Months ago, my wife’s friend plugged a book on social media, The Book of Job: Seeing God through the Ashes, by Melissa Lees. I felt curious for some reason (God?). Perhaps the topic piqued my interest. (People aren’t exactly rushing to exposit Job). Whatever it was, I downloaded a copy to my Kindle.
I rarely read modern Christian books. Popular authors mainly serve up personal stories with scripture sprinkled on top. “Seeing God through the Ashes” reverses this ratio. Most of the time, Lees discusses scripture. This is something I love about this book.
This isn’t to say Lees’s book is impersonal. It was born out of hardship. She went to Job for answers. Instead, she found God in a way she never imagined.
Most of Job is listening to Job complain that his life was ruined while his friends explain his situation using bad theology. God only gets four chapters to untangle this mess. Lees gives Job and his friends a couple chapters then spends the rest of her book unpacking what God says. And isn’t God the one we want to hear?
The theology of Job and his friends is uncomfortably like our own: God blesses people for doing things right. God punishes our screw-ups with bad circumstances. Lees explains this is not the God we meet in Job:
My first pass at Job was entirely frustrating. I found myself amen-ing Job’s friends’ theology. I highlighted their words of “wisdom” until I got to the end and found they were all wrong and had to make amends for the way they lied about God’s character. Even Job, who is the hero here, repented in dust and ashes for his prior beliefs about God (Job 42:6). […]
I found a clue to the true meaning of Job when I got to the opposite end of my Bible in the book of James. James 5:11 says, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (NASB). What was God revealing through His dealings in the Book of Job? That the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful! –chapter one, “The Saga Begins”
Lees shares this message in a Spirit-given way. God speaks to Job about nature and animals. To Lees, each animal discloses something about humans and how we relate to God. Each confronts Job’s reward/punishment theology with God’s compassion.
Lees has an engaging voice. (You won’t fall asleep!) Scientific factoids and explanations of Hebrew words enrich the spiritual content. Lees is inquisitive and doesn’t avoid the hard questions–she’s asked many herself. Answers aren’t flippant but are handled vulnerably.
Lees is passionate about God and the well-being of her readers. She aims to connect readers with God’s word in a way that brings freedom. With that, I’ll close by sharing samples from her book.
From chapter two, “A Day in Court”
That tricky phrase, “Have you considered my servant Job?” isn’t at all what I first imagined. God isn’t asking Satan as if He did not already know the answer. The three Hebrew words interpreted “considered” or “noticed” in most versions of the Bible are literally “set heart on.” God did not point at Job and say, “Hey, have you noticed how wonderful my servant Job is? Have you ever considered what he might do if we mess with him?” Not at all! God was telling Satan He knew what Satan was up to: stalking God’s most righteous servant. God knew Satan had “set his heart on” Job. Maybe it’s a reflection of modern society that when we read the word “considered,” we take it lightly—like choosing the best option at a fast food joint. We don’t equate it with Satan’s obsessive, infatuated brooding over Job.
From chapter seven, “The Wild Donkey”
The wild donkey Job knew was something like the Asian Wild Ass. It used to roam the Arabian Peninsula, Russia, China, Mongolia, and India. The Persian Onager is the sub-species still found in Job’s vicinity. The onager—the fastest known wild equine—has the moniker the “swift donkey.” It is one of the few species of truly wild equine in the world today. It has never been tamed since the species branched off from other equine. It is not the ancestor of the domestic donkey. Why? Because of its stubborn refusal to be broken. It is, and has always been, wild. […] If any of God’s creatures was worthy of a good hailstone from the storehouses of wrath, these rebellious asses were it.
Once again, that was not God’s response. God didn’t actively put these donkeys out of the fold; He did not pre-write their story and cast them as the rebellious ones. They willfully defied God’s plan to make man their caregiver and left on their own (Gen. 1:26). Yet did God destroy them for this act of disobedience? No. He gave them a habitat in which to find their own way.