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In Our Ward: Lesson 32: “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 29, 2010

Lesson 32: “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”

Job 1-2; 13; 19; 27; 42

Purpose: To help class members develop strength to face adversity by trusting the Lord, building their testimonies of him, and maintaining personal integrity.

Preparation: Print “Theodicy” on a piece of paper so that it is large enough to be seen throughout the room.

LESSON DEVELOPMENT

Attention Activity:

[Clip “theodicy” sign to board.]

Scholars of religion have specialized terms to refer to various aspects of the scriptures. One of those terms, theodicy, refers to “divine justice,” or the “justice of God.” We have seen a great many examples of divine justice in our discussions of the Old Testament this year. In the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden because they had disobeyed God’s instructions with respect to the fruit of the tree, and his divine justice required that he keep his word that they should surely die. Later, we see that Abraham, who was faithful throughout his life to every instruction from God received the justice of the rewards God had promised him for his obedience.

What are some other very clear examples of the justice of God in the Old Testament, where he rewards righteousness with blessings or where disobedience is followed by punishment?

[After a few examples are given, abruptly tear down the “theodicy” sign and dramatically rip it into pieces. Let the pieces flutter to the floor.]

Today we’re going to talk about an instance in the Old Testament where divine justice appears to be turned on its head, where God seems to reward righteousness with unimaginable suffering, and measure our own response to adversity against his response.

Scripture Discussion and Application

1. Job is sorely tested.

The book of Job is one of the most challenging in the Bible, in part because God does not appear to be just, but also because of the structure of the book itself. In part that is because our 21st century western culture is so different from that of the ancient Near East.

In our culture, we recognize different kinds of stories by their structure, and we have different expectations of stories depending on their structure. For example, when you hear a story begin “Once upon a time,” you expect to hear a fairy tale, usually with magical elements and a hero or heroine who goes through great danger but eventually wins all the prizes. On the other hand, if a story begins “A Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and a Mormon bishop all went fishing together,” you expect a very different kind of story.

When the Israelites heard or read the story of Job, they recognized the structure of a story that was familiar to them but which causes us some problems. Let’s look at Job, chapter 1.

The first few verses tell us that we are dealing with a righteous man, a kind of hero, who does everything that God expected of him and is rewarded by divine justice for his righteousness.

Job 1:1-5

1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.

3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

But then we read something that startles us, that raises some theological problems for us.

Job 1:6-12

6 ¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.

7 And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

From the way the book of Job opens, the Israelites would have recognized a pattern, a particular kind of story that was familiar to them: Job was a hero who was about to be tested to see if he was as righteous as he appeared to be. The test would come from a council of the Gods.

For us, the idea that Satan could come and go, that he would talk to God and that God would give him an assignment, turn over one of God’s righteous men to the devil, strikes us as completely wrong – and it would be. But in the structure of this story, the character of “Satan” is not the person that we know as Lucifer. Instead, “satan” is here used as a title – he is the “accuser” or the “prosecutor” and is a son of God who is a member of the divine council. His role is to test mankind, just as the Lord’s role is to judge mankind.

Now whether the Israelites believed there was a literal council of the Gods, with a member who literally had the assignment to test mankind, does not matter to our understanding of the book of Job. We just need to realize that this opening was the set-up for a familiar kind of story, and that the people who heard it anciently would know to expect a kind of stylized, ritual story where the hero would face one difficulty after another, and they would wait to see how he would react to each of his challenges.

And those challenges came, didn’t they? What do you remember of the particular trials that were thrown at Job? Can you think of any kind of trial that comes at us that didn’t come to Job? [Don’t go through these one by one, but as class members suggest trials that can be seen as parallels of Job’s, consider reading the appropriate verses depending on the course of discussion.]

Loss of servants, property, and income

Job 1:13-17

13 ¶ And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:

15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Loss of children

Job 1:18-19

18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Physical illness and pain

Job 2:7; 7:5; 16:16

7 ¶ So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

5 My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.

16 My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;

Restless sleep filled with nightmares

Job 7:4, 13-14

4 When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.

13 When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;

14 Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:

Cruel accusations and loss of support from friends and family

Job 2:9; 4:1, 7-8; 11-1-6; 19:13-22

9 ¶ Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, …

7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?

