My Redeemer Lives
Topic: Expository Passage: Job 15-21
This morning, we are going to pick up our series in Job, and I’m going to attempt something you might think is impossible. I’m going to cover 7 chapters in 1 sermon and not keep you here all day.
Remember that in the last 3 sermons, we looked at Job’s first conversation with each of his 3 friends. Each conversation begins with one of the friends trying to explain Job’s awful plight. All three friends argue for retribution theology. In other words, God always brings swift blessing to the righteous and swift punishment to the evil; therefore, they all conclude that Job can fix his situation if he simply repents of some unknown sin.
But Job knows that he is innocent; therefore, he feels like God is being cruel. He is struggling with bitterness toward God. Yet in the darkest of times, sparks of faith and hope begin to shine. Notice his testimony of faith in 14:13–17. Job anchors his mind in the justice and faithfulness of God; therefore, he trusts that God will resurrect him after death, forgive his iniquity, and welcome him into fellowship. It’s a powerful testimony, in light of Job’s circumstances and the fact that he has no inspired Scripture to lean on.
But Job’s friends are not moved. Instead, in Job 15–21 they start up a 2nd round of interrogations, in an effort to explain suffering and justice. What particularly stands out about this section is the contrast between Job and his friends. Job’s friends are determined to explain Job’s suffering in a way they can understand and that leaves man in control of his destiny. They lean on the wisdom of men.
Job, on the other hand, is far from perfect, but he leans in on the wisdom of God. The result is one of the highest peaks of the book in 19:23–29, where Job testifies, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” I want to build our study around the contrasting approaching these men take. We’ll begin with Job’s friends, who attempt to explain suffering and justice by…
I. Friends’ Approach: Lean on the Foolishness of Men
That’s never a good approach is it? As soon as I wrote that heading down this week, I was reminded of Proverbs 3:5, 7, “Trust in theLord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.” Yet we try to lean on our own understanding all the time. We’re not content simply trusting the Lord.
That’s where Job’s friends are. They refuse to accept the fact that they can’t fully explain God’s ways. So, Eliphaz takes the first shot. His first speech was fairly polite, but this time he is very harsh (15:11–13). This is not polite dinner conversation. It’s certainly not what you would expect from a group of comforters. Rather, passions are high, and the tension is thick. The reason is that Eliphaz refuses to accept any explanation of Job’s suffering that doesn’t fit his retribution theology.
As a result, he doubles down on his conviction that the wicked always suffer swift punishment (vv. 20–35). It sounds really good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where murders, thieves, rapists, and drug lords were swiftly crushed under God’s hand of judgment? But it’s not reality.
However, Bildad clings to the same dream when he takes his turn in Job 18. Notice that he is also very frustrated that Job is pushing back (18:1–4). Then he doubles down on the idea that the wicked always receive swift judgment (18:8–13). Bildad strings together a pretty emotional, compelling speech, but again, it’s nonsense. We’ve all watched plenty of wicked people prosper, when according to Bildad they ought to be suffering.
Yet Zophar says the same thing in Job 20. It’s particularly interesting that his speech immediately follows Job’s climactic testimony in 19:23–29 about faith in his Redeemer. You’d think Job’s friends would be ready to come forward during the invitation. Instead, Zophar comes out firing 20:1–3. Zophar reminds me of young people today, wining about feeling “safe.”
And he says the same thing as his friends 20:5–9, 12–16. Again, it sounds good. All three of these guys could get jobs in Washington as speech writers. But again, Zophar completely misses the boat on what is true. What can we learn from these 3 speeches? I’d like to make 2 applications.
Recognize our tendency to self-deception. You are probably wondering how these guys could be so stupid and so self-deceived. Yet we are all prone to same self-deception.
For example, I’ve watched Christians with wonderful families convince themselves that they deserve an adulterous relationship. Others convince themselves that their pornography addiction is a good outlet. Or what’s more common, “I don’t really need to practice the spiritual disciplines. I’m good!” We may not publicize our foolishness as boldly as these guys, but we all can be just as deceived.
Augustine summed up this tendency so well when he said, “Man's love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for what he takes to his heart in its place" (Augustine’s Confessions). That’s so true. We have an incredible knack for convincing ourselves that what we want to do is actually right.
