Bible reading for weekend February 19 -- 21
Feb 19 -- Job 19 and 1 Corinthians 6
Feb 20 -- Job 20 and 1 Corinthians 7
Feb 21 -- Job 21 and 1 Corinthians 8
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth." (Job 19:25)
EARTHLY HOPE DASHED (ch 19). Job continues his lament (19:1-12), and expresses how painful is the isolation that he experiences because of his suffering (19:13-19). Family and friends stand at a distance. Not only do they avoid him, but they too most likely doubt his integrity before God. Pain isolates us, and even today, chronic pain can cause others to view us as "problem people" to be avoided. Job feels that his earthly hope has been pulled up like an uprooted tree (v 10). Amazingly, however, he proclaims a hope beyond this world (vv 25-26). His hope is in the Lord, who is righteous, and it is the Lord himself who will redeem Job. He feels cursed, and others view him as cursed, but he is actually blessed by the Lord (James 5:11; cf Rom 8:31-39). He knows that once his life has passed he will yet see (implied: bodily) his living Redeemer standing upon the earth (lit., on the dust; perhaps standing by his grave). And God the Redeemer will receive Job and vindicate his righteousness. This is similar to King David's words: "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness." (Psalm 17:15) Faith is seeing the unseen (2 Cor 4:18; 5:7). It is reckoning the future to be what God says it will be (Heb 11:1, 13, 27). God is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, and he will have the final word.
ZOPHAR PART TWO (ch 20-21). It appears that Zophar is now drawing an inference from Job's loss of all things (family, possessions) as evidence of Job's neglect of the poor (ch 20). Again, this is another partial truth misapplied to Job's situation. In chapter 21 Job answers Zophar: such reasoning does not in fact accord with reality, since there are many wealthy, wicked people who have prospered all their lives and have died in ease. As well, care for the poor was a duty that Job was conscientious to pursue (Job 31:16-20). Perhaps, one reason that we have been given all these long monologues by Job's friends is so that we might realize how many possible ways there are to misconstrue situations, to misapply truth (or apply part-truths), to misuse language, and to mishandle people who need help. The point is, before we give advice, we should realize there are many ways we can get it wrong (James 3:1-2).
A SURE AND CERTAIN HOPE. Christopher Ash writes, "George Frederick Handel's librettist (Charles Jennens) was absolutely right when he set Job 19:25, 26 alongside the words 'Now is Christ risen from the dead...' in that great aria in The Messiah. It is precisely the bodily resurrection of Christ that gives us the assurance that Job's confidence was not wishful make-believe but sure and certain hope. The Father stood upon Christ's tomb and acted as his Redeemer, to vindicate him by resurrection. This same God will stand upon the grave of every man or woman in Christ, to act as our Redeemer. And on the last day we will stand justified and vindicated before him by grace." (Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, p. 217)
"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11)
IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY. These chapters in 1 Corinthians reveal to us an underlying problem those believers were having. It was more than unrelated issues of lawsuits, sexual immorality, marriage, divorce, and foods sacrificed to idols. Many wanted to exercise their individual freedom at the expense of the wider Christian community. First, Paul sets them straight on their identity as redeemed (washed, sanctified, justified) children of God (6:10-11), indwelt by the Holy Spirit (6:19-20). And then, they were to glorify God by serving the body of Christ, rather than their own interests. He gives the admonition, "But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak" (8:9). He goes on, "Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ" (8:12). For the Christian our individual freedoms, given to us from the Lord, are to be exercised to the glory of God and for the benefit of our family in Christ. Paul says much more in these chapters but this is one major lesson. There is a solidarity between the individual Christian and his Lord, and there's also a corporate solidarity that we should recognize between other Christians and the Lord, as well: "...the brother for whom Christ died" (8:11). Paul's desire is, "I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (7:35).
EXPRESSIVE INDIVIDUALISM. For many in Paul's day and in our own, sexual fulfillment is viewed as a core value and basic right. Historian Carl Trueman chronicles the rise of expressive individualism in western culture, especially as it relates to one's sexuality and gender identity: "[Traditional culture] normally directs the self outward to communal purposes in which it can find satisfaction but that this direction has clearly been reversed in the era of psychological man. Satisfaction and meaning—authenticity—are now found by an inward turn, and the culture is reconfigured to this end. Indeed, it must now serve the purpose of meeting my psychological needs; I must not tailor my psychological needs to the nature of society, for that would create anxiety and make me inauthentic." (The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, p. 54) In other words, we do not find our identity in God (we want to construct our own), nor do we turn outward to serve the best interests of society, but we expect others (church, community, society) to affirm whatever it is we think we are and desire to be. This certainly gets things backward! As followers of Christ we should affirm the value of the individual in God's sight, as well as the value of the community, all to the glory of God.
Image credit: icycles on our Dogwood tree after recent ice storm. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.