Simply put, the problem with the Book of Job is that it is too long for most folks, too long for most preachers to preach all the way through, and too long for Bible study groups. (I’m not excusing our reading of it; I’m trying to explain the reality that the only place folks get much from Job is in college or seminary or in some personal exploration. Maybe we need churches to get a drama team to stage this book every now and then.) Furthermore, there is so much historical context to consider, but now John Walton’s new OT commentary helps immensely: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set: Old Testament (Job is in vol. 5).
Do you think the Book of Job narrates a real life person or do you think it is more of a staged story or even a story shaped for dramatic presentation? Do you think it matters? How does it matter?
Because Job is not done much in churches, what we need more of is big-picture-grappling with Job, the sort of grappling that lays out the issues and then provides clear, compelling ideas that put the whole book together. Which is exactly what we find in J. Gerald Janzen’s new book: At the Scent of Water: The Ground of Hope in the Book of Job
. Janzen is a lifetime warrior with Job, and hence he’s particularly well-suited to offer a condensation of how the Book of Job works.
The big picture is that there are two paradigms of God’s interaction with humans, with Israel, in the Bible: the paradigm with Abraham and the paradigm with Moses. The first paradigm one is patriarchal and familial; the second one political and legal. He calls the former the “original default position” and the second the “customized default position.” When the second one seemed to break down, as in the golden calf episode, appeal was made to the original Abrahamic paradigm.
The Book of Job puts this span of ideas to the test. Much of Job is about life inside the Mosaic and its evident incompleteness, but in 27:1-6 Job stands upon the great original default position of God’s blessing and promises and love and grace. The message then is that God, out of the whirlwind, speaks and the speeches of the legalists vanish into a relationship or paradigm that is incomplete. There is in the Book of Job a triumph of grace, a triumph that reveals a fuller vision of Who God is and What God is like. That God is rooted in the great visions of God’s familial pledge to Abraham.
Janzen’s own struggle with cancer puts into bold relief the real value of his reading of Job.