Job’s Tree with the Scent of Water

Job’s Tree with the Scent of Water

Job’s Tree with the Scent of Water.

“For a tree, there is hope that if cut down, it will sprout again, that its shoots will continue to grow. Even if its roots grow old in the earth and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.”  (Job 14:7-9).

One would have a difficult time finding a more perplexing book in Scripture than Job. It is ancient, so old that many scholars believe it is the oldest written book in the Bible, written before Genesis, by an unknown author. The land of Uz might as well be the land of Oz since no one knows where that land actually was. Job was a Jew before Abraham, in the sense that he had a direct knowledge of God. The name of God is used 150 times in the book. And yet Job was also a Gentile, since he has no knowledge of the Torah, the Temple, or Israel. In all of Job’s questioning of God, God never actually provides an answer to Job’s suffering. Job asks Why, and God seems to answer Because. All of Job’s ordeal is orchestrated by Satan, and yet Job never has a hint that Satan is even in the picture at all. Job’s plight is to live into the mystery of suffering in the dark.

For Job maintained his innocence through all the pain and suffering. He believed that this ordeal was not of his making, that he had already confessed to God whatever needed to be confessed in the past. Job tells his friends, this suffering is not his fault. Through it all, Job continued to trust in God’s basic mercy and goodness. Job trusted that God was ultimately responsible for everything in this world, and that God must have a good reason for this plight of his. If only God would tell him what those reasons are! Job’s ultimate hope was in God, even if God was pulling all the strings in this misery. Job never yielded to the temptation to curse God and die, even during all those moments of dark despair, depression, and his moody mental states. Job’s faith is so strong that, despite his misery, he boldly declares, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (13:15).

Job never tried to hide his thoughts and feelings from God. He was utterly transparent to the Lord. He laid it all out there for God to see. Job complained to God, he argued with God, he challenged God, he expressed his gravest doubts before God, his darkest thoughts. But he never relinquished his deep faith and trust in God. Job knew he was helpless and vulnerable before a powerful God, and that only God could save him from these calamities. He trusted that God was eminently fair and just, and so he kept his hopes alive. Job was in prayer constantly, he kept speaking to God. “I am not silenced by the darkness.” (23:19). The disturbing thing in the book of Job is, until the big theophany at the end, God kept Job in the dark during most of his suffering. Job cried out to God, but for the most part God didn’t answer. Ellen Davis offers this piece fo insight in her book Getting involved with God… “What goads and guides Job through his pain is simply the determination not to let God off the hook for a moment. Eventually Job’s determination to hold God accountable to Himself becomes his hope of redemption.”

In this particular passage in his book, Job decides to look at nature as he explores the idea of death and the afterlife. He points to a tree and probes the possibility of coming back from the grave. Job decides to think out loud with God about life after death. He was well ahead of his time even considering this topic. God simply hadn’t revealed much if anything to His people about the afterlife. Heaven and the resurrection only came to light in much later Hebrew thinking. Job was a pioneer in this subject, and many would have denounced him as a heretic for even bringing the topic up for discussion. And yet as Job considers, with God as his audience, the possibility of the afterlife, with perhaps his three friends listening in, he actually became what Mike Mason called “the earliest Christian prophet of the resurrection.”

Job insightfully brings up the image of a tree that is able to come back to life after being completely cut to the ground, with dried-up roots and a rotting stump. And yet, Job says, new shoots can sprout if it senses water and taps into a fresh supply. An old dead tree can spring back to life, Job observes, so maybe an old dead person can as well? Job continues to explore this idea as he displays his moments of doubt… “He dies, and dead he remains.” (v. 10). No, Job seems to conclude, it seems like a human being “once laid to rest will never rise again.” (v. 12).

But Job is like a dog with a bone. He continues to contemplate this idea as he asks God to hide him somewhere in the place of the dead until His judgment is done. Hide me in my grave, Job requests, and then don’t forget I’m there! Mark your calendar, God, so you remember me there when I am dead in my grave. So Job repeats his question… “Can the dead live again?” (v. 14). He is earnestly asking for some hope after his intense suffering. In fact, Job declares, “I will wait for my renewal to come!” (v. 14). Another translation puts it, “I will wait until I arise!” Somehow, Job decides, my dead body will become just like that dead tree, it will get a scent of water and become like new again! One can tell that Job has developed an underlying faith in God, that He will make things right in the end.

