Preaching from Job

This book has been apotheosized, crystalized, and mummified——but deep insights await the one who is willing to dig for the treasures buried there.

Alfred S. Jorgensen is field secretary for the Australasian Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

 

In a survey to determine the least well known book of the Bible, Job would certainly be a strong contender for first place. Surely it is more than a little strange that a book of such dimensions as Job should be so unfamiliar to Seventh-day Adventists and so infrequently expounded by Adventist ministers. Of course, not only this church but Christians in general have a very superficial knowledge of the book. Perhaps they remember vaguely its contents and that it consists of long speeches sprinkled with a few "proof texts," but beyond this concept Job is uncharted territory.

Yet what about ourselves, ministers of the Word? How much better would we fare if faced with an examination on the text of Job? When was the last time you heard an exposition on the book? When was the last time you preached on Job?

What has happened is simple enough to understand. Job has been apotheosized as great literature, and forgotten; crystalized, and put into a glass case for the gaze of the curious; mummified, and wrapped in the winding sheets of erudite scholarship. In every case the practical effect has been the same—most people, ministers included, know little of value about Job.

There may be some good reasons for the popular lack of attention to Job. The book is pretty hard going in the King James Version (hence the value of a modern translation, such as the R.S.V. or the N.I.V.). In addition, most books on Job are of a scholarly nature, written primarily for ministers, and then only for those who can follow the intricacies of the Hebrew variant renderings. Popular books on Job are about as scarce as the comforters he sought to find!

Recognizing all this, may I suggest how we can begin to remedy the situation; how we ourselves can "discover" Job; and especially how we can excite the interest of our congregation in this fascinating book. We will need, first of all, to involve ourselves—indeed, immerse ourselves—in the Book of Job. This will include frequent readings of the text itself in such modern translations as the R.S.V., the N.E.B., the N.I.V., and others. Then work through the text with a good commentary. H. L. Ellison's From Tragedy to Triumph is a good one to begin with, and G. Campbell Morgan's The Book of Job, in his Analysed Bible Series, contains both an excellent outline of the book and summaries of its content. Later you will want to graduate to more-extended expositions.

Having bathed our souls in Job for a while, we will be ready to communicate to our congregations what we have dis covered. This may be done in a single sermon or, better still, in a series of sermons.

Even a cursory reading of Job will disclose many gospel projections—the personality of Satan (Job 1,2); the predicament of man (Job 14); the provision of a Redeemer and the principles of redemption (Job 33:19-30); the problem of suffering and the prosperity of the wicked (Job 3, 21); the promise of a resurrection and of life beyond the grave (Job 19:25-27); and the presence, power, providence, and perfection of God (Job 38-42).

Deeper insights in this amazing piece of inspired writing than even these manifestly obvious disclosures wait for the man who is prepared to dig for them as a miner digs for valuable riches. Three themes that run through the Book of Job have particular preaching value.

Job's experience parallels Christ's

Probably no method of Biblical interpretation is more fraught with danger than is typology and the drawing of parallels. Nowhere more so than in this area is it easier to run to excess and wild speculation as many exercises in typology will amply demonstrate. Except where type and antitype are clearly noted in Scripture or the parallelism is obviously evident, we should be wary of spinning connecting threads that may well be fabrications of our own imaginations.

Yet the similarities between Job's experience and that of Christ seem sufficiently apparent to escape the label of speculation. In fact, Ellen White has alluded to such a likeness.

"Satan, the author of sin and all its results, had led men to look upon disease and death as proceeding from God, as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on ac count of sin. . . . Thus the way was prepared for the Jews to reject Jesus. . .. God had given a lesson designed to prevent this. The history of Job had shown that suffering is inflicted by Satan, and is overruled by God for purposes of mercy. . . . The same error for which God had reproved the friends of Job was repeated by the Jews in their rejection of Christ." —The Desire of Ages, p. 471.

