Old and full of days

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Everyone remembers the sufferings of Job.  Few people remember how it ends:

“10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job… the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before… 12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning… 16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. 17 So Job died, being old and full of days.”  (Job 42:10-17)

Job is the story of man.  And the story of man has a happy ending!  To be more precise, it has a happy beginning, a terrible middle and a glorious ending.

This ending seems to come from nowhere.  Nothing in Job’s circumstances suggests or precipitates this turn-around.  It’s simply that the LORD shows up ushering in a dramatic “happily ever after.”

First there is a righting of wrongs, then there is a restoration.

The righting of wrongs comes as the LORD confronts Job’s miserable comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar:

the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. 8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.  (Job 42:7-8)

These fools who have tormented Job will be forgiven by the LORD.  How?  Through sacrifice and through the intercession of righteous Job.  As Job prays for his friends He will play the part of our Friend in heaven, the One who:

pleads for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour! (Job 16:21)

As he does this for his friends, Job is called the LORD’s “servant” four times.  He is playing the part of Christ who intercedes for fools like us and brings us acceptance with the Father.

And now with the righting of old wrongs completed, the LORD turns to restoration.

Job has more sons and daughters – beautiful children, whose children and grandchildren he lives to see.  He has all his wealth restored also – twice over.  In the beginning Job had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels and 500 she asses (Job 1:3).  At the end he has 14000 sheep, 6000 camels and 1000 she-asses (Job 42:12).  And he lives for 140 years – twice a normal life-span.  It’s not actually “paradise regained.”  Through suffering, Job is brought out to an even greater glory.  This is the story of man also.  We won’t simply return to the garden – we will be brought, through suffering, to a city.  We won’t simply be “men of dust” but will partake of Christ’s resurrection humanity.  The end will be far greater than the beginning.

It’s interesting… Job never gets an explanation for his suffering.  He’s never told that suffering X was caused by Y and intended to achieve Z.  Instead he’s given something so much better.  He’s given an experience of the LORD, a promised righting of wrongs and a miraculous restoration.

We, like Job, are headed towards prosperity, feasting, comfort and consolation.  We are headed towards riches and blessing and fruitfulness and beauty and fullness of life.  This happy ending is not a fairytale.  It is a certain future hope guaranteed by the resurrection.  Our Redeemer liveth.  He redeemed even His own death.  At that first Easter, even Deicide is redeemed.  What will He not redeem?!

Our bodies, our wounds, our circumstances, our sufferings, even the whole universe – nothing is beyond His resurrection power.  Which means that there is no senseless suffering.  Whatever we face – whatever wounds we are enduring – Christ will redeem them.

On Good Friday people would have watched the Messiah murdered, they may have gone home that night and thought, “There’s no way any good could come from that!”  As a matter of fact the greatest good imaginable came from that.  And Easter is not just an example of redemption but the engine of redemption.  It’s the pattern, the prototype, the power of redemption.  There’s nothing the resurrection won’t fix.  And not just fix.  Like Job we will receive a double portion.

At the end of the second Lord of the Rings film, the Two Towers, Samwise Gangee proves to be a good comforter of his friend Frodo.  When Frodo is tempted to buckle under the suffering of this world, Sam says this:

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

This Easter, remember that the Sun has shone.  And this shadow is only a passing thing.

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