Jesus, Please Answer Job!Erwin W. Lutzer | March 5, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
Job, even in the midst of his agony, had the presence of mind to know that he couldn’t go directly to God—he knew that there needed to be a sinless mediator. More than people today, Job understood that there’s an infinite gap between God’s holiness and our sinful nature. A bridge was needed between the two.
So as we look at Job’s cries—for reconciliation, preservation, realization (to see God)—we also look at the One who can fulfill the answers to his questions. Though Job was written hundreds of years before Jesus walked on Earth, Job’s believing heart knew that a redeemer would come, and that the redeemer could be none other than God Himself.
God has planted within every single human heart the desire to live eternally and to find the answers to ultimate questions. You can’t get away from it. All of us would like to find out what the real key to life is all about, and some questions that we have in life are much more important than others as important as your personal reconciliation with God.
This the sixth in a series of messages on the book of Job, and we’re going to be looking at some of the longings of Job’s heart, as we look at the text of Scripture in just a moment. But before we turn to the book let us remind ourselves of something. We have a wonderful advantage that Job lacked. Job did not live, you see, after the time of Moses. He lived before the time of Moses, so he had no opportunity to pick up a copy of the Scriptures and to read about the great miracles that God did in the life of the nation Israel. He lived prior to the prophets who proclaimed the justice of God, but also the faithfulness of God. He did not have that revelation that he could draw on. Furthermore, needless to say, Job lived before the time of the New Testament. He was not around and he had not heard of the coming of Jesus Christ. That was anticipated, as we shall see in his book, but he had no sure knowledge of the coming redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t know that Romans 8:28 was in the Bible and that all things work together for good to them to love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. All of those things were hidden from him and yet we are astounded at times at the insight that he had as he, in this book, is groping for God to find an answer to his intense, prolonged and seemingly meaningless suffering.
And so with that background, I want you to take your Bibles, and let us look together at what Job contemplated and the needs that he had, and today we’re going to take the liberty of showing how Jesus Christ becomes the answer to his quest. Years ago Campbell Morgan wrote a little book entitled The Answers of Jesus to Job and there are many questions that Job asks that Jesus answers. Today we shall look at only three.
First of all, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Job 9:33. If you’ve been here before you know that Job is in a great dilemma. His friends are constantly dialoging with him. Generally their words are words of condemnation and judgment. They are not being very sympathetic in his plight. They basically are telling him, “Job, all that you would need to do to get your act together is to simply confess your sin and then God will bless you.” In other words, they are saying, “You are getting what you deserve.”
Job is looking into his life and he doesn’t agree with that at all. He has served God and loved God and though he’s not perfect he’s saying, “I am getting far worse than I could have ever deserved.” In the ninth chapter he begins with this word in verse 2. “Truly I know that it is so, but how can a man be in the right before God?” What he’s saying is, “I wish I could come into God’s presence,” as we learned last time. He said in that fantastic soliloquy in chapter 23, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” But we emphasized that no matter where Job turned God was not there. He said, “Behold, I go forward but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” Job is in a quandary. He is searching for God and God seems to be so far above him that he cannot find him.
Now, in this chapter he yearns for a resolution to the alienation that he feels from God and this is what he says, speaking of God, in Job 9:32. “He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” That word arbiter means mediator.
Now why is it that Job is crying for this? Why is he recognizing that he cannot go to God as it were directly without someone who can lay his hand upon God and man? Well, I want you to know that Job is becoming very much aware of the sin in his own heart. Notice we pick up the text in the very same chapter in verse 27. “If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer. I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.’”
Job is saying, “I’m becoming aware of sin in my heart and there’s nothing that I can do to get rid of it. Even if I wash myself the pollution simply will not go away. So I am unholy and God is holy, and God is mysterious, and God cannot be fathomed. He is beyond human understanding, but more than that, God is accountable to no one.”
By the way, is that ever frightening to you, the fact that God gives no account to anyone of his matters? If you are in an organizational structure you can always go to the boss of the person you are having trouble with and I suggest that you do that very gingerly and count the cost. But if you can somehow get to his boss, the person who is above him, maybe you can put pressure on the man who is so difficult to work with, and the boss can do something about it. But God has no boss. God is his own boss and there is none like him and he is beyond accountability, and so Job is saying, “Oh, that I wish I had somebody who could put his hand on God and put his hand on me, and bring us together so that we could have a meeting of the minds. Now Job doesn’t know this but thousands of years later Jesus is going to appear on the scene.
