Easter 2024

Easter
April 9, 2024
Mark 16:1-8

Easter Sunday
March 31, 2024 A+D
Job 19:23-27

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Job’s bold confession, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” is one of the most important passages in all of Holy Scripture. His example of where to find comfort in the midst of scoffers is maybe more necessary in our age than it has ever been before.This great confession, “I know that my Redeemer lives” should be on our lips every day.

The book of Job begins with God holding court. He praises Job as righteous. Satan, the accuser, challenges God. He claims that Job does not love Him but only acts like he is righteous in order to manipulate God to get what he wants. Satan says that if God were to let Job suffer and not reward him, then his true character would emerge and it would show how shallow and self-serving Job really is. God accepts the challenge. He hands all that Job has over to Satan and Job’s famous misery begins.

On the surface the question is about justice and suffering. Job is innocent, but he suffers horrific loss. His friends believe that God’s justice means that anyone suffering deserves it. They accuse Job of being wicked because they believe that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. This is the modern idea of reincarnation or karma. According to such teaching you shouldn’t feel sorry for those who suffer because they deserve it and God is getting even with them for what they did in a past life. According to them, you shouldn’t feel sorry for the baby born disfigured and in pain because her mother is drug addict who poisoned her in the womb. That baby deserves it. Can you see what a horrific, satanic doctrine this is? It is judgemental in the worst sense of the term and it poses as wisdom and charity, while claiming that Christianity and its offer of free forgiveness is bigoted and oppressive.

Job hates it. So should we all. Job chafes under their accusations. They are unfair and unreasonable. At times, under this pressure and in his weakness, Job gives in to despair. He is suffering terribly. He finds no comfort from his friends and his theology isn’t holding up. He even curses the day he was born, claiming that God had punished him without cause, and despising God’s most precious gift, life itself.

But while he waffles, sometimes even blasphemes, Job doesn’t lose faith. In the middle of it all, he claims not innocence but hope for and an eager expectation of a Redeemer. He says:

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25–27 , NKJV)

He is a man of two minds: part of him is angry at the wickedness in this world and is exhausted with pain and sorrow and disappointment at the seeming arbitrary reality of evil. Yet the other part still holds on to the hope that God is good and all powerful and wise. That part, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, knows what is real and eternal. There is a Redeemer, God in the Flesh, the living God as a living Man.

Then a a new friend arrives. He is the a young man Elihu. He is angry with Job because Job justified himself rather than God. He is also angry with Job’s friends because they had condemned Job. Their theology doesn’t simply fail, it is dead wrong. It is not man’s place to condemn men. They should have seen in Job’s sorrows and opportunity for service not a time to feel superior. Elihu explains that God can use suffering to expose pride and take away idols. It is not just punishment. It can be a chastisement, a rebuke and warning, a setting of boundaries to keep His servants safe. God is love and moves purposefully. We cannot see the big picture or comprehend the complexity of the world. The call to faith is not to know all the answers but to believe and trust in God’s goodness. Job is innocent in an outward way. But his heart is not free from sin. He was wrong to claim that he had no iniquity and wrong to speak evil of God.

Finally, God visits Job in the midst of a storm. He mocks Job’s proud assumptions about his capacity to understand the world and justice and calls him to repentance. It is a harsh scene. But what does Job do? He prays:

2 “I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. . .
6 Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2–3, 6, NKJV)

Job repents. And the Lord relents. He restores to Job twice that which he lost: twice the livestock and twice the children. That last part is a bit hard to see at first. With the cows it is as easy as counting heads. He started with 500. They all died. Then he gets a 1000 as replacements, exactly double. With children the math works differently. He started with seven sons and three daughters. They all died. Then he gets not fourteen new sons and six new daughters, but only another seven and three. But that is double. They are not replacements they are additions. The children of Job were raised in the faith. They went to heaven early for their sake and his. Job will see them again. In heaven he will have double the children he had on earth.

So what do we learn? We learn what Job learned: this world is not our home. It is temporary and fickle. Thus saith the Lord: “You shall have no other gods.” We can love our stuff and our lives too much. We can love peace and getting along with our neighbors too much. We can even love our children too much. The hope we have is not in ourselves or our country or our savings account. It is in Our Redeemer who died but who lives. Job learned patience and faith the only way it is ever learned: by the Word of God and suffering. Strength comes by resistance. It is a shocking history, but the Redeemer was with Job every step of the way. He did what He did for Job’s sake and for ours.

We can, and I think we should, see the Book of Job as a trickster tale where God is the trickster and Satan is the fool. Satan sought to destroy Job out of jealousy. His analysis of Job’s weakness wasn’t completely wrong. Job did suffer from pride and that did come from an easy life. But Satan didn’t understand God’s love or perseverance or His commitment to His children. He spoke in court as though God was ignorant of Job’s heart and his weaknesses. Satan reveled in inflicting suffering, but God tricked him into doing unto Job precisely what Job most needed. The suffering didn’t destroy Job’s faith, it distilled and strengthened it. It taught him where to look for comfort. When Job’s idols were removed, even his children, and even before his faith had come to its fullness, he was able to confess a hope that goes beyond the grave: ”I know that My Redeemer lives! I will be redeemed. I will be made alive again because I have a God who lives. He will become a Man like me, my own family, in order to die as ransom price for me and He will live again. I will see Him with my own eyes.”

The outcome was never in doubt. God held Job in His hands the whole time. Satan was duped. He served God’s own purpose and end. It wasn’t to provide wisdom about justice. It was the strengthening of Job’s faith and safeguarding Job from Hell while simultaneously bestowing upon us a great and necessary lesson about faith and God’s providential mercy.

And, of course, this wasn’t the last time that Satan fell for such a trick. Satan entered into Judas and set the Passion in motion. Satan, our accuser, was Christ’s accuser. He was with the priests, the crowds, and Pilate. He was an old friend of Herod and has always loved misusing soldiers for the sake of atrocities. He gets a chance to kill God and he can’t resist. He meant it for evil, but God used it for the highest good. This is the redemption that Job waited for, the only Redeemer who could redeem Him when all else was stripped away. Jesus died on purpose, laid down His own life and then took up again. He lives. And if He lives then Job will stand upon the earth, forgiven, restored, alive. And if Job then also us and our loved ones who have gone before us in the sign of Faith. This is the wisdom that confounds Satan and steals us back from Hell, that fills our hearts with joy and makes the angels sing. It is our rally cry, the beating heart of all our hope, Job’s creed and our confession: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” May it ever be in our hearts and upon our lips.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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