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what i learned from preaching on job – andrew lim

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Expounding Job is admittedly intimidating. The book defies easy understanding. The author utilises a spectrum of literary genres, similes and metaphors. The book contains such philosophical and theological perplexities as human suffering and the apparent malevolent ways of a benevolent God. Further, interpreting the many speeches of Job’s friends demands that the preacher sniff out those speeches that appear theologically sound but are either inherently flawed or proffered too simplistically to Job.

Yet for the following reasons, this book needs to be preached.

  • It is part of the “whole counsel of God”.
  • Our self-absorbing narcissistic culture and our spirit of self-sufficiency need to be humbled by a God whose knowledge none can fully plumb and whose purpose none can thwart.
  • The prevailing health and wealth gospel needs a biblical rebuttal.
  • Suffering Jobs are present everywhere and, in preaching this book you’ll likely be preaching to someone who is a Job or who knows of a Job.

How then shall we preach this book?

I have found the following disciplines helpful:

READ THE ENTIRE BOOK THROUGH

Job is more than a biblical response to the problem of theodicy. Only in grasping the flow of the entire book will the preacher develop a sound interpretive framework to expound it. Until you read the whole book through, you’ll stumble on numerous passages for which you’ll virtually have no topography on the map.

CONSULT YOUR COMMENTARIES

No single preacher has the breadth of wisdom and discernment to grasp the depth of Job’s message. We would do well to consult the finest commentaries. I’ve personally found Strachan, Gibson, Genung, Thomas, and McKenna to be invaluable.

BE PATIENT WITH POETRY

Some of God’s titanic truths are most effectively freighted to us through the vehicles of music, art and poetry, like The Messiah and The Return of the Prodigal Son. The writer of Job has 39 chapters in poetry partly because he is not content with spitting out propositional truths about suffering. He wants us to feel the throes of Job’s affliction. And for that we need to work at transfiguring those poetic passages so they connect with the aching angst in the human heart.

UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE FOR THE BOOK

When God finally breaks his long silence, the purpose for the book starts to emerge. But to the end Job receives no explanation for his pain. Neither do we see any evidence of God ever giving him one. Instead God throws a barrage of questions at Job to help him see His sovereignty in all of life. And though suffering remains enigmatic to Job, he comes to see that suffering is neither random nor punitive; and that God is God and he is not.

WORK TO GET THE BOOK TO BREATHE LIFE FOR TODAY

If the book paints a portrait of a patient saint, it also paints a portrait of a headstrong sufferer. Job vacillates between the desire to yield and the temptation to dissent; between faith and anxiety; repose and terror. The average person in the pew can identify herself with him. Exploit those passages which depict Job’s anguish and ire. Openly address the heart-wrenching agony of human sorrow.

It is one thing to exegete Job satisfactorily with diligence; it is another thing to instill hope and inspire worship through it. This calls for prayer for a sensitive spirit.

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