What specific parallels exist between Job's experience and Christ's? Paul T. Gibbs, in his book Job and the Mysteries of Wisdom, pages 138 to 141, has pointed out several interesting similarities: (1) Job trod the winepress alone (chap. 2:9); (2) righteous but misunderstood, he was surrounded by spiritually blind cavilers who taunted the innocent (chap. 16:4); (3) his persecutors explained his affliction as a testimony from God to his sinfulness (chap/ 16:8); (4) "he was a man of sorrows" (chap. 16:16); (5) he was surrounded by a gaping mob who violently mistreated him (chap. 16:10, 11); (6) he was a byword among the people (chap. 17:6-8); (7) he acted as a mediator and prayed for his opponents (chap. 42:7-9).

Job as a type of the people of God

Careful readers of the Bible will quickly see that there are many instructive parallels between the Old Testament and the New. In many such instances the Old Testament situation is the microcosm of which the New Testament situation is the macrocosm. The experience of Job is one such case.

The particular parallelism in which we see Job as a representative of the people of God in the conflict between good and evil is not simply an exercise in homiletics. The correlation between Revelation 12:7-11 and Job 1 and 2 is immediately evident. The "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10) is the same "Satan," or adversary, who brought a railing accusation against Job and tried to persuade God to destroy him without cause (Job 2:1-5).

The passage in Revelation 12—actually a parenthesis unbounded by chronological considerations—clearly indicates a universal situation. It denotes what has been going on ever since the great controversy was transferred from heaven to this planet. And it certainly describes the final scenes of controversy in which the people of God will figure prominently. As the end approaches, "Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble." —The Great Controversy, p. 614. God's people will experience "those scenes of affliction and distress described by the prophet as the time of Jacob's trouble" and "as Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins, the Lord permits him to try them to the uttermost" (ibid., pp. 616, 618).

Why does the Lord permit His people to come under the power of the adversary? The apostle Paul takes us right to the heart of the matter in Philippians 1:27-30: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am ab sent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine" (R.S.V.).

As one writer has said, there is a sense in which both God and Satan "wagered" on Job. The word wagered may have negative connotations, yet it is true, humanly speaking, that God counted on Job! Similarly it will be the superlative privilege of the people of God in earth's last age to allow God to work in them a faithful endurance of oppression and suffering that will give the lie to Satan's defaming accusations and justify God before the universe!

An exhibit of transforming grace

Hebrews 12:3-11 is a classic passage concerning the value of discipline—the discipline that results from the kind of suffering that was endured, not only by Job, but indeed by our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage contains a quotation from Proverbs 3:11, 12, which is reminiscent of what Eliphaz told Job (Job 5:17, 18). On this occasion, Eliphaz, the aristocratic philosopher, spoke more wisely than he knew: " 'Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Al mighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal' " (verses 17, 18, R.S. V.). Job himself said of God, " 'He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold'" (chap. 23:10, R.S.V.).

The transformation effected in Job, especially in his thinking about himself and his attitude to God has been the concern of almost every commentator on this book. All agree that Job, ever a righteous man, as God Himself acknowledged, was nevertheless a richer man in the things of the Spirit and the graces of the heart after his great ordeal. Thus, not only were his sufferings a test and a testimony, they were also a means of grace.

Here again, we should observe the close parallel between his experience and that of God's people during the time of trouble: "The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord's eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God's love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected." —Ibid., p. 621.

God's people, exhibits of His trans forming grace, will be the supreme triumph of the gospel!

The book of Job is a mature book; it is a book for Everyman. Our congregations need it. It speaks to our age and to our situation, not only concerning the crisis that is looming before us but also concerning the witness we are now called to give. From being one of the least under stood of Bible books it may become a glorious source of strength and inspiration. If this man, Job, knowing nothing as we now know of the Christ who has come, could maintain his integrity and endure faithfully unto the end, shame on us that we so often falter and fall by the way! In the words of the Lord to Jeremiah: " 'If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan?'" (Jer. 12:5, R.S.V.).

Job stands as an incentive to faith, a testimony to the keeping power of the living God, an assurance that every believer who puts his trust in Christ will not be left to shame and contempt. Indeed, his experience stands as a massive monument to the transforming grace of God.

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Alfred S. Jorgensen is field secretary for the Australasian Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

October 1979

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