Friday, October 30, 2009

Job – the “Anatomy of the Soul” All Laid Out

Not one person could ever correctly say that the Bible is all sunny day reading, describing the journey with God as a wonderland of prettiness. Most of the Old Testament (OT) is grossly stark in its approach—I mean, there are plenty of bloody battles, ghastly murders and torture; even rape (Judges 19) and much pillage.

John Calvin wrote his commentary on the psalms and was struck by the tremendously vast landscape of emotions on display in those 150 literary works of the soul—indeed, the entire anatomy of sentiment, bone for bone, laid there bare before the unsuspecting reader; the studier of the Word of God.[1]

Don’t stop there at Psalms; Psalms has a predecessor did you know? The very previous book in the OT corpus is Job and this reverse fairy tale (which ends up in true fairy tale fashion) has just as vast a bony structure of variant passions as Psalms does.

Even more so, there’s a place for the perplexed who finish up at their dearth simply having to trust God—for that’s all that’s left. The plain fact is Job (the book) asks questions that are not (i.e. never) easy to answer. And this is one reason why the Bible is well beyond the way slayer intent on revealing it as not able to tackle the tough stuff of life.

It’s as if God needs a supreme example to show all, once and for all, that he alone is Sovereign—that certain many things are constantly beyond our comprehension.

The Bible, in this 42-chapter book, if not in Psalms, puts paid to any idea that it can’t empathise with our every struggle. We’re not unique after all! We’ll never truly understand the calamities that oppress us, just as Job experienced—but his were a hundred times worse it seems.

Being troubled and knowing a spectrum of emotional anatomy as far as east is to west is not altogether a bad thing. We find peace in reading our Bible, flicking through books like Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations.

We’re not alone in our pain. Many have gone before us, and many will follow. We know and find comfort in God’s thoughts and ways being far above our own (Isaiah 55:8). We learn to lean on him and we’re safe, able to handle life.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained – Welwyn Commentary Series (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1995), p. 178.

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