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From Job to Jesus - Job 30:9-23

This is a sermon by Melvin Tinker from the morning service on 25th March 2018.

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There are so many moving moments in the Book of Job. One of the most poignant is found in chapter 9. Job protests his innocence, desperate to put his case before his Maker and yet he realises the futility of such a desire, for God is not mortal who can be confronted face to face as in a human court. What is more, even if such an encounter were to be made possible, Job is only too aware that he needs some kind of mediator to allow such a meeting to take place, “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there was someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (9:32-35) The ideal mediator of course, would be one who would not only represent Job fully, capable of empathy, having ‘walked in his shoes’, but one who would be able to bring God ‘up close and personal’ which would not lead to a mere mortal’s destruction in the face of white hot holiness.

 

The New Testament’s claim is that such a mediator exists and his name is Jesus, as the apostle Paul puts it, ‘For there is one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.’ (1Timothy 2:5).

 

It is the truth of the incarnation of the Son of God which enables us to ‘know why we can trust the God who knows why’ and answer the questions, ‘How are we to think and speak of God when we suffer?’ What we are to do is to think and speak of God as the one who has suffered. One writer puts it like this, ‘….the ways in which the book of Job portrays and interprets suffering in God’s economy anticipate and pre-figure the Lord Jesus.’[1] 

 

This morning I want us to explore together something of that anticipation and pre-figuring of Christ, seeing how we can move from Job to Jesus.

 

A type of one to come

 

The centrality of the second person of the Trinity becoming a man for men and so answering the desire of Job has been forcefully put by Dorothy L. Sayers: ‘He [Jesus of Nazareth] …was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”—he was God……. what it means is this, …: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death —[God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair…. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death.’

 

She continues, ‘So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.’[2]

 

We have been following the trials of one who is both ‘victim and hero’; subject to ‘the worst horrors of pain and humiliation’, the man Job. What is more it is striking how at the beginning of the story and at the end, God repeatedly refers to Job as ‘my servant’. In Jesus, God’s Son and God’s servant what Job suffered is intensified and surpassed and in Christ we see that there is a purpose in pain.  

 

Jesus is the righteous sufferer par excellance- God’s servant tested to the limit, whose suffering was cast by onlookers within the framework of the retribution theory and who defeated the Behemoth (death) and the Leviathan (Satan) decisively at the cross and who eventually will restore all things to a state of everlasting peace only tasted by Job in his restoration in chapter 42. But rather than going directly from Job to Jesus in the Gospels I want us to take a more indirect route via the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53 where we are given three different perspectives of the Lord’s Servant pre-figured by Job.

 

A ‘friends’ perspective

 

First, there is the Lord’s servant as men see him, namely as a figure of pitiful contempt. At the beginning of his descent into the emotional abyss, isolated on the ash heap, Job’s friends barely recognised him in his anguish, ‘When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognise him’ (2:12). Isaiah saw a similar figure, ‘There were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, marred beyond human likeness.’(52:14). So physically grotesque is this man in his agony that people can’t even bare to look at him, they turn away their faces in shear disgust, 53:3b ‘Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.’ His face is so battered that he is hardly recognisable as human being at all, he looks more like a monster than a man. Even when this Servant first started out in life there was nothing particularly special about him-53:2b ‘He has no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’ Had you met him in the street you would have simply passed him by as being of no consequence. But not now, not as he hangs there on full public display, impaled on the gallows.

 

And so as with Job’s friends the question arises: ‘Why is this man suffering?’ Just as Job’s comforters reached for the retribution theory to explain Job’s torment, so do those who look upon this other Servant of the Lord, 53:4b –‘Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.’ ‘God would never treat a good man like this’, they reason, ‘he must have been especially morally vile for God to inflict such a punishment.’ Retribution you see.

 

But as with Job, the irony is that what they were witnessing was the suffering of an innocent man, v9 ‘He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.’ In other words, his sufferings are completely undeserved. Consequently not only is he a figure of contempt in the eyes of the world, he is also a figure of tragedy-53:7: ‘He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.’  Here is a gentle man being led like a sheep to the abattoir with no chance of escape, only to be abused and discarded- as was Job. He is the vulnerable prey of an unjust world which feeds on those poor gentle souls who will not stick up for themselves. But unlike Job he is a young man, according to v 8, still in the prime of his life with no children to bear his name into posterity (and, of course after the desolation of the storm, neither had Job). But more than all of these, he is an innocent man guilty of no crime of his own-v9 ‘He had done no violence and no deceit was found in his mouth’. Cast out and left to die on the local rubbish tip inhabited by vermin just as Job found himself cast out scratching at his sores on the local dung heap. As far as the world is concerned it is a senseless and pathetic waste of a life. This is how men see him, as men saw Job, a tragic figure, somehow deserving his fate encompassed by the laws of divine retribution- good men are rewarded and wicked men punished.

 

God’s assessment

 

We then move on to another anticipation of the Servant-King as displayed in the life of Job, the innocent suffering of God’s wrath to fulfil God’s purposes. This is the Servant as God sees him, 52:13f, ‘My servant (same phrase God uses of Job) will act wisely; he will be raised up and highly exalted…. Kings will shut their mouths because of him.’ Where the world sees ignominy and humiliation, God sees wisdom and achievement. God scans a spiritually barren world to find one man, like a small shoot pushing his way up through the unprofitable, hard earth of human depravity,–v 2, to do the work no one else could. Remember how the Satan had been roaming to and fro throughout the earth and it is to Job, God’s servant, he is directed as an example of a truly righteous man (1:7-8)?  Here we have God’s answer to the question, ‘Why? 53:10, ‘It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering he will see his offspring and prolong his days.’ The idea of God inflicting pain on the innocent is set out as something redemptive- pain with a purpose.

