Job’s friends thought that they were bringing him great wisdom from God. The suffering servant of the Lord did not receive their words in that way. He said that these men were tormenting him. He even doubled his count of the times that they had spoken here. We have heard five speeches from them at this point in the book, but Job referred to “ten times” that they had cast reproach upon him. This was a heavy burden for this good man to face. How many others have had to face unjust accusations in a time of great loss? Only the Lord knows. Yet it is in this chapter, during this time of intense suffering and provocation, that the Lord’s servant finds a sudden expression of his resurrection hope.
This is what you and I need. It is a good thing for us to have an accurate assessment of our own sadness and of the hopelessness of life under the sun. But we must have something much better alongside such honest medicine. Tears alone cannot bring the healing and restoration for which we long. In a world under a sentence of death, there is only one thing that can make us full of happiness—the resurrection from the dead. Yet how could we ever believe in something like this when we have never seen it with our eyes? How could we believe in a coming resurrection when we are overwhelmed by the providence of God?
God must speak. He must speak to us, and this speech must find a hearing and ready ear. Our spirit within us must testify to the truth of the prophetic word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’s servant and is processed by the ear of His holy ones. In the case of Job, all of this seems to happen within the one man who has suffered such deep affliction. A spirit of prophecy must well up within him so that he becomes the prophetic agent who brings forth the Word. Then his own ears must gladly take in what his mouth has spoken, and his own spirit must resonate with this message that has come to him from the Lord.
This is what happens at the center of these three cycles of speeches and responses, and the result is an amazing statement of faith in the resurrection of the dead at a time when there may well have been no written Word of God yet revealed for any man on earth to consult. No one can say when the book of Job was written, but many experts tell us that it may have been very early indeed, perhaps among the earliest words of written Scripture.
The first twenty-two verses of this important chapter are the heartfelt lament of a man who recounts his sad condition. Job is alone, and the words of his friends have only further wounded him. He is despised by everyone and is in terrible pain. The final words of his lament are a cry for mercy to his friends. “Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!” He believes that God has surely pursued him as one pursues an enemy, but he would plead with these friends to look at him and to realize that his weary flesh cannot take their continual assaults.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, or out of the depths of his own prophetic soul, springs forth an amazing word from heaven, and Job himself seems to know it. He wants these words of hope to be written forever. These words are so right, so true, that they simply must not be allowed to drift away into the mist of this fading world. These words must hold. They must stand. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” This is the word of truth, the truth of our deepest longings. Though our hearts may faint within us, death cannot be the last message for the Lord’s beloved flock. There must be a resurrection.
Our hearts are greatly encouraged by these verses. What a revelation! Yet far beyond this word is the revelation of the incarnate Word of God, the only Redeemer of God’s elect. Jesus has purchased us with His blood. His death was required, but there had to be life beyond the grave if the words of Job were to prove true. Job had insisted that he, in his flesh, would see God, and that the Redeemer would not only die, but that He would live and stand upon a renewed earth.
This is the antidote to the report of death all around us and within us. This is the river of life for which we have the greatest need in our grief and disappointment. It must not only be spoken by the Lord’s servant, it must be heard by the Lord’s people. Their spirits must rise up at the preaching of it, so that they might receive the testimony of the Holy Spirit that they too are sons of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is fine to know of sadness and sin. It is good to be honest about our assessment of the troubles of this world. But we need something more than brutal honesty. We need a full measure of resurrection truth. Without the certain fact of the life to come, surely nothing makes any sense, for our God does not take the human race through centuries of sadness only to end this tale of woe with a pathetic whimper.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Glorious Lord, in the day of our greatest trial there is no helpful answer that comes to us from foolish men. Our suffering is real and we do not understand what has happened to us. We seem to have no help from anyone. There is no mercy. You have touched us in discipline, and we do not understand. Yet we know that our Redeemer lives. We know that we will see Him in a great day of resurrection. We cling to this hope, for our best days are clearly not in this life.