That’s why it’s so important that you live in the Word, because it is sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s essential that you regularly examine your heart, confess your sins, and plead for the Lord to give you a tender heart. And finally, it’s essential that you live in close contact with godly friends who can spot your blind spots and challenge you. We need these disciplines, because none of us are immune to self-deception. A 2nd application is…
Humble yourself before the Lord. Again, Job’s friends arrogantly believed that they understood Job’s plight. But since we have the perspective of chapters 1–2, we know their explanations are utter nonsense. We’re in awe of their stupidity.
I wonder how often God shakes his head in disbelief when he looks at us. We have a problem (theological question, trial), and we are determined to understand it and solve it. We run right past Scripture to our own solution. God thinks, “You have no idea what you are saying or doing.”
It’s essential that we humbly obey Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in theLord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” There are many things that God simply hasn’t revealed and that we cannot understand. We have to trust that God knows and God is good. And because he knows, I don’t have to.
And there are other times where Scripture is pretty clear, if we would just take the time to honestly look at what. “I just think,” rarely leads anywhere good. In sum, Job’s friends strike out, because they lean on the foolishness of men. In contrast, Job doesn’t hit a homerun, but he does a lot better, in explaining suffering and justice, because…
II. Job’s Approach: Trust the Wisdom of God
Like the first cycle of speeches, Job again responds to each speech by his friends. And before we dive into what he has to say, I want to emphasize something I’ve said a few times. Namely, it’s important to listen to Job with your head and your heart.
I say this, because Job endures some massive mood swings within these speeches. He vacillates between despair and hope. For someone like me, who likes logical, neat and tidy outlines, Job’s speeches can be maddening.
But this vacillation is part of the genius of Job. It tells us that God understands how we often struggle to believe what we know to be true and to experience appropriate affections. Therefore, he wants us to enter Job’s struggle, to feel his frustration and joy, and to learn how we should respond to our grief. That being said, let’s walk through each speech.
Job’s First Reply (Job 16–17): Again, Job is responding to Eliphaz’s claim that God always swiftly judges the ungodly. The obvious implication is that Job’s suffering must be the consequence of sin. Job doesn’t appreciate that. Notice his anger (16:1–5).
Then Job turns his frustration toward God and complains about how God has caused him to suffer (16:12–17). That’s some descriptive and heavy language. Job is miserable. He rightly understands that all of his pain is under the sovereign control of God. And he doesn’t understand why God is doing it, because, “There is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure.”
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Life is a wreck, and we look up at God and ask, “Why are you letting me go through this? How can this possibly be just?”
But Job doesn’t spiral into despair, as he has done before. Instead, he clings to the same hope as chapters 13–14 (16:18–22). There is a lot of debate about how to translate these verses. I found the NIV translation helpful, “19Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. 20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”
Job is frustrated that no one will defend him. His wife has told him to curse God and die, and his 3 friends have accused him hidden sin. But Job is determined to defend his integrity; therefore, he appeals to a heavenly court. He believes that he has a “witness,” “advocate” and “intercessor (who) is my friend” in heaven. We’ll see in Job 19 that this “witness” is God himself.
Again, Job is sure that he is innocent, and that God is just and will always do what is right. Therefore, he looks past his terrible plight and trusts that God will witness to Job’s righteousness and defend Job in the heavenly court and that in the end, God will vindicate Job and his integrity.
It’s a powerful testimony for a couple of reasons. First, Job sets a wonderful example of how we must cling to the character of God in the face of seemingly unjust suffering. On the one hand, Job’s friends ran to human explanations of Job’s plight that fit how they want the world to work.
But not Job. Instead, he looks to the character of God and humbly trusts that God is good and God will do what is just even if I don’t understand it. He leans on the wisdom of God. That’s what we have to do as well. God is not obligated to explain his ways to us. Oftentimes, we have no idea why God does what he does. Instead, we have to humbly trust that even if I don’t see the reason, God always has one, and his purposes are always good and just.
Second, Job unknowing offers a wonderful picture of Christ. Notice in v. 20 that Job longs for God to argue his case with God. Again, Job doesn’t have any inspired Scripture, so he doesn’t understand all that we do. But he knows that only God can advocate for man before God.
And we know that the God-man is our Advocate (1 John 2:1–2). My sin is under Christ’s blood; therefore, he defends me before the Father. And God will never turn away the blood or the advocacy of his Eternal Son. Therefore, I know that I am accepted before God and will never face his wrath. Praise God that we have an “Advocate with the Father.”
Returning to Job, we might think that Job is in the clear after such a hopeful statement of faith. But that’s not typically how grief works. So, in chapter 17, Job swings between despair and hope. In vv. 1–2, he despairs of life (read), but in v. 3, he expresses hope that Gpd will vouch for Job’s innocence (read). Then he swings over to despair, only to swing back to hope in v. 9. Then he ends on a despondent note. He’s fighting, even if he isn’t always winning.
