Wednesday, March 10, 2021

15. Trusting God in the Darkness

Trusting God in the Darkness. Christopher Ash. 2021. [April] 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This book began as a sermon series on the book of Job. 

Christopher Ash has written a short little book on Job. A few years ago, Ash wrote a longer, more traditional commentary on the book of Job. But this is not a traditional commentary, it started life as a series of sermons. In some ways I find it a more practical, more readable treatment of Job. 

So how short is short? There are eleven-ish chapters. Or eleven chapters and an epilogue. It is written from the WHEEL-CHAIR perspective as opposed to the ARM-CHAIR perspective. What's the difference? Well, when you start asking hard/tough questions--mainly WHY questions--you can be approaching it from an arm-chair perspective--academic, distant, hypothetical OR from a wheel-chair perspective--you have experienced pain, loss, sorrow, grief or are currently experiencing it. You can relate to these hard questions on a personal, experiential manner. 

The author describes his own book in this way, "It is a staggeringly honest book. It is a book that knows what people actually say and think—and not just what they say publicly in church. It knows what people say behind closed doors and in whispers, and it knows what we say in our tears."

He continues, "Job is to be lived in and not just studied. Let us read the book of Job itself, read it out loud, mull it over, absorb it, wonder, be unsettled, and meditate. And let God get to work on us through this great Bible book."

One of the ways he encourages readers to do just this is by asking reflection questions for each chapter. True readers can skip out on participating. The author can't force you to read thoughtfully, reflectively, carefully. But if you do, you're missing out on benefiting from the reading experience.

I found the narrative to be compelling and thought-provoking. I have read the book of Job countless times. (Last year I read through the whole Bible ten times. This year I've already read through the Bible two times.) I thought I *knew* Job. But Ash's presentation--his perspective--got me thinking and rethinking. 

For example, this is what Ash has to say about Job's three visiting friends, "They weep, tear their clothes, and throw dirt on their heads. They sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights. It is usual to say that this was the best thing they did. And certainly (as we shall see in Job 4), when they speak, they do no good at all. But their silence may not have been as helpful as is often assumed. The Bible hints that what they do—tearing clothes, throwing dust on the head, taking seven days—is precisely what one would do in mourning with a corpse. Recall that Joseph mourned seven days for his father Jacob (Gen. 50:10), and the city of Ramoth Gilead mourned seven days for King Saul (1 Sam. 31:13). It may be that their silence is not so much a silence of sympathy as a silence of bankruptcy: they are silent because they have nothing to say. Their friend is as good as dead."

Ash points out something about skeptics, unbelievers--anyone who would use suffering as an excuse to NOT believe in God--that I hadn't thought about before. "When unbelievers say to us they are troubled by the problem of pain and the unfairness of suffering in the world, we may say to them, “Why are you troubled? I as a believer am troubled, but why should you be? For you do not believe in a living God who is in control and who is good. So why should you expect there to be any logic or any fairness? And yet you do, don’t you? I wonder if that is because we are deeply hardwired to know there is a living God who is in control and who is just.”"

I expected the book to be about Job. Anyone would. This is a book about the BOOK OF JOB after all. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how Christ-centric the book is. For a book on Job, this book has a LOT TO SAY about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Perhaps this is because the book started out life as a sermon series or sermon notes? But I love how each chapter points the way to the Good News. 

I found the book to be an incredible read.

Favorite quote:
Because Job is about Jesus, it is also, derivatively, about every man and woman in Christ. Every disciple, called to take up the cross and walk in the footsteps of Christ, must expect in some measure to walk also in the footsteps of Job. And so in the end we may conclude that Job is in some measure about us. Not primarily about us, for it is above all about God. Not centrally about us, for its central human character foreshadows Christ. But for each of us as a believer walking through this world in union with Christ, Job is an unavoidable part of the pathway of faith. Our final justification will come through present suffering.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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