"Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him."
Wave after wave swept over Job. Sabeans captured his oxen—lightning destroyed his sheep—Chaldeans carried off his camels—and the hurricane buried his children beneath the ruins of their house. As soon as he received these tidings, he bowed himself on the ground and worshiped, saying, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return there—the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away—blessed be the name of the Lord."
What I seemed to have was never mine. It was always God's. I will bless Him for the loan, and all the comfort it gave me. And now that He takes it back, I will still praise Him. It is not merely the robbers, the lightning, the hurricane—"Who knows not in all these, that the hand of the Lord has wrought this? in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Other troubles followed. Losses may be borne in health with a patience, which gives way under pain. "Put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face." Such was the suggestion of the Adversary who was taking occasion of his troubles in the flesh to destroy his soul. "Satan smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." Then mistaken friends, who came to comfort, vexed him by attributing such grievous sufferings to great sins.
Hear the lament of this early sufferer in his garden of grief. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. O that my calamity were laid in the balances, for it would be heavier than the sand of the seas. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise? but the night is long, and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day. My days are spent without hope. When I say, My bed shall comfort me, then You scare me with dreams. I am a burden to myself. O that it would please God to cut me off."
Now listen to his song as it modulates from such minor tones into those of resignation and hope. "What! shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" Shall we forget the past years of prosperity—the riches, the health, the household, enjoyed so long, and shall we murmur now that he sends woe? Are not our sins more than our sorrows? Should not these sorrows lead to repentance? "How can man be just with God? If I wash myself in snow water, and make my hands ever so clean; yet will you plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes shall abhor me. Make me to know my transgression and my sin. I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You—therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
His afflictions became profitable by increased prayerfulness. He yearned, as did the Sufferer of Gethsemane, for human sympathy. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!" They failed him, but he the more sought comfort in God. "O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat! I would order my cause before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments."
Prayer brought peace. "I have treasured up the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power? No, but He would put strength into me. He hides Himself that I cannot see Him, but He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me I shall come forth like gold. Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him" (wait for Him, R.V.). Though I fall under the burden He lays on me, though I die in the furnace He kindles, I will expect the fulfillment of His promises. I may cease to trust friends who fail me, but I will never cease to trust in God.
The fuller revelation of God in Christ enables us with still stronger assurance, not only to hope and trust, but also to love and rejoice. The author's father, who had passed through many trials, made an addition to these words, which he was so in the habit of using during half a century that he seemed to think he was quoting Job when he said, "Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him, and love Him too." Mere philosophy or stoicism or a phlegmatic temper may endure without complaining; but the religion of the Bible alone can enable us to trust in God and love Him, whatever the sorrows He may ordain.
The words in which Job expressed belief in a future state have given consolation to the children of God ever since. He could not know the full meaning of the inspiring Spirit. "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," but like children who are taught lessons of wisdom which they cannot fully understand, so the prophets of the Old Testament spoke mysteries for which the New Testament furnishes the key. Their eye did not see, nor their heart conceive the things which God had prepared for His people, but which He has now "revealed to us by His Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10). What to them was given in the bud we possess in full blossom; and we in our turn know not as yet all that shall yet be developed. But the future fruit is enveloped in our blossom, as this was enveloped in their bud. "They present, not only the first lines of the picture which is worked up in detail later on, but also an outline sketched in such a way that all the knowledge of later times may be added to it." (Delitzsch.)
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand up at the last upon the earth—and after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God—whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 19:25, 26, R.V.).
"All the days of my warfare would I wait until my release should come. Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. My friends scorn me, but my eye pours out tears unto God; that He would maintain the right of a man with God, and of a son of man with his neighbor." Though I die unvindicated, I know that my Redeemer lives; He could stand up for me even on the dust of my body, over my grave, to plead for me. And after my skin has been thus destroyed by disease, yet apart from my flesh shall I see God. I shall see Him "for myself," vindicating me against all traducers; my eyes shall behold Him, "and not another;" the same God whom now I trust.
This passage proves Job's undying faith in God his conviction of a future state in which what seems wrong here will be set right; and so illustrates his fixed resolve, "Though He slays me, yet will I wait for Him." "It points to the resurrection; and the poem of the Old Testament saint, this old song of the night breathing forth faith's yearning towards the glorious appearing of Him who is "the Last" as He is "the First," may be chanted by the Christian believer with no less confidence and with a fuller realization of what it means." (Lange.)
Yes! we will sing as our Easter Anthem, on every "Lord's Day" of Resurrection, every hour of our pilgrimage, in the joy of our hearts, "I know that my Redeemer lives." I know that "Now has Christ risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who sleep." I know that He ever lives as my Intercessor, and defense. Foes may condemn, friends fail, helpers die, flesh decay—but He lives! I know it, not from testimony alone, but from personal experience of His presence in my soul. There is much I may doubt, but I am certain here. I "know Him and the power of His resurrection," and "am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
Mourners rejoice! He is not a dead historic deliverer, a hero enshrined in grateful memory. He lives still—He is among us—He dwells within us—as He said, "I am with you always." Death has lost its terrors. Through its portal we enter His presence. "The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning." This is true of all the children of God. For them He keeps His "best wine until the last." Their sorrow always ends in joy. Meanwhile, the gloom of the dungeon is dispelled by this ray from heaven—the shipwreck is averted by this anchor of the soul—the despair of weariness in the long wilderness is prevented by this voice which reaches us from saints in advance—"Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died; yes, rather, who has risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." I know that He will come again in the glory of the Father, and that He will stand in the latter day upon the earth, and raise in glory the bodies of those who sleep in Him. And therefore as we bear such bodies to the grave, and anticipate our own burial, we will repeat, with fuller realization of their import, the Divine words, consecrated by so many tears, by so many joyful hopes, "I know that my Redeemer lives!"