I want you to take your Bible (keep your finger in the book of Job) and turn to First Timothy 2:5. What a beautiful answer Christ provides for Job. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” One mediator atement!
The reason that Jesus is the one mediator is because he was both God and man. You see there are some cults that teach that Jesus Christ was a created being and that he wasn’t God, but if he wasn’t God and only a creature, he could not quite get to God either. Salvation is of the Lord because Jesus Christ was both God and man, and he is the umpire. He is the mediator, who can lay his hand upon us both, and he can reconcile us and he can bring us to God and make us acceptable to God. That word ransom that occurs there in First Timothy means the price that has been paid for a slave. We are slaves of sin. Jesus paid the ransom so that we might be reconciled to God, and today we can know that we have an umpire who can reconcile us to the Father.
So, first of all, Job says, “Oh that there were a mediator.” This is the cry of reconciliation. If only somebody could put in a good word for me and bring me to God. Christ, the one mediator, does just that.
Now there’s a second cry that Job gives us and this is in Job 14:14 and I hope that in your Bible reading you are reading the book of Job because we are able only to highlight a few significant texts. It’s a long book but it is filled with gems. You’ll notice that he is crying here for immortality. The entire fourteenth chapter is devoted to the topic of death. If you have been with us before you know that we have discussed Job’s deep depression and his suicide wish. You’ll notice he says in Job 14:5, “Since his days (these are the days of a man or a woman) are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass .” Job says that God has determined how long we’re going to live and we can’t go beyond that. I mean, after all, if the Almighty has determined it, who are we that we can overthrow his plans, or thwart his intentions?
If we read this passage we’d notice that Job is saying, “You know, when a tree is cut down there might be a part of a root in that ground that then springs up and the tree lives again, but what about a man?” We take a man and we put him into the ground. We bury him and that is all that there is and he never grows up again. He never comes back. Certainly in Job’s time nobody had come back. And then you’ll notice that he says in verse 14, and here’s the dilemma. You see, on the one hand Job had no evidence that if a man died he would live again, but at the same time there is eternity planted in the human heart that is part of being in the image of God. Job says in verse 14, “If a man dies, will he live again?” That’s his question. Perhaps that word again should not be in the text because you’ll notice that any word that is italicized in our Bible does not occur in the original Hebrew, or in the case of the New Testament, the original Greek. What he’s saying is, “If a man dies, will he live?” This is a question of continuity. Is there something on the other side of the grave or is this all that there is?”
Was Bertrand Russell (that great atheist) right when he said, “When we die suddenly all will be dark. It will be dark. We will be extinct, and there’s nothing that survives the moment.” Job is saying, “If a man dies will he live again?” And he begins to contemplate the question really of immortality.
You’ll notice that Jesus Christ is a perfect answer to Job. Of course as we come to the New Testament it is as if God just throws those shutters open and the light of revelation comes to us, and all of the truths that are found as seeds in the Old Testament suddenly break forth as planted trees in the New and Jesus standing at the tomb of Lazarus. You’ll recall that he said, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus standing there said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Immortality
Let me ask you something. Why is that important to Job? It’s because, you see, when you are going through suffering you begin to ask the question, “Is there going to be an opportunity for resolution? What if I died in this suffering? What if the cancer that my doctor told me about is permanently mine, and therefore my life is going to be very temporary? What if there’s an accident? What if my life remains unfinished and there’s unfinished business, and what about all the injustices that were due me, and what about all the fulfillment in my heart that has never been satisfied?
People today teach that everybody who has a fulfillment in his heart or a desire in his heart should find fulfillment. Well, I’ll tell you there are many people who don’t, and many people who can’t. They are in circumstances where they must live with the frustration of desires and aptitudes that are unsatisfied. The question is will there be an opportunity to resolve this at some later time? The answer of Christ, and of the New Testament is yes, because if a man dies, he shall continue to live. You see it’s that that began to give Job hope.
I remember reading a story of a swimmer “If only I had seen the shore, I think I could have made it the whole way.” And when we open the pages of the New Testament and we find out that Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, and the suffering of this present world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, suddenly we begin to realize that we can see the shore and so we can make it.
