The Discomfiting Comfort of Well-Meaning Friends

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:

“How long will you say these things,
    and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
Does God pervert justice?
    Or does the Almighty pervert the right?
If your children have sinned against him,
    he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.
If you will seek God
    and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
    surely then he will rouse himself for you
    and restore your rightful habitation.
And though your beginning was small,
    your latter days will be very great.

“For inquire, please, of bygone ages,
    and consider what the fathers have searched out.
For we are but of yesterday and know nothing,
    for our days on earth are a shadow.
10 Will they not teach you and tell you
    and utter words out of their understanding?

11 “Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh?
    Can reeds flourish where there is no water?
12 While yet in flower and not cut down,
    they wither before any other plant.
13 Such are the paths of all who forget God;
    the hope of the godless shall perish.
14 His confidence is severed,
    and his trust is a spider’s web.
15 He leans against his house, but it does not stand;
    he lays hold of it, but it does not endure.
16 He is a lush plant before the sun,
    and his shoots spread over his garden.
17 His roots entwine the stone heap;
    he looks upon a house of stones.
18 If he is destroyed from his place,
    then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’
19 Behold, this is the joy of his way,
    and out of the soil others will spring.

20 “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man,
    nor take the hand of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
    and your lips with shouting.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
    and the tent of the wicked will be no more.” – Job 8:1-22 ESV

Job’s impassioned plea to his friends fell on deaf ears. Like a contestant on a professional wrestling tag team, Eliphaz turned over the task of attacking Job to his partner, Bildad, who enters the ring with an abundance of energy and a lot to say.

He immediately picks up where Eliphaz left off, accusing Job of sinning against God. In his opinion, Job was an obstinate apostate who stubbornly refused to confess his sin and was suffering the consequences. From his perspective, Job was nothing more than a belligerent windbag whose persistent claims of innocence were a direct attack on God’s justice and integrity. Bildad even had the audacity to suggest that the deaths of Job’s adult children were the result of their own sins. They simply got what they deserved.

“How long will you go on like this?
    You sound like a blustering wind.
Does God twist justice?
    Does the Almighty twist what is right?
Your children must have sinned against him,
    so their punishment was well deserved. – Job 8:2-4 NLT

Imagine yourself in Job’s sandals. How would you have handled all that had happened to this man? He had lost everything, including his health, and now he was being “comforted” by his friends. They have looked at the circumstances of Job’s life and logically but, wrongfully, concluded that it was all a result of sin – the sins of his children as well as his own.

In the middle of a tremendous time of pain, loss, and suffering, Job finds himself having to defend himself against the attacks of his closest friends. They meant well and their conclusions seem logical and even biblical at times, but in their zeal to assess Job’s guilt, they seem to have overlooked a few of God’s character qualities. They stress His justice but leave out His mercy. They portray God as vindictive and wrathful but ignore his love and grace. Their view of God is rather one-dimensional and, as a result, inaccurate. Whether they realize it or not, they have placed God in a box of their own making. They have worked out their own theology of God and allowed it to determine their interpretation of the world.

Bildad begins his counseling session with Job with a rhetorical question, “Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right?” (Job 8:3 MSG). Of course, the answer is no, so this led Bildad to conclude that Job’s circumstances were the result of a just and righteous God justly dealing with Job’s unrighteousness. To Bildad, it seemed like the only logical conclusion.

Job’s assumed guilt is what drives the messages of each of his friends. But this begs the question: Was Job sinless? Again, the answer is no. He was a man living in a fallen world. Yet God declared him to be blameless.

The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” – Job 1:8 NASB

God was not declaring Job to be without sin. He was commending Job’s faithfulness. From God’s perspective, Job was a man of integrity and moral excellence who strived to live in a way that demonstrated his fear and reverence for the Lord.

Yet something tragic had taken place in this man’s life. He had suffered tremendous loss, and Job’s friends could only conclude that it was all the result of sin. And they are partially right. Virtually everything that happens in this world is the result of sin. It is a direct consequence of what theologians like to call “the fall.” When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they paved the way for sin to enter the world and infect the human race.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans  12:12 NLT

As a result, we live in a fallen world where sin reigns and even the creation is impacted by the presence of sin. Disasters happen. Earthquakes take place. Wildfires consume thousands of acres and hundreds of lives. And every person living on the planet is exposed to the effects of the fall. Good men and evil men all suffer. Righteous men get cancer. Godly women lose children. Faithful Christ-followers lose their jobs. Innocent children are born into abusive homes. That is life in a fallen world. In his commentary on the Book of Job, John Gill states, “Job’s view in saying this is to observe, that a man’s state God-ward is not to be judged of by his outward circumstances, whether he is a good man or a bad man, since they may both be in the same afflictions and distress, and which he opposes to the sentiments and sayings of Eliphaz and Bildad.”

We can’t judge based on circumstances alone. Yet that is exactly what Bildad was doing. His advice to Job was predicated on Job’s admission of guilt and his need for confession. If Job only humbled himself and asked for God’s forgiveness, all would be restored.

“But if you pray to God
    and seek the favor of the Almighty,
and if you are pure and live with integrity,
    he will surely rise up and restore your happy home.” – Job 8:5-6 NLT

God had already recognized and commended Job for his integrity and blamelessness, but Bildad seemed to know better. He had wrongly assumed that all tragedy and sorrow were the direct result of personal sin; not just the presence of sin in the world.

Bildad pulls no punches and dares to describe his friend as godless and of being guilty of forgetting God. As far as Bildad could tell, Job was a fairweather God-follower who remained faithful as long as God blessed him with wealth and health. He viewed Job as an opportunist who sought a relationship with God only for what he could get out of it.

The hopes of the godless evaporate.
Their confidence hangs by a thread.
    They are leaning on a spider’s web.
They cling to their home for security, but it won’t last.
    They try to hold it tight, but it will not endure. – Job 8:13-15 NLT

Now that Job had no home in which to live, no family to love, and no semblance of health on which to rely, Bildad believed he was exposed as a fraud and a fake. He had only appeared to be blessed by God. But his problem-free world had been rocked by God and he had been brought to his knees.

The godless seem like a lush plant growing in the sunshine,
    its branches spreading across the garden.
Its roots grow down through a pile of stones;
    it takes hold on a bed of rocks.
But when it is uprooted,
    it’s as though it never existed! – Job 8:16-18 NLT

According to the “wisdom” of Bildad, all Job had to do was stop arguing and start confessing. He truly believed that Job had a serious pride problem and it was the source of all his problems. Once he confessed, everything would turn around.

“But look, God will not reject a person of integrity,
    nor will he lend a hand to the wicked.
He will once again fill your mouth with laughter
    and your lips with shouts of joy.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
    and the home of the wicked will be destroyed.” – Job 8:20-22 NLT

For Bildad, it was a simple black-and-white matter; Job was wicked and needed to be righteous. His lack of integrity had left him devoid of joy and laughter. His shame was his own fault. His destruction had been well-deserved.

But Bildad’s confidence didn’t make him right. In fact, he was woefully wrong and completely off-base in his assessment of Job’s situation. Yet Job’s greatest dilemma was that he couldn’t defend himself. He knew he was innocent. He was convinced that he had done nothing to deserve this kind of suffering. But how could he prove it? Who was he to argue with God? But he was more than willing to argue with Bildad. Unwilling to sit back and listen to the condemning rhetoric of his friend, Job prepared to give Bildad a piece of his mind and a primer on the sovereignty of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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