Welcome to Job. Perhaps you have not spent much time with him in the past but this series of ten will afford us an opportunity to get to know him a bit better and think about our own relationship to God. Like the rest of the Bible, it could be said of Job, this is not a book of answers but a book of questions.
1. JOB – THE WISDOM CONTEXT
There are many different types of literature in the Bible. There is poetry, prose, history, prophecy and apocalyptic to name some of them. As a book Job fits into the category of what is called ‘Wisdom’ literature. To appreciate this we need to learn to read with our feelings, memories, experiences, attitudes as well as our minds. We are going to be introduced to tensions that seem human irreconcilable and we are going to have to take a long hard look at the creation around us.
2. THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
It’s easy to lose sight of the woods for the trees so it is important to survey a big book like Job as a whole before looking into some of the parts. On our journey through the chapters we shall meet the main characters and come face to face with the major issues and themes. So at this stage, don’t worry about the detail, just try to grasp the grand sweep of the material.
It is important principle not to read the New Testament into the Old but equally it is important that we take seriously the relationship of the two parts of the scripture. This lecture is the first part of three which trace a very significant theme throughout the whole Bible. Beginning in the heavenly throne/court room we meet both God and the great accuser, Satan. Though Job is unaware of the heavenly activity, his earthly experience leads him to cry out for a ‘redeemer’.
4. GOD THE GO’EL
One of the most famous expressions from the lips of the suffering Job is his declaration that he knows that his redeemer lives! This concept of the redeemer (Hebrew =’go’el’) is particularly rich when explored in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern world. As we explain this idea we shall also look at the role of one of the more enigmatic figures in the book, a man called Elihu.
5. A FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES
Having set Job’s great affirmation about his redeemer in context we explore how it fits into the great drama of the bible. Job cries out for a mediator – someone who can arbitrate between him and God, someone who could lay his hand upon us both he says. Now we come to the third reflection on the advocate/redeemer theme and see how Jesus takes his place in this revelation.
6. WHY DO THE INNOCENT SUFFER?
Faced with disaster what do we do? What happens when there are no answers? Where do we turn when people fail us and logic is futile? In this lecture we address some of the most difficult issues and among other things come to see that misfortune in our world is not to be interpreted as God’s punishment.
7. PUTTING GOD ON THE SPOT
When all attempts to explain, justify or exonerate God fail in the face of human suffering then there’s no option but to pray, lament, protest and argue with God himself. Sometimes we have to cease asking questions about God and begin to present questions to him directly. Few, if any, were better at doing this than the Jewish people.
8. CREATION AND EVIL
Job is full of graphic imagery. To appreciate the book a merely slavish literal reading of the text is not going to help. We are going to take time to enter this world where the raging sea serves to give us a picture of cosmic evil. The monstrous Leviathan and Behemoth may terrify us but ultimately they must yield to the sovereign lordship of the ruler of all.
9. GOD’S ANSWER
If it was possible, this lecture could best be appreciated outside. We listen in awe as God responds to Job by asking more than seventy unanswerable questions. Questions, questions, questions and more questions all to impress on us the fact that human knowledge at its best is still very limited. Our only response is to stand in awe before such power and majesty that we can never fathom.
10. JOB AND US
Reading Job probably raises more questions than providing answers. It’s time to reflect on the role of the book in our own lives. What can learn? How can we respond to suffering? What can we learn about God himself? What can learn about creation around us and God’s plan for it? Can reading this book make us more pastorally sensitive as we seek to care for others in trouble?