As an outgrowth of my four preceding posts on Job (for my last post, click here), I would like to make some suggestions about key motifs and expositional units for a series of messages on Job. This will be followed by resources that would be helpful for this type of series.
The objective of an expository series of messages on any biblical book is to develop an author’s message. The writer’s message is a reference to his argument (the development of his thought). To develop an author’s argument, it is necessary to thoroughly study his book to determine his major and minor motifs and, subsequently, how the sections and subsections correlate with his themes. After this has been accomplished, it is necessary to summarize the author’s message as concisely as possible. I refer to this as my exegetical summary. On a general level, this should be done with a minimal number of sentences. Once the message of the book has been exegetically summarized, we should consider what this abridgment primarily says about God’s perfections, man’s nature and man’s relationship to God. After asking these types of questions, I reduce my exegetical condensation of the book’s message into one sentence, an expositional summary, that focuses on the primary timeless principle taught in a book. For example, in my major concluding paragraph to “Prizing God above His Gifts: Job’s Message for Today (Part 3),” I provided this synopsis of Job: “Because of God’s incomprehensible wisdom and incomparable power as reflected by His creating and sustaining the world and its inhabitants, He is its sovereign who freely administers justice correctly. With Job’s fuller revelation of the theocentric nature of the world, he repented of his wrong and fearfully submitted to the Almighty.” After this exegetical abstract, I broke it down into my one sentence expositional summary of Job: “The mysterious nature of God’s control of life’s moral order should produce in his people a repentant faith in God and a wholehearted reverence for his sovereign majesty.” Using the expositional summary as a filter, I next evaluate the major sections of a book and determine how each unit contributes to the development of the expositional condensation.
The nature of a book in terms of its message and genre determines the detail that each section may require in terms of exposition. Because of the poetical nature with its repetitive nature and the actual content of the speeches, Job is a book that does not lend itself to verse-by-verse exposition. Some genres in Scripture are correlated more readily with verse-by-verse exposition, such as epistolary literature in the New Testament. However, other genres lend themselves to looking at larger thematic units, such as the historical narrative in the Old Testament Historical Books. In this regard, the book of Job has similarities to narrative literature and should be preached in larger units. For example, Job 4–37 have several thematic emphases; however, Job’s three friends and Elihu tediously repeat most of the themes. Job’s responses to his friends’ charges reflect a mixture of faith and pride. As such, an expositor could take this large section of material and demonstrate the most significant charges in two messages. There is a twofold emphasis in these thirty-four chapters that naturally lends itself to two messages: distorting the sovereignty of God to condemn an innocent sufferer and Job’s accurately, though marred by his depravity, challenging the abuses of illicit theology. The following seven units are how I would organize the book of Job for an expositional series of messages. I have also included a brief expositional analysis of the message for each unit.
1. Job 1:1–2:13: Reverencing God in Great Loss
The essence of godliness is wholehearted love for God above all his gifts.
2. Job 3:1–26: Outbursts of Godly Suffering
Godliness is not perfected without the trials of life.
3. Job 4:1–37:24: Illegitimate Uses of Theology
An illegitimate use of theology is that suffering is always a result of sin.
4. Job 4:1–37:24: Challenging Abused Theology
The suffering of godly people proves suffering is not always the results of sin.
5. Job 38:1–40:2: The God of Nature
Finite, godly people cannot understand how God controls the universe.
6. Job 40:3–42:6: The God of Justice
Finite, godly people cannot understand how God controls the moral order of life.
7. Job 42:7–17: Restoration of the Godly Sufferer
God ultimately rewards godliness.
Selected Bibliography on Job
Andersen, Francis I. Job: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Edited by D. J. Wiseman. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976.
Carson, D. A. How Long, O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.
Clines, David J. A. Job 1–20. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1989.
Clines, David J. A. Job 21–37. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word Books, 2006.
Davis, M. Vernon. “Preaching from Job.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 14 (Fall 1971): 65–76.
Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
Habel, Norman C. Job. Knox Preaching Guides. Atlanta: Knox, 1981.
Hartley, John E. The Book of Job. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988.
Newell, B. Lynne. “Job: Repentant or Rebellious?” Westminster Theological Journal 46 (Fall 1984): 229–316.
Parsons, Gregory W. “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Job.” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (October–December 1994): 393–413.
Smick, Elmer B. “Job.” In vol. 4 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard P. Polcyn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988.
Thomas, Derek. The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1995.
Wilson, Lindsay. “Job.” In Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
Zuck, Roy B. Job. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.