Book Review - Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word)

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CPHurst's picture
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If you search for “suffering” on Amazon in the books section you will find almost 11,800 results. If you search for “help for suffering” on Google there are 151 million entries to choose from. Indeed the world is a place full of suffering people looking for help. You cannot make it through more than four chapters in the book of Genesis without encountering suffering in the lives of the first two people God created and the first family they made. In reading through the pages of Scripture one encounters suffering at almost every turn. Ironically, it is Job, the oldest book in the Bible, which solely addresses the subject of suffering and how God relates to it and the sufferer.

Tackling this rich, long and sometimes puzzling book, Christopher Ash has written Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. This is the most recent installment in Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series edited by R. Kent Hughes. Staying true to the series, Ash writes with the heart of a pastor as he seeks to show the reader the glory of God in Christ through suffering in the life of Job.

Overview

Job, Ash argues, is a book that reveals to us what kind of world we live in -– a world full of suffering, and much of it is seemingly pointless. But Ash wants to focus the reader on a smaller aspect of the world -– the church. In Job we see a man who endures all the suffering a person could imagine. From his friends we see responses that are detached from the reality of suffering and the God who has the answer to our suffering. Ash states, “The book of Job will force us to ask what kind of church we belong to” (p. 19). This examination takes a look at the prosperity and therapeutic gospel. Both of these gospels are fake and threaten the church constantly. To Ash, Job is a corrective to these false gospels and outlooks on life before they gained their contemporary popularity.

Foreshadowing Christ

The answer to these two false gospels is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While Job was a blameless man, he was not perfect. Concerning the foreshadowing of Christ in Job, Ash says that

The book ultimately makes no sense without the obedience of Jesus Christ, his obedience to death on a cross. Job is not everyman; he is not even every believer. There is something desperately extreme about Job. He foreshadows one man whose greatness exceeded even Job’s, whose suffering took him deeper than Job, and whose perfect obedience to his Father was only anticipated in faint outline by Job. The universe needed one man who would lovingly and perfectly obey his heavenly Father in the entirety of his life and death, by whose obedience the many would be made righteous (Rom. 5:19). (p. 21)

Woven throughout the book, Ash demonstrates how the book of Job destroys the false message of the prosperity and therapeutic gospels and points us to Jesus as the true Savior. For example, in Job chapter three we see the brokenness of Job as he tries to articulate his response to his great loss. Job is in a dark place and so was Jesus when He hung on the cross and said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (p. 84). Though Job was a blameless man who greatly suffered, Jesus was a sinless man who suffered even greater because His suffering was wholly unjust.

But while Job addresses the subject of suffering, it is not primarily about suffering. Ash constantly points the reader to God who is in control of the suffering, who reveals Himself in the suffering and who carries Job through the suffering. Because Job is about God, it is about Jesus. Ash states,

Job is passionately and profoundly about Jesus, whom Job foreshadows both in his blamelesness and in his perseverance through undeserved suffering. As the blameless believer par excellence, Jesus fulfills Job. As a priestly figure who offers sacrifices for his children at the start and his friends at the end, Job foreshadows Jesus the great High Priest. (p. 436)

Evaluation

Job: The Wisdom of the Cross is a wonderful and compelling commentary on Job. Ash ably explains the text, is attentive to the difficult issues it can present and faithfully presents the book as focusing on God and foreshadowing Christ. Ash has a gift of making a difficult book much easier to understand. This is a commentary on Job that every pastor should have in his library and any Christian should read for their personal Bible study.

About the author

Christopher Ash works for the Proclamation Trust in London as director of the Cornhill Training Course. In addition to serving on the council of Tyndale House in Cambridge, he is the author of several books, including Out of the Storm: Grappling with God in the Book of Job and Teaching Romans. He is married to Carolyn and they have three sons and one daughter.

About the series

Preaching the Word commentaries are written by pastors for pastors, as well as for all who teach or study God’s Word. With pastor R. Kent Hughes as the series editor, each volume features an experienced pastor and teacher who models expository preaching and practical application. This series is noted for its steadfast commitment to biblical authority, clear exposition of Scripture, and readability, making it widely accessible for both new and seasoned pastors, as well as men and women hungering to read the Bible in a fresh way.

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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Appreciate the review. Job has become a recent favorite. (Highly recommend Max McLean's reading of the book on one of the ESV audio productions!)

I do think it is possible to overchristologize some of these books though. I don't doubt that it's ultimately about Christ, but it's clearly also about humility before God and the complexity of God's dealings w/man. The central error of Job's friends seems to be reducing God's interactions to a simple set of trade-offs: you do right, I bless; you do wrong, I punish. Job's personal central error seems to be the eventual conclusion that God is simply not treating him properly.

Does this also foreshadow Christ's suffering? It must. Nobody ever suffered more "improperly" than our Savior. And nobody ever accepted that kind of suffering as fully. 

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