Reviewed by: Danny Olinger
Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide to Understanding the Book of Job, by Christopher Ash. Crossway, 2021. Paperback, 160 pages, $14.99 (Amazon). Reviewed by New Horizons editor Danny Olinger.
In his treatment of the book of Job, Trusting God in the Darkness, Christopher Ash, writer-in-residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge, sees Job’s opening two chapters with its four markers as the key to understanding its message. The first marker is that Job really is blameless. He is not perfect, but with integrity and uprightness he fears God. The second marker is that Satan has real influence. Satan appears before God challenging the belief that there are people that worship God aright. The third marker is that the Lord is sovereign. The fourth marker is that the Lord gives sobering permissions. Satan replies to the Lord that Job still has his health but if the Lord takes that away from him, Job will curse him. The Lord allows Satan to proceed, the only condition being that he may not kill Job. Ash encourages the reader moving through the remaining thirty-nine chapters to keep these markers in mind along with the question, “Will Job prove to be a real believer?”
One chapter that Ash highlights in answer to that question is Job 3 with its harsh reality that a believer can go through despair and desperation. Job is not being punished for his sin, but rather, because he is a believer, he suffers deep loss—physical, social, emotional, and spiritual loss. Job does not understand what is happening to him, but he knows that his hope is found in God alone. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).
In chapters 4 to 27, Job and his friends have a great fight as his friends believe that all suffering must be because of sin, and conversely, all blessing must be because of goodness. In their view, undeserved suffering would be a threat to the moral foundations of the universe. Either God is not supreme and in control, or he is not fair.
This logic undergirds the theology of the friends, but Job 1 and 2 are clear that Job is not being punished for sin. The result is that “the comforters turn religion into an impersonal vending-machine formula” (58). Hope for the promised future replaced by living for the present; no prayer to the unseen God, but only moralizing; no love for people in pain, only “well-swept” answers (58).
Ash maintains that against the friends’ faulty wisdom is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the blameless believer attacked by Satan. In the garden of Gethsemane, the three disciples with him could not watch with him even one hour (Mark 14:37). Ash argues that “in the darkness and God-forsakenness of those terrible hours of lonely agony, the sufferings of Job are transcended and fulfilled. And as the blameless believer accused and despised by men but finally vindicated by God in the resurrection, Jesus fulfills the drama and longing of Job for justification” (141).
Job’s confidence is in this Redeemer who would go to the cross and be raised from the dead (“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth,” Job 19:25). Because Job is about Jesus, Ash contends that it is also derivatively about every person in Christ. Every believer who would seek to follow after Christ must be prepared to suffer.
Job 42 anticipates the return of Jesus Christ. With his coming again, there is blessing. Short of that day, the normal Christian life is warfare and waiting. God loves, humbles, and justifies his own, all in the here and now. Ash concludes, then, that “the book of Job is not about Job, but about God—his character, sovereignty, justice, goodness, and yes, even his love” (139).
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