"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
"Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
IF, brethren, no other proof were found that the Old Testament saints looked for more than transitory promises, this wondrous passage would alone decide the question. (Job 19:25-27)
For mark the range of the patriarch's faith. Overleaping the more than fifteen centuries, which were yet to run their course, before the incarnation of the Eternal Word, he contemplates with hallowed joy that first advent of the Mighty Deliver: "I know," he exclaims, "that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth."
But this is not enough for Job. He knows, and he looks for more. Faith takes further flight, and passes onward to that second coming of the Lord, at which "all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28,29) For note his words:--"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
The glorious event, my brethren, which we commemorate today, consummated the first of these patriarch's anticipations: it thereby gave pledge for the fulfillment of the second:--"Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." (1 Cor. 15:20)
It cannot therefore be amiss, if, in prayerful submission to the written Word, we examine carefully the passage, in which these anticipations are recorded. No portion of Scripture, I am well persuaded, more certainly demands, none more abundantly repays, accurate and laborious investigation.
But let me, before I proceed to take my text clause by clause, direct your thoughts for a few moments to that one word "Redeemer;"--for it is, in very deed, the golden key to this vast treasure-house of peace and joy.
The term "Redeemer" hath, in the Old Testament Scriptures, a personal and an official signification. Personally, it signifieth a "near kinsman:"--thus was Boaz the near kinsman, the "redeemer" of Ruth, the Moabitess. Officially, it denotes an "avenger,"--one who, being a near kinsman, is bound (as the original implies), if his brother have been sold into bondage, to ransom him from captivity,--if he have forfeited his possessions, to repurchase for him the inheritance of his fathers,--if he have perished by the hand of the murderer, to take vengeance for the shedding of his blood. I will not tarry to prove this; you will find it abundantly set forth in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus, and in the thirty-fifth chapter of Numbers.
But this I would have you pause to consider well: that a spiritual Redeemer is just what Job needed, and what we need.
By original guilt and actual transgression, his soul and our souls have been brought into fearful bondage. For it is written:--Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Gal. 3:10)
By original guilt and actual transgression, his everlasting inheritance, and our everlasting inheritance, has been hopelessly forfeited. For it is written again:--"All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)
Nor had he, nor have we, power to deliver our souls from going down to the pit,--much less have we power to raise them up to the throne of glory. For once more do we read:--"By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." (Rom. 3:20)
Brethren, this attainder of our persons, this forfeiture of our inheritance, this utter helplessness of ourselves to deliver ourselves, is a fundamental verity,--I may almost say the fundamental verity, of the Christian faith: is it a verity which has been brought home to our consciences by the power of the Holy Ghost?
If not, I would pray that He might graciously convince you of sin,--that He might graciously discover to you your corruption, your guilt, your ruin: for, believe me, when I add this,--that without such discovery, you can neither adequately appreciate, nor rightfully appropriate, the unspeakable comfort which is contained in my text. "He hath filled the hungry soul with good things;" but "the rich he hath sent empty away." (Luke 1:53)
But are you hungry? is there with you real, deep meaning in the words--"We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,--we have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us"? In short, do you know,--in the intense Scriptural sense of the word "know,"--that you need a Redeemer? Then draw near with faith, and take this exceeding great and precious passage to your comfort, as I open to you its riches clause by clause.
And, first, ponder well these words,--"I know that my Redeemer liveth."
It is as though the patriarch would say,--"I know that in light which no man can approach unto, there dwells One, who is even now bound by the obligations of an immutable covenant, to become my kinsman,--to ransom my person,--to recover mine inheritance,--to avenge my quarrel. Yes: He liveth with God; for 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' (John 1:1) And yet, though He liveth with God, and though He is God, yet is His heart with worms of earth; for hearken to His own words:--'Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.'" (Prov. 8:25-31)
Blessed testimony this, my brethren, to the fact that the Lord Jesus is equal to the task of redemption. Blessed testimony this, to the fact that, having undertaken that task, He will assuredly carry it on to completion.
He is equal to the task; for He is Jehovah the first and the last,--the Almighty.
He will assuredly carry it on to completion. The goings forth of His love have been from of old,--from everlasting: He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world:" (Rev. 13:8) the "Lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world:" (1 Pet. 1:19,20) and, having loved His people thus far, will He now turn back? Hearken to His own most gracious words:--"Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called." (Isa. 54:4,5)
But I pass on to the second clause.--"I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth."
I would here remind you that "the latter day," and "the last days," are prophetic terms for the day of the Gospel economy. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, thus writes:--"God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." (Heb. 1:1,2)
It is therefore as though Job would say,--"Well nigh seventeen hundred years have to elapse, Moses and the prophets have to testify, but still, in the fullness of time, shall my Redeemer be made manifest upon earth. He shall become my kinsman, my brother, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." For is it not written,--"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb. 2:14) As my kinsman he shall ransom my soul from guilt, from condemnation, from the pit." For is it not written again,--"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." (Gal. 3:13) "As my kinsman he shall recover for me an inheritance more glorious far than that from which Adam by transgression fell,--an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me." For once more is it written, that this "is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." (2 Tim. 1:10) "As my kinsman, he shall avenge my every quarrel, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." For yet again do we read,--"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ: shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:35,38,39)
Beloved, the Redeemer has stood upon the earth: the Redeemer has accomplished His work.
