Reading Mike Mason’s book, The Gospel According to Job, along with the biblical book of Job has been quite an experience for me. When the book of Job came up again recently in the devotional calendar that I use, my reaction was, “Not again?! Didn’t I read this during Lent?” But something told me that it was important to read it then. Mason’s book was already sitting unread on my shelf so I decided to read through Job a chapter a day along with this book. I’m glad I did.
The Gospel According to Job is in a devotional reading format. Each chapter is only 2 pages long and there are about 3 – 5 chapters in the book for each chapter of Job. Mason presents the book of Job as a prototype of the Christian Gospel. He draws many interesting parallels between Job and the Gospel message; ways in which Job seems to anticipate the appearance of Jesus and the Gospel message to fill the gap in his own understanding of God’s ways and the inadequacy of the theology of his “comforters.”
Mason shows familiarity with good scholarship on Job. He understands the ancient origin of the book, issues with translation and other characteristics of the book that will assure the reader that he not just “shooting from the hip” in his exegesis. At the same time, some of the comparisons he draws between the story of Job and that of Jesus in the Gospels will seem highly speculative. Yet he often acknowledges this and, in the process, makes some compelling points. The book is well written. Mason’s writing is clear and concise. I try to be sparing in what I underline in a book so that what I think are the most salient points don’t get lost in all the underlining. My copy of this book has underlining on nearly every page. It’s not just what he says that is interesting, the way it is said so often makes his points so well.
Job is a book about unjustifiable suffering which comes upon many people in one form or another, to a greater or lesser degree, in their lifetimes. It is a practically universal condition which defies simple explanations in light of God’s will, character, and intentions. Mason does not minimize suffering. The problem of suffering is ultimately, vexingly mysterious. Exploring the nature of it seems to only deepen the mystery of it. Yet Mason’s exploration of it, in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shows some if its significance and meaning for the Christian life. This book mines the gold in the book of Job for the sincere follower of Jesus. It provides good lessons for the church to consider in its mission and character in view of human suffering both within and outside the congregation. There is some forceful commentary at times that would lead us to examine our true unworthiness in light of God’s majesty and our great worth in light of God’s love , mercy and grace. Spiritual growth involves learning to accept and embrace both of these conditions.
Mason gives many helpful insights into the book of Job. One of these is the on the nature of the righteousness of Job. We might think of righteousness and sinlessness as being one and the same. Not so. God points to Job as being “blameless” as well as righteous. Job admittedly not sinless (7:20-21) but repentance and a close relationship with God were second nature to him. He seeks the fruit of forgiveness, the assurance that God is with him. This is what sustains Job’s insistence on the injustice of his suffering in the face of his friends’ insistence to the contrary. He has faith that God will vindicate him, and has the temerity to seek an audience with God himself. Contrary to the aloof and detached character of God described by his friends, Job insists that God is approachable and, ultimately, just in his judgments. In the end, Job is vindicated, though not on his own terms. The humbling revelation that Job sees, especially in the description of Leviathan, seems to convince him that there is more going on in the world than that of which he was aware.
This book is best read slowly and prayerfully. It has the potential strengthen the heart as well as enlighten the mind. I highly recommend it.