Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, July 26, 2020

Text: Job 19:23-27

Watch Service Video

23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Maybe you’ve thought about this question before, and maybe you haven’t. What would you like written on the headstone of your gravesite? Perhaps it’s an odd question to think about, because the odds are that even if you pay for it and pick it out ahead of time, you won’t ever see the completed product. We all know the date of our birth, but none of us knows the date of our death.  Time passes quickly, but it still doesn’t feel right that a whole lifetime can be summed up by a dash between those two dates. So sometimes people choose to include on their headstone a statement or phrase to honor the departed or for the departed to leave something behind for everyone else who will take the time to read it.

Perhaps something like these…

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear to dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, and cursed be he that moves my bones.” Seems fitting that a very Shakespearian thing would be written over the grave of William Shakespeare.

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” The perfect quote for the grave of Martin Luther King, Jr.

And for Mel Blanc, the man of 1000 voices, perhaps known best for his work voicing the characters of Looney Tunes, a fitting line at the top of his headstone simply reads, “That’s all, folks.”

Today we have the chance to consider the words of Job that display tremendous trust in the midst of tremendous suffering.  Everything in the book of Job has led up to this moment. Quick review: the opening verses of the book introduce us to a man who has it all—he’s a believer whom God has richly blessed with property, a big family, and a spirit of contentment that recognizes where all those blessings came from.  He has a great life and a great reputation. But then, the devil challenges God to a battle over Job’s soul, and for some reason that is never really explained, God allows Satan to chip away at Job’s life until there is nothing left. I suppose one could argue that implosion is a better picture of what happens than chipping away, because it all happens so quickly. In one day, Job’s wealth is gone—all of it—and his children are all wiped out in a sudden catastrophe. Just about the time an optimist might say, “At least I have my health,” Job’s body is afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, and if that isn’t enough, his wife and his friends turn against him. 

The majority of the book of Job, then, shows an exercise in futility as these individuals take turns offering suggestions for why this is all happening, trying to explain why Job is suffering this way. And it can be a frustrating book to read, because we keep waiting for the real answer, and it’s never given. But again, in the midst of that tremendous suffering, Job has a flash of brilliance, as he pauses in his questioning and states what he knows for sure. 

23   “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!

At this point, Job is calling attention to what is about to come next. We might paraphrase his words with something like this: “What I’m about to say is a big deal. Get ready to write this down, because I might not be alive much longer. In fact, I’m ready to die, and whenever that time comes, this is what I want on my tombstone.”  Then come the words of tremendous trust.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon 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 sums up his confidence that even with all the loss he has suffered—or perhaps because of all the loss he has suffered—he looks forward with hope, and a measure of peace, and full assurance that his best days are not behind him. No, not even death and decay can stand in the way of a glorious future in the presence of a glorious God.

And it’s all because Job knows that his Redeemer lives. Who or what is a redeemer? A redeemer is anyone who pays a price to deliver you from a bad situation. Library privileges revoked because of overdue books? A redeemer steps in to pay your fine and clear the balance. Held hostage by a group of kidnappers? A redeemer drops off a bag of money to pay the ransom. Enslaved and kept as property like an animal? A redeemer buys you from your master and sets you free. About to spend a night in jail? A redeemer posts bail for you and walks you out of your holding cell. In every situation, there is a cost to freedom, and the redeemer gladly pays it so you can be free.

Now, we wouldn’t expect Job to have all the details because he lived so many years before the plan came to its fulfillment, but he clearly knew the basics of God’s plan well enough to put all his eggs in one basket, to say that his confidence came not from his earthly blessings or his faithful obedience or anything about himself or his own life. No, his assurance was found in the life of his redeemer. So it is with us. With all the uncertainty that surrounds us in our lifetimes, of one thing we are certain. We even have a name, and a time, and an event to fill out the details of our assurance. Each one of us knows that our redeemer lives, as we confess every time we use these words. “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord….who was crucified, died, and was buried…The third day he rose again from the dead.

There would be no suffering without sin. However, we all know the reality of suffering because we know sin so well. Each of us was born in slavery to sin, guilty from birth and held hostage in a sin-corrupted world. The plans and hopes of every day and every life are clouded and often derailed by the effects of sin. The debt of our disobedience would continue into eternity if it hadn’t been for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who took on flesh and blood in order to deliver us. At the cross he offered his perfect life as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin-stained souls, to be punished in our place for every offense.

But our Redeemer didn’t stop there; he couldn’t stop there, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile [useless, in other words]; you are still in your sins… But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:17,20). I like to think of it this way: if Good Friday was the payment for our redemption, Easter is the receipt. Easter is the assurance that God accepted the life and death of his son as the full price of our forgiveness. Easter means that no matter how much we suffer in this life, it can’t measure up to the bliss that awaits us. Easter means that no matter how the devil assaults and accuses and attacks us during our lifetime, the serpent’s head has been crushed because the whole reason God’s Son appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. Easter assures us that There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)

And once again, as Job reminds us, Easter means that suffering and death and decay and a long, long time can’t stand in the way of our joyful eternity in God’s presence. These same eyes that will one day close in the sleep of death will open again. These same mouths that confess his name (until we can’t anymore) will praise him into eternity in humble thanksgiving for the redemption that is already ours.  These same legs that get tired and sore and weak with age will stand firmly on the promises of God fulfilled.

We’ll stand with Job. We’ll stand with one another. We’ll stand with all of our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in the faith who have gone before us, and all who come after us. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we will, too. Let this be our greatest comfort as we suffer now and await the unfolding of God’s plan in our lives. More and more, may our hearts yearn within us as we await that blessed day with full confidence, because we know that our Redeemer lives, now and forever. AMEN.