BILDAD’S SECOND COUNSEL AND JOB’S REPLY
Job chapters 18 & 19
Once again we will look at the book of Job, and this morning we come to chapters 18 and 19. “Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: ‘“When will you end these speeches?’” and so on to the end of chapter 19.
Job was a very fine man, he was a truly religious and an upright man, but God allowed him to be tested by Satan and this fact was quite unknown to Job, that it was a supreme display to the devil of the power of his keeping grace. It was also unknown to everyone else in all the world. Noone knew what was happening, and so then, the world spectated as this series of terrible calamities comes into the life of Job, without a single mortal having any explanation. Job is wonderfully brave and trusting; he loves God through it all, but frequently it’s a terrible struggle and his exasperation shows itself. Yet Job’s own conscience assures him that he’s done no specific wicked action for which he is being particularly punished by all that happened.
However, Job has three friends, and they have the mentality that Glenn Hoddle, the former English soccer coach had. You remember how he said he believed that if there was suffering or a handicap, then that was the sufferer’s karma, the judgment that was coming upon them because of wickedness done in a previous life. Hoddle believed in reincarnation. Now these three friends of Job didn’t believe in reincarnation, but they did believe that a man’s suffering was connected, quite intimately locked into, a man’s own behaviour. So, they judged, Job must have committed some secret wickedness that they didn’t know about, in fact nobody knew about, but God is punishing him for that heinous deed. Job’s sufferings were a manifestation of the righteous judgments of God. His friends get so angry with Job when he refuses to acknowledge any terrible sinful act of sin either against man or God. “You’re worthy of these terrible catastrophes. Confess your sin,” they say to him. “That’s all you’ve got to do. It’s very simple. Then you can make a new start and we’ll understand, because men are sinners.” But Job wouldn’t play ball
So, God locks us into this scene for many chapters. Here are four men and they are giving Job the counsels of despair. Of course, each one of them is sincere. They all consider that they are giving Job the best possible advice. I saw a television advertisement made in Argentina, and it showed a blind man with a white stick who was standing at a busy intersection with cars zooming back and fore. Suddenly he heard a voice. A man was saying to him, “Are you going to cross?” “Yes,” he said. So the man took his arm, and they stepped out as all those lorries and cars were hurtling up and down. Then the camera zoomed back to show that the other man also had a white stick; they were both blind men, and they were walking together through athis horrendous traffic. Then came the punch-line. There was a caption, and when it came up on the screen it said, “Even worse than not being informed, is believing you have been.”
Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar were blind men. They were theologically and emotionally ignorant of the whole problem of suffering, and they didn’t know it. They thought they knew all about God, and all about pain, and all about Job. They believed God’s hand struck only evil men and that God delivered the righteous speedily, and punished the wicked. They thought they’d sussed everything out. “Even worse than not being informed, is believing you have been.” Maybe you’ve had bad advice from some people - about a broken heart, about pain in the family and sickness in your own life? Sincere people once gave you advice, but now you’ve learned a great lesson, that being sincere is not enough. Sincerity is essential, but it must be an informed sincerity. It must be an educated sincerity. It must be a sincerity that’s infused with the life and knowledge and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible. Job had the incomparable advantage of light, as well as sincerity. He knew that godly people also suffer in this life, that God permits this and that God can be sovereign in choosing not to give any explanation in this life of why it has happened. The Lord is sovereign because he’s God.
Job had thought of the possibility of trouble coming into his own life because he’d seen humble women and young people suffering in some ghastly way. They were good people, and Job had had compassion on them and he’d thought, as you and I can think, what would happen to me if such and such an anguish came to me, or to mine - my family, or my loved ones? Now Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar, one by one have spoken at length, and Job has answered them at length. Then Eliphaz has spoken again, a second series of speeches, and Job has answered him. Now it’s the turn of Bildad to give his second speech in chapter 18.
1. BILDAD’S SECOND SPEECH.
Bildad has grown quite infuriated at what he’s heard Job saying to his friends when he had answered them.
i] Bildad addresses Job.