My dear friend, today, in your loneliness, in your heartache, in your depression, in your sense of worthlessness that may have been imposed upon you, for whatever reason, in all of the anxieties that are not working out, the promotion that you had in your hand but it slipped through your fingers, in the injustices that take place in the workplace where others are promoted above you because they perhaps are doing some things that aren’t right or they are friends with the boss, whatever it may be, I want you to rejoice today that the Bible teaches that we can see the shore. And because we can see the shore we can make it. Job’s first cry is a cry of reconciliation. “Oh, that I would have a mediator who could put his hand upon us both.
Job’s second cry is a cry for preservation. What he’s saying is, “Oh, I want to outlast this life so that I will have an opportunity to make up in the life to come, and to find the answers in the life to come that I’m not getting in this life.”
There’s a third cry and that is in Job 19:25. It is really a cry for God. It is a cry for realization. Reconciliation, preservation and now realization! Job says, “Oh, if only I were to see God someday,” and this is surely one of the most beautiful texts that we can find anywhere in the Old Testament, and it is buried in one of Job’s agonizing speeches. As you read these passages you’ll notice that from time to time Job throws out those pearls in the midst of the despair, in the midst of the pain, the misunderstanding, the vacillation between good thoughts and bad thoughts, and he says in verses 25-27, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed (You remember Job had boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet and so he’s going through this very excruciating time of pain and itching and sores) yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” Here we have the glimmer of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know that my redeemer lives. The Hebrew word is Goel in English and it means kinsmen redeemer. It’s the word that is used in the book of Ruth, where in the Old Testament if you wanted to redeem someone from slavery you needed a relative to do it, someone who was related to you who would be willing to pay in your stead so that you could go free, and that was a redeemer. And Job says here, “I know that my redeemer lives, and at last he is going to stand upon the earth.” The Hebrew literally says upon the dust. He is going to come here to this earth.
Now I need to tell you that interpreters of the Bible are divided on how to understand the expression “From my flesh I shall see God.” The problem is that the Hebrew expression can be translated in one of two ways and each way is permissible. One way is to say that without my flesh I shall see God. That would be consistent with the construction that is here. And Job is saying, therefore, that my body is going to die. It is going to be in the grave but even apart from my flesh in the realm of spirit when my soul survives the body, I shall yet see God. I shall see my redeemer. It’s possible that that’s what he meant.
The other interpretation is to say that in my flesh I shall see God, and that means that Job is already anticipating the resurrection. Job is saying in effect that even when I die I’m going to be raised and in my flesh, and you’ll notice that he seems to have that meaning because he says, “It’s going to be with my eyes I shall see God. I shall see my redeemer and I shall see God.” What a prediction that is made by this man who had so little revelation to go on! It’s almost as if here the Holy Spirit of God inspired him to be able to say that a day is coming when Christ the Lord will come as redeemer. And may I say, just in case you might be confused about this, the reason we anticipate Job being in heaven and us being together with him is because of the coming of Jesus Christ?
Thousands of years later Jesus Christ will come to the banks of the Jordan River, and John the Baptist will say, “Behold, the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world,” and Jesus Christ will die on that cross, and he will make a ransom for those who have not yet been born, namely you and me. And he will gather up our sins and make a ransom for us, but he will also gather up the sins of all the Old Testament saints you see their sin needs to be permanently put away too. And without that sacrifice there is no redemption. And so the sins of Job are also going to be laid upon Christ, and the reason that God can communicate with Job even back in these days is because Job and the Old Testament saints were saved as it were on credit. God says, “I know that Christ is coming, and in anticipation of his coming I will already forgive you and communicate with you. Your mediator will come and because he will come I will communicate with you right now.” Job says, “I know that some day my redeemer will come,” and he goes on to imply that he understands that this redeemer will be God.
What I’d like to do is to give you two statements as we conclude and as we try to put this in focus. First of all I want you to notice that difficult questions in life always lead us to ultimate questions. You see, Job begins the book trying to unravel the mystery of his own suffering, and by the time the book begins to progress he begins to talk about immortality, and reconciliation with God. We notice first of all reconciliation and preservation. He begins to speak about that, and then in the third instance here, realization. He says, “I shall see God. All the longings of my soul will be satisfied.”
