Job is a difficult book. Not only do awful things happen to an otherwise innocent man, they happen with God’s explicit permission. Then, when God shows up to speak with Job, He doesn’t give the ‘behind the curtains’ explanation that Satan had challenged Job’s faithfulness, and that Job had proven his faith through the trial. Instead, we get yet more challenge to Job: are you God? Did you make the world?
Yet I think even with those difficulties, it may be that the biggest challenge of Job is the thirty-six chapters in between the action and the conversation with God. That… is a lot. Those of us who have heard a sermon series through Job have almost certainly heard sermons on Job 1, 2, 3-37, and 38-42. Which means a book that has forty-two chapters is largely skimmed over from the pulpit–or in our own devotional times, for that matter. Even knowing where to start with this behemoth of a book (heh) can be overwhelming.
Christopher Ash’s new book Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide to Understanding the Book of Job is a helpful way to be less intimidated by Job. Despite being under 150 pages long, Trusting God in the Darkness has eleven chapters (each with discussion questions), a preface, and introductory outline, and a postscript. In other words, it’s not only a useful guide to Job it’s also fair game for a small group or group study. That’s not to say I’m sold on everything in the book. Ash says some things about Elihu and Leviathan (not the same things about each of them, of course) that I’ll have to think more about. And even while noting that we all skim over the bulk of Job despite it being the inspired Word of God, Ash does the same thing here. Of course he almost has to do this, but it is still an issue that needs to be sorted out. (Nor do we want to go the other direct with Joseph Caryl and end up with 12 volumes…)
This is an excellent little book, and it certainly makes me want to pick up a copy of his longer commentary Job: The Wisdom of God. Recommended for those who want a good introduction to a tough book.