In the opening four verses, he talks to Job. “You!” he says, “when are you just going to shut up? If you had ordinary common sense, we could be having a decent discussion, but you are haranguing us like beasts.” You see Bildad expressing sentiments like that? “You are treating us,” in other words, “as if we were just stupid men. You are tearing yourself apart in this frustration, trying to justify yourself before God out of the vortex of all this pain. If you are right, then the whole world is wrong.” You see that Bildad says this? “You’re the only one in step in the whole world. Are we to believe you” he asks, “and then to abandon the world? If you are right, then the very foundations of the world have to be moved.” That’s what Bildad is saying. That’s the theme of the opening four verses of his speech. Do you understand what Bildad is claiming here? “All creation, the whole world of rational men believes that God is righteous and he only punishes because he’s righteous, his hand goes out and he smites the wicked alone. When you claim, ‘I’m not wicked,’ you are abandoning . . . you’re leaving the planet, you’re abandoning the true and rational world. You are destroying the whole moral system. Sensible people know this that sin is punished here and that good is rewarded here. Suffering is always God chastising sinners because you get what you deserve in this life. No more, no less.” So, when Glenn Hoddle said very much the same he was echoing what 4,000 years ago Bildad believed, and when Job denies that, he is treating these four wise men as if they were three cows. So, that’s the first thing that Bildad does: he speaks to Job. Then Bildad preaches a sermon (vv.5–21). So, now let’s look at that sermon.
ii] Bildad’s sermon.
“Sinners!” he says, “I’ll tell you about them. They’re just like an old man walking home and his lamp has gone out. It’s one of those nights when there’s a cloud cover. There’s not a moon, there are no stars, no lights. He’s walking home in the pitch black, and that’s what a sinner is. A sinner is a man walking in the dark, and when he finally gets to his tent, there’s no light in his tent either (v.6). So, he’s going along in darkness, and he’s going into darkness. He’s getting increasingly feeble. All the plans that he makes for the future, well, sinners’ plans don’t work out, they come to nothing (v.7). Indeed, he’s trapped in his own schemes. His feet are in a net (v.8). He’s trapped by his own devices (vv. 9–10). He can’t escape, and there he is in the dark. He can’t move because he’s trapped and he hears terrible sounds, awful cries and whines and roars all around him. That’s the sinner,’ he says (v.11). His life is all calamity and disaster (v.12). He’s on a long, dark journey into night and he’s developing a final incurable illness. It will come, an illness will take him away at the end (v.13). Away from all that’s pleasant, his own home, he’s got to leave that. He’s got to meet death, “the king of terrors” (v.14). That’s what he says. His property, then, will all be destroyed. Moth and rust are bound to corrupt it. Thieves will break through and steal it. That home on which he has lavished such care will be gone in a short time, and then his body dries up. His body, when the spirit goes, will turn to dust, like a tree withering (v.16), and people will forget all about him. “What was his name? Do you remember him? What was his name? Oh, I forget it. Do you know what his name is?” (v.17). Off into outer darkness he goes (v.18). He may leave no descendants, no survivors (v.19), and people who hear about what happened to him, whether it’s in the east or the west, will be appalled. “What a life! What a life!” they’ll say (v.20). That is the life and death of the sinner, that is the end of the man who doesn’t know God. That’s how it ends, doesn’t it? That’s how the chapter ends, you see that? So abrubtly and sharply (v.21). That is the life and death of Mr Badman, according to Bildad, as he sees life.
Now remember Bildad thinks Job is Mr Badman, doesn’t he? Mr Terribly Badman. Because Job’s punishment is so horrendous, the crime that he’s committed must be horrendous too, even though he won’t acknowledge it to them. So, Bildad speaks these words - they are unbelievably cruel words - to Job, the father who has lost ten children in an awful calamity - “Well, that’s what happens to those people who don’t know God.” That’s actually what Bildad says. Job has to be a wicked man, and the more wicked because he just won’t face up to what he’s done and confess that God is righteous and that he is wicked and deserves what has happened.
So, that’s what one of Job’s friends, Bildad, one of Job’s comforters says. That is the sincere opinion of an educated, poetic, vividly expressive man. You see how wrong he is? Even worse than not being informed, is believing you have been. Then, let’s go to the next chapter (chapter 19).
2. JOB’S RESPONSE.
How does Job himself respond? If the key word when you think about Bildad is ignorance, then the key word when you talk about Job is rejection. Job feels rejected.
i] Job’s rejection by his friends.
