Scripture passage: "Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 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. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:23-27
It is well with my soul: In 1873, a Christian lawyer from Chicago named Horatio Spafford placed his wife and four children on the luxury liner Ville de Havre sailing from New York to France. Spafford expected to join them in about three or four weeks after finishing some business. But except for his wife he never saw them again. The trip started beautifully. But on the evening of November 21, 1873, as the Ville de Havre proceeded peacefully across the Atlantic, the ship was suddenly struck by another vessel, the Lochern, and sank a mere thirty minutes later, with the loss of nearly all on board.
On being told that the ship was sinking, Mrs. Spafford knelt with her children and prayed that they might be saved or be made willing to die, if such was God's will. A few minutes later, in the confusion, three of the children were swept away by the rising waves while she stood clutching the youngest. Suddenly the youngest child was swept from her arms. She reached out and caught the baby's gown. Then the baby, a little girl, was lost again. Mrs. Spafford became unconscious and awoke later to find that she had been rescued by sailors from the Lochern. But her four children were gone.
Back in New York, Horatio Spafford was waiting for news of his family. And at last, ten days later (after the rescue ship had reached Cardiff), it came. "Saved alone" was his wife's cable message. That night Spafford walked the floor of his rooms in anguish, as anyone would have done. But this was not all. For as he shared his loss with his Lord, a loss which could not be reversed in this life, he found, as many have, that peace which passes all understanding. Toward morning he told a friend named Major Whittle, "I am glad to be able to trust my Lord when it costs me something."
Spafford left the next day for England to be with his wife. When his ship came to the place where the Ville de Havre was rammed and sunk -- where his four precious children were lost to him in this world -- he leaned upon the rail and thought these words that he later wrote into a hymn:
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea-billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul."
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him: Spafford said: "I am glad to be able to trust my lord when it costs me something." In these words of Spafford echoes the words of Job about God even as he sat in his pain on the dung heap – “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” Job 13:15
Job spoke quite literally of how his family and friends had turned against him. In any society nothing hurts more than rejection by one's family and friends, but what could be worse in a patriarchal society than to have children ridicule the patriarch?
He knew he was innocent and sought above all else to be vindicated. His compassionless counselors had reiterated their impersonal theology that declared him guilty. He felt that God was angry with him and had become the enemy who attacked and crushed him. He perceived that he was alone in a cruel and amoral world. There was no one left who understood, no one to plead his cause or bear witness to his innocence.
Deserted by loved ones, Job needed radical friendship, not theological banter. Job's appeal failed. His counselors had deserted him. Believing that he was at the point of death, Job felt he had nothing to lose by speaking out. With no hope left of proving his righteousness, Job looked to the future, leaving his case with posterity.
Job's hope in the midst of despair reached a climax. Slandered by his friends and with death imminent, Job looked to the future where his Defender waited. Job saw himself a murder victim. He depended on his Redeemer to testify for him but also to set the books straight. God, who had become his enemy, would become his friend.
God, the friend of the innocent: He believed in God's power to raise the dead and had a desire and hope that God would set a time and raise him and then he would see God with his own eyes. Job expected to see God. Job was convinced that even if he died, he would live again to witness his own vindication.
As an innocent sufferer, he finally realized that God himself would appear to him, whom he would see with his own eyes; then Job would learn that his God was not alienated or unconcerned but was his friend.
Believing in God’s righteousness: Job has lost everything that he has treasured--his family, his farm, his wealth and his health. He has only one thing left -- his certainty that he is innocent. He has done nothing to deserve this. He has suffered far more than he could ever have deserved. It was not fair. It was not right.
Job was a prosperous man. He had a large and happy family whom he loved. He was also a good man. In fact, in all the earth there was none better. That is why Satan sought permission by God to try Job's faith. Satan not only takes away Job's children and possession. But when this fails to make Job curse God, he covers Job from head to toe with a loathsome and painful skin disease. Job's condition is so miserable that his wife urges him to curse God and die. But he rebukes her and accepts his condition as coming from God -- whom he refuses to criticize. Job's friends are no more help than his wife. Soon he is left alone. Although Job can see no justice in his present situation, he believes God's ultimate righteous character.
Our Redeemer does live: Job sees that there is a Redeemer. He sees God's love and justice beyond his present conditions. "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God."
If Satan was the public prosecutor trying Job's faith, then there must be a public defender to plead Job's case. If God is a holy judge -- far removed from our sinful condition, then there must be a mediator to bridge the chasm between God’s throne and human need. Job knows that his Redeemer lives and that this Redeemer will someday stand upon the earth.
Our redeemer does live and he has stood upon the earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Not one of us knows what the future holds. But we do know who holds the future. So we can say, whatever comes, "it is well with my soul."