4 Reasons You Should Preach through Job
John Calvin aptly described the world as the theater of God’s glory and the church as the orchestra. God is utilizing every event and object in the universe for the unfolding of a meta-drama that displays his majesty and mercy, and the church has a very important part to play in this drama. How does the suffering of God’s children fit into God’s unfolding drama? In the book of Job we get a backstage pass into the heavenly realm as it concerns the suffering of righteous Job.
Here are four reasons you should preach the book of Job to your church.
1. The book of Job teaches us about the sovereignty of God over everything.
In the book of Job we come to learn that it is God who gives, and it is God who takes away (Job 1:21-22), and that God ordains all the prosperity and calamity experienced in this world (Job 2:10). As the ultimate illustration of this point, the book of Job shows that God is even sovereign over the works of Satan himself (Job chapters 1-2).
The doctrine of God’s sovereign control over all things has always been a difficult doctrine for Christians to understand. In order to make God more palatable, Christians sometimes attempt to put unbiblical limitations on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. While understandable, this is a tragic mistake that distorts a true knowledge of God. We must make a regular effort as pastors to reinforce and teach our churches about God’s ultimate sovereignty over all things.
To instruct people on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, many pastors will turn to the didactic teaching of the Pauline epistles. I have found, however, that many Christians will receive the most help in their quest to intellectually and emotionally embrace the doctrine of God’s total sovereignty from the narrative literature of the Old Testament. In the book of Job we come face to face with the all-encompassing nature of God’s sovereignty, and we feel the blows dealt to Job and his family according to God’s sovereign plan. As we are brought into Job’s journey of suffering, we see Job profess that God is the ultimate cause of his pain, and we see the biblical narrator affirm Job’s faithful profession: “Job… fell on the ground and worshipped. And he said, “…The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)
In this way, Job is an example of how to affirm the reality of God’s complete control in the midst of the most difficult and painful circumstances. More than this, Job is an example of how to praise the God who ordains these circumstances.
2. The book of Job helps Christians who struggle with why.
There is a natural human desire to want to understand why. This natural desire finds full expression in the book of Job.
As Christians in your church embrace the sovereignty of God over everything, they will also begin to have questions as to exactly why God has allowed Nancy to get a brain tumor at 40 years old. Or why God ordained for Jim to lose his job and for his family to deal with the resulting financial fallout. Or why God allowed Linda’s miscarriage. In a desire to help those who are suffering, members in our churches might feel compelled to come up with a hypothesis as to why God has ordained these painful circumstances, just as Job and his friends felt compelled to come up with a hypothesis as to exactly why God had ordained Job’s suffering. But we see in the book of Job the foolishness of their attempt.
As readers, we are given a backstage pass that allows us to see how God is being glorified and Satan is being mortified by Job’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering. But Job and his friends are not given the luxury of this backstage pass. They are the actors in the drama. Even at the conclusion of the book, Job is not given any explanation for his suffering, nor is he given any description about the events that took place in the heavenly realm during his suffering. The same is true with us in the midst of our suffering. We cannot (presently) know what is going on behind the scenes of our suffering, and we do not know the precise purpose that our suffering serves in God’s plan. But the book of Job helps us to see that there is more than meets the eye. God does have purposes, even if we can’t see them. God is at work in our suffering, and that assurance is good enough.
3. The book of Job brings comfort to the suffering Christian.
There are suffering Christians in your church who ought to be comforted by the truth of Scripture. And there are at least three ways that suffering Christians can be comforted by the message of Job.
A. The book of Job holds out the hope of knowing more of God through suffering.
Job didn’t get the answers to his “why” questions through his trial, but he did get to see more of God. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). When we go through trials as believers, we may not be invited to hear the audible voice of God out of whirlwind. But, like Job, we are invited to know more of God in our times of trial as his strong arm upholds us and his steadfast love abides with us through the darkest of times.
B. The book Job comforts suffering Christians with the knowledge that in this world the righteous suffer.
Job did not suffer as a direct result of sin in his life. His trials were not brought on by moral failure. His suffering was not punishment from God. Rather, Job was chosen for suffering because of his faithfulness to God that was without parallel to anyone else on earth (Job 1:1, 8). Faithful Christians who are enduring difficult trials need to be comforted with the truth that their suffering is not punishment from God. While everyone (including Job) is a sinner, and while all suffering exists categorically because of sin, not all suffering experienced in this post-fall world is a manifestation of God’s displeasure or a direct result of sin. In our post-fall world, the righteous suffer.
C. The book of Job holds out the hope of future restoration to the suffering Christian.
Job experienced a miraculous restoration of all things at the end of the book. In fact, he ends up with more than he started with. While the restoration we experience as Christians will not come in this life as it did with Job, the book points to the reality that in the end we will have far more than what we started with. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
4. The book of Job points us to the righteous sufferer, greater than Job.
While God ordains that the righteous suffer, God is not indifferent towards our pain and suffering. Rather, God has entered into human suffering in the most radical way possible. In the person of Jesus, ‘he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus is the righteous sufferer, greater than Job.
However, unlike Job, Jesus’ suffering was the direct result of sin, even though Jesus’ righteousness exceeds the righteousness of Job in every respect. Jesus, as the sinless one, suffered not for his own sin but for ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this way, Jesus bore a weight that Job could never bear, conquering sin and death. And in this way Jesus’ suffering and resurrection put Satan and his minion to shame in a way that Job’s suffering never could (Colossians 2:15).
It is because of Jesus’ suffering, resurrection, and ascension that we can have confidence that the Sovereign God of the Universe is not against us and will not punish his children for their sins. Rather, God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). And it is because God the Father has given us Jesus that we can be assured of a glorious, pain-free, trial-free future, in a restoration that is greater than Job’s. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
Word Biblical Commentary; David J.A. Cline. Being three sizable volumes, Cline is by far the most comprehensive commentary that I’m aware of on the book of Job. Because most expository preachers will not likely be working through a verse-by-verse sermon series on the book of Job (but will likely preach Job in 3 to 5 sermons), it isn’t reasonable to assume that a preaching pastor will have the time to work through the entirety of all 3 volumes. However, this is a resource to have on hand for help with difficult passages and understanding big picture themes. One of the reasons this work is so large is because Cline hits on both the fine details as well as paying significant attention to the themes carried throughout the book.
Tyndale Old Testament Commentary; Francis I. Andersen. Andersen is much more accessible and easy to manage than Cline. And, at under 300 pages, Andersen can be read through in preparation for a shorter sermon series. While not as technical as Cline, Andersen hits on the most important issues and themes throughout the book.
New International Commentary on The Old Testament; John E. Hartley. Between Cline and Andersen, you have Hartley. Hartley covers more technical aspects than Andersen, but in one (large) volume, Hartley is more concise and manageable than Cline.
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You can read the rest of the articles in this series here.