Over the holidays, I debated whether it made sense to race off to a performance of Handel’s Messiah. I was tired from my work and all the holiday business, so I was not excited to pack in one more thing. But the tickets were already bought, and, knowing how much this yearly excursion means to my husband, I reluctantly grabbed my jacket. I have seen the Messiah performed by various groups over many years, but somehow this year’s performance brought fresh tears to my eyes. Somehow, the familiar words of Job sung by the soprano soloist spoke to me in a new way.
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,
yet in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-26).
Job makes a bold claim in the midst of his mess, and I recognized in that moment of the performance that God is present in my mess too. These ancient words carried a message that my heart needed to hear. Perhaps your heart also needs to find comfort in Job’s powerful words.
Things were not going well in Job’s life when he says these famous words. In the midst of gut-wrenching suffering, Job had chosen a hope to anchor him. Job could have felt sorry for himself and let that grief consume him. Instead, Job chose to speak the truth that would anchor him in hope and guide him in his life going forward. “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
Job chose to hold onto belief even when those around him challenged his assurance. His own wife told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), but Job choose to cling all the more tightly to what he believed and experienced to be true. Although Job’s circumstances were miserable, his testimony remained unchanged: “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
God is not abstract idea to Job; God is a person. God is not a distant force outside of our circumstances, but a presence in our mess. "My" and "Mine" are personal and possessive. They show the intimacy of belonging to one another. My Redeemer. My very own. The One who loves me and linked himself forever into a relationship with me, becoming mine forever. Being joined in a loving relationship with the God of all things brings us hope.
Job could have referenced God in any number of ways but he called him redeemer: a savior, rescuer, and avenger. God is the one who makes sense of Job’s pain and brings about restoration, setting things right again. Job’s hope rests in the one who yields redemptive power. He is not trusting in a powerless being, but a Redeemer who will avenge evil, transform pain, and rescue him from his isolation and heartache. A champion and vindicator who restores inheritance, establishes innocence, rescues from slavery and provides. An advocate who acts as witness to Job’s tears and speaks as an authority to attest to Job’s innocence.
When life is painful we begin to wonder about God’s presence in our lives. Is God present, active, and loving? We can believe in God yet struggle to make sense of our difficult circumstances. Like Job, we struggle to grasp how our loving God is capable and active when there is so much pain around us. Perhaps as we step into the New Year, we need to claim the same words that guided Job’s faith: I know that my Redeemer lives.
Our hearts have a longing to be present with our loving God. Our heart is at home when we draw close to God. As creatures made in God’s image, we find contentment in God’s unfailing love for us. We too will see God when we seek out time together. We too, shall someday stand upon the earth in our bodies and see God.
May you find peace for your heart as you claim the same truth that guided Job. May you know and firmly believe that your salvation is assured. Our Redeemer lives and is present transforming us and our circumstances. Our Redeemer still lives.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema