Lessons from Job: Jesus in Job

December 15, 2009

Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah

Nake came I... PLR '99

“But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other.” The Book of Job 19:25-27

“Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete” Matthew 5:17. According to Christian Theology, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophetic books of the Jewish scriptures speak of a Messiah that will come and bring fulfillment to the promise God gave to Abraham, the father of Jews, that all nations on earth will be blessed through his seed, the promise that God gave to the Moses, the giver of the God’s Law, that a great prophet will rise up from among them, and the promise God gave to King David that one of his own descendants will rise up on the throne and establish a kingdom that will last forever. Some prophetic books are focused mostly on the fate of the nation of Israel and the nations around them during the time that the prophet lived, but many speak of the Messiah coming in a future age who will bring salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) through restoring the broken connection between God and man, judging those rebellious toward the Lord, and establishing a kingdom of peace and righteousness that will last forever. While many expect this Messiah to come as a powerful warrior, Christians believe that he has already come in the person of Jesus, and that he will return again to establish his kingdom and begin a new age for mankind.

The life of Jesus has very specifically fulfilled many prophetic scriptures, the most famous of them are found in Isaiah Chapters 42-55. Jesus also said that he came to fulfill the law as well. The first five books of The Bible are considered to be “the Law.” These books record the origins of mankind and then narrow it down to the origins of the nation of Israel, and they include the recording of the Law that was given to Moses on Mt. Horeb. According to the Law, each person was supposed to travel to the temple in Jerusalem at least once a year and make elaborate sacrifices to atone for the sins they had committed. This was obviously burdensome and impractical, and many Israelites disregarded the Law completely or attempted to make up their own compromises which led them to follow other gods. Eventually, God’s judgment, which he made clear in the Law, caused the nation of Israel to be destroyed by the Babylonians. When the Persians became the next world conquerors, they allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and we finally meet Jesus during the rule of the Roman Empire.

Jews expected their Messiah to come in power and restore Israel to it’s former glory and then some, but Jesus came as a carpenter with no religious training to speak of. He is considered by Christians to be the fulfillment of the Law through his dieing on the cross as an innocent man. Many prophetic books indicate that the Messiah will be the son of God, and he will live a pure and perfect life. The death of Jesus on the cross as a sinless man is said to be the last sacrifice that God requires of mankind. Because Jesus was innocent and sinless, he was able to take the punishment of death in our place, and his sacrifice gives us access to God. Those who choose to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and choose to follow his teachings are restored to the Father in what is called a “new birth.” They receive the Holy Spirit into their being, and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they are able to have a free and open relationship with God without the burden of the guilt of sin. It is believed, as many of that time testified, that Jesus also rose from the dead three days after his ordeal on the cross, thus proving his power over death and giving credence to his claim to be the Son of God. Christians believe that Jesus is very active in the earth today for those who are willing to serve him and that this is the time of witness and testimony in order that all mankind will have the opportunity to hear “the gospel,” the good news about our forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father. It is in the next age that Jesus will return as a warrior-king and establish his kingdom of peace and righteousness. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus and his teachings will be left to fend for themselves without the benefit of God’s grace, and will be lumped together with Satan and the other fallen angels who rebelled against God in a place that is popularly called Hell where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matthew 8:12.*

So what does all this have to do with Job? Well, I believe that there is evidence of Jesus’ existence in The Book of Job, and there are a few scriptures that point to him and the purpose he would fulfill nearly two thousand years later. What I find the most fascinating about this is that The Book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in The Bible by many scholars. It is very possible that Job was written during Abraham’s time. If this is the case, then we have evidence of prophesy of the Messiah before Israel even existed. This is more evidence that the Messiah is for all people, and that Jesus is not just a new idea from religious zealots needing a pie in the sky fantasy to justify their pitiful existence, but that Jesus has truly been around since the beginning, and he has been a part of the plan all along. I’m sure there is more evidence than what I have observed, but I am going to focus on four sets of verses in The Book of Job that stand out to me.

The first set of verses are not so much an expression of a Messiah’s existence, but rather an expression of the need for one. Ironically, as Job becomes more desperate and passionate in crying out to God, his revelation of God’s plan seems to increase, although it seems that Job doesn’t always understand the depth of what he is saying. During Job’s first defense to Bildad, he states, “God is not as I am, not someone I can challenge, and say, ‘Let us confront one another in court.’ if only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take his rod from my back, and terror of him might not come on me suddenly, I should then speak out without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be” The Book of Job 9:32-35 (italics mine). In this speech Job is again expressing that he is being punished unfairly, and he wants to be able to stand before God and state his case, but he knows he is too sinful of a creature to stand before God and live. He is wishing for someone who can stand before God and speak on his behalf, someone who can both relate to him and to God; in other words, someone who is both God and man. Is this not Jesus? Job states that if he stands before God, terror and fear will seize him; in our time, we have Jesus as our arbitrator who gives us access to God without fear and condemnation. In the New Testament, the author of The Letter to the Hebrews echoes Job’s cry when he speaks of Jesus in the following passage: “Ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way as we are, only without sinning. Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to give us timely help” Hebrews 4:15-16.

Later, during his first defense to Zophar, Job proclaims, “If he wishes to slay me, I have nothing to lose; I shall still defend my conduct to his face. This at least assures my deliverance: that no godless person may appear before him” The Book of Job 13:15-16 (italics mine). We already talked about this verse in a different context in an earlier post; but to get at a possible layered meaning we need to look deeper into the original language of the text. Many things are lost in interpretation when we do not know both languages very well; nowhere else is getting the right interpretation correct than in the scriptures. Wars have been waged, and many blasphemies have been committed as a result of a misunderstood or misled meaning of scripture. I don‘t think misunderstanding these verses will have those kind of consequences, but digging deep reveals some very interesting ideas. First of all, according to the footnotes in the Oxford Study Bible (c.1992), verse 15 can also be translated as, “Though God slay me, I shall wait for the deity.” Just a subtle difference in wording, but what a difference in meaning! In the first version, Job almost sounds like a rebellious teenager giving attitude to a parent: “Whatever, God, I don’t care what you do to me, I’m gonna say it to your face!” The second version shows a very different Job who expresses absolute faith in his God, that even though things are bad now, he knows if he waits long enough God will deliver him. Deliverance. That is another word we need to take a close look at. All poetry has a lot of wordplay in it. A good poet will often use a word that has multiple meanings and the poet may very well intend for more than one meaning of the word to be applicable and true. For a good example, check out Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 135” (see below). In this sonnet, Shakespeare makes a play on the word “will.” As he repeats it throughout the sonnet, depending on the context, it is used as a verb, a noun, and his name; sometimes it expresses all three uses at the same time. I believe this is the case for the word deliverance in verse 16. I don’t think the poet knew the depth of what he was saying, but as all scripture is God-breathed, or inspired by God (Second Timothy 3:16-17), I believe that God directed the author of The Book of Job to choose this particular word. It is too much of a coincidence. Deliverance could also be translated as salvation. This particular Hebrew word for salvation is literally translated as Jehovah saves. That Hebrew word is yeshua, and Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. So ultimately, what, or rather who, assures Job’s deliverance? It is Jesus. Job next states that “no godless person may appear before him.” It is Jesus’ sacrifice in conjunction with our repentance that allows us to be forgiven and appear righteous before God.

