Ash on a Monday?
February 16, 2015
There are plenty of commands in Scripture to be discerning. As I am reading through Christopher Ash’s excellent commentary on Job, I am realizing what a great illustration this book of the Bible is on the significance of separating the truth from the lies. I’m also getting further conditioning in the practice.
The speeches of Job’s three so-called comforters and friends have always wearied me. But Ash takes care to give them credit where credit is due. Perhaps we aren’t as attracted to the rich poetry in Job as we should be because we’ve reduced our repertoire to sappy talk about “being loved real.” And we know that part of the storyline is that these three wise guys are wrong. But they can be quite profound. Ash goes as far to say:
One of the most frightening things about Job’s comforters is how beautiful their speeches are (at times) and how very close they are to the kinds of things we often say to one another in our churches. (153)
A reader of Job knows that good theology isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Proper knowledge of God, and even a healthy acquiescence of what we don’t know, prepares us for suffering. It helps us to lament well and it helps us to comfort other sufferers with truth. Which god do we run to when we are afflicted? Which god are we pointing others to in their pain? Discernment is that kind of important.
But discerning the truth from the lie isn’t an easy exercise. The best lies are marinated in beautiful truths. Again, Ash shows us the difficulty in discerning Zophar’s first speech in Job 11:
We love to hear Paul exclaim, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). What a wonderful thing to say and how beautifully expressed! But Zophar says something similar when he says that the deep things of God’s wisdom and the limits of his power expand higher than Heaven, deeper than Sheol, further than the earth, and wider than the sea (Job 11:7-9). We love to hear Jesus promise us life in all its fullness (John 10:10). And yet Zophar offers Job something not dissimilar in verses 15-19 of this speech.
So what’s going on? After all, God says that Zophar has “not spoken…what is right” about him (42:7). Are we to conclude that Paul and the Lord Jesus have not spoken rightly? Surely not! The same concepts and remarkably similar words may have different implications and alternative meanings depending on the contexts in which they are spoken. (153)
Zophar was not a comforter to Job at all. Ash breaks down his speech in Job 11 to give a cruel accusation, a barbed challenge, and a deceptive offer. His teaching about God is what Ash calls “the System” and warns that this is a very attractive but dangerous theology for all of us. It is a sort of default theology for us all. And it is a lie. “An immersion in the speeches of Job will help us really and deeply to know what we know, to remember that our default system is not true, and so to prepare us for the realities of discipleship” (160).
Ash’s commentary on Job offers great conditioning in discernment. Because of this, I’m not served a tasteless and tainted piece of meat that has been marinated in beautiful truths, but a pure feast on the richness of Christ and the glory of God. The System leaves no room for the wisdom of the cross, therefore it can never offer true comfort. We see how imperative it is to recognize a lie when we read a book like Job. I recommend Ash’s commentary for anyone who would like to be pointed to the truth.