Job 19:21-27a Psalm 130 Revelation 1:9-18 John 5:24-29
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
The reading from Job today is one of the most beloved and most hopeful in the whole Bible. Job is speaking after great misfortune has befallen him; his children have died in an accident, he has lost all his possessions, he has lost his health and his wife is no comfort to him telling him to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). The friends to whom he is appealing aren’t any help either, they tell him his misfortune is his own fault. That’s not what you want to hear when you are down. A little TLC would go a long way with Job right now in his grief but there is no comfort. Still in times of misfortune we do appeal to our friends to “Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends” but Job gets nothing but accusation.
When things are bad we sometimes act the way Job’s friends did but also to ourselves; we accuse ourselves. We say to ourselves if only we had not done this or that, or we say, if only we had done this or that, then things would be different and better, the misfortune would not have occurred or things would be peacefully resolved. And this is especially true when in connexion with a death. Remorse is a terrible thing at those times, because nothing in the world can change what has happened, there is no going back, no recompense can be made, the only thing left is the burden of having done or not done something important. Job’s friends didn’t appreciate the effect they were having on Job and what they were really saying was that they just wanted to justify what had happened. In a day when it was thought that God brought evil on people who were not good they were convinced they had to justify God. Please believe me, God does not need to be justified; God is Justification personified and that through Jesus Christ.
The friends get to Job though. He too begins to think that God has brought misfortune on him and he starts to justify himself. He wants all his good deeds recorded to prove the point. So they don’t get lost he wants them carved in stone, for he was a good man; a moral pillar of society, generous to a fault, successful in business and in life, devout and convinced in his faith. What could he have done wrong ? Sometimes we go down that path too, wrongly blaming ourselves for our misfortune.
Job honestly examines himself, his conscience, and correctly concludes that he has not given offence to God and realises that his misfortunes are just the vagaries of life. Not his fault but most likely the unfortunate actions of others combined. We can conclude the same, if we have a moral compass and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance. A compass tells us what destinations are available and where they lie; our moral and spiritual guides tell us which one we should choose.
Job in his desperation reaches back to his faith and receives consolation, the comfort and redemption he so desperately needs but which are beyond human compassion and understanding. He knows that things gone wrong cannot be corrected, but he knows also that he is not a victim of God – there are none. He knows that life has to be faced as it unfolds before us and that the only comfort one really has is that there is a God. No matter what happens God lives, God is the Great Comforter, and that we need to have patience as we struggle with the hardships of life.
Even Death can be faced with equanimity because God has overcome Death. God did that through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everyone who has ever died is raised to new life, because as John says Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades (that is, the place of the dead) and He has locked the door shut, none will enter, all will be released.
Job knew that his Redeemer lives and that we all will meet Him again face to face.
Now a Redeemer is one who liberates. Along with Job and all those who rest here we will be liberated, liberated from the clutches of Death, we will be brought into the presence of God and will see, as Job says, that God is on our side. That being the case who can be against us (Romans 8:11) no one, not even the misfortunes of life can hold a candle to the redemption from God.
So if you have doubts, guilt or regrets put them behind you. What we count as regrettable or terrible or neglectful are nothing against the beauty and bounty of the life hereafter in God’s presence. In as much as God does not bring Evil and misfortune into this world, they cannot exist in His presence, either. So if you have even an inkling that your loved one thinks less of you than you would want them to, forget it, they are living in Paradise where our problems are so trivial in the calculus of everything they enjoy, that those problems do not even exist.
As our Psalm today says “Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication”. It’s the kind of prayer that Job may have prayed in his misfortune. Whenever in life you feel life is too much, unfair, a burden perhaps a burden too great to bear, remember those words and pray them to God.
In his heart Job knew that God would provide a way of redemption for him, God does not bring evil but instead redemption. Perhaps we all need a little bit of the patience of Job and the faith of Job to get us through, because Job was redeemed, he was restored, in his family, his health and his life. What brought him through was his belief in the goodness of God and his faithful actions at a time when his faith might have been fragile and undermined. I pray for all of us, for our redemption from life’s ills and that we will have a faith certain in our great Redeemer. Amen.