In Job’s time and culture, the family is the major unit of society. And what we would call the ‘extended family’ (something that modern Westerners generally acknowledge only at grand social occasions such as weddings and funerals) is something of great significance. Relations – even quite distant relations – are expected to stick up for each other, help each other, and look after each other. The financial implications of this can be considerable; there is no limit to one’s potential liability. Job is almost certainly the wealthiest member of his clan, and he will be expected to bail out any one of his children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, or cousins if they become enslaved as a result of falling into debt. The technical term for this is ‘redemption’, and the rich relation who acts as this sort of safety net is a ‘redeemer’.
Now Job feels himself to be in difficulties – not in debt to a human moneylender, but bankrupt in the eyes of God and powerless to extricate himself from his predicament. Now he realises that he needs a redeemer – someone related to him (who therefore has the right to act on his behalf) and who also has unlimited spiritual ‘credit’ (and can therefore put him right with God). But as we have already seen, these are conditions that no human being can fulfil.
In the very middle of the book, Job is totally overwhelmed with grief and despair, tormented beyond endurance by the cruel accusations of his friends; he seems to be at the very end of his tether. But it is at this point that he suddenly has a defiant outburst of faith: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25) His family may have deserted him (Job 19:13,14) and his friends may have turned against him, but surely God will not let him down?
Will such a Redeemer ever walk the earth? Christians believe that He has: that the Son of God became human, and thus acquired the right as well as the power to be the Redeemer of the human race. “Since the children have flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14,15) We all need His help – but will you admit it and go to Him?