The pendulum swing continues in Job’s Second Reply (Job19). Notice Job’s complaint in 19:6–12. Job is right to recognize God’s sovereignty over his circumstances. But Job is wrong to say in v. 6, “Know then that God has wronged me.” He’s also wrong in v. 11 to assume that God is angry with him. But he is stunned at what God is doing to him, and he is trying to understand.
And something we may not consider is the shame and loneliness Job endured because of his suffering (19:13–22). It’s another reminder that godliness doesn’t always look happy and carefree. Life in a sin-cursed world is often extremely heavy. Rather than ignoring pain and sorrow, we have to learn how to rightly express it to God as Job mostly does.
So, the first part of Job 19 is very heavy and dark, but then the pendulum swings to one of the most climactic moments in the book (19:23–29).
Job assumes that he is going to die very soon as a result of his illness. But he doesn’t want future generations to remember him as dying under God’s judgment as his friends assume. Rather, he wants his testimony to be permanently engraved in stone so that everyone knows Job’s true integrity and faith.
Specifically, he wants them to know that Job believed, “My Redeemer lives.” Again, Job lived prior to Christ, so we should assume that he is thinking of something like a kinsman redeemer, such as we see in Ruth. Specifically, a kinsman redeemer was someone who came to the aid of a friend or relative who was facing dire poverty of some other major need. He acted to defend his brother or to provide essential needs.
And Job believes that he has such a redeemer. And then he adds “He shall stand at the last on the earth.” It’s clear that this redeemer is not a mortal man. Job equates him with God in v. 26. So Job imagines that someday God will take his stand on the earth.
And then Job adds in v. 26, that he believes someday God will resurrect Job from the dead, and he will join his redeemer in this stand. And when he does, he “shall see God.” Then he builds on this expectation in v. 27. This verse is filled with joyful expectation. The last line literally says that the hope of this meeting is so powerful that it causes Job to faint.
Again, we have to read this in light of Job’s situation. He knows that he is being wrongly accused of evil. He’s broken down and facing death in the mirror. But he trusts the justice and goodness of God. Therefore, he believes that God will raise him from the dead, that God himself will declare Job not guilty, and that Job will be welcomed into the presence of God. It’s an amazing testimony considering how little revelation Job had.
Of course, with the NT at our disposal, we can fill in so many gaps. We know that we need a Redeemer, because our sin leaves us hopelessly condemned. And Jesus is our Redeemer. He paid our sin debt on the cross, and he rose again. Someday, he will “take his stand” on the earth, and those of us who are in Christ, will stand alongside him. We will behold the glory of God without any shame, because Christ has justified us and removed all our sin. It will be a glorious day, and it will continue for all eternity. We have a glorious hope!
I want to ask, “Do you know that you are ready to stand unashamedly before God.” Understand that we all need a Redeemer. Our hearts are sinful and as broken as Job’s body was. We have no hope in ourselves of standing before God. But Christ can be your Redeemer, if you put your trust in what he did on the cross. If you do, you can know that you will stand with God for all eternity. Don’t leave today without getting that settled.
And if you are a Christian, give thanks that you will never face the wrath you deserve, instead, you can look forward to glory, because Christ is your Redeemer. Then discipline yourself to look past all that is broken about this world and all that is broken about you. And see with eyes of faith the glorious day when you will stand boldly in God’s presence and be justified before him.
So, Job’s 2nd speech ends on quite the high note. He lifts his eyes toward God and hopes in his character and promise. But he’s still a broken sinner facing awful circumstances. Therefore, he sinks back down into frustration and despair in Job’s Third Reply (Job 21). In this chapter, he zeroes in on the prosperity of the wicked (vv. 7–16). On one hand Job believes that God will do what is just, but on the other, he is struggling with the seeming injustices he sees all around him.
The fact is that no matter how strong your faith may be, we all will endure the same struggle as long as we live in this world. We watch the evil prosper, and the righteous suffer. Often, we suffer ourselves for seemingly no reason. It hurts, and we don’t understand why. When we face that struggle we have 2 options. We can lean on the foolishness of our own understanding as Job’s friends did, and we can know that we will only come up with empty, meaningless lies. Or we can lean on the wisdom of God. We can work by the power of his grace to believe that God is good, and he will do what is just. We may never know why we suffer the way we do. But, “I know that my Redeemer…”