Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Job As Prophecy

I am generally loathe to focus on particular Old Testament passages as 'prophecies' concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. Ironically, the prophets have far more prophecies about the messiah that were FRUSTRATED by Jesus rather than fulfilled by Him. For instance, most prophets looked forward to the Messiah as a being that would be a political and military force, who would usher in a worldwide Israelite empire with Jerusalem at its center and God as its head. There are some prophecies that seem to indicate a different kind of messiah, but they are in the minority. When Jesus came, many misunderstood what was going on because they were relying on the prophets.

What the prophets do is set the stage for the coming of Christ. They create ideas, and begin to formulate a picture of God, that make Christ's coming possible. For instance, the prophets magnify the problem of mercy and justice. They make it clear that the Hebrew experience of God is problematic because the Hebrews experienced God as pure goodness, and the human conception of goodness has at it's heart a tension between mercy and justice. Jesus came into a conversation the prophets had started. He stepped in as a answer to the prophetic cry. Christ's significance is obscured without that cry.

Of course some parts of the prophetic writings seem to 'cry out' for Christ more than others, like the Suffering Servant songs.  It is in these places you seem to get some sense of a true presaging of what is to come. The same thing is true of Hosea. There are these images, these pictures of what God's answer to the prophetic cries might be like, and those pictures do look remarkably like Jesus. Of course I don't think of them as simply someone 'seeing the future'. Rather, I think of these as divine ideas, seeded into history that eventually bear fruit IN Jesus. In that sense Jesus truly is the Word of God become Incarnate. The pictures put forth by these prophets are part of what made Jesus who He was. They are literally part of the process of God becoming Incarnate.

On that level, though, there may be no more prophetic book than Job. Job constantly cries out for a mediator, some figure that can stand between God and man and bridge the gap. He also cries out for an answer to the problem of evil, and there are moments where a picture almost comes into view, a picture that looks remarkably like Jesus Christ.

Here is one example:
Job 9-
Then Job replied:
“Indeed, I know that this is true.
    But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?
Though they wished to dispute with him,
    they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
    Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
He moves mountains without their knowing it
    and overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth from its place
    and makes its pillars tremble.
He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
    he seals off the light of the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
    and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear[a] and Orion,
    the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
    miracles that cannot be counted.
11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
    when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
    Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
13 God does not restrain his anger;
    even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.
14 “How then can I dispute with him?
    How can I find words to argue with him?
15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
    I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
16 Even if I summoned him and he responded,
    I do not believe he would give me a hearing.
17 He would crush me with a storm
    and multiply my wounds for no reason.
18 He would not let me catch my breath
    but would overwhelm me with misery.
19 If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
    And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him[b]?
20 Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
    if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.
21 “Although I am blameless,
    I have no concern for myself;
    I despise my own life.
22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
    ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
    he mocks the despair of the innocent.
24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
    he blindfolds its judges.
    If it is not he, then who is it?
25 “My days are swifter than a runner;
    they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,
    like eagles swooping down on their prey.
27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
    I will change my expression, and smile,’
28 I still dread all my sufferings,
    for I know you will not hold me innocent.
29 Since I am already found guilty,
    why should I struggle in vain?
30 Even if I washed myself with soap
    and my hands with cleansing powder,
31 you would plunge me into a slime pit
    so that even my clothes would detest me.
32 “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
    that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
    someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
    so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
    but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

This is the picture into which Jesus stands. Jesus is God's answer to Job's need. Can you imagine the theological currency you can pull from this chapter? It boggles the mind.

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