For the last two days we’ve been filming Book by Book’s study in Job. Here’s me with Richard Bewes and Paul Blackham – what a privilege to be involved! I think the DVD and Paul’s insanely good study guide (best resource you’ll find on Job!) will be available later in the year.
In the past I’ve blogged my way through Job on the King’s English:
…And given this sermon on the whole book…
But it was great to look in more depth at the book. Some new thoughts I’ve had as we’ve studied this more together:
1) So much of Job is about knowing Christ – the Mediator. His mediatorial work comes up at key points – Job 9:32-35; Job 16:19-21; Job 19:23-27; Job 33:23-28; Job 42:7-9. Whenever Job is doing well, he has his eyes on Christ. Whenever he’s doing badly, he has his eyes back on himself.
2) The great problem with the miserable comforters is a total ignorance of Christ. Eliphaz, the prosperity teacher, thinks you can get your best life now without Christ and His future. Bildad, the works righteousness preacher, thinks you can become just by your own efforts. Zophar thinks you can be spiritual, without Christ, just by your own devotional commitments. From their christlessness flows their terrible theology – in their various ways they basically believe ‘you get what you deserve.’ And from their terrible theology flows their terrible pastoral care.
3) The comforters don’t intend to be tormentors. They come in chapter 2:11 to sympathise with Job. They spend a week sitting in silence with him – what commitment! It’s just that having miserable theology means – necessarily – giving miserable comfort. Application: If you don’t know the gospel, don’t you dare do pastoral care!
4) Elihu is a good guy. Once you grasp this, it really helps you a) to take his own wisdom more seriously, but even more importantly, b) to reappraise Job as someone who errs as well as speaks rightly (cf 32:1-4). Job errs (especially from chapter 30 onwards) in continually justifying his own uprightness to the friends, and even to God. Job is certainly a believer and he hasn’t brought his suffering on himself through any particular sins. However, he ends up insisting on his innocence almost as much as the comforters insinuate his guilt. In his better moments he forgets about either innocence or guilt and looks to Christ. But when he doesn’t, he invites the critique of Elihu (and then the LORD).
5) Job’s insistence on his innocent suffering – while correct on one level – tips him, at times, in the direction of a miserable-comforter-style theology of glory. Towards the end, he begins pitting ‘knowing God’ against ‘experiencing suffering’. He becomes nostalgic for times of intimacy with God. But he loses sight of the intimacy he can have in suffering. This is a key truth Elihu brings.
6) I’d never really noticed them before but Elihu’s words in Job 36 are some of my favourite in the book:
“But those who suffer the LORD delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” (Job 36:15-16)
7) Job asks for answers throughout the book. But he never gets them. Instead he gets an experience of the LORD in suffering (Job 16:19-21; cf Job 38-41) and a promised hope after it (Job 19:23-27; cf Job 42). It’s the same with us. Who cares about answers? We need the LORD Jesus Himself and the future He will bring.
8) When James looks back on Job, his take-home message is: “Job’s perseverance and… what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11) Job’s ending is crucial. It’s a happily ever after that pictures the good purposes Christ has for all our suffering. When we read Job all the way through, our response should be: “Hallelujah, the Lord is so full of love and grace!” If we’re not saying this, we haven’t understood the book (and we won’t cope with suffering as we should).