This passage paints a picture of the brevity of human life. “At least,” sighs Job, in what may sound sarcastic to our cynical ears, “there is hope for a tree …” (Job 14:7). Job’s comparison of a person’s fragility to that of a flower (see Job 15:2) is an ironically opposite image. We are reminded of David’s words in Psalm 103:15–17: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But [and this caveat means everything to us as believers] from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.” Job had a God-inspired inkling about redemption (see Job 19:25), but it was ill-formed, a vague hope groping beyond the light of the revelation God had to that point made available to humankind.
Historical theologian and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for Environmental Stewardship E. Calvin Beisner observes:
What we ought to expect, if we believe in the transforming power of Christ in the lives of the redeemed and, through them, on the cultures in which they live, is an increasing reversal of the effects of the Curse, a progressive transformation that parallels the growth—both intensive and extensive—of Christianity through the centuries. While Biblically sound social analysis repudiates the secularist ideology of inevitable Progress, nonetheless the Christian doctrines of creation, fall, curse, redemption, and consummation equip us with a linear concept of time and a Biblically grounded faith that God is indeed working in time and space to restore this fallen and cursed world to glory (Mt 13:24–43), and we ought to see—and can see if we are looking—evidences of this in history.
Job’s imagery of a tree “dying” and rising again at the scent of water is striking in light of Beisner’s reflections (though the analogy was certainly not intended by either Job or by this modern author) (see Job 14:8–9).
In terms of historical progression, Job lived under the curse (temporally speaking, the cross was yet far off, though God in his grace would offer to his Old Testament saints glimpses of salvation; see Jn 8:56; Gal 3:8; Heb 4:2). We, on the other hand, find ourselves blessed to be living on the stepping-stone of redemption. Our sights are set on the rock-solid certainty of a glorious future with Christ. God’s Old Testament people knew little of curse reversal (and God will deal with them on the basis of what he did choose to reveal in the days before Christ). Indeed, our stewardship of the planet covers a dimension they could not fully have foreseen. Having moved from curse to redemption, we are invited to travel confidently and diligently, in faith and at work, toward consummation, that glorious completion of all God’s work.
Lord, I praise your work in the past, present and future for the redemption and restoration of all things.