Job was the Bible’s earliest prophet, anticipating the Messiah, the living water of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and the final call of Jesus at the Last Day. He anticipated the gospel two thousand years ahead of its time. God inspired Job to be a spiritual pioneer, even as Job didn’t fully understand everything he was saying. His thoughts and conjectures carried a lot more spiritual weight and significance than he could ever know. Job was an intuitive believer without knowing anything about Scripture or the Temple or anything else that God might have communicated to others. Job was on his own in his thinking, and God was with him all the way. It is so inspiring to see that the oldest believer in the books, probably the first in human history, has all the instincts of a true believer.

The Prophecy of the Dead Stump. When he developed the image of the tree that was cut down, resulting in a dead stump that ended up with new shoots, Job didn’t know he was anticipating the coming Messiah. He didn’t know about the prophet Isaiah’s announcement that “There shall come forth a Shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is. 11:1). Job couldn’t have known that the royal line of David would be chopped down, that the reign of David’s kingdom would be a dead stump, but that the Messiah, the prophesied Son of David, would be a new Shoot sprouting from that old dead stump, just as Job described. Job couldn’t have known that the righteous Branch he imagined would truly, eventually grow out of that old stump. What Job had envisioned as merely an illustration from nature became the perfect picture of the most important event in history. Job anticipated Isaiah, and Isaiah anticipated the Messiah.

The Prophecy of the Water. Job was waxing poetic with his phrase “the scent of water.” (v. 9). He was noting that somehow a root from a dead stump is able to sense the presence of water and grow towards it. That water will then enable that dead stump to spring back to life, the source of new life. Job here provides a beautiful picture of how we, even though we ought to be dead stumps, can still receive a source of new life. Roots that appear to be too old and deformed for renewal can nonetheless receive living water, the water of life everlasting. As Jesus dramatically said to the crowd in the Temple, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’… By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed on Him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39). The water giving new life to the dead stump is the Holy Spirit, mentioned time and again in the Hebrew Bible. (Ps. 36:9; Is. 12:3, 49:10 and 55:1; Jer. 2:13 and 17:13; Zech 13:1 and 14:8). “For I shall pour water on the thirsty soil and streams on the dry ground. I shall pour out my Spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring, and they will spring up among the grass, like willows on the banks of a stream.”  (Isaiah 44:3-4). This living water comes from Jesus, the Fountain of Life, and renews our lives now and for life eternal. In mentioning the scent of water, Job was being poetic. He was also being prophetic. Little did Job realize that his picture of the scent of water revealed the truth that our salvation and sanctification involves the sensing of the Holy Spirit. Job, without knowing it, also anticipated the ultimate river of life in the New Jerusalem, flowing through the Tree of Paradise. (Rev. 22:1).

The Prophecy of the Resurrection. Job continued to be fascinated by the question of the afterlife, and it seems he concluded his thoughts with his amazing conviction in 19:35, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives! He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!”  By the time Jesus started His ministry, the idea of the resurrection of the dead was believed by many Jews, including the Pharisees. The resurrection didn’t sound nearly as outlandish to Jesus’ listeners as it did to Job’s friends. The Jewish believers throughout the Hebrew Bible were for the most part not all that interested in the afterlife. They didn’t talk much about heaven or hell as a place to go after death. Their sense of God’s judgments were intended for life here on earth. People who were cursed in their life if they didn’t obey God were experiencing for the most part their hell on earth. They were judged here and now, and were suitably punished if that’s what God wanted to do. And the same for God’s blessings. People living on earth could be blessed during this life for obeying God. They didn’t need to think about the blessed life after they die, since they more or less have their heaven on earth. There were a few hints, though, that some old saints in the Hebrew Bible were thinking about an afterlife with God. Daniel 12:2-3“Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” There are other passages that refer to the resurrection of the dead, including Isaiah 26:19Hosea 13:14, and many times in Psalms (17:15, 49:15, 71:20). Most of what Jesus had to say about the resurrection seemed to have their foundation in those passages in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus switched things around by making it more of a focus. Job was indeed a pioneer in thinking about life after death, and he seemed to have both the intuition and the faith that believed it was true.

The Prophecy of the Last Call. Job made an astounding statement of faith in 14:15, and his declaration turned out to be messianic. He concluded his discussion with God of the afterlife by declaring that after his time in the grave, “You will call, and I will answer you!” Job didn’t understand, of course, that indeed God will call everyone out of their graves on the Last Day. Jesus said in John 5:28-29 that “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice, the voice of the Son of Man, and come out of their graves – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to condemnation.” Job couldn’t have known that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout!”   (1 Thess. 4:6). Job, the prophet who believes that, when he is dead in the grave, he will somehow hear the call of the Lord.