 

One of the deep cries of Job was for justice to be done and seen to be done. That is what the prophet perceives as happening in the events surrounding the Servant of the Lord, Jesus. He speaks of a ‘guilt offering.’ For centuries the Jews had been schooled by God that before sin could be forgiven a sacrifice had to be offered. The blood spread on the surface of the altar symbolised in the most vivid terms the appalling penalty that sin demands-death. In almost every case when the Bible uses the word ‘blood’ what is signified is not the life of the animal but its death and often a violent death at that. It is offered to expiate sin (covering it) and propitiate God (turning away his anger). This was something Job knew of hence the offering of sacrifices for his children and later for his friends (1:5; 42:8).

 

However, what we see here is something which goes way beyond anything any God-fearing Jew would dare to contemplate. This is not an animal butchered on an altar but a man hanging on a scaffold. That which was expressly forbidden by the Law of Moses is now being carried out by God himself, namely, a human sacrifice offered for sin.

 

A believer’s view

 

This leads to the third perspective, the Servant as believers see him. This corresponds to the readers of the Book of Job. The reader knows of Job’s innocence as declared by God. The reader is also aware of the heavenly court and Satan’s ‘wager’. The discredited retribution theory is also in mind. The onlooker knows that God is not acting capriciously but purposefully, deepening Job’s knowledge of himself and so transforming Job. Similarly at the heart of this piece of poetry we see that God’s purpose in the suffering of his Servant is to bring about true knowledge of God and a lasting transformation- not of the Servant, but those who would believe on the Servant and receive his kindness as the three counsellors received the kindness of Job, 53:4-6, ‘Surely he has took up our infirmities, he has carried our sorrows…. he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, by his wounds we have been healed. We all like sheep have gone astray each to his own way and the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all.’ That ‘we’ who are healed is the same ‘we’ that considered him stricken by God in v4. The prophet anticipates that at least some will come to understand the divine purpose of his death. ‘Who has believed our message?’ asks the prophet in v1 and ‘to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ the answer is that some will. ‘Oh yes.’ they will say, ‘we too at one time had nothing but contempt for this Jesus, as Job’s friends has contempt, but not now.’ It was not Job who had failed to speak the truth about God, but his friends such that they needed a mediator, the intercession of a righteous man. Similarly when someone realises they have not spoken the truth about God, in Jesus, the true mediator, forgiveness can be found and a deep transformation experienced.

 

But as well as transformation, there is also restoration, 53:10b-12 ‘He will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.’

 

Room for rewards

 

Job’s restoration following his suffering was, as we have seen, an act of grace, not compensation. On the other hand, whilst a believer can and, perhaps should, pursue what is good without ulterior motives of self-gain we should be careful not to push this point too far since there is an strand of biblical teaching which speaks of rewarding faithfulness as a means of encouraging perseverance.

 

One place where this clearly is the case is in the Letter to the Hebrews. The writer is seeking to encourage a group of believers to persevere in the faith amidst hardship, something they had known before (10:32-34) and refers to obtaining a reward as an incentive for remaining faithful in the recent round of persecution, ‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.’ (v 35). And Jesus is put forward as a model in this, ‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’(Heb. 12: 1-3)

 

This section from Isaiah may be part of the background for this teaching in Hebrews. The Servant will see his offspring (earlier in chapter 2 of Hebrews the presentation of ‘many sons to God’ is seen as some of the fruit of Jesus’ death,); could not this be part of the joy set before Jesus?

 

Whilst rewards are not to be a kind of bait to dangle before people to become believers in an evangelistic event, they surely do play their part when enduring suffering as believers, to know there is a good end in view.

 

Job’s ‘rewards’ of a restored family were ‘external’ to his suffering as it were, whereas the rewards of the Servant are internally related to his suffering in the sense that they are a consequence of them-the justification of many who are the offspring of his sacrificial death.

 

We saw last week that the restoration and the surpassing of Job’s fortunes, are an anticipation of the new heaven and earth as presented in the Book of Revelation where, ‘God’s dwelling will be with his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order has passed away.’ (Rev.21:3-4). The Behemoth of death will have been defeated by the Suffering Servant King, as anticipated in Job 40, swallowed up in his victory, ‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:56-57), thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:11-12. What is more, the Leviathan, the devil, who holds all men in fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15) will also be no more, ‘And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’ (Rev. 20:10).

 

Our suffering brother

 

Job has been described as ‘the world’s classic sufferer and the one in whom all sufferers know that they have at least one brother who understands their pain.’[3] In the light of the coming of Christ, prefigured by Job, we can go further and say in Jesus we have a God who understands our pain. If Job had sufficient warrants to trust the God of all wisdom and so think and speak of God properly, how much more so do we because of the full revelation of God in his the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

John Stott sums it up like this, ‘The reasonableness of trust lies in the known trustworthiness of its object. And no-one is more trustworthy than the God of the cross. The cross assures us that there is no miscarriage of justice or of defeat of love either now or the last day. ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:32). It is the self-giving of God in the gift of his Son which convinces us that he will withhold nothing from us that we need, and allow nothing to separate us from his love (vv. 35-39). So between the cross, where God’s love and justice began to be clearly revealed, and the day of judgement when they will be completely revealed it is reasonable to trust in him.’[4]

 

And so with even great confidence than Job we can say that because of Jesus: ‘I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’ (Job 19: 25-27)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Eric Ortlund, ‘Five Truths for Sufferers from the Book of Job’, Themelios, Vol 40, Issue 2, (2015), p.262

[2] Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos? and other essays (Methuen, 1954), p. 1-2

[3] Os Guinness, Unspeakable (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), p. 203

[4] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Inter Varsity Press, 1986), pp. 328-9

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