Job 19:23-27: 23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[a] lead, or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[b] lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[c]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet[d] in[e] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
In this passage that we read last week at Church, Job is expressing his faith in God– that God will be faithful to Job, provide for him, and ultimately that Job will live beyond death and be with God. This hope and belief leads to a different longing– a desire to express this is something concrete, something physical. He says that he wants to engrave it on something, to write it down. He wants some sort of physical marker to make it real, to make himself remember, and to testify to the faith that he has in a physical manifestation that others can also see and understand.
When it comes to commitments and beliefs and moments of monumental importance– we like to have physical engravings, physical markers of those moments, which help mark the importance of the event or belief that took place there. We have plaques and trophys which are given out to commemorate achievements. People are given bibles as they finish catechism, we are baptised with water publically so that there is a moment in time which is publically seen by others so that our testimony is made more real and memorable. We have letter jackets, super bowl rings, or anniversary jewelry to mark occassions of importance in our lives. We even have funeral stones to mark our lives after we are dead, so that people don’t forget that we were.
I recently proposed to my girlfriend Celeste and she accepted. We had a wedding ring being made, but when I proposed, I didn’t have an engagement ring. But I knew that that would be something we’d need to go get. As she put it, “its almost absurd to propose without a ring” (to which I responded, “its even more absurd though, for us to be reserving chairs for the wedding without me having proposed”– and she agreed). We didn’t need a ring because you need an expensive piece of metal with an expensive stone in it– we needed a ring because that is what speaks in our culture of your commitment– of the inner belief and hope that you share. It makes the parents realize that this is for real– its not just talk. It makes friends realize that this is really happening. It even makes it more real to us. Standing on a hill overlooking the river committing to each other for life is an important moment in time, but it is a moment in time which passes and is quickly surpassed by the next moment in time, etc etc. A ring commemorates that moment, that commitment, that hope.
This is what Job was wanting– something concrete and physical to stand as a witness to his unwavering faith that God would ultimately save him from his situation, and from death.
We as Christians, especially free church Christians, can tend to shy away from physical manifestations of faith– we are nervous that the spiritual reality will be supplanted or confused with the physical manifestations of those spiritual realities. So often our preists don’t wear robes, we don’t focus too much on the bread and wine of communion (except for the spiritual point of it), we don’t practice lent or do much to observe advent, we don’t have pennance or physical confession to a priest or others usually, and for some whether or not you are baptised is not really important– because its the spiritual reality that really matters. And while the spiritual reality is what really matters (the physical act of baptism means nothing unless you do it intentionally and purposefully, and if a non-believer takes communion, this is not beneficial to them), still, we are physical beings and the physical manifestations of our faith and beliefs and hopes are important.
Physical reminders of faith need not be worshipped, and they can be very helpful to us, just like an engagement ring.
May God have mercy on us all…