What meant those last, those dying words, which fell from the lips of Emmanuel,--"It is finished?" They meant that the very last mite of the ransom-price was paid. They were as though He cried to every broken-hearted and contrite one:--"I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." (Isa. 44:22)
And what is meant by Easter? what meant the resurrection of the Lord Jesus? It meant that the ransom-price was accepted; it meant that nought now remained for the bond-slave, the exile, but to enter upon the blessed freedom of the children of God,--to return to the many mansions of the father's house. It was as though the Father, speaking first to the Redeemer, and then to the redeemed, did say,--"As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee." (Zech. 9:11,12)
Well then hath the Church of Christ from the beginning kept holy the first day of the week. Did the full accomplishment of Creation demand grateful and perpetual commemoration? much more shall the final, the everlasting achievement of the redemption vindicate to itself a continual, an exulting remembrance. Of every first day of the week shall that word be true:--"This is the day which the Lord hath made, which the Lord hath exalted to honour, which the Lord hath hallowed and blessed,--we will rejoice and be glad in it;"--but how much more of that one Lord's day, on which we are now met together?
"Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel." (Isa. 44:23)
But I pass on to the Third clause of my text.--"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself."
Compare these words with those of the Aramoean seer. Speaking of the Star that should come out of Jacob, of the Sceptre that should rise out of Israel,--speaking, in other words, of the Redeemer, in whom Job delighted, Balaam cried--"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh." (Num. 24:17)
Strangely similar in part these words, to those which we have now to consider; and yet in part how strangely different!
In part, I say, strangely similar. For hearken to the prophet:--"Behold, I shall see him, but not now." Even so the patriarch:--"Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." As though he would say--"It is appointed unto men once to die, and I shall not be exempt from that universal law,--dust I am, and unto dust shall I return; yet, though the worm feed sweetly on me, my Redeemer shall be my Redeemer still: 'precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' (Ps. 116:15) He shall care for my spirit: 'absent from the body, I shall be present with the Lord.' (2 Cor. 5:8) He shall care for my dust: 'my flesh shall rest in hope:' (Ps. 16:9) and when the time appointed of the Father is come, He shall redeem me from the power of the grave."
Pause, my brethren, to recall that word with which the Redeemer comforts His mystical body, the Church:--"Thy dead men shall live, my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." (Isa. 26:19) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:52-57)
"And then shall I see my incarnate God,"--for that, my brethren, may well be the meaning of the term--"in my flesh shall I see God." "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13:12) "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Strangely similar then, in part, the words of Balaam and of Job: "I shall see him, but not now,"--"In my flesh shall I see God."
And yet, in part, how strangely different! "I shall behold him, but not nigh," are the words of Balaam. "Not nigh,"--fearful thought: "not as my kinsman--not as my Redeemer:" for such is the expression of which the original may well admit. No! standing as an unforgiven culprit at His bar, I shall hear those fearful words--"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" mine shall be "the resurrection of damnation."
Not so with thee, happy yet afflicted Job:--"In my flesh I shall see God: whom I shall see for myself." That expression, brethren, "for myself," is idiomatic,--it signifies "on my side." For read the original of this verse in the Psalms:--"The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" (Ps. 118:6) You will find that the word rendered "on my side" is identically the same with the word here translated "for myself." Said I not rightly, at the beginning, that our text demanded accurate and laborious investigation?
It is as though the patriarch would say,--"I shall, when the trump of resurrection sounds, see Him, and see Him with joy; for He shall, even then, act the Redeemer's part,--He shall acknowledge me before men and angels as his own: saying--'Come, thou blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for thee from the foundation of the world.'" (Matt. 25:34)
Such, then, brethren, was the heaven-taught hope of the Patriarch Job. Looking upward to the throne of God, he beheld, in the Second Person of the Holy, Blessed, and Glorious Trinity, one who, in the counsel of peace, had undertaken for him the gracious office of Redeemer. Looking onward through the vista of centuries to the incarnation of the Eternal Word, he beheld Him dying for his sins, and rising again for his justification. And then, looking further onward still, to the end of time, he saw Him, at the resurrection of the last day, coming to receive His people to himself, that where He is, there they might be also.
Beloved, the hope of Job is the lawful hope of those, and of those only, who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
I have already intimated as much today. But the matter is urgent; time presses. A few short weeks--a few short days, perchance, and these words, which we have so often heard, may be heard by others, when we are present, but can hear no longer. Let me then, most solemnly press upon your attention, three words of my text, which have not yet been noticed. They are these,--"and not another." "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."
"And not another,"--that is, "and not a stranger." It is as though the patriarch would say,--"I shall see Him with joy, but a stranger shall not." No, truly: he that is a stranger to the Redeemer now, shall then indeed see Him; but it shall be as Balaam will see Him,--only to cry "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:16,17)
O then, if conscience, instructed by the Scriptures, and quickened by the Holy Ghost,--if conscience, I say, pronounce thee to be yet a stranger from the covenants of promise, and an alien from the commonwealth of Israel,--humble thyself at once before the footstool of the exalted Jesus,--give up all ways, give up all thoughts, which are hateful in His sight,--plead with Him, and plead importunately, for life, for pardon, for peace,--give Him no rest until thou art able, in all spiritual sincerity, to say--"He loved me, and gave himself for me." For then, and only then, canst thou derive any real, solid, lasting comfort from the "Resurrection of the dead."
But, canst thou truly say, that thou knowest Him to be thy very own Redeemer, thy beloved, thy friend? The, let all griefs of Job be accumulated upon thee; let loss, bereavement, sickness, persecution, accompany thee to the grave,--and "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God," (14:22)--still shall it most assuredly be well with thee in thy latter end. "As for me," thou mayest say, "I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Ps. 17:15)
Are thy reins within thee consumed with earnest desire for that day? (Job 19:27) It shall surely come, and shall not tarry; and then, what an exceeding, an eternal weight of glory!