Firstly, Job is rejected by his friends (vv.2–5). You will notice that this second person pronoun ‘you’ occurs again and again in these four verses. “How long is this going to go on?” Job says in verse 2. “How long are you going to keep making speeches against me and speak to me in this way?” That’s what he’s saying. “You’re tormenting me, and crushing me and reproaching me quite shamelessly,” he says (v.3). “If it’s true that I’ve been wicked, then that’s really my concern, because I’ve not sinned against you,” he’s saying (v.4). “I’ve not caused any pain or wickedness to you. But you are using my suffering to promote yourselves,” and indeed they were as they thought, “You know, we’ve got a pretty good life and God is pleased with us. God is blessing us, and helping us because we always do what is pleasing to him.” “But God is humiliating me,” he says (v.5). It’s a terrible humiliation. So, firstly, rejected by those other leaders in distant societies, these three or four men have come in this delegation to see Job, and they think they’ve just wiped the floor with him.
ii] Job’s rejection by God.
Secondly, he’s rejected by God and that’s found in verses 6–12. “I want you to know that if God is punishing me by taking away my children, and taking away my health, because of some terrible sin of mine, then God has wronged me.” That’s what he says. “If this is happening to me because of some wickedness and God is punishing me, God is not just. God is wronging me, because no such sin has been committed” (v.6). That’s what he says. So, Job has got a clean conscience, and he’s loved God and served God, and he’s humbled himself before God all his life, and when pain came, he greatly humbled himself. He’s an extraordinary man of God and he has no idea why these calamities should have happened to him. “I’ve cried to God, ‘You’ve wronged me!’ I’ve said. ‘Why?’ And there’s no response” (v.7). You see that? ‘“Help me, justify me!”’ I say. No response” (v.7). “Indeed, God seems to be blocking my progress with you fellows and the men who mock me. All the life I’ve built, the momentum of loving God and caring for my family and looking after the needy, the widow, the blind, those that are being abused - all that life is now being dismantled. It’s all being pulled down,” he says. “People are saying, ‘“Don’t you know about him? That really . . . secretly . . . he does the most terrible things.”’ That’s what they say about me now. ‘“We wouldn’t like to say what he’s done,”’ people are whispering. My honour is gone (v.9), my hopes for the future are gone (v.10). I’m the focus of God’s anger. He’s treating me like his enemy (v.11). He sent his hosts like a great army laying a siege to me, to my city, to conquer me (v.12). So, by everyone, I’m under attack. So, firstly I’m being rejected by you, my friends, then I’m being rejected by God and then, thirdly (vv.13–20), society is rejecting me.”
iii] His rejection by society.
Society also is rejecting Job. He says, “My family and my acquaintances that don’t want to know me. They don’t want to know a man whom God is punishing. They don’t want to know a man whose secret sins are so horrible that they must be commensurate with these terrible things that have happened to me. So they ignore me. My friends have forgotten me (vv.13&14). My own servants, I ask them to come, I shout to them ‘Come!’, yet they disdain me (vv.15&16). My breath is offensive to my wife, my very breath stinks! I’m loathsome to my brothers. Little boys ridicule me (vv.17&18). I walk down the street but those kids come here to this dung heap. They just joke and point the finger at me. Those I love have turned against me (v.19), and I’m nothing but skin and bone; I’m barely surviving” (v.20). That is the pitiful condition then Job is in. He’s almost suicidal. But you remember these are the words of a man who for years has walked with God. He’s been like Enoch. Here are the words of a man who knows God enduring the most terrible trial of anybody in the history of the world. Of any sinner saved by grace, no one has suffered as much as Job has, in every dimension of his life. Yet there’s a depth in Job. God is keeping Job. And suddenly, it shows itself.
iv] The life of God in Job.
Suddenly the life of God in him is seen here, like a rose blooming in Hiroshima’s ruins. Suddenly, here’s the fruit of the Spirit displayed in his life. New notes sound out. We have all seen this. We meet a professing Christian and he’s in a terrible state. His marriage is over, his wife has left him, he’s bitter, he’s resentful, he’s critical of everyone, he’s as low as Job, and you’ve been praying for him, and what you want to see is a new note sounding out. You want an end to his self-pity and the accusations about everyone else’s guilt. You want to see grace replace those things, don’t you, a humble statement about the sustaining grace of God, his own unworthiness, his hope in God’s purpose for his life being realised? When you hear that then you know that he was a true child of God all along. You’ll know it then, but not until those notes sound out at that dark time. Where do you see a jewel most beautifully? One place is against the black velvet background of the case in which it’s kept, when the light catches all its facets and inner glow is seen.
