Monday, April 17, 2017

Sermon on Job 19:23-27, Easter Sunday, "I Know that My Redeemer Lives!"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The book of Job is a remarkable book that is like a magnificent mountain range of great peaks and valleys worthy of deep reflection and exploration. Job was tormented by horrible suffering, having lost all of his children in a single day, all of his servants were killed by raiders, and he lost all his flocks and herds. As if that were not enough, he was then inflicted with painful sores all over his body, from head to foot. The book as a whole answers Satan’s jeering question, of “Why do the righteous serve God?” and the closely related concern of “How can the righteous trust in God in the midst of suffering?” While Job is by no means a perfect example of a believer bearing up under their sufferings and still trusting in God—he is certainly one of the most remarkable examples in the Bible. And our Old Testament reading from Job 19 has everything to do with the reason why. If the book of Job is a complex mountain range with great peaks of wisdom throughout it—then these verses in chapter 19 are one of the highest and most glorious peaks of all. In these verses Job confesses a faith that resonates down through more than 3,000 years of history till today, expressing his highest faith in God as our Redeemer, and the promise of the Resurrection.
Job’s faith was truly a “resurrection faith”, because he embraced promises of God that were miraculously and wondrously fulfilled the first Easter morning, many generations after his own death, because “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!” After all he suffered, Job’s undying hope was “I know that my Redeemer lives!” He longs for these words to be immortalized in stone forever—but better than any monument, His faith rings down through the millennia to us today, and continues to inspire hope in the midst of suffering. Even inspiring a young Samuel Medley to write the famous hymn, by the same name. Those words have been written on the hearts of hundreds upon hundreds of generations of believers, long after any stone monument would have faded. In the midst of whatever trials, struggles, losses or grief you personally carry—cling to your Living Redeemer, Jesus Christ! He lives, He lives who once was dead! If no other help comes than this—that we are redeemed from the grave, that is a marvelous, sweet, and comforting sentence, that “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
The word “redeemer” has a rich background in the Old Testament. It’s the Hebrew word goel. In the book of Ruth, Jesus’ ancestor Boaz is a “kinsman-redeemer” to Ruth and Naomi. In other words, he’s a family relative who bore the responsibility of rescuing them out of their distress. In the Psalms and Proverbs, a redeemer is defined as someone who “takes up the cause” or “pleads the cause” of someone in need. A redeemer is strong and able to speak up for the defenseless—to advocate and help them. To “redeem” their life. “Redeem” also means to “buy back” something. To purchase someone’s freedom—either by relieving a debt or burden, or by freeing them from slavery.
Jesus fills all these descriptions and more—and Jesus is the Redeemer that Job longed for. The Redeemer who would set his feet on the dust of the earth, in the end. Job looked forward to “my Redeemer”—one who could take up his cause, who could redeem his life from this suffering and misery. Jesus redeemed us from the curse and power of sin when He bore that awful burden on the tree of the cross. His suffering, dying breaths, His precious blood bleeding out, His priceless words of love, forgiveness, and truth, were all emptied out, poured out, as the costly price of our redemption. He paid the price in full—payable on death, to redeem us from sin and death. But His death did not go down in defeat; rather 3 days proved His victory, because Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! And you are redeemed by His blood, same as Job.
Earlier in the book Job repeatedly cries out that God is tormenting him with all these troubles—and repeatedly expresses his longing that God were a man, that he could speak to him. For there to be an arbiter or mediator—a person who could fairly hear and advocate for Job. He is sure that he has a witness in heaven who will stand up for him—someone to testify on his behalf. In all these longings, we and Job together receive our answer in Jesus Christ. Long after Job, Jesus came down to earth, to be the mediator between God and man, our defense attorney or advocate, who stands for us. All of our sin and guilt is laid upon Him, and His righteousness testifies in our defense. Look to your Redeemer for deliverance, and pray to Him as your Mediator!
Job continues to proclaim his “resurrection faith” with these words: “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. My heart faints within me!” Job looks far beyond his present suffering to the hope that his Redeemer gives—that even after his body has entered the grave and decayed—yet in his own flesh, He will see God. In other words, Job is confessing our same Easter faith in the resurrection of the body. The body that rises to live before God, and the eyes with which we will see Him, will be our own, and not another’s! A glorious and healed body—free of sickness, pain, suffering, and death—but your own body nonetheless! You won’t be given some stranger’s body, but with your own eyes you will see God.
Sadly, for a variety of reasons, sometimes people “hate” their bodies—or at least they think or say things like that. Whether for health reasons, or self-esteem reasons, or because of some injury, emotional or physical to the body—some people actually regard their body as a trouble or problem. But this is not how we ought to think! Whatever flaws or imperfections we have or think we have in our bodies, are not even going to be a memory in heaven. In whatever marvelous way that God brings it about—you will be the perfectly restored new creation in Christ’s own image—but very much yourself. And there will be nothing to “hate” or dislike about our bodies; nothing weak or infirm; but we will enjoy all the goodness and fullness of the physical life and creation that God will make anew—yet without the fear and horror of sin. We can rejoice in our new bodies, living past this veil of tears in the joy and feasting of heaven.
On that first Easter morning, the fears and horrors of what the disciples of Jesus had just witnessed on Good Friday were all fresh in their minds. While some hid in fear, others, mostly the women and John, we know for sure, kept watch over the gory scene of Jesus’ death. Here was a man, truly more righteous than Job, suffering untold pain and agony—all unjustly. For no crime that He committed, with no lie in His mouth or sins upon His hands, Jesus was suffering, dying on the cross. How much more than Job, was Jesus the Righteous Sufferer? And all those fresh memories, searing with pain and grief, were in the minds of the women as they tearfully went to the tomb of Jesus, to pay what honor they could to their fallen teacher; their beloved brother, Lord, and Master.
And what a shock and astonishment to be greeted at the tomb, where His body was supposed to be laying in peaceful rest—to find it empty, and an angel sitting beside! “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” With complete shock and disbelief, the women ran in fear—because this was incredible news! News that was so incredible, it took some time to sink in. Sometimes I don’t think we don’t account for the sheer shock that they experienced, humanly speaking, before they saw the risen Jesus and began to believe this wonderful, astonishing news. But the clouds of fear and the horrible memories dispersed soon enough, as it dawned on them that Jesus had really kept His promise to die, and be raised up.
We gather this Easter, some 2,000 years later. And at least 3,000 plus years later than Job. And we’re joined with saints of ages past, and saints all across earth below, who are united in this holy and profound faith, that confesses “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” We’re united by a faith that serves God—not because of the ease or the rewards in this life—for often there may be suffering and crosses instead. But a faith that serves God because of the confidence that we have a living Redeemer, an advocate, mediator, or defender—one who stands in our defense, and redeems our life. One who secures our redemption, not just for this short life, but for eternity. We’re united with Job and saints above and on earth below, by the faith that confesses Jesus—knowing that God is indeed good, and has interceded for our sins so that we can stand as righteous before Him. Our faith serves God, not because we can earn His approval or favor, not because we will get some guarantee of wealth or ease of life—but because through thick or thin, through blessing or sorrow—this sentence never fails us: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
It’s a sentence that was never born from wishful thinking or a life out of touch with reality, but a sentence that was forged by a solemn trust in God even in the midst of terrible sufferings. A solemn trust built by God’s own grace and promises, that taught Job to trust God whether he received good or evil from God’s hand. When we confess those same words, “I know that my Redeemer lives”, we set our eyes on Jesus, who physically rose and walked from His own grave and death, and stood up, alive upon the earth, in the witness and eyesight of not only the apostles and women, but on various occasions up to 500 people. It is a sentence that has not been eroded or erased by the sands of time, but is inscribed on living hearts forever as a solid confession of faith in Jesus. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleuluia! Amen. 