3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?

4 For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.

5 But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;

6 And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.

13 He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.

14 My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.

15 They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight.

16 I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth.

17 My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children’s sake of mine own body.

18 Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me.

19 All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.

20 My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.

21 Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.

22 Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?

Confusion about why he was asked to go through these trials

Job 10:15

15 If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction;

Mockery by those who delighted in his downfall

Job 16:10-11; 30:1, 8-10

10 They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.

11 God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.

1 But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock. …

8 They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth.

9 And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.

10 They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.

The feeling that God had forgotten him or was not listening

Job 19:6-8; 23:3-4

6 Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.

7 Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.

8 He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.

3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!

4 I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

2. What is the source of suffering?

Two of Job’s friends believed, and told him, that Job’s suffering was due to some wrong that Job had done. That would certainly seem to fit our expectations for divine justice. But according to the terms of the story, Job had not done anything wrong to merit the suffering he was undergoing.

How – and more importantly, why – do we sometimes suffer, even though we have seemingly not broken the commandment that is associated with the punishment? Does all suffering come from God as a direct punishment for wrongdong?

3. Questions to ask during adversity.

Elder Richard G. Scott said:

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 18; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17).

What does he mean that a question like “Why me?” is a “blind alley”?

Why are questions like “What should I learn or do or how should I help?” more productive questions to ask?

4. Job receives strength from his personal integrity and from faith in God.

Job faced his adversities by finding strength from two sources. First was his own integrity, his commitment to his testimony that the Lord was God, and he refused to abandon that conviction.

Job 27:2-6

2 As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul;

3 All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;

4 My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.

5 God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.

6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

When I was a missionary, I was faced by two very severe trials that shook everything I thought I knew about God and the plan of salvation. What those trials were doesn’t matter; they might not have caused you much trouble, but they did make me question divine justice. I got through them both by backing away from the particular problems and going back to a part of my testimony that was on firmer ground. I asked myself, Just because this happened, does that mean there is no God? No, I couldn’t accept that. Just because this happened, does that mean God doesn’t love and have a plan to redeem his children? No, I still believed he did. I went through a long list of things I still believed, and that had not changed one bit despite the trouble I was having. I think of that time as my Job moment, when I learned that I still had faith in God and that I couldn’t let temporary adversities, no matter how large they seemed at the time, make me pretend otherwise. “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.”

Are there occasions where you have held fast to your testimony of God’s goodness despite severe trials?

Job’s second source of strength was related to the first – he believed in the goodness of God, so he counted on God to help him endure. His faith in God is summed up in that beautiful line from Job 19:25:

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth …

Apart from the special role that Christ has as our redeemer, what is a redeemer? What does it mean to redeem someone or something?

When the children of Israel heard these words – I know that my redeemer liveth – while they were in Assyrian or Babylonian captivity, what special meaning did it possibly have for them?

What does it mean for us when we think of Christ – For I know that my redeemer liveth? How can thinking of the Lord as a redeemer be a source of comfort during times of adversity?

Conclusion

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.

… Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1975], 97).

When we look at life with this perspective, what can we conclude about divine justice?

[Testimony]



15 Comments »

  1. By the way, I didn’t say or even intend to imply that the book of Job is not a literal biography (although I don’t think it is) — I merely meant by my introduction that the structure was conventional, that the appearance of “the satan” clued in listeners as to what kind of story (which could as well be literally true as not) was to follow. The point that has always kept me from taking Job seriously is the idea that Satan — Lucifer — could march up to the throne of God and that God would be willing to play games and strike bargains with him. Seeing this as a conventional opening lets me get past that difficulty with ease.

