Easter Sunday: Job 19:23-27

It is difficult to say when and where exactly Job lived. Ezekiel mentions Job as part of a prophecy against Jerusalem just before the exile (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). This clarifies two points about him: that he existed and is not poetic, and that he must have lived prior to the Babylonian exile. Further, the book of Job opens with a note that he lived “in the land of Uz” (Job 1:1). The land of Uz is mentioned specifically in two other places: Jeremiah 25:20, where it seems to be distinguished from several other regions, and Lamentations 4:21, where the “daughter of Edom” dwells, suggesting that it was toward the south of Israel. The mention of the Sabeans, that is, Sheba, who lived even further south attacking the flocks in Job 1:15, suggests that he may have lived before the days of Solomon, since the queen of Sheba visits him in 1 Kings 10. If Uz was indeed somewhere in the vicinity or in the land of Edom, this would suggest (but only suggest) that he lived sometime between the days of Esau and the days of Solomon, a period of several hundred years.

Attempting to determine when Job lived is important because it emphasizes his words in the reading for today. Easter, of course, is primarily and rightly concerned with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having conquered sin and death, Christ has redeemed His people and reigns triumphant forever as the One who died and now lives. Job, whenever he lived, testifies to Christ whom he knew only at a distance and yet longed to see His day.

The book of Job is divided into several parts: the introduction, where Job suffers several calamities (Job 1:1-2:13); the discourses with his three friends (Job 3:1-31:40); the rebuke of Elihu (Job 31:1-37:24); the rebuke of the Lord (Job 38:1-41:34); and Job’s repentance and restoration (Job 42). Within the discourses, Job repeatedly and correctly makes the claim that the Lord is chastising him when he has done nothing wrong. This is an important consideration, because his three friends continually assert that he must have sinned in order to bring on such disasters (such as Job 18:5, just before the pericope, where Bildad says that God punishes the wicked). It is only when Job demands that the Lord be answerable to him, as if the Almighty had to explain His ways, that Job earns the rebuke of Elihu and the Lord (Job 31). This explains why the Lord says of him that he is a righteous man (Job 1:8 and 2:3) and also rebukes his three friends after his repentance for not speaking truthfully “as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

Therefore, in chapter 19, Job is in the right and correctly rebukes his less-than-helpful friends. The evils Job is experiencing have come for unexplained reasons, which he recognizes. His friends do not believe him, and so he cries out for vindication. This, then, explains his words in Job 19:23-24. Job is appealing to the future as a way of showing that what he says is right. He wants his discourse “recorded in a book” so that he will be vindicated in the future. But even a book might perish, so he wants them chiseled into the rock and filled in with lead, a far more permanent way.

But what makes this passage so important for a day like Easter is that he appeals to God. He says that “I know that my Redeemer lives” and that He will bring him justice. “At the last he will stand upon the earth,” both in the days when Christ came to die on the cross and also at the Last Day. “After my skin has been thus destroyed,” that is to say, long after his own death and suffering the curse of death, “yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Here is a clear and very early witness to the resurrection of all flesh. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:52-55). Job knew this, though he did not know the day, and he knew that he would be comforted long after his flesh had crumbled away. Job lives, because Jesus Christ lives, and Job will see God with his own eyes, because Jesus stands as the living Lord.