So, the first note that Job gives is a cry to Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar for pity. You see that in verse 21? “Temper your words, my friends,” he says. “You are saying that the hand of God strikes the wicked. The hand of God has struck me. What a blow! Imagine God’s hand. Imagine God making bear his arm and striking us. How fearful! That’s what happened,” he says. “And you’re now devouring me like wolves. You don’t seem to be able to get enough of me,” he says. “Tearing away at me all the time with one speech after another” (v.22). So, that’s the first note. It’s a plea to them. “Be pitiful! Be forgiving! Be kind!” he says. And, ah, when you hear that you think, “Ah yes, it’s there, grace is in Job.”
And then the second note, well you know this, the most famous words in all the book of Job. “Listen, now!” he says. “You mark well now what I’m saying! Write these things down now that they can’t be forgotten! Have you got lead? Inscribe them in lead! Have you got a chisel and some granite? Carve these words on that stone! I don’t want you to forget them.” That’s what Job says. Here they are, let’s read them, verse 25: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Now you know that there were times in the Old Testament when the Spirit of God came upon a prophet or a judge or a priest or a king and gave him a revelation, gave him insight or a vision. In almost every case, then, when the Spirit comes upon a person in the Old Testament, when a man is said to have the Spirit, he is a king or a judge or a prophet; he has some office, and to him the promise is made. In the New Covenant, it’s not going to be like that. It’s not going to be just upon the officers and the leaders that the Spirit will come, but the Spirit will come in the New Testament upon everybody, every child of God. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. The young men and old men, your handmaids and servants, in those days the spirit of God will come upon them.” They will all have the indwelling of the Spirit. Jesus says, “I’ll give you an Advocate; he will be in you. He will be with you.” So, here for Job, in the darkness of the Old Covenant, a mighty beam of light comes. There’s an illumination. There’s a flash of inspiration. It’s there and he sees it in these words that have been read in your hearing. For us it’s not a flash. For us it’s a sustaining bright light and we walk in its illumination; we take this torch with us when we go on that last road to a funeral service, when we go to a crematorium, or stand around a grave. We bring the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his triumph over death. We take it with us and it floods those farewell scenes as we hold hands and finally see his last breath. Job has been in a terrible state. Job has been walking in darkness, stripped of his honour, devoid of hope. Job has been alienated from his friends and his family, spurned by his servant, rejected by his wife, mocked by children. He’s nothing but skin and bones, and then it was, that at such a time he sees God. “I know,” he says, “I know this is true. I have a Redeemer. I have a Kinsman.” [You know it’s the same word Goel as in the book of Ruth, how Boaz comes to be the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth.] “I have a Redeemer. He’s bone of my bone. He’s my kin. I’m in his family. I belong to him. He’s mine,” he says. “I know he’s going to speak up for me before God. He’s coming. He’s going to stand on this earth. If I die before he comes, somehow in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my eyes. I’ll see him. Not a computer animated ‘avatar’, not someone who lives in a virtual universe, a ‘metaverse,’ not escapism into fairytale world but the real life living Jesus Christ. I shall see him, my own Redeemer,” he says. “And I’m longing for it, I’m yearning for the time when I’ll see my Redeemer,” he says. “And through the Redeemer it’s going to be fine, through the Redeemer it will be well between me and God. He’ll be my mediator, he’ll be my arbitrator.”
