I know that my Redeemer liveth
What phrases do you use in consolation? Imagine that you have some bad news to tell:
“My credit cards have been stolen, they’ve cleared out my bank account…”
How do you finish that sentence?
…still, worse things happen at sea
… serves me right for being so careless
… I suppose I’m just cursed
… oh well, mustn’t grumble
… I guess I should count my blessings
… but people in Africa are starving
… at least I have my health
… such is life
Whatever we tack onto the end of our stories of suffering gives a little window onto our theology of suffering. Yet none of the lines above are a Christian response to suffering.
Recently, though, I heard a wonderful line. It came from a woman suffering from terminal cancer. How would you finish a sentence that begins “I have 6 months to live”? She said, “…Still, nothing a resurrection won’t fix.” Now that’s Christian consolation.
And it’s the very heart of the book of Job. In amongst all the suffering there is resurrection hope:
“I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)
Let me highlight four words from this.
Who does Job look forward to seeing? Not just his Saviour – someone who would rescue him out of suffering. Job looks forward to seeing His Redeemer. That’s different. A Redeemer won’t just pull me out of the pit. A Redeemer will join me in it and transform the pit to paradise. That’s very different.
Jesus is not a Replacer, snatching away the old and giving us something entirely different. He’s a Redeemer who comes into our suffering and transforms it.
Think of Doubting Thomas. When Thomas finally confesses Jesus to be “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28), what was he looking at? He was looking at scars! Jesus had bared His wounds to Thomas and told him to “behold” his hands and side. And beholding the wounds of Jesus, Thomas sees the glory of his Lord and God.
Here’s the point: Jesus did not cast off his wounds in the resurrection. His wounds were redeemed in the resurrection. They were transformed into badges of divine glory. And what Jesus did with His wounds, He will do with all our wounds. Through His resurrection He will not sweep aside our frailties and failures – He will transform them.
Often when we suffer we simply want rid of the situation. But Jesus wants to do something better. He doesn’t waste our suffering. He never considers it a dead loss. Somehow he will redeem the situation. Somehow He will redeem every situation. The scars we bear will become scar stories and testimonies to His grace. If Jesus can redeem the suffering of the cross then He can and He will redeem any suffering – yours included.
The second word to highlight is earth.
Job is not looking forward to escaping this nasty planet and wafting around in some spiritual dimension. Only the very pious can derive comfort from the prospect of clouds and harps and eternal prayer meetings. But Job knows that God’s future is here on planet earth. Earth is not going onto the trash heap. No, Christ is going to redeem this suffering world and raise it to new life.
So on Easter Sunday, after Jesus rose from the dead, what did He do to give us a picture of resurrection life? He went for country walks, spent time with His fishing buddies, He cooked breakfast on the beach and He ate many meals. Resurrection life will be very earthy life. Because the future is here on a redeemed planet earth. Our hope is earthed which makes it a hope that can sustain sufferers.
The third word to emphasize is flesh. Job’s skin will be destroyed, but in his flesh he will see God. There would be a bodily perishing, but a no-less bodily resurrection also. And he testifies that his own eyes will see God. That’s a stunning thought. The eyes with which you read this sentence – they are the eyes which will see Jesus. It is these hands which will cling to Him. These vocal cords will sing in His presence. They will first perish, yes. But after passing through death, they will be redeemed, resurrected. In this flesh I will see God.
Which means Job won’t just know his children in some kind of afterlife – he will hold them. He will walk with them. He will eat with them. We have a physical future to look forward to. What a precious truth that is, especially for those incapacitated by their sufferings. As Isaiah prophesied:
The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. (Isaiah 35:5-7)
Finally, let’s think about the word see.
As wonderful as our physical future will be, the centre of our hope is this: we shall see God.
Job has endured terrible suffering and he’s never known why. The reader knows – we see into heaven – Job does not. But one day Job will see God – face to face. He will know God even as He is known (1 Corinthians 13:12). All God’s ways will be transparent to Job. And they will be transparent to us also. Then we will happily look on Beauty Himself.
Whatever you’re going through today, allow these words from Handel’s Messiah to shape your hope for the future…
I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
And that He shall stand
At the latter day
Upon the earth
And though worms destroy this body
Yet in my flesh shall I see God
For now is Christ risen
From the dead
The first fruits of them that sleep
I know that my Redeemer lives
I know that Christ is risen
Yes, I know my Redeemer lives
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