Proper 27/lectionary 32 November 7, 2010.


Job 19:23-27a

Psalm 17:1-9

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Luke 20:27-38

In the reading from Job that is framed by persecution, Job dares to hope for something more. Job needs to keep his plea for justice alive. He has argued the case for his innocence with the friends, but they have been unwilling or unable to accept the intrinsic worth of his claim. Job has appealed to God for a fair and just hearing, but God has refused to answer him. His desire for his testimony to be "written," "inscribed," and "engraved" is clear as each verb that signifies some means of preservation becomes more permanent than the last. It is to last "forever," beyond the friends' reprimand, beyond God's silence, and beyond his own unanswered cries for justice. Job states insistently what he knows to be true, namely that his redeemer lives. The meaning of what Job says here has long been a source of enormous debate. What many Christians assume to be Christ may in fact be something else. Who is the redeemer in whom Job believes? The redeemer ("go'el") that Job expects to come to his defense may in fact be the same God he yearns to see and ultimately does see (42:5). Perhaps the "go'el" is a third patty litigator who will stand between him and his accusers (both divine and human) and argue his case for exoneration. It is in this text that Job returns a third time to the idea that someone, a "go'el", will come to his defense against God and the friends. Job is certain that his redeemer is alive and will come to his defense. For Job, the question is when will this vindication take place?

From a Christian perspective, it is tempting to interpret Job's vindication "at the last" as a witness to the resurrection. However, it is unlikely that this is what Job is referring to. Job ultimately rejects a hope that is without foundation. He also has become increasingly obstinate that a post-mortem vindication cannot satisfy the essential need for justice. There must be some place among the living where the cry for justice gets a hearing (16:18). It is also important to remember that ancient Israelites did not as a rule believe in life after death or the resurrection of the body, job himself states this view: "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" (14:12). Job knows that a redeemer will rise up and vindicate him after his death, but what he most desires is justice while he is still alive. He wants to...

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