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Born To Trouble, Take Four: A Gospel Trailer

Web posted on July 28, 2014

Sunday Peace

By Rev Robert Lyon

( For a short version of the book of Job, click on JOB at graphikos@graphikos.ca )

In the movie industry, a trailer is a short film that advertises a movie that you probably haven't seen yet. I've never figured out why they're called trailers, because when you hook up a trailer to a truck, the trailer follows the truck. But movie trailers don't follow the movie; they come before it. Another peculiar thing about movie trailers is that they entice you to see the movie by portraying something that gives you the "flavor" of the movie, yet the scenes in the trailer may not actually be in the movie itself. In both these senses, the book of Job is a trailer for the gospel, and when we attend the main feature we discover that the trailer points to Jesus.

Now, the idea that the book of Job, or any other part of the Old Testament, might actually point to Jesus, is certainly contentious. The Old Testament was written by Jews for Jews, and made perfectly good sense at the times in which it was written. But the idea that the Old Testament speaks about Jesus is as old as the first Christians, who held that view because that's what Jesus taught them. He said to some of his contemporaries, "You search the Scriptures [by which he meant the Tanakh, the Old Testament] because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39). He said it again on the road to Emmaus after the Resurrection: "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44).

How is it that a writer five hundred or a thousand years before Jesus could write a trailer about him? The men who wrote the Bible were not clairvoyants hooked up to some heavenly Dictaphone machine. They were spiritual men who were very much in tune with the mind of God for their own times. But because human nature is a constant, and because God is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), the insights and aspirations of those godly men would, in God's providence, also prove true in ways they could never have imagined.

We saw last week that Job expects an afterlife where God's purpose is fulfilled in forgiveness and renewal. It makes no sense to Job that the Creator's purpose should go unfulfilled. "Oh, that you would hide me in Sheol (the grave), that you would conceal me until your wrath be past. All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands. For then you would seal up my transgressions in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity" (14:13-17). For a man who complains that he can't find God, Job's image of God longing for the work of his hands, even taking out our garbage, shows a vibrant hope and remarkable intimacy.

But Job despairs of ever engaging this God because "He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, or that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both" (9:32,33). Job recognizes that, in order for him to deal with God meaningfully, God would have to be "a man, as I am" so that they could "come to trial together." I doubt that the author of Job ever expected such a thing to actually happen, but if we are indeed made in the image of God, why then should our best insights and aspirations not reflect the mind of God, even if only imperfectly?

Job was struggling with the need to know his Creator, but "your Father knows what you need even before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8). And the Father who longs for the work of his hands answered that need when Jesus announced that "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He answered it again one stormy Friday on a hill outside Jerusalem, when God and man did indeed come to trial. Together. And as the God-man, both were vindicated. Together.

Elihu, for all that he's a know-it-all, sees correctly that Job's need (and ours) is to find "an `angel', a mediator, [who] is merciful to him, and says `Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor'; then man prays to God and [God] accepts him" (33:23-26). A mediator who has found a ransom. An angel who will restore us to our prime. Anticipating both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, both atonement and resurrection, Elihu speaks truer than he knows. And if our best insights and aspirations do indeed reflect the mind of God, then Job is right to affirm: "Behold, even now my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high" (16:19).

While Job is confident that he has a witness in heaven and a mediator on high, Job himself becomes the mediator for his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. God says to them, "Take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, and I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has" (42:8). Job can offer the required prayer over their sacrifice because, despite his suffering, he is still "blameless and upright" (1:1).

Now fast-forward to Jesus at the start of his ministry. After his baptism he spends 40 days alone in the desert, wrestling with Scriptures that he knows by heart, making a monumental effort to clarify his own identity and his mission. Jesus watched the trailer, and he saw himself in every scene. He comes to the book of Job, where God longs lovingly after the works of his hands, where God and man need an arbiter between them, where a blameless and upright man suffers extraordinary loss, and has stupid friends whose sacrifice is useless without his intercession.

Jesus sees a pattern here, a pattern that he was sent to fulfill. He too will suffer extraordinary loss. As the righteous one, he too must make intercession for the transgressors. And in his agony, he too "will wait until my renewal shall come." So Jesus tells his audience, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. And it is they that testify of me."

The author of the book of Job is not without a sense of humor. He has Job saying, "Oh, that my words were recorded,that they were written on a scroll.or engraved in rock forever," while the author, of course, is doing just that (19:23,24). But it is a serious humor, for Job tells us what the message is that he thinks deserves to be carved in stone: "I know that my goel lives. In the end he will stand upon the earth. In my flesh I will see God. I will see him for myself, with my own eyes!" (19:25-27). Is it any wonder that he concludes, "How my heart yearns within me!" (19:25).

This is one of the most glorious passages in the Old Testament. For Handel it was the source of his soprano air "I know that my redeemer liveth." Picture Jesus meditating on this passage out there in the wilderness West of the Dead Sea. Like Job, he knows that he can trust God as the kinsman-redeemer who will rescue him from the worst that will befall him. But also like Job, he knows that he must become the kinsman-redeemer for those who, like Job's friends, and like us, have not spoken of God what is right. It's an overwhelming responsibility, even for the God-man. Just before his arrest, he sweat great drops of blood anticipating the horror of what would follow (Luke 22:39-46). But in Job's restoration he recognized the promise of his own. And in his own, ours.

Like Job we shall suffer loss. Our homes and our wealth. Our spouses, our health. Friends, children. Maybe our minds. And eventually, our lives. But Jesus saw and understood the trailer. And we have seen the main feature. We know how it ends. So we can bear and even embrace those losses, knowing that loss need not be forever. Knowing that renunciation is not the path to peace, because our best desires and aspirations are resolved in Jesus. Knowing that for those who believe in Jesus, "We are even now the children of God, though what we shall be has not yet been revealed. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

Robert welcomes your questions and comments at nm@bbs42.net


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