I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25 NIV)
The scripture above popped into view when I opened YouVersion.com this morning. As I have been doing, I look at the verse in several of my favorite translations and then write a short devotional for our church’s Facebook page, check it out if you want to: First Christian Church, Greenville, KY. I don’t often transfer that content to this blog, but I just feel led to that today…this way I can expand if the words come.
Thousands of years before Christ, Job, the Bible’s original man of sorrows expressed his faith in God while he sat in the ash heap of his life. In some ways I have never liked the book of Job, Satan wagering with God over whether Job without all his blessings would remain faithful to God. The whole concept, well to be honest, frightened me, actually made me think, WHAT IF…God allowed me to experience the losses and misery inflicted on Job? Yes, there has been sorrow in my life, loss, times of financial, relational, and physical crises have occurred. I have known others who have endured greater sorrows than mine, greater losses, and yes, I do ask God, “Why?” Looking closely at Job, he, too, tried to find a reasonable explanation without success.
There Job sat, literally, in a pile of ashes. His children, his herds, his home, his health all gone, covered in boils, Job sat in the ashes of what had been a wealthy blessed life. His wife, who by the way, except for the boils, had suffered every loss Job had, her children, her livelihood, her healthy husband, his wife suggested he curse God and die. Job refused.
Then his three friends and later a fourth friend showed up to sit with him. You really have to give them credit for showing up. Many undoubtedly didn’t just as today many shy away from visiting a friend who has lost a child, a loved one with cancer, a friend who has experience loss of job or investments, so these four who came to sit with Job were not deserters, but they were also not comforters. So sure were they that some unconfessed sin in Job’s life had brought the destruction on him, that they yammered at him for days.
Job questions his friends, Job questions God for 37 chapters and then in a whirlwind in the 38th chapter God answers. Whew! But God’s answers took the form of a brutal interrogation in which Job may have stuttered and stammered, but God asked the questions without giving Job a chance to speak.
Here Job sat miserable in body and spirit, without comfort and yet in the middle of the book, before God makes his presence known, Job proclaims, “I know that my redeemer lives…” He declared his faith, in a situation that seemed bereft of God that in the end GOD would stand. Job looked beyond the ash heap and saw though distantly a vision of salvation. Job saw his redeemer, when all evidence suggested God had forgotten him, or was punishing him, or simply did not exist.
Who do we identify with in Job’s story?
Am I Job going through one of the ash heap times of life?
Am I Job’s suffering wife angry and bitter, wishing he were dead, wishing we both were dead?
Am I Job’s friends who didn’t show up, distancing myself from the pain and suffering lest I be infected?
Am I Job’s friends who do show up, but with lots of opinions, advice, platitudes and finger pointing?
Do I stare at the ashes or do I lift my eyes, dare as Job did to question God, proclaim as Job did his faith in God?
At the end of the story, Job does finally find his tongue. God addresses the friends and lets them know their counseling of Job fell short, had them prepare a sacrifice and Job would pray for them so God would not treat them like the fools they were. God changed Job’s fortune. He returned his wife, brothers and sisters to him, doubled his possessions. He also blessed Job and his wife with 10 more children, not as replacements for those lost, but as a blessing for the generations to follow, in fact, Job saw 4 generations before he died.