There is a verse buried deep in the book of James where Job is referenced. It’s the only New Testament reference to Job personally:
“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)
James assumes his original audience is familiar with Job’s story. It would not be wise for a pastor to make this assumption today for many are not intimately familiar with his story. They know this guy suffered big time and it turned out well at the end. They might have heard sermons on Job chapters 1-2 and 38-42 but that’s it.
The Wisdom Literature in Scripture is a gift from God to us and Job is divinely designed to prepare us for suffering and serve us in suffering with a divine perspective of suffering. J.I. Packer writes of the Wisdom Literature:
- The Psalms teach us how to worship
- Song of Solomon teaches us how to love
- Ecclesiastes how teaches us to live
- Proverbs teach us how to behave
- Job teaches us how to suffer
If you are more familiar with Proverbs than you are Job and Ecclesiastes, then you aren’t prepared to endure suffering and glorify God in suffering. And you need to be theologically prepared for suffering because you will need your best theology in your darkest moments. The book of Job is a gift from God to prepare us for our darkest moments and sustain us in our darkest moments. Job was familiar with severe suffering and deep darkness. And Job will serve your soul in your darkest moments, IF you are familiar with the book.
If you are looking for a reading plan in your study of Scripture for the next few months, I’d like to recommend Job. But I wouldn’t recommend you just begin reading today without a good scholar holding your hand. Job is no easy read. And the majority of the book is poetry not prose. I need a scholar to hold my hand when reading Job because most of Job is divinely inspired poetry. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood where poetry was popular or prized. I grew up in a neighborhood where athleticism was prized, not poetry. Looking back I wish I grew up in the same neighborhood as John Piper, a man who prizes poetry. Actually, I wish I grew up in a neighborhood where both athleticism and poetry were prized!
There is a divine purpose for most of this divinely inspired book being poetry. In his commentary on Job, Christopher Ash explains why:
“Poetry does not speak to us in the same way as prose. A poet can often touch us, move us, and unsettle us in ways that prose cannot. Poetry grapples with our emotions, our wills, and our sensitivities. We cannot just sum up a poem in a bald statement, we need to let a poem get to work on us-we must immerse ourselves in it. It is just so with Job. So during this study let us read the book of Job itself, read it out loud, mull it over, absorb it, wonder, be unsettled, and meditate. And may we let God work on us through this great Bible book. We shall find our faith deepened and our emotional palettes enriched.”
“We need to let a poem get to work on us-we must immerse ourselves in it.” Job, is a gift from God to prepare us for suffering for we will all suffer in some way. This is a divinely inspired poem that needs to “work on us-we must immerse ourselves in it.” And so your faith will be deepened and your emotional palettes enriched I recommend you obtain the commentary by Christopher Ash titled Job; The Wisdom of the Cross. I think it’s superb and I’m confident it will help you become familiar with this “neglected treasure” of a book that you will need at some point in 2016.
This post is adapted from a sermon I preached this past Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, entitled “James’ Take on Job.”