When Job said these words he didn’t know how glorious his prophecy was. He didn’t comprehend its height and breadth, its length and depth. We flood his words with all the light of the incarnation of God the Son. Jehovah Jesus came into this world. He came from eternity with his Father. He was born and lived amongst us. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. I and my Father are one,” he said. He came as the Lamb of God; he came as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The promised one came. God’s rod smote him. It pleased the Lord to bruise Jesus, that Job might be forgiven, that Job might see God, that all his people who trust in him, love him, and serve him might see him, that Job might one day be raised from the dead. He had now been reduced to skin and bone. There was just a breath between him and the grave, but in the Promised One Job was precious both in life and death to God, and he would see God in a new body. He would see the one who ever lives, his Redeemer, the one who had been interceding for him, full of sympathy for the sufferer. One day he’s going to come again. He’s going to come. He’s going to stand on this earth, the one who stood on the Hill of Ascension, on the Mount of Olives and lifted up his hands in blessing until a cloud took him out of their sight and the angels said, “He’s going to come. As you have seen him ascend, so he’s going to come again.” Are we longing for this event, the coming of the Lord, to see him, to see Jesus? “And when we see him, we shall be like him,” John says. We shall see him as he is. Oh what glory lies before us! Job saw some of it, and he was like Jesus on Golgotha, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”
So this flash, this insight comes to Job. It comes out of such great grief at a time of such terrible need in his life, and you would think that then Job would never doubt again; no more struggles ever again; no more battles with pain and unbelief; total assurance from then on; joy unspeakable from then on, you would think. You would think, wouldn’t you, when he says this and he sees this and he knows this, at such a time that there’d be no more doubts and no more wrestling with unbelief. His life will never be the same again. Men and women, it didn’t happen to Job like that, and it doesn’t happen to us. It doesn’t happen to anyone like that. It doesn’t. It’s delusional thinking to think it does. Here is Job. Just look at him in chapter 23, and what does he say there? “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” (vv.2–3). You see, he’s still in the shadows of the Old Testament, and he’s seeing through a glass darkly, isn’t he? He’s living before the incarnation of Jesus Christ and before the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost. Job doesn’t have the New Testament, does he? Yet you remember the Apostle Paul. He sees Jesus, doesn’t he? He sees him on the Damascus road. He sees him in such transcendent splendour, he’s absolutely magnificent. He’s brighter than the sun shining at its zenith. You hide your eyes from the sight. It’ll damage them if your retina catches that burning heat, and so it was when Saul of Tarsus saw Jesus Christ. Then you’d think that after that sight he’d take everything. No troubles, no doubts from that moment on. And yet he tells the Corinthians, when he was in Ephesus, that his flesh had no rest. There were fightings without and fears within. He was pressed down beyond measure. He despaired even of life. He did say that, the one who saw Christ said words like that, and I’m saying to you that that’s the reality of the Christian life, that’s the nature of the Christian pathway. Neither a knowledge of a great body of truth, nor wonderful elevated experiences are going to deliver us from the struggle with principalities and powers, and with remaining sin and the spirit of this age which always pulls us down.
As I read this history of Job it reminded me of reading Bunyan’s autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Now, I don’t know if you’ve read that strange and awesome autobiography. It’s the first autobiography in the English language, and he’s struggling and he’s got such doubts. Finally a verse comes to him and his spirit is raised and he sees it and you think, well now he’ll tell us how he went on with Christ. Not a bit of it, the next page he’s back down again. Then again he’s delivered and God ministers to him and helps him and gives a word to him and he sees things. You think, right now he’ll tell us about his early life and coping with Mary his blind daughter. Not a bit of it. He’s back again in such severe struggles for assurance that God is his own Saviour. Great men, that is, men greatly used by God go through experiences like that. Job has been the teacher, the inspirer, the strengthener and the comforter of the Church for all these thousands of years and it would be surprising if Satan didn’t attack him. His friends, spokemen for the world, hated him but God sustained him in such pain.
So, chapter 19 ends with words of warning. After that wonderful experience, then, Job turns to his three friends and he says, “You fear the sword yourselves. There’s a judgement. Take care,” he says. If God doesn’t spare the green, what will he do to the dry? Now Job is green, these three men are dry. God hasn’t spared Job, then Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar had better walk on tip toe. Let them look with caution; “Weep not for me,” Jesus said. “Weep for yourselves. I don’t want your pity. If they’ve done this to the green what will happen to the dry kindling? There’ll come a time when such judgements will fall that you’ll cry for the rocks and the hills to fall on you, you’ll envy those that have no children,” he says. If Christ, if God the Son, had to come into this world and die, and die that death, the death of the cross, if that was necessary in order to redeem us, let me warn you about the sword, that sword that hangs over you, the sword of death, the sword of the judgement of God that hangs over everybody here. It will fall. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). Job’s Redeemer has redeemed a people. Are you amongst that people? Do you know in your heart you have a Redeemer who lives, and do you long to see him and be with him and be like him?
20th January 2002 Geoff Thomas