Paul Azinger was a popular professional golfer a few years back that had just won the PGA championship and had ten tournament victories to his credit. Then, at the age of 33 he was diagnosed with cancer. He recorded his feelings about the experience, “A genuine feeling of fear came over me – I could die from cancer. But then another reality hit me even harder: I’m going to die eventually anyway, whether from cancer or something else. I am definitely going to die. It is just a question of when. But everything I had accomplished in golf became meaningless to me. All I want to do is live.”
Then he remembered something that Larry Moody (who teaches a Bible study on the pro tour) said to him: “Zinger, we are not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying, we are in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living.”
When I read that story, I thought about that ancient question of Job, “If a man die will he live again?” (Job 14:14). That is not only the oldest question of philosophy; it is the most important question we can ask ourselves today. And who better than Job to ask it! Out of this ancient book breaks the challenging question that we all have to face –
“Why were we born?”
“What is the meaning of suffering?”
“How shall we face death?”
and “Where will we spend eternity?”
Here is a man robbed of almost everything precious to him, stripped of his human dignity, reduced to suffer in the ashes of pain, while his estranged friends sit pitiless in judgment over his condition, and his wife turns against him. Even God seems to be strangely silent to his appeals. It appears that he will die without a witness to his noble life. If there were only someone who could tell his story, someone who could record his life in a book, someone left to etch on his epitaph a worthy word. But there seems to be none. Yet out of his swollen and parched mouth there peals a poem of praise. “I know that my Redeemer lives, …” It is a trip that all of us must one day take unless Jesus comes. So, on this morning, a day that the world calls Easter, the day we call Resurrection Day, what word to a world that is hurting, does the ancient suffer bring?
I. We Have a Living Redeemer
However tempted Job might have been to justify himself before his worthless friends, however he might have wanted to provide proof of his piety, and however he might have desired a witness to his good name, it isn’t that that he confesses. He begins with words about his Redeemer – “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
We must understand the words of Job in light of how he understood them. You and I come to them with the blazing light of the New Testament revelation. Job did not have that. Yet, he wrote beyond his own understanding and comprehension. He was thinking in the Jewish concept of Sheol: the dual compartmentalized eternity that held a place for the righteous in the upper compartment and a place for the wicked in the lower. And even though he passed into a third pessimistic stage after making this great statement, it must not diminish his confidence that God would vindicate him in the end. It is a germinal truth. The Old Testament prophets often wrote more than they understood. While Job never mentions the resurrection of the Redeemer explicitly, he does confess that he will survive this bodily destruction to see God.
The word that Job uses for “Redeemer” is an interesting one. It is one that casts its shadow upon the New Testament. It is the “redeemer kinsman” of the Old Testament that was responsible for revenging the blood of an innocent relative. It is the kinsman that takes up the responsibility to marry a childless widow of a family member. It is the kinsman that purchases back a relative that has been sold into slavery. And so Christ is the believer’s Redeemer, who redeems him from the guilt and condemnation of sin. That is what Paul meant when he spoke of Jesus “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed…” (Titus 2:14).
Job says, “My Redeemer liveth.” We are not standing over the body of a dead hero today. We are standing at the mouth of an empty tomb, where the stone has been miraculously rolled away and Jesus stepped forth to announce, “I am who was dead and am alive forever more. And I have the keys of hell and death” (Revelation 1:18). God did roll the stone away to let Jesus out, but to also let us in.
J. Vernon McGee pastored the Church of the Open Door in California for many years. Today, though he is in heaven, his recorded Bible studies can still be heard on the radio. He had a great ability to make various passages understandable. One day he received a letter in the mail from a listener who said, “Our preacher said on Easter, Jesus swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?”
McGee replied, “Dear sister, beat your preacher with a leather whip with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross, hang him in the sun for six hours, run a spear through his heart, embalm him, put him in an airless tomb for three days, and see what happens!”
II. We Have a Personal Redeemer
It is one thing to speak of “the redeemer.” It is another thing to speak of “our redeemer,” but it is an altogether different thing to speak of “my redeemer.” So David could write “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
By choice I choose to make Christ my Redeemer. How you face life and how you face eternity is a matter of choice. Job said, “I know my Redeemer liveth.” You have been destined by the choice of Adam and Eve to enter this world with a fallen condition. But God came in the form of a man to die for your sins and mine, and it is up to you and it is up to me to choose. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to them that believe on His name” (John 1:11-12). Both the life you choose to live here and hereafter is a matter of choosing.
A. He makes us partakers of the new life. John 10:10: “I am come that you may have life and that you may have it more abundantly.”
B. He has gone to prepare a place for you in heaven. “If I go I will prepare a place for you that where I am there you may be also. I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:2).
C. He intercedes for you and pleads our case in heaven. “Therefore, he is able to save to the uttermost those that come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
D. He gives us personal victory over the enemy. He teaches us how to go into the house of the strong man and overtake him. We may bind the power of Satan through prayer and Scripture.
W. Somerset Maugham was one of the most popular British writers of the 1900’s. He is best known for his semi-autobiographical work Of Human Bondage. He was also a playwright. Maugham was a vocal unbeliever. He often boasted that he wasn’t afraid to face death. One day his nephew walked into his room and found the elderly Maugham reading a Bible. Maugham laid it aside with some disparaging comment about its truthfulness. A few minutes later he sat up in his bed, his eyes filled with fear and said, “No, go away. I am not ready to go.” He began to shake violently and his hand trembled as he spoke. Suddenly he fell over dead. When faced by death, the arrogant skeptic lost all of his self-confidence.
III. We Have a Victorious Redeemer
It isn’t that you and I are going to die one day. The truth is we began the process of dying the moment we entered this world. Every minute you live you are one minute closer to eternity. Every day you live, you are one day closer to meeting God. Every year you live you are not just a year older, you are a year closer to giving an account of yourself before the throne of God.
Job says, “I shall see God…” It is no simple conjecture. It is not mere guess. It is not vague hope. It is an absolute certainty. There is no hesitation or doubt about this matter. His faith is not shaken by his terrible losses, the reproaches of his wife and the false charges of his miserable friends. With perfect confidence he gives an emphatic “I shall see Him.” Job was echoing the words of the Hebrew writer when he spoke of “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”
It is said that the human body gets a new cell structure every seven years. Some of us therefore, have had a number of bodies. Yet, through these changes personal identity remains. Does it not seem reasonable, even logical, that personality can survive the extreme body changes of the grave?
But you don’t have to depend upon reason. We have the Word of God. We have the record of hundreds of witnesses that saw Jesus in His resurrected form. We have the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. And we have the evidence of changed lives.
Winston Churchill chose to believe. In fact, he arranged his own funeral. At his funeral they sang the traditional hymns at St. Paul’s Cathedral and there was an impressive service. When they said the benediction, he had arranged for a bugler high in the dome of the Cathedral on one side to play “Taps,” the universal signal that the day was over. But when the bugler was finished, after a long pause a bugler on the other side of the dome of the Cathedral began to play “Reveille,” the signal for the beginning of a new day. It was Churchill’s way of communicating that while we as believers say “Good Night” here, it’s a “Good Morning” up there. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
Allen F. Harrod is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Orange Park, FL.