    But in practice, it didn’t work in my ward. Hands shot up immediately. The first one informed me why she preferred to think that this was really Satan and that he had literally and in fact made a bargain with God — she knows Satan walks among us and this reminds her of that. The second woman with her hand up informed the class that I was wrong, that the book of Job was literally true (remember, I hadn’t said it wasn’t!), and that Satan behaved this way, and yada yada yada. Then the sister who gives me a ride home had to tell me that Job was a real historical person and the book is a literal history of real events because God referred to Job in the Doctrine and Covenants. (I wanted to ask, “So, if President Monson makes a point in Conference by referring to Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold, then that means Rumpelstiltskin was a historic person and spinning straw into gold is a genuine, doable thing?” But I didn’t.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  2. Ardis, I wish I could have been there for this! Andrew is really sick, so I just came for sacrament. I’d be really interested in reading more about how Job starts as a familiar story form. Is there a particular resource you can recommend?

    Comment by Ariel — August 29, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  3. Hehe. Once upon a time I learned that the Job lesson could get you released.;)

    Comment by WVS — August 29, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  4. My initial thought was that in my ward the only two options presented were fiction or expanded non-fiction kernel. Then I read your lesson – excellent!

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 29, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  5. Thanks, J. I try very hard not to be dogmatic one way or the other with regard to literalness, but my coteacher is such a literalist that any hint of a suggestion of the possibility that literary conventions might be in play is picked up on as heresy, whether the story is Job or Noah or even a psalm

    WVS, have you written about that? You shoulda warned me!

    Ariel, I have several commentaries and introductions that I use to help me make sense of the alien world of the Old Testament. My favorite is Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (New York: Oxford, 2006). He is friendly to the scriptures as divinely inspired, but I haven’t been able to detect his pleading for any specific sectarian view. I also like Lawrence Boadt, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, New York: Paulist Press, 1984) — his is definitely a Catholic perspective which I find easier to follow than most Protestant ones. I also use John H. Walton, et al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000) — a much more naturalistic interpretation than I really like, but very good for pointing out parallels between the Old Testament and the writings and relics of other ancient Near Eastern peoples. I don’t know how well any of these are respected by Bible studies people, but they’re comprehensible to me with my limited-to-LDS-seminary background. All three of these sources talk about the larger folktale of Job, of which our biblical book is only a part, and (especially the IVP) draw parallels to the structure and content of other stories from the same approximate time and place.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

  6. I read something recently that relates to your third point, “Questions to ask during adversity.”

    As some of your regular readers may know, my youngest son was born with a major heart defect. It is called HLHS and the only way of treating it is by a series of open heart surgeries, starting right after birth, or a heart transplant. I belong to a very helpful online support group. It can be a sad place sometimes; it is today, since one of the oldest HLHS kids, a 20 year old named Andrew, just had a major medical emergency and is fighting for his life in a children’s hospital in the Upper Midwest.

    The cause of HLHS is unknown, but it may be partly genetic, partly environmental. Consequently, when children are diagnosed with the condition, many if not most parents spend a lot of time wondering, “Why me? Why my child? Did I do something wrong?”

    One of the dads shared an experience recently. I hope it’s okay to quote a large part of it. I’ve edited just a bit.

    The day we found out about [my son] I was devastated. I thought it was ALL my fault. I cried and cried because I had passed a heart condition on to my son, and this heart condition pronounced itself in a major [heart defect] for him. Then when I was at my lowest point, when I was convinced my son’s illness was my fault a doctor who has never seen my son, who had never seen my charts told me that I could drive myself crazy, or even sick worrying about whether this was my fault, or I could accept this was [my son]‘s journey and I could take his precious little hand and walk with him. He asked me why it mattered where the heart defect came from, or if my heart condition had anything to do with it. He asked me why I was so entranced with what caused this, and why I was not overjoyed that my son was so beautiful. He walked out of the NICU, and I never saw him again, I never even got his name, but what he said to me stuck. It does not matter why or how or even when it happened, [my son] is here, happy, vibrant, and so full of love that the scars and pain fade … I tell him all the time that he inspires me and that his scar is daddy’s reminder of how lucky he is to be with him everyday. I guess what I am saying is there are 2 ways I see it, I can either rack my brain and expend my energy with the what ifs, or I can just be present in the day I get with the son I always wanted.

    Comment by Researcher — August 29, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

  7. Thank you, Researcher.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  8. I wish the wife of the Bishop in Fresno who was just murdered and her six children could read your lesson plan and draw some comfort. A great lesson , well presented and senstive to the issues about if the book of Job is a “real” story. The moral and principles of the book are true regardless of wether or not it “really” happened.

