Job's Redeemer

In the last attempt to defend himself at the court case Job longs for perpetual and written evidence of his innocence. The unfairness of his treatment has to be recorded as a testimony for future generations. The hand of God has struck him and now he wishes for the permanent record as a witness of this unfair balance of power (Job 19:21-24).

The second legal witness he might be calling for is go’el [redeemer] which in Leviticus 25:25 functions as a relative who saves and protects individuals from economic misfortune, exploitation or slavery: “If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold.” Prophet Isaiah clearly portrays the God of Israel as go’el (Isaiah 41:14; 43:14; 44:6).

However, speaking from the existential point of view within the context of Job 19:25-27, it seems unlikely that Job wishes God to be his vindicator.

I know that my redeemer [go’el] lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God [eloah]; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

God is someone who collides with his sense of innocence and purity. He has become Job’s “enemy.” It seems that Job shatters the theological orthodoxy and perturbs the traditional theological image of God as the ultimate vindicator. We can always try to tame Job’s theological emphasis, but God as eloah [19:26] seems to represent a different kind of witness, different divine personality who is the ultimate vindicator. After my skin has been destroyed, shouts Job, yet in the new flesh I will see this ultimate vindicator! Eloah is the One for whom Job’s heart yearns!

Job is trying to raise the unthinkable question. Is there someone else or something else than God, but still reaching out to both the divine and human realms, that might be his helper in his “mysterious suffering,” and his attempt to justify himself. (Mark Driscoll believes there are 14 types of suffering in the Bible. Job’s would be the mysterious suffering because Job is totally unaware of the great conflict behind the scene.) Even if we equate go’el and eloah, is there a new dimension of this mysterious divine redeemer that can serve as a new form of revelation and ultimately a source of Job’s vindication?

The One who bridges the unthinkable, mysterious depth of human righteous suffering, and the divine unexpected and the unknown authority, is the fulfillment of all messianic hopes throughout the centuries. In Him, Job would find the consolation and remedy for his inexplicable form of suffering and the ultimate vindication, because “He lives.”

In the new flesh, Job would be the witness of this living and resurrected ‘God’ who has undergone the unthinkable strike of God, and remained a faithful witness. Job identifies himself with this mysterious divine-human figure and realizes that the hope is in participation, throwing himself into the abyss of the unknown relationship and yet enlightening and glorious experience of being embraced and vindicated by this Witness. Oh, how he yearned for such a Witness!

Job reconstructs the settled foundations of traditional theology from the perspective of his unique and expanded human experience. He is assured that from the traditional form of go’el, a new type of eloah will emerge and testify about God’s reality, first by full participation in the mystery of human suffering, and then by recreation in the new flesh of humanity.

“Seeing this God” after the skin is destroyed represents the ultimate revelation and vindication of Job. Vindication is on the other side!

Today’s political and church structures, as always in history, claim that they are the fulfillment of the providential ways of God. They take upon themselves the authority that transcends human establishments and policies. They speak in the name of God and act sometimes in the name of that same God. They even claim that they represent the hand of the go’el. In this process, collateral damage of the marginalized, ostracized, and weak is evident. The god of the human authority is always the god of suspension of the sidelined. Submission and consent seem to be the only viable ways of coping with the coerciveness of these structures or with the strident insistence on the innocence of the suffering ones. This innocence indeed calls the marginalized to take up their cross and follow the One in whose suffering they participate.

However, the new, beautiful, and delightful form of eloah emerges. We cannot control or manipulate God, His actions of righteousness, or His movements of truth. Our liberty has some serious limitations. Behind the scenes, His providence is working in vindicating His suffering ones who remained committed to Him in their genuine faith and obedience. He might seem sometimes cruel and unresponsive to them, but He participates in different forms of trials of the marginalized and vindicates them in the heavenly courts, as the good old Book says. Moreover, He is the God of hope in reshaping of the reality now and re-creation hereafter.

