A Son for Glory

Here’s an [edited] excerpt from Toby Sumpter’s new book on Job, which I am really enjoying. It is a commentary with a pastoral heart, as evidenced below:

One way to describe the book of Job is as an extended argument between the book of Proverbs and the book of Ecclesiastes. Proverbs generalizes about the way the world works: fools are like this, wise people are like this, you do this and you’ll get blessed; you do that and you’ll get in big trouble. Ecclesiastes says that the world doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you do what’s right, and you still get in trouble. Sometimes that other fellow does what is wrong, and he keeps getting blessed anyway. That’s in a nutshell a small version of those books, and much of the arguments in Job are concerned with these seemingly contradictory visions of life.

The three friends of Job seem to be reading their cues with mathematical precision from the book of Proverbs. They have logical proofs and diagrams, and their conclusions are something reminiscent of the disciples’ question to Jesus. “So who sinned, this man or his parents?” In this tidy-minded world there are only two options, and we might as well get down to brass tacks. However, Job sees through the veneer of piety in the so-called friends, sees their evil intentions, how they twist the principles of Scripture to their purposes, and at the same time he insists that the world is more complicated and challenging than they are willing to admit. In one sense, we can see Job as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes arrayed for battle…

…in the end we must insist that Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are actually very good friends. These books complement and explain each other. If Proverbs generally explores wisdom as a skill, Ecclesiastes explores wisdom as a very unique sort of skill. Wisdom is a skill, but it is both like and unlike many other skills… If the skills needed to live and build in God’s world are crucially centered on people, an entirely different sort of skill is needed than a simple, straightforward following of directions. People are messy, complicated, confusing, and frustrating. They have cultural differences, personality quirks, gifts, weaknesses, health problems, sin, and they frequently fail and let us down… In many ways it’s far easier to build a house out of bricks, wood, or stone, than to build a house out of people.

Available here.

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