I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.Job 19:25-27a
It is hard to imagine a more depressing, spirit-destroying and hopeless situation than the one Job sees himself in in chapter 19. It’s worth reading the whole chapter. Everyone is against him – friends, family, even God. No-one has even the slightest appreciation of the depth of his despair. He is completely alone. Perhaps this is how Jesus felt when he bore all the guilt of all my sins on the cross, and cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ But what kept Job (and Jesus) going was a ‘carved-in-rock’ commitment to the hope of the resurrection (see verses 23-24) – that no matter how bad things get here, there is hope beyond the grave – that it’s not just some airy-fairy, mystical, spiritual, feel-good theory, but a concrete reality. Job could say confidently with the apostles: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’, and that was even before Jesus gave us the living proof of his own bodily resurrection and the empty tomb! May the God of grace help us all to look at our present difficulties in the context of an unshakeable, personal resurrection hope.
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”Exodus 3:12
God had captured Moses’ attention in the desert at Mt Horeb (Sinai) by a miraculous sign – a bush that ignited spontaneously but then didn’t burn up. He then spoke to Moses from heaven in a clear, unmistakable voice and commissioned him to undertake a task that was completely beyond his personal resources: “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (10). There was enough supernatural content in all this to convince Moses that he could not ignore such a ‘call’ – but he was still frightened and desperate. Then God said an amazing thing:”I will be with you!” That is what will make all the difference! No, Moses does not have the personal resources for such a mammoth task; but God does. This changes ‘mission impossible’ to what came to be the greatest rescue operation in human history. But what God says next is the important lesson for us in this part of Scripture. God promises Moses a ‘sign’ that God means business and that it will all work out as planned. My guess is that Moses was really hanging out for such a ‘sign’ – perhaps something like the burning-but-not consumed bush – that it is truly the God of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is speaking to him and not just a figment of his own imagination! And what is the ‘sign’? That the 2 million liberated slaves will worship God at that very mountain at Horeb. What sort of reassuring sign is that? … after the event! God was asking for a commitment of faith and trust first, and then the assurance would follow. Moses is listed among the heroes of Hebrews 11 who fitted the definition of ‘faith’ given at the beginning of that chapter: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (1-2). ‘Certain of what we do not see’! We long for ‘signs’, clear indicators that we are on the right track in obeying God. Sometimes God supplies these miraculously; most times we have to press on in faith and the assuring indicators come later as we look back and see God’s provision, his amazing hand at work in our circumstances. It is good to remember Paul’s word as we ‘continue to work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling’: “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)! We can trust him to make up for our weakness and our struggle with an unknown future.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling-block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9
The glorious freedom that Jesus purchased for us through the cross and the empty tomb is something that he wants all his emancipated people to enjoy without limit (John 8:36; 10:10). And so we should. Satan hates us enjoying all the benefits of this freedom and will do anything to get us back into his clutches by whatever means he can. Paul strongly warned the Galatians against letting this happen: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). But avoiding the devil’s subtle schemes isn’t always as simple as it sounds; in a genuine effort to authenticate and guard our freedom, we can easily fall into his trap. “Look how your life can be completely unshackled by rules and regulations, by fastidious scruples, by an ‘immature’ zeal for holy living!”, he might say. So Paul was concerned that some of the Church members in Corinth were letting such an attitude do spiritual damage to others of a more tender conscience. A significant aspect of being liberated from slavery to self-serving is to be more sensitive to, and accommodating of, the needs of others, especially their need to be nurtured into spiritual maturity. That sometimes means trading a bit of ‘freedom’ for disciplined righteous living!