    Comment by john willis — August 29, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  9. Your paragraph about your mission experience was my favorite part of this lesson. For me, it brought the core of the lesson home in a powerful way.

    I’ve been mulling over this concept a lot in my own life, trying to not let the seeming injustices shake me. That whole ‘turned on its head’ reality is there for all of us. It’s a hard lesson to learn that efforts toward righteousness do not mean a painless existence.

    I’m reminded of Elder Maxwell who talked of when he was diagnosed with cancer, and then said something like, “Of course. I shouldn’t have been surprised.” Discipleship is a demanding journey. The gospel just helps us keep a perspective on the pain…just as you captured so perfectly in your personal experience.

    Thanks again for that. It’s a beautiful way to end my day.
    m

    Comment by michelle — August 30, 2010 @ 12:38 am

  10. I’m thinking of having our Sunday School take a two-week vacation so we can be sure to have your lessons available for our teachers!

    Great lesson, Ardis. And wonderful handling of those problematic “conversations” in the first few chapters. Thanks for the insight.

    And thanks to Researcher for that comment. It is so easy for us to think “Why me?” when things go wrong, and the quoted story is a wonderful cure for that from a wise physician.

    Another approach I try (sometimes successfully) is to ask “Why me?” about all the things that, through no fault of my own–everything, in other words–go right. That question is equally un-answerable, and that helps me to avoid agonizing over the same question about things that go wrong.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 30, 2010 @ 7:10 am

  11. Wow. From the whimsical, to the shocking, to this profoundly spiritual post — Keepapitchinin really delivers! Thanks for this, all.

    Comment by David Y. — August 30, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  12. I’ve always had trouble with the Job story–i.e. Satan cutting a deal with God. To me it sounds like the “Devil Came Down to Georgia” song. When I was in seminary many years ago, for a Super Saturday we had a CES guy present a lesson on Job. His comment was that we don’t know if the story is literal or not. I remember mentioning that on my mission and was shot down by other missionaries as though it were denying the Holy Ghost to think it might not be literal.

    I also taught a Gospel Doctrine class that turned out in a similar fashion. It was on Jonah and my intent was not to get bogged down on whether Jonah was swallowed by a whale or a big fish. I wanted to discuss the symbolism and when I suggested that we do so instead of discussing if it was a literal story, hands shot up. So we missed the points of the lesson.

    I guess when it comes to biblical interpretations I just keep in mind that we understand the Bible as far as it is translated/transmitted correctly and not necessarily literally.

    Comment by Steve C. — August 30, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  13. Amen, Steve. We seem to learn true doctrine from the stories of the prodigal son and the good Samaritan without having to believe that they are strictly biographical. I’m not sure why so many people feel that consideration of literary elements — to say nothing of transcription or translation errors — of a Biblical story means that we’re calling the whole thing a lie. I’m not, at least, and I don’t think anyone else here is, either.

    Thank you all for the earlier comments, too. My oral presentations don’t always flow as easily as my typed ones, and your reactions make me feel like I’ve connected better here than in class.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  14. Excellent. I wish I could have been present in this lesson. The GD teacher in my ward ended up spending most of the time summarizing the story. He finally pointed out that the only thing Job didn’t lose was his faith, and that Job got back twice what he had before, then the lesson ended. The lack of detail drove me crazy, and the focus on the Hollywood ending was deeply unfulfilling.

    Thanks for giving me another chance for this lesson.

    Comment by harpchil — August 30, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  15. harchil, we didn’t talk about it because I didn’t really have a satisfactory explanation beyond what I had already tried (i.e., that the story has a conventional framework with conventional elements at the end as well as at the beginning), but I was set to ask whether class members felt Job’s doubling of everything was really adequate compensation for his losses. There are parents in my class who have lost children to death. I can’t imagine any one of them agreeing that having more children, no matter how wonderful, would replace the life of a child who had died. Times ten, in Job’s case. I can’t accept that as a real life scenario; I can intellectually accept it as a stylistic device. “Unfulfiling,” indeed. Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 30, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

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