"I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God."
It is a tremendously powerful picture! Job is suffering. In one Christian reading of these verses, he faces potential death, but he knows that Jesus is alive, shall we even say that he will rise from the dead! I know that my Redeemer, Jesus, whom the Romans put to death, has risen and that he will come again. One day he will stand on the earth. Long after Job's skin has disintegrated and he is died, he will rise again from the dead. In his flesh, he will see God.
This is a powerful theological reading of Job. Although I can't think of any place where the New Testament actually interprets this verse from Job in this way, it is a fine theological reading of the verse.
2. The question in my mind is what the verse meant when it was first written? The default reading probably goes something like this:
- "I read the verse against my world and my definitions. As a Christian, Jesus is my Redeemer. "In the end he will stand on the earth," sounds like my belief in the second coming. Skin destroyed and then returning? Sounds like resurrection to me.
a. For example, within Job, look at these verses in the literary context of Job:
- Job 14:12 come into play: "mortals lie down and do not rise again."
- Job 7:9-10: "those who go down to Sheol do not come up; they return no more to their houses"
- And Job 3:16-19: "why was I not buried like a stillborn child... There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest... The small and the great are there, and the slaves are free from their masters."
b. When we expand to the historical-cultural context, the situation doesn't seem to change. The other wisdom books, whose final form I personally would date to the same period, have similar things to say:
- Psalm 88:3-6: "My soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who have no help, like those forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those who remember no more… in the regions dark and deep."
- Ecclesiastes 9:5: "The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost."
Obviously I could be wrong. My point is merely to exercise the method one uses when the goal is what the text really meant originally. Then we are free, I believe, to hear true Holy Spirit meanings as well. For this reason, I will continue to prize the theological interpretation of Handel's Messiah! It is a Christological reading that is fully correct theologically.