In the middle of crushing trouble and grief, attacked by God and deserted by men, Job cries out:
"Oh that my words were written ... engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand afterward on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold and not another."
There's loads of interesting commentary on these words here.
And my favorite choral arrangement of the text below:
How I wish I could sit with Job for five minutes and ask him what prompted these words! Can you hear his anguish? His ten children all murdered in one day? All his worldly goods destroyed or stolen from him? Only his nagging wife left to him, to torment him? How many years will he languish in this misery? What did he DO to deserve this persecution from God? And at one (of many) moments of utter despair and frustration, Job says, "I want a permanent record of this! My life really needs to be in a book. Otherwise, nobody would ever believe that this could happen to a human!"
And he got his wish, didn't he?
Job is really saying this: "I want somebody, after I'm dead, to vindicate me. Somebody has to prove that I didn't do some evil thing to deserve such severe affliction." Job wants a vindicator. He doesn't assume anybody will come along and do this while he's still alive. Job long ago resolved himself to a horrible life and shameful death. His only hope is AFTER he's dead, that someone will clear his name.
The word "Redeemer" in the text is the same term found in the book of Ruth -- a near relative who comes into your life at a dark time and rescues you, saves you, vindicates any wrongs done you, reverses your bad fortunes. We think of a kinsman redeemer (in Ruth's case) as a man who comes along and marries you. But for Job, a redeemer is one who will stand on the earth (on Job's dust) and prove to everyone that Job really was an honorable man.
So far, that's a nice cultural concept from ancient Hebrew families. But what of the next words? Job has this insane, amazing, fabulous belief expressed concerning his own resurrection. After his body is dead and decomposed, he claims that -- someday -- he will be in his flesh again, and he will see God with his own eyes. He says it three times as if to aggressively affirm the incredulity of it! His own physical eyes will look on a physical God. Surely in his near history Job had heard of others who walked and talked with God. The Old Testament is chock full of instances of God in bodily form mingling with humans, visiting them. But that's not what Job means. Job means after he himself is dead, he will see God.
Where did he get such an idea? Why did Job so clearly understand his own resurrection?
I think people who suffer greatly must learn to let go of life on this planet, of hopes for happiness or relief. In exchange, they grasp elsewhere for their hope. Sufferers contemplate eternity. Those whose bodies are twisted by disease or age dream of a different body, a resurrected body.
The promise of resurrection is a powerful thing. Once you believe in it and allow that miracle to settle into your mind, life changes. If resurrection is true, this life is a mere prelude. If resurrection is coming, there's always hope. If resurrection is sure, one can tolerate anything here. One has only to wait.
Job's relief and vindication came much earlier than expected, I'm glad to say. God restored everything. But what the man said in his darkest hour, at the bottom of his pit, are the words that count most. "I know that my Redeemer lives." And "yet in my flesh I shall see God."