Category Archives: Job

Job and the Cross

The opening words of Christopher Ash in his forthcoming commentary on Job:

“The grandest book ever written with pen.” So wrote the Victorian essayist Thomas Carlyle about the Old Testament book of Job.

It is a book I have been grappling with for a decade or so. The more I have walked through it and around it, the more deeply convinced I have become that it makes no sense apart from the cross of Christ. That statement would be strictly true of the entire Old Testament, but somehow in Job it seems more sharply and urgently true, for without Jesus the book of Job will be but “the record of an unanswered agony.” It could almost be a commentary on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18–25.

The book of Job hinges around the contrast, conflict, and tension between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the cross.

Perhaps this is why commentaries that restrict themselves to interpreting the Old Testament in terms of the Old Testament alone find themselves heading up blind alleys. Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, and the book of Job can only be understood as a part of the whole Biblical canon as it is fulfilled in Christ.

Again and again as I have beaten my head against these puzzling and seemingly intractable texts, it has been the cross of Christ that has shone light on the page. This is not to say that the book is not about Job in his ancient context. Of course it is. But Job’s experiences, Job’s debates, Job’s struggles, Job’s sufferings, and Job’s final blessings all come to fruition in the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ in his life and death and then in his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation at God’s right hand. I hope I can persuade you of this as the exposition walks through every verse of the book.

The 400-page exposition delivers on this promise (hence the flood of effusive endorsements on the cover). Ash has written a marvelous commentary for gospel-minded pastors who are looking for help in navigating the waters of Job while keeping Calvary in view. And it’s a wonderfully nourishing and readable book for any Christian who seeks to see the glory of Christ by studying the life of Job.

 

Suffering

Francis I. Andersen, Job (Tyndale OT Commentary), 68:

Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for a connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forwards in hope and seeks explanations, not so much in origins as in goals. The purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its result. The man was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him (Jn. 9:3).

But sometimes good never seems to come out of evil. Men wait in vain. They find God’s slowness irksome. They lose heart, and often lose faith. The Bible commends God’s self-restraint. The outworkings of His justice through the long processes of history, which sometimes require spans of many centuries, are part of our existence in time. It is easier to see the hand of God in spectacular and immediate acts, and the sinner who is not instantly corrected is likely to despise God’s delay in executing justice as a sign that He is indifferent or even absent. We have to be as patient as God Himself to see the end result, or to go on living in faith without seeing it. In due season we shall reap, if we do not faint.

Job’s Prosperity

What word comes to mind when you think of the life of Job? Trial. Affliction. Suffering. Endurance. Patience. But what about prosperity? The beginning and the conclusion of the book highlight Job’s prosperity. Note the chiastic structure that develops from the book’s introduction and conclusion:

A – Job’s prosperous life (1:1)
B – Job’s prosperous family (1:2)
C – Job’s prosperous wealth (1:3)
D – Job’s priestly mediation for his family (1:4–5)
D’ – Job’s priestly mediation for his friends (42:7–9)
C’ – Job’s abundantly prosperous wealth (42:10–12)
B’ – Job’s abundantly prosperous family (42:13–15)
A’ – Job’s abundantly prosperous life (42:16–17)

And notice the final verse of the book, this sort of epitaph etched on Job’s grave: “Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life” (42:17 NLT). Or as James says, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV). Trials, affliction, suffering, endurance, and patience are all key themes in the book of Job. But we miss something when we fail to see “what the Lord finally brought about.” Which is the OT’s way of saying that God uses trials for our good. To those who love God, affliction is the pathway to blessing (but of course this is no promise of financial wealth).

Personal suffering and personal sin

Christians suffer. So does God cause His children to suffer as punitive judgment for their personal sin? Walter Kaiser today at CT explains why Job’s friends were wrong in saying ‘yes.’ On a similar note, Derek Thomas’ book, Calvin’s Teaching on Job (Christian Focus, 2004) is excellent here, too. As one of Job’s friends (Elihu) realized, suffering is God’s means of instructing (not judging) His children.

“… affliction serves several ends: it is ‘the true schoolmistresse to bring men to repentance’; it weans us from dependence on the things of this world; it provokes us to prayer. Significantly, afflictions are the voice of God and a sign of his providence. They are by God’s appointment; they are God’s ‘archers,’ his artillery. Afflictions are a part of God’s ‘double means’ whereby he humbles us (the other being his Word). Yet, at the same time, they are ‘stirred up’ by Satan. … afflictions show us our sins and cause us to flee in repentance. … Afflictions also drive us to desire more of God’s help, provoking us to return to him, by drawing us to him, taming us, and teaching us to pray” (Calvin’s Teaching on Job, 227-228).

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