By Betty Dunn, Crosswalk.com
Many who haven’t read the verse “my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25) will know it from the 1933 hymn “He Lives” by Alfred H. Ackley. This verse is uplifting, but it doesn’t come from what we would consider an uplifting situation.
What Led Job to Say These Words?
While Job was prosperous, the first two chapters of the Book of Job describe how he and his wife become miserable as trials accumulate. Accidents, storms, and illness destroy most of their comfortable family life. At the beginning of his trials, Job says to his wife, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Job and his wife imagine their problems are sponsored by God or happen because God has neglected them. At the end of her rope, his wife tells him to “curse God and die,” strong words from a believing wife of many years. Job replies, “Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:9-10).
Job does not denounce God when his life becomes bleak, as the Devil hoped Job would do (Job 1:9). Instead, when Job’s patience for a better life runs thin, he diligently seeks God (13:3). After a time, God answers Job’s request to explain the bad things happening in Job’s life.
What Did Job’s Three Friends Say When He Was Hurting?
Before God responds to Job, three counselor friends sit with Job in concerned silence for seven days. Then Job begins a lengthy conversation. Each friend lectures Job on what has gone wrong in Job’s life and why. Their talks are meant to explain to Job why he has fallen into ruin.
First, Zophar the Naamathite intimates that Job is not as righteous as he imagines himself to be:
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
and I am pure in your sight.’
Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open His lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom.” (Job 11:4-6)
Zophar suggests that Job has secret sins that God knows, as He knows the corrupt nature of all humanity (Job 11:11). Zophar states that Job would be right with God, all of Job’s earthly trials would end (Job 11:15).
Eliphaz the Temanite also believes Job has secret sins. In Job 15:7, Eliphaz asks rhetorically, “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” This “wisdom” of Eliphaz contains the idea that God always uses suffering to punish evil behavior. Therefore, Job must have been evil when he was successful, and God ended Job’s success. Eliphaz also believes that all mortals are vile and corrupt in God’s sight (Job 15:16).
Bildad the Shuhite agrees with these two counselors. Bildad avows that God punishes evil (Job 18:5-6), that sinners are doomed. Anger (Job 18:4), and as the NIV Bible puts it, “schemes” (Job 18:7), must be in Job’s life. With piety, Bildad claims, “Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man” (Job 18:21).
How Does Job Answer His Three Friends?
Job asks them, “How long will you crush me with words?” (Job 19:1). He has heard enough of their tirades on human weakness. Job is wise in thinking the counselors have a false understanding of God’s relationship with us. He does not understand why God allowed or caused Job’s troubles. Job insists before the counselors and God that he is a good man, wrongly punished (Job 12:4).
Job thought himself a good man because he lived righteously and honored God with thankful offerings, even offering up sacrifices for his rowdy children and their families, in case they forgot to give thanks. For a time, Job’s goodness was rewarded with rich material blessings – many livestock, a good home, and family. Then his life situation headed south. What happened to cause this? Job wonders. Adding insult to injury, Job also feels that God has neglected him and hasn’t listened to his requests for help (Job 19).
After these counselor friends begin their misguided lectures on everything wrong with people—and by implication, what’s wrong with Job —Job pleads with God to hear him in a one-on-one conversation (Job 13:3-5).
How Does God Answer Job?
God replies with an ode to his majestic creation. The Lord says snow, rain, and clouds are orchestrated by Him, as are all of the natural worlds. My favorite piece of this section is when people –and their problems—are compared to Behemoth, a huge, hooved beast. God’s mighty sword can cut it down; He reminds us in Job 40:15-19.
Contrasted with wily Behemoth is a leviathan in the sea, beyond human control. The leviathan or sea monster is big and powerful—too complex for humans to capture. The leviathan is similar to, but still below God. This sea creature is much more powerful than people and their problems.
The Lord then makes an ultimate statement to put Job and his problems in their proper place: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth?” (Job 38:4).
How Does Job Respond to God’s Rebuke?
When Job and his wife realize how majestic God is, how far he reigns above even the most important human beings and their concerns, their concerns diminish in importance. After Job and his wife humble themselves, God restores their family and fortune (Job 42:7-17).
When does Job realize his Redeemer is indeed alive? It is long before God restores Job’s good life – before he regains his wealth, has more children, and becomes healthy. Amid the tornado of words from the three counselors and Job’s sorrowful speeches, Job states, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). Job has a glimmer of faith in the middle of life’s challenges:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes – I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
How Did Job’s Faith Help Him?
Job’s faith in God carried him through a difficult time. His increased faith was the greatest blessing he received from God: Job learned to see himself and his situation as God did. Job saw that God created a glorious, complicated, and sometimes chaotic world that people can flourish in with God’s help. Job repents, and his life changes: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5-6).
The same lesson is taught centuries later, when Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Where is the kingdom of God?” and Jesus replies, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus’ disciples were able to carry on His mission independently – after the massive loss of Jesus dying on a cross and the glory of His victory over death – because they were connected to the holy kingdom of God.
Our lives are long, and they are full of problems. They are also full of beauty and wonder. It’s always something. We must be thankful and praise God for whatever our current situation is. We must cling to our faith and act at our own risk and chance at glory amid the chaos. Gaining wisdom as we move through good times and bad is a gift from a very busy, gracious God. We can rest secure that our Redeemer lives, watches us, and loves us beyond measure.
A Prayer For Trusting God in Hard Times
Lord, help us feel Your presence right now. We know You are faithful and ask You for comfort through hard times. The kind of comfort only Your Holy Spirit can give. Let Your words through Joshua seal permanently on our hearts today. We know there is hope and healing when we choose to cling tightly to You.
Forgive us for being distracted by the things of this world. We can get pulled away from Your loving arms without even realizing it. When we’re in danger of turning away, help us turn to Your Word instead. It will be our constant and steadfast lamp to guide our path through hard times. We cling to You, Lord, today and every day.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Excerpted from "A Prayer for Holding on to God in Hard Times" By Kristine Brown)
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Marcos Calvo
Betty Dunn hopes her articles in Crosswalk.com help you hold hands with God, a theme in her self-published memoir Medusa. A former high school English teacher and editor, she works on writing projects from her home in West Michigan, where she enjoys woods, water, pets, and family. Check out her blog at Betty by Elizabeth Dunning and her website, www.elizabethdunning-wix.com.