And isn’t that the way it is in life? God takes us through a difficult time and one of the purposes of that difficult time is to help us to begin to focus on eternal issues. It is sometimes said that there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole, because when a person is in difficulty and when your life is in jeopardy suddenly the ultimate questions begin to come to mind. And so first of all, difficult questions lead us to ultimate questions, but most importantly, and don’t ever forget this, ultimate questions can only be answered by Jesus Christ because certainly an ultimate question is, “How can we have reconciliation with God?” “No man,” said Jesus, “comes to the Father but by me. I am the one mediator between God and man.” To the question “If a man die shall he live again?” the answer of Jesus Christ is, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is our answer for preservation. What about realization? There’s something within us that wants to see God. The Bible says in the New Testament that though God has not been seen by anyone, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, namely Christ, has revealed him. No man hath seen God at any time but Christ revealed him.
One day when Jesus was talking to his disciples and he had warned them that he was about to go away, remember they began to question him. And he said, “Nobody comes to the Father but by me,” and Philip heard those words and he said, “Oh Jesus, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” By the way, I think that there is an entire message just in that phrase. “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
I want to tell you today that there is no need in our lives ever as great at the need to see the Father, because when we see God sin becomes horrid to us, trials cease to have their sense of disappointment, and the fulfillment of the human heart is brought to its most blessed realization - the vision of God. So Philip said, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied,” and Jesus turned and made one of the most astounding statements that ever fell from his lips. He said, “Philip, have I not been so long time with you, and haven’t you seen me? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
Last night I was speaking to some international students and what a wonderful ministry that is, by he way, to befriend students from various countries and various religions, and during the question period there was a young woman who asked this question. What about the unknowability of God? We cannot know him.
Years ago when I studied philosophy I had an entire course on the unknowability of God. What a frustrating course it was! At the end of the day he is unknowable, except for this. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” We see what Jesus Christ did. We see what he taught. We see the blessedness of his life, and the text says, “In doing that we see God. He that hath seen me has seen the Father.”
Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives and that at the latter day he will stand upon the earth.” And when Jesus was standing upon the earth the words of Job were fulfilled in a way that he could never have possibly anticipated, but of course there is a future realization too, because even Jesus was veiled and though he was God, and people who saw him saw God, his glory was veiled. It had to be because no man can see God and live.
There was a little manifestation of that glory when he was on the Mount of Transfiguration when he became suddenly ablaze with light. The glory broke out of his human form, and what a sight the disciples saw. And someday we are going to behold him completely in his glory.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what does this have to do with suffering? We began the book of Job with the agony of Job. How does this relate?” Well, let us remember that the redeemer about which Job spoke became a redeemer because he himself suffered. Christianity is the only religion that has a wounded God. Jesus Christ became involved in our predicament and no matter what answer we may or may not have regarding suffering, all that we can hang on to is the recognition that God has been involved in our suffering.
Come with me to a concentration camp with Corrie Ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place. Here are women in a concentration camp, women scarcely clothed, in coldness, treated with brutality, in hunger. Here are women who have been despised and misused in that awful, awful period of history. And Corrie, bless her heart, and her sister, Betsy, are having a Bible study with some of the women, and a woman across the way becomes angry and begins to taunt them and say, “Is this what your God has done?” And the angry woman takes the bandages from her hands, and then she shows them her hands, fingers that have been broken which were now gnarled and filled with pain, and she said, “I played the first violin in a symphony, and look at this. Is this what your God has done?” Silence! There is no answer except for Corrie Ten Boom saying quietly, “All that we know is that Jesus Christ, God himself, suffered for us that we might be lovingly reconciled to him,” and maybe that’s about all we know in answer to such a question.
God has been involved. The redeemer has come. He has stood upon the earth, and though after our skin worms destroy this body yet we shall see God, not through these eyes but with a revelation that will be unrestrained and unhindered because in a blaze of glory we shall see him finally as he is, the Bible says.
Little wonder that Augustine, that great theologian and philosopher, who so thirsted for God said, “Oh, Lord, it is said that no man can see thee and live. Oh God, let me die that I might see thee and be satisfied.” That is your great desire and that is my great desire, whether we are willing to admit it or not, to see God.
“I know that my redeemer lives,” said Job, and someday Job is going to join with the rest of us as we see our redeemer. “And I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands sang with a loud voice ‘Worthy is the lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and glory and honor and blessing.’ And every creature which is in heaven and under the earth and such as are in the sea and all that are in them I heard say, ‘Blessing, glory, honor and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.’” And at that hour when we behold him our sufferings will fade away. We will need no further answers for the desire of the soul will have been fully satisfied, for our greatest need is always to see him.