never seen, where His face is set against the wicked in wrath to eternity. There is no hope in hell. The suffering of hell is not just the intense and immense burning wrath of God, but also this, that there is no relief and no way out; you want to die, but you never can; the torment goes on forever.)
How is it possible that Job could have this hope?
He gives us the answer at the beginning of verse 25, when he says, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
The Redeemer here refers to Christ who was to come. Of course, from his Old Testament perspective, Job did not see Christ as clearly as we do, but there was a lot that he understood. Being a contemporary of Abraham, Job knew the promise of Christ from Genesis 3:15, where God spoke of the seed of the woman who would overcome the seed of the serpent and all opposition to God. Job also knew of Enoch, who walked with God, and was not, for God took him. Enoch lived in his flesh in the presence of God. Job also knew of the judgment that God brought on the world through the flood, and the deliverance of His people in the ark. And Job knew about animal sacrifices that were offered for sin, as a picture of one who would come as the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. All of these things, Job sums up in the name he gives to the promised Savior when he calls Him, “My Redeemer.”
A redeemer in the Old Testament was a close relative who would stand up for you if you were falsely accused, who would defend you if someone committed a crime against you, who would pay a price to set you free if you were a slave, and who would purchase your land if you died, in order to keep your family name alive among the covenant people of God in Israel.
The redeemer in the Old Testament was a type or picture of Jesus Christ who was to come. Job viewed Him as a close relative, that is, the Savior who would come in flesh and blood to dwell among His people as one of them. As Redeemer, He would pay a price to set His people free from the bondage of sin and slavery to Satan. That was the price of His own blood on Calvary, where He made the real and final sacrifice for sin. And, as Redeemer, Jesus would also vindicate the cause of His people, declaring their righteousness before God, the world, and Satan—not an inherent righteousness of their own, but an imputed righteousness from Him. Job viewed the Savior to come as one who would bear his sins before the wrath of a just God, would lay down His life for him, would purchase him, body and soul, to be His own possession, and would, by virtue of that, someday raise Job’s body again from the dead.
And Job not only knows his Redeemer, but he knows that his Redeemer lives. Implied in that is that his Redeemer will first die. His living, and standing on the earth, is a victorious living and a conquering of death. That is the power of Job’s confession: He lives! As the sacrifice to take the place of sinners, He must die; but as Redeemer who pays the price, He lives. He is set free from death, and He will set His people free from the power of the grave.
How will the Redeemer be able to do this? By His own divine power. The Redeemer here, in Job’s mind, is God Himself, and Jesus came as God in the flesh. This is Job hoping and trusting in God Himself. God is not dead, and God cannot die. He is the God of life, the God who gives life and takes away life. Because He lives, Job is saying, I also will live with Him.
Now maybe Job could not put together all these pieces in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ, but Job did believe all the same things that we do. He had all the puzzle pieces, and believed what was on each of them, even though he maybe could not have articulated who the Redeemer would be, when He would come, and how exactly He would redeem His people. But Job did believe the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And believing, he could have this confident hope that gave him the patience he needed under trial.
And today, we, who know the gospel of Jesus Christ, who know how He fulfilled all these things, who believe that today He is risen and alive at God’s right hand, and who expect Him to come from heaven again to raise the dead, we have a stronger and more sure hope than even Job, and this is the secret to our patience under trial. Jesus lives, He rules over all, He is coming again to deliver us, and He will take us to heaven eternally to be with Him. That is my hope as a believer, and nothing in this world can shake me from it.
Job is very confident of this.
We see that in two ways.
First, as a preface to his confession Job says, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!” He wants his words written down in stone as a permanent record to last through the ages. That prayer of Job is answered, in the inclusion of these words in the inspired Word of God, the Bible, which is more permanent and lasting than any word engraved in stone. Psalm 119:89 says, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” In Isaiah 40: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Job is confident of his hope, because this is God’s Word, more sure than anything in this world.
And then, second:
We see Job’s confidence in the personal character of his confession. Job does not make an abstract confession here. He does not say, “I know that the Redeemer liveth, and that after worms destroy the bodies of believers, they will see God with their own eyes.” No, that kind of confession would have been no help to Job. It is personal. “I know that my Redeemer liveth…. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I myself shall behold, and not a stranger.”
This is personal faith in Jesus Christ. Personal faith is not resting in something I have done, or a decision that I have made, or a date on which I accepted Jesus into my heart. No, personal faith looks completely away from myself, to Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done, and I rest in Him. And resting in Him, I find assurance, I have hope, and I have the grace to persevere.
Is this your confession? And is this your hope?
Let us pray,
Father in heaven, we give thanks that these important words have been recorded in Scripture, written down some 4,000 years ago, so that today we can read them, and be encouraged in the same way that Job was in the midst of his trials. How thankful we are for a living Redeemer, who has bought us, and who will come again to raise us to be like Him and to be with Him. And how glad we are for the hope that we have in Him. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is coming, the glory of seeing Jesus, face to face. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
Dear Radio Friends,