The next set of verses appears in Job’s response to Eliphaz’s second accusation and with this statement Job proclaims outright in the existence of a figure in heaven that is a legitimate description of Jesus. Job cries out, “Let not the earth cover my blood, and let my cry for justice find no rest! For now my witness is in heaven; there is One on high ready to answer for me. My appeal will come before God, while my eyes turn anxiously to him. If only there were one to arbitrate between man and God, as between a man and his neighbor” The Book of Job 16:18-21 (italics mine). Job again pleads for an arbitrator between God and man, someone who can plead Job’s case before God without being destroyed by God’s glory and holiness. In other words, someone who is pure and righteous before God. However, in the previous verse, Job makes a statement of faith that his Witness is already standing before God, and Job identifies this Witness as God when he calls him, “One on high.” How can God plead Job’s case against God to God? Logically, this makes no sense, but paradoxically it becomes true in the person of Jesus. As stated before, he is our arbitrator before God, and being the Son of God, he is God as One of the Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, who inspires Job to make this statement of faith, and who is the author of all scripture, and who continues to dwell in and among man to this day in order to inspire us, and lead us into wisdom and understanding of God’s ways.** Just as Satan stood before God and accused Job of not having enough integrity to stay faithful to God, he accuses all of us before God, and challenges him to the truth, that even though God loves us, we are all rebellious and unworthy of eternal life and the peace that comes with it; therefore, we deserve death. The Apostle John testifies through his vision of heaven that Satan is “the accuser of our brothers, [and] he…day and night accused them before our God” Revelation 12:10. This why we need Jesus to be our Witness to stand before God, the Father, day and night. Jesus testifies that he has justified us through his blood. God, the Father, knew that offering free will to his creation would bring about rebellion, so in his love for us, he offered himself up, in the person of God, the Son, to take the punishment we deserve so that those who choose to serve him could be justified in his eyes. The author of Hebrews states, “Jesus holds a perpetual priesthood, because he remains forever. That is why he is able to save completely those who approach God through him, since he is always alive to plead on their behalf. Such a high priest is indeed suited to our need: He is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. He has no need to offer sacrifices daily,…he did this once for all when he offered up himself” Hebrews 7:24-27.

What more can I say? Job makes at least one more statement of faith concerning a figure in heaven who will testify to God and save Job from his plight. Job states, “But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other” The Book of Job 19:25-27(italics mine). This is probably Job’s strongest statement of faith in a Savior who can stand before both God and man; this is such a strong, statement, in fact, that many worship songs directed at Jesus are based on this scripture. Those of us who become aware of our sin and our need for redemption are able to deeply connect with these verses, and when they are put to song we are able to make Job’s passionate plea the cry of our own hearts as we gratefully bow before our Savoir, our hope for righteousness. In most translations of The Bible the word “vindicator” is translated as “redeemer.” Whatever language you use, it is Jesus who redeems us from the price we should have paid for our sin, it Jesus who vindicates us and sets us free from eternal suffering, it is Jesus who died for us and saved us from our sin-nature, from our very selves. The Apostle John testifies in his vision of heaven, “the accuser of our brothers…is overthrown. By the sacrifice of the Lamb, [Jesus], and by the witness they, [our brothers], bore, they have conquered him; faced with death, they did not cling to life. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you that dwell in them!” Revelation 12:10-12. It is in John’s Revelation that Jesus, the Messiah, is prophesied to come again in power as a warrior king. He will wage a final battle against Satan, who began the war in the beginning of our created time by trying to usurp the throne of God. When Jesus has Satan completely under his foot, he will sit in judgment on all peoples of the earth from all the ages. Those who sought after him and who chose to serve him will receive mercy, grace and freedom from their sins once and for all. Those who chose to live in rebellion and follow their own selfish desires will be judged and be banished from the presence of the Lord. The choice is yours.

*It is popular to believe that Hell is a place of torture from God, but I don’t believe this to be true. It is my opinion that in Hell, God is just giving both fallen angels and unbelieving people what they wanted in the first place, which is to be free from Him; to not have to follow his way, so they can go their own way. However, God is the source of all goodness on earth, so if they become separated from God, they will all lose his grace. There will certainly be torment in Hell, but it won’t be at the hands of God; people are just mean. Think of the atrocities mankind commits when we still have God calling out to us and offering us grace and mercy. Now imagine a place where there really is no God, and all beings follow their own selfish impulses without restraint. That, in my opinion, is Hell.

**The Trinity is a name given to the paradox that we serve one God who exists in Three Persons. It is debated by many theologians whether there are three distinct persons acting and thinking in complete unity, and therefore One Being, or if there is simply One God who expresses himself in three distinct ways. For me, I am content to rest in the fact that his ways are higher than my ways, and that I may never understand this mystery, even when I get to heaven. I have had enough experience with all three expressions of God to know they are real, and God testifies to me through my spirit and through his Word that “the Lord is One.” Some aspects of our Faith require faith and simply can’t be understood with our human brains.

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

 

Peter L Richardson

“Sonnet 135”
-William Shakespeare

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will,
And will to boot, and will to over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in will, add to thy will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
     Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
     Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

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