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Here's Help for Your "job" of Reading Job
The following is reproduced from the August 2006 issue of Grace to You.

What book of the Bible shows best how God uses suffering to test and teach us? What book of the Bible gives us perhaps the most detailed picture of heaven as a courtroom? What book of the Bible gives us verses used in the liturgy's rites for the imposition of ashes and Christian burial? What book of the Bible gives us the verses on which is based what may be the most popular of the Resurrection and funeral hymns? The answer to all of these questions is the same, and I'm guessing the headline for this article gave it away: the answer is the book of Job.

The book of Job is a lesser-known book in a lesser-known subdivision of the Bible. The Old Testament is sometimes broken down into three different groups: the Pentateuch or Law (the first five books, the books of Moses), the Prophets (former, latter, and minor), and the Writings, including the so-called “Wisdom literature”, of which Job is one work. (For one example of this division see Luke 24:44, where the reference to “the psalms” refers to the “writings”.)

The Job of the book that bears his name is thought to have been a real person who lived some 2,000 years before the time of Christ (for example, see James 5:11). Within the Old Testament, Job is sometimes grouped with Noah and Daniel as righteous patriarchs (see Ezekiel 14:14, 20). The account of his experiences, however, probably was not written down until later, perhaps during the time of Solomon. Nevertheless, there are various speculations as to who wrote it—a wisdom teacher, the real Job, or Moses—but the Holy Spirit working through one or several people is perhaps the best answer. (Whoever the human author or authors might have been, he or they used a goodly number of difficult and nearly untranslatable Hebrew words.)

The central characters in the book are God, Satan, Job, and Job’s friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu). A prose prologue begins the work, and a prose epilogue ends it, but the main body consists of poetic dialogues and speeches of dispute, along with a poem from the wisdom teacher who may have authored the book.

After God allows Satan to afflict Job, Job’s friends come to comfort him, but they end up arguing about why Job suffered in the first place. Job finally appeals to God for an answer, and God more or less gives Job one—an answer you won’t want to miss! Job is, in a sense, every Christian person—you and me—and as much as we can identify his suffering with our own suffering, we can identify God’s answer to him with God’s answer to us. We learn well to distinguish between God’s hidden and revealed aspects.

Starting on August 22, the Daily Lectionary many of us have been following to “Be in the Word” gives ten days to the reading of Job’s 42 chapters. The reading takes us through the end of August and four days into September, and the time will be well spent. The book of Job has much to offer, although we also have to wade through perhaps the most difficult parts of Scripture to get to its high points. The highly poetic and “dialogue” forms of the work can be off-putting, but the “work” is worth it.

One of my favorite verses from Job is when his wife asks him, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10 NASB). I’ve hinted at some of the other high points, but I don’t want to risk being like one of those movie trailers that includes all of the best parts so that you don’t even have to see the movie. You can read them all for yourself!

I cannot too much encourage all of you to Be in the Word by participating in daily Bible reading through the Daily Lectionary. Remember that there are printed booklets available in the Narthex of the church (or via mail), which booklets contain the schedule of readings and some introductory comments about each month’s readings. Far more detailed information on each day’s reading is available in my daily Biblog (pronounced “Bible-og”, which is short for Bible-web-log). There are also pages online with prayers and with questions and answers about the readings.

As of the end of July, we are two-thirds of the way through the reading plan, but it is never too late to start! Our webmaster’s addition of an index has made it easy to locate comments on past readings if you are behind or want to continue reading in the next church year.

God bless your reading of His Holy Word!

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