Monday, February 18, 2008

because he lives

Somehow, things seem to keep coming back to Romans…

In our Bible study tonight, we began reading parts of Job. We’ve been discussing creation this semester, and the claim from Romans 1 that “what can be known about God is plain … his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” led into a proposal that we discuss the final chapters of Job, in which God speaks to Job in response to Job’s desire to face God with an accusation of injustice. If you haven’t read those chapters recently, I recommend them as an exceptionally rich depiction of God’s hand in creation and his continued work in the natural world. It is good fodder for discussion, too, as God’s rhetoric is tinged with sarcasm and indignation, while still revealing his great care for the world and the majesty of which he wants Job to be aware. Job has been asking for a chance to accuse God; God reveals that there are so many things in the world that Job can’t understand, he can’t begin to grasp the place and the justice of God.

After the study, I asked about another passage from Job, related more to the theme of justice than to creation. In one of his earlier discourses, Job complains that he has been abandoned (he has friends there with him, but at this point in the book he is finding less and less comfort in their words, which weren’t terribly comforting to begin with) by everyone in his family and household. Then he makes the declaration, using the words Handel chose to open the third part of the Messiah: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Who is he talking about? I asked. Who is it, when he has been abandoned by everyone who should defend him, that will come and save him, will stand with him before God? The standard Christological interpretation (the one used by Handel) is, of course, that the Redeemer is Jesus. But even if you don’t assume that from the outset, it’s hard to interpret the text as indicating anything other than that Job knows he needs God to intercede with God. He must be asserting someone supernatural, or at least not an ordinary human, will come and rescue Job from his suffering, and take him so that he can “see God.”

Which brings me back to Romans. Because, if the good man Job (and he was emphatically good, no question about it, not at a single point is it even hinted that he did anything wrong, except perhaps to question God’s wisdom and justice) was left by all he loved and cared about, what shall become of us, who are so much less good? Paul answers: “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This must be the Redeemer that Job looked forward to. The one who gave Job hope can give us hope, too, even when we feel worthless or abandoned.

Coda: if you’ve made it this far, then as a reward let me lead you to the MySpace page of a musical based on Job. You can hear selections from the musical on the site.

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