Tuesday, December 29, 2009

0 Caryl: The Central Lessons of Job

In the introductory chapter of Joseph Caryl's Exposition of Job, the author outlines the basic questions answered by the book of Job, and then specifies seven central teachings of the book. The two questions that he argues Job deals with are summarized by Caryl in the following words:
"The main and principal subject of this book is contained (and I may give it to you) in one verse of the 34th Psalm: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of all. (Ps. 34:19)

Concerning this subject there are two great questions handled and disputed fully and clearly in this book. The first is this, whether it is consistent with the justice and goodness of God to afflict a righteous and sincere person, to strip him naked, to take away all his outward comforts. Or, whether it is consistent with the justice and goodness of God, that it should go ill with those who are good, and that it should go well with those that are evil. This is one great debate, the main question throughout the book. And then secondly, here is another great dispute in reference to the former. Namely, whether we may judge of the righteousness, or unrighteousness, of the sincereity or hypocrisy of any person, by the outward dealings and present dispensations of God towards him. That is a second question here debated." (p. 6, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
As Caryl notes, the "friends" of Job answer the first question negatively and the second positively... and Job maintains, throughout, the opposite answers. In the answering of these questions, and the discussions and debates between Job and his friends, and then later the dialog between Job and the Lord Himself, we find that we may learn several important lessons, according to our expositor. These, briefly, are:
  1. How to handle a cross. When in conflict or affliction, terror or strife, Job teaches us how we are to, with patience and confidence, maintain our composure and dedication to the Lord God by whose decree all situations and circumstances come to pass.
  2. All afflictions are ordered by God's providential hand.
  3. God is sovereign over all things, to the minutest detail. He has power over us, our possessions, our lives, and we must therefore submit to Him in all things.
  4. God afflicts for His purposes only, to accomplish His ends - and sometimes such afflictions are not merely for the purposes of temporal punishment.
  5. Our best conditions - the best of our circumstances must always be taken as uncertain and not in any sense guaranteed. We therefore must learn to hold things lightly and yield all to God's wise counsels.
  6. True faith is invincible. Faith, according to Ephesians 2:8-10, is the gift of God - and is irrevocable. The faith of the elect will stand trial in the evil day.
  7. God NEVER forsakes His own. The elect shall, as noted by Christ in His Good Shepherd discourse, and His High Priestly prayer, never be lost but always retained in the strong hand of God. God is EVER faithful.
  8. God's judgments are ALWAYS just, though they be many times completely secret from us. The fact that we cannot understand God's judgments at times does not imply that He is unreasonable, capricious or otherwise inconsistent with His nature as God. We must be content with the judgments of God and always praise Him for His glorious wisdom and might and right to rule over all. (Adapted from pp. 11-13, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
These are valuable lessons, and if I learn but one of them better than I know them today, I will be glad for the efforts to work my way through Caryl's work. I hope my sharing thoughts and reflections on Caryl's Exposition are edifying and thought-provoking to you. Do feel free, as always, to let me know what you think and what Caryl's thoughts bring forth in your mind as you read this blog series. Blessings to you and yours as 2010 dawns in a few days.



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