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Though many people focus on the element of suffering in the book of Job, God ultimately doesn’t answer the “why” of suffering in the book. However, that suffering serves to display a question that is explored by the book—“Why do the righteous serve God?” and therefore also “How can they trust Him in the midst of sufferings?” What faith does Job confess in Job 19:25?
  2. What losses had Job experienced in chapters 1-2?
  3. Why is the faith he confesses in Job 19:25-27 a profound expression of faith both in God, and in the resurrection of the body? How does he describe this hope he confesses? What does that say to us about the future state of our body, after death, and our experience of seeing/being with God?
  4. In the Bible, what is the role of a “redeemer” (Hebrew: goel)? Proverbs 23:11; Lamentations 3:58; Psalm 119:154. Hint: what do they  “plead” or “take up?” See also the book of Ruth, and the character of Boaz.
  5. Job 19:25 is one of a series of passages in the book that cry out for there to be a mediator/redeemer/arbiter/witness etc, that Job could appeal to, or argue his case with, or that would defend him. Job 5:9; 9:32-35; 10:4-5; 13:15-18; 14:7-17; 16:18-22; 19:23-27; 33:23-28. Why is it so important to Job that he have a man that he can speak to? What “cause” of Job, is he confident this redeemer will take up?
  6. How is Job’s hope and longing wondrously fulfilled in Christ? Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14. How did “my Redeemer” stand upon the earth?
  7. In Job 19:26-27 he graphically describes what will happen to his body when he enters the grave, but also how it will be restored. What questions does this answer about our resurrection? Cf. 1 Cor. 15:35ff

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