Submissiveness sometimes might bring temporary sense of peace and tranquility, but the Job-like unrestful complains, and the spirit of resistance against coercive political/religious forms and structures is the expression of the original human innocent cry for freedom of conscience. Life is messy and grace is ambiguous, but freedom will reign at last. “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last.”

Yet, Job’s experience teaches us that the ultimate vindication is on the other side.

Desmond Tutu, fighter for justice and freedom observes “There is no shaft of light that comes from heaven and says to you, ‘Okay, you are right.’ You have to hold on to [the call] by the skin of your teeth and hope that there is going to be vindication on the other side.”2

Aleksandar S. Santrac is Professor of Ethics & Philosophy and Chair of Religion Department at Washington Adventist University, Extraordinary Professor of Dogmatics and Dogma History at North-West University, South Africa and Visiting Researcher in bioethics at Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7804

Job’s experience proved Satan’s assertion to be ultimately wrong in that we are capable and can worship God even without “ultimate vindication.” After all, the natural tendency for us is to hold our parents in high esteem after we join them in adulthood no matter how they parented us.

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Dr. Santrac has raised some interesting points.
He speaks of the mystery of righteous, human suffering and our hope being in God our Redeemer’s participation in it. This is a wonderful truth on which our hope rests. But we struggle to understand Job’s participation in this suffering and how this can be part of the plan of God. I believe there is a clue given at the beginning and end of the story regarding an important teaching which helps give us insight into God’s treatment of Job.

Job’s ten children would periodically get together ‘to eat and drink’ ‘each one on his own day’ (1:4). It appears they were in the habit of throwing somewhat lavish birthday parties for each other. Here is Job’s response: ‘When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.’ (1:5).
In the last chapter God says to Eliphaz that he and his two friends have not spoken the truth about Him and ‘Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you.
For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly,
because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.’ (42:8).

Thus, the story opens and closes with Job being an intercessor. Remarkably, God honoured Job’s intercession for his three ‘comforters’ by promising to alter His treatment of them. Did Job somehow take part of their punishment? Did Job’s children (or others he prayed for) benefit from his intercession for them in a similar way?

There is much more to true intercession than merely praying for another person or group. In the Biblical model, an intercessor was identified with and in a certain sense bore the iniquities of others. (I think this is one way we can ‘bear one another’s burdens’, as Paul said.) One called to intercede often lost one’s standing and reputation among men and also, at times, even physically suffered for the sins of others. This would account for the repeated chastisements heaped upon Job, even though God described him as ‘a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.’ (1:8). Of course, in all these things Job prefigured Christ, our ultimate intercessor, who was despised and forsaken of men, emptied himself and took the form of a bond-servant and suffered much on our behalf. ‘For He made Him who knew no sin be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ (Dr. Santrac rightly says that believers are to ‘take up their cross and follow the One in whose suffering they participate’.)

If you feel you have been chosen by God to fulfill an intercessory role (or wonder (as Job did) why certain things have happened to you in the past when praying for others), or you simply want to understand this important function at a new level, please read the following personal account and explanation:
http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/principles-of-intercession/

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The book of Job poses an enigma of enormous proportions. BUT , my own view leans this way. The name of the book is the book of JOB, NOT the book of GOD. The Rabbis who chose to include it in the(their) Holy Writ(6th century AD?) must have had reasons connected to JOB himself. But what if the Job character was a metaphor for Israel itself. The Jews could have seen themselves as most righteous, following the moral laws their scribes had set down on orders of the almighty, yet they still suffered from brutal invasions of various foreign powers over the ages; they were massacred; their women captured and defiled by “the heathen”; even their Avatar , the son of God was murdered by a pig-eating empire/nation called Rome; not only that , but they passed on their writings to many who regarded them as the only authentic records communications with the “godhead”. THEN it follows (if these speculations of the Jews as Job are accurate) that the Jews have been wronged ; and this is not even including the Holocaust. The author of the book of job is unknown , but even so the Bible itself is replete with acts of the chosen people that are decidedly unrighteous , so, now what?