Samuel Medley (1738-1799), the author of this famous Easter text, began his life as apprentice to an oilman in London, only to leave in dissatisfaction to join the navy. At age 21, he received a terrible leg wound which required him to return home to live with his grandfather. During his months of recovery, his grandfather read to him from the sermons of the recently-deceased Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter and Dissenting preacher. This catechesis (“catechesis” refers to an true imbuing of the faith into one’s heart and mind, often through the mentoring of parents or other mature Christians) resulted in his conversion shortly thereafter. He joined the Baptist Church, set up a school in Seven Dials, one of the poorest sections of London, and eventually became a successful pastor. Much like his contemporary John Newton (writer of “Amazing Grace”), people would flock to hear Medley preach and his churches always grew both in numbers and in faith. His leg injury so impaired his health that he died rather prematurely in 1799, but not before being able to publish several collections of hymns, many of which today can be found in Baptist hymnals particularly.
This text is taken from Job 19, specifically verse 25 in which Job responds to his tormenter Bildad by saying “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” This is a traditional text for Easter Sunday, as it is from the Old Testament and prophetic for what Jesus will accomplish. For those who wonder about the nature of the resurrection of the body, Job provides us the clue that our own bodies will be resurrected—we will be recognizable and distinguishable from others, for “I myself will see him, and not another.” Some Christians believe our final bodies will not be corporeal, but somehow “spiritual,” as phantasms. Yet, Job prophecies that “in my flesh I will see God.” Neither he nor we will be disembodied souls. From a theological point of view, Job here asserts not a specific faith in Jesus as we know Him today, but in the prophesied “Redeemer” whom Job knows to be “somewhere.” (The word “Redeemer” here is sometimes translated as “Defender.”) We New Testament Christians can see even more prophetic meaning in Job’s cry for deliverance than perhaps even Job could at the time. Job knew his Redeemer “lives,” although Job did not know Who that was. We do know Who that was and is—we are fortunate to be able to call the Redeemer by name and know of the historical events surrounding his life, death, and life again.
How, then, can we be sure about our resurrection? Paul states in Romans 6, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” It is no surprise that we humans must die—Christ died, too. But Paul continues, “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” We baptized Christians also can be assured we will be resurrected in reality—Christ was not merely a phantasm; His body bore the marks of physical crucifixion to which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!” Baptism, then, assures us a place in heaven after the resurrection. We know and can be assured of this since we also know that our “Redeemer lives.”