If youâ€™re ever thinking about digging into the Bible for the first time, but donâ€™t know where to start, I highly recommend Robert Murray Mâ€™Cheyneâ€™s Bible Reading Plan, which you can find here. Youâ€™ll read about four chapters a day, and by the end of one year, youâ€™ll have read the Old Testament once, and the New Testament and Psalms twice. Not only was Mâ€™Cheyne a wonderful and fiery preacher of old, but he was also a Scotsman, and the Scots will always hold a special place in my heart.
Mr. Mâ€™Cheyne has directed me to Job this week â€“ well not exactly since I am going through the plan in order, but I didnâ€™t start on the first day of the year. Anyway, Iâ€™ve just started The book of Job, and along with all the things I shared about working through in this post, it just adds to the depth of paradox and challenge that is involved in deeply grappling with a personal faith in God, when bad things happen in the world. (You can see this post for more grappling. And if you thought this post was about faith and your occupationâ€¦sorry about that! Maybe later.)
If you donâ€™t know the story, Job is basically about this really great guy who has a ton of rubbish rubbish RUBBISH stuff happen to him. Heâ€™s really well off, a family guy, a person of great integrityâ€¦ I guess in the South we might call Job a good olâ€™ boy. And in one no good, very bady day, he loses all his stuff and then his family in these terrible â€˜freak accidentsâ€™ which are actually at the hand of the devil, but clearly allowed by God, and then even his health is in such bad condition heâ€™s sitting in ashes cursing the day he was born. (And this cosmic altercation is also stuff for another post, because Iâ€™m still grappling to make sense of it.)
The amazing thing about Job, unlike myself in most â€˜unpleasantriesâ€™ is he asks this simple question that really challenges me profoundly: â€œShall we accept good from God, and not evil?â€ Which I guess is basically like saying, â€œSo itâ€™s all good when everything is good â€¦ and when everything is good we believe God is good. But if anything bad happens, we immediately question the goodness of God. Isnâ€™t that sort of hypocritical?â€ (I chatted more about this in this post a while back.)
I was thinking about Jobâ€™s struggles and saying, â€œGod, why would you allow such a thing? I mean seriously, Job was a really good guy. Why would you allow him to be afflicted to such an extent?â€ It was then that I realised the incredible amount of good that has come over the history of time since Jobâ€™s story was written down. How many people have been encouraged, comforted, and even challenged in a good way, because of what was written about Job? And in the end, it is clear that Job was a righteous guy all along. (I highly recommend reading the story to see what happens.) There is incredible redemption, and Job gets a better perspective of the God He worships than he ever had before. Did the story end with Job saying, Dern, that was so great, letâ€™s do it again? I donâ€™t think so. But God proved and improved his faith because he was willing to suffer and still honour God.Â [This reminds me of the Syro-Phoenician woman Jesus met â€“ the topic of proving and improving faith is something I would like to talk more about tomorrow!]
Whatâ€™s so beautiful is that Job is actually a type and shadow of Christ. The number of people who have read his story â€“ the world will never know. Itâ€™s one chapter of the bestselling book of all time, so odds are the count is pretty high up there. And itâ€™s been around for a couple thousand years. Bonus. Jobâ€™s suffering and the redemption his story depicts have probably challenged billions of people over the centuries, and met other people at the lowest point in their lives, where they could hopefully say, â€œYou know, there was someone once who had it worse than me, and he made it through.â€
Job may not have wittingly suffered for the cause of the millions who would be encouraged by his story, but He does point to the One who would ultimately suffer and die for the sins of the world, the One who was completely righteous and without sin. God Himself came and suffered â€“ more seriously than Job â€“ in taking on the sins of the world. And when He looks back on the experience, I think Heâ€™s the only One who would say, â€œFor you, Iâ€™d do it again,â€ and actually mean it.