Sunday 28 June 2020 Redemption Shoots Martin Baker
Job 14:7-15; 19:23-27
14:7 "For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.
10 But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they?
11 As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.
13 O that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14 If mortals die, will they live again? All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.
15 You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands.
19:23 "O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book!
24 O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!"
I spoke to my brother Michael back in February. Michael is an epidemiologist, and I asked him how bad could this virus be? Our son was just about to move to live in China, so I had more than a casual interest. And Michael said to me it is going to be really bad. He and his team had the projections in front of them.
But at the time, it didn’t seem really bad for anyone except those in China, and on a few cruise ships, and I thought I am sure he is exaggerating. But he wasn’t. And people like him in so many countries warned their governments and many were very slow to act. Many simply denied it was going to be problem for them.
It’s a bit like these governments were hearing that strange noise from the car engine, or having a few chest pains, – and just hoping it would go away.
According to Scripture, there is something deep within that would rather deny than deal with the reality of a situation. Paul talked about this a lot, we know what is right but we keep denying, we keep sinning, doing and thinking the wrong thing.
And now, I guess I perhaps don’t read the news as much as I did then. It has become almost too difficult to listen to. A bit like the Book of Job.
So the Book of Job as difficult as it is, is in many ways the Book for this time. It really tells of a lot of bad things coming to Job. And there is no denial no cover up.
And the question that is asked through the book are questions like - Is it possible to hold on to both the darkness of this world, and the light of God? Is it possible to have genuine faith in a world where a lot of quite bad things happen - To people to communities to nations?
In the Gospel of John we are told that the light comes into the world and the darkness has never overcome it.
So the Book of Job which predates the Gospel of John by a good 500 years asks that question:
Is it possible to hold on to both the darkness of this world, and the light of God?
At the start of this book, Job who had faith and prosperity like none other, he’s stripped of his fortune and family and cast into suffering and despair.
And there he answers the big question about having faith in God in a world where bad things happen, with a yes. There is a faith that holds on to both the darkness and the light. A genuine faith. The sort of faith we actually might need in this world of virus and shootings. Job says yes, there is a faith like that. And with that yes we are invited into the rest of the book to explore what that faith might look like.
Last week we think of a time of lament
And we discover in scripture, that when we come face to face with the suffering of this world. The result is lament. Not to hide away from the sorrow which lurks within us when confronted with such pain, but to acknowledge it, express it, live in it.
And we find in the Book of Job, and again and again through to Jesus there is given this time for lament. Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
Last week we heard Job cry ‘Let the day perish in which I was born’
We might see sorrow as a sign of weakness. And I guess we all hear a great deal of encouragement to stay positive.
There is that catchy song which I like, ‘accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative don’t settle for Mr in between.’ But sometimes things are really tough. And simply been told to stay positive, doesn’t help that much. Maybe we just don’t lie the idea that there needs t be times to pause and to lament.
And so we find in Job a faith that does not just acknowledge the darkness in our world, it does not solely lament, but it also acknowledges God. It calls on God, and ultimately finds a way to trust and hope, even with words of lament still ringing in the air. In order for this faith to be genuine, it must come to terms with the darkness. And, in order for it to be faith, it must hold on to the light.
And now with Job we come to a point of waiting. And our reading opens with the words
"For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.”
I am sure you have noticed this, but driving around this part of Auckland, there is a great deal of waiting involved.
I was moaning on to someone last week of having just missed the green out here and having to stop and wait 2 minutes and 22 seconds for the light to change.
And she said, what is your problem it was only 2 minutes and 22 seconds. In other words, was the entire world holding its breath because of your 2 minute and 22 second delay?
Waiting isn’t necessarily bad is it?
In the midst of his lament, Job searches for some glimmer of light, but can find none. He looks for light in the example of a small branch sprouting from the dead stump of a tree.
He wonders if he could perhaps just wait it out, wait out the suffering
And then, almost out of nowhere, he finds something. It isn’t a lot of light. Just a small bit in an unlikely place. It might not even be hope, but something that resembles it, something that might just get him by.
Out of nowhere, Job proclaims: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.” I know that my redeemer lives.
The redeemer was a very specific role in ancient Israel. The job of the redeemer was to restore the rights of another
“I know that my redeemer lives,” Job proclaims with such unexpected energy . His hope, or the closest thing he has to it, comes in the idea of a redeemer, one who will restore him. One who will bring him back. I know that my redeemer lives.
But, why? How? How do you know this, Job? Why on earth would you believe there is a redeemer for you? Everyone is gone, or has turned on you, or has died! Even God seems to have turned on you. So who do you have in mind here? I know that my redeemer lives. Really? Who?
We don’t know. As Christians we say that our redeemer is Jesus
But Job didn’t know who the redeemer was. Maybe he didn’t have someone in mind at all. Maybe this is just Job’s refusal to let go of the light. Maybe, in the midst of such darkness, he is expressing his own rejection of the idea that the darkness has consumed everything forever. Maybe what’s more important than Job proclaiming a redeemer, is that he shouts it out into the dark.
In fact, we find similar surprising events in our Scriptures. A woman called Ruth. Ruth refused to let go. Despite all evidence to the contrary. Despite having absolutely no logical reason for doing so, Ruth decides to go out into this field hoping someone will save her, redeem her – a foreign widow. The idea is absurd. But off she goes. Ruth refuses to let go of the light.
Or take David marching towards Goliath.
What possible future is there as we look and see a man from Nazareth hanging on a cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. How can anything come from that?
Sometimes faith is a living breathing confidence. The sort of thing that cannot be shaken.
But other times, faith is simply a rejection of the idea that all is darkness.
And here we have to pause for a moment and think of those who for no obvious reason have simply refused to give up hoping.
We think of our Christian brothers and sisters in China who will walk out on a Sunday and stand in the rubble of their demolished church and worship God. Knowing that every move they make is filed and recorded and their faces stored on some sort of terrible database.
And we think today about those doctors and nurses who while still grieving the death of so many of their colleagues walk into a diseased medical ward in Brazil to care for the suffering.
And we think today of those in our lives who against all advice and evidence do not give up caring hoping praying for a child a teenager a parent. Someone even who may have let them down a hundred times before.
Throughout this book, Job acknowledges the sorrow that is within him. He acknowledges the darkness that has consumed him. We can do that, too. We can lament.
But we can also join Job in refusing to leave it at that. Maybe this strange sort of faith is just enough to keep us going.
So, we join Job in proclaiming “I know that my redeemer lives.” Waiting, willing for a voice to reply from the other side.
Whatever situation Job is in, whatever situation we are in, there is still an unfished story to be told on his life and ours. A story where we discover, with Job, that our redeemer does live. AMEN
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