Alfred Place Baptist Church

8-10 Bildad’s Speech and Job’s reply

Forty years have passed since 16 year old Ned Fleece with his newly acquired driver’s licence was on vacation with his parents at an American island resort. “Take your cousin Katherine home to get her swim suit,” asked his mother Isabel, and off the two youngsters drove on one of that island’s little roads. In less than an hour someone brought them the news that there had been a bad accident, and the children had not returned. The parents and children knelt in an anguish of prayer and the only thing Isabel Fleece could ask was, “Lord, let it be good for everyone concerned. Let it be as good, Lord, as it can possibly be.” Isabel was convinced that her prayer was answered, and that before she had called God had granted her desire. In the crash Ned had gone immediately to be with Christ. His eleven-year-old cousin Katherine was not injured seriously. There was no other car or person involved, and God was pleased to work it all for the good of every Christian member of the family. Isabel went on to write her own meditations on the whole event in a little book she called, Not by Accident (Serbin Printing, Inc., Sarasota, 1964, ISBN: 0-8024-5980-3), which had gone into its seventeenth printing by 1983. Many have been helped by reading this holy submissive response in which Isabel recorded both the good she had received from God and also this painful providence.
Another fearful providence had come into Job’s life which took away his property, his servants, his children, his health, his standing in the community and the support of his own dear wife. But unlike the friends who came to Isabel Fleece’s family in their loss, Job’s enemies ended their week of respectful silence and proceeded to make long speeches pulling his life and beliefs apart, challenging him in his loss. One of the worst things to happen was God’s silence. Job was given no explanation for what had happened – though this was an age of immediate divine revelation. God was to speak at length and directly to Job, but even then he was never to explain to Job about Satan’s challenge. But Job’s friends were not so reticent. They came to him with their explanations, speaking in their turn and ramming their prejudices home. They were men to whom he had often borne witness in the past, who hadn’t agreed with his views and sometimes they had been infuriated by what he had said. But they still admired his life and they liked him as a man because he was prosperous and carried weight in the world of his day. But they thought that what he believed was extreme. In many ways they were orthodox men; they believed in God the Creator. They were monotheists, that is, they believed there is only one God. They knew about the fall of man and that God then drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and refused them permission to return, prohibiting further access to the Tree of Life. They knew about Noah and the flood. These things happened at the dawn of history. They knew that the flood erupted because of man’s wickedness and God’s rectitude. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. They believed firmly in that fact.

But those friends didn’t see other things that God had revealed in the history of redemption which Job treasured and had thought much about. They didn’t see the significance of the skins that God prepared for our first parents, killing some animals and covering Adam and Eve’s nakedness. God did that. He provided garments for them in their shameful rebellion. He promised a redeemer who would come, who would bruise the head of the serpent. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s gift. Abel brought a lamb and he offered that to God and the Lord received that offering. After the flood when Noah left the Ark he too built an altar and offered a sacrifice to God. Such things as these had been much on the heart and mind of Job. They brought to him a message of hope; they were good news to Job, by way of forgiveness, pardon and a divine righteousness which could be imputed to those who believed, a righteousness which was as spotless as God’s which would be upon all and to all those who believe. But there was only one way to benefit from that grace. Sinners must come and make sacrifice of a spotless lamb for their own sin. Job’s friends never had those beliefs. They never referred to God as ‘Jehovah’, not on one single occasion. They address him exclusively as ‘God’; for them he is the just and righteous Creator.

The first of Job’s friends to address the subject of Job’s suffering was Eliphaz and he reminded Job that God is one who punishes sin: “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). Let Job look no further for the reason why pain has crashed into his life: “What you have sowed by your own sins you are now reaping,” he was told. Eliphaz also had confidence in his own experiences and the interpretation he gave them. He solemnly recounts the tale of a ghost that came to him one night and spoke to him. What was the message of this ghostly visitor? “Oh, he told me that it was impossible for men to have a righteousness which could be greater than God’s.” Hardly an earth-shattering revelation.

1] BILDAD’S SPEECH. (Job Chapter 8)

Then Bildad, the second friend, approaches Job. What do we learn of this friend, both of his personality and his beliefs?

i] BILDAD IS NOT A MAN WHO SUFFERS FOOLS GLADLY.

Notice first of all Bildad’s manner, which is blunt and confrontational. He is very much ‘in your face’ to Job. He seems to be a man who prides himself in calling a spade a spade. He has no bedside manner. Bildad has been sitting there on the edge of his seat, impatiently waiting for Eliphaz to finish his speech. Bildad shoots from the hip, blurting out to this seriously ill man, “How long will you say such things?” (v.2), adding, “Your words are a blustering wind.” In other words, you can talk the talk, and protest your innocence as long as you like, but it is all bluster, Bildad says. “You’re a windbag.” This is Bildad’s opinion of Job: “You’re a blabbermouth.” Bildad is so self-confident and filled with a sense of the righteousness of God that he’s lost a basic humanity. He is talking for the first time to an old friend who has lost all his children, possessions, health, the love of his wife and the respect of the community. He is sitting now in excruciating pain, scraping the puss from his many wounds. Job seems to be dying of this incurable disease, yet that is the manner in which Bildad speaks to him, so cruelly and thoughtlessly.

ii] BILDAD INSISTS THAT ALL SUFFERINGS ARE THE RESULT OF GOD’S JUDGMENT ON A PERSON’S SINS.

Then, you notice, secondly, what the content of his question is: “Let me begin by asking you a simple question,” he says (Job 8:3): “Does God pervert justice?” It’s a simple question, yes or no? You understand what I am asking – “Does the Almighty pervert what is right?” (v.3). That is so typical of Bildad’s manner; it is so confrontational. He is saying, “Job, you are implying from what you have said to us that God is a perplexing God, because he has treated you in the way he has. You are protesting your total innocence, and you’ve been making out that God has left you baffled.” Bildad would know of God’s judgments. Didn’t Abraham look at Sodom and acknowledge that God was just and righteous? Didn’t Abraham admit, ‘Surely the judge of all the world will do right’? “But Job,” Bildad is protesting, “All you do is clamour about your blamelessness…”

Bildad goes on, “Let me tell you something about your children . . .” Oh no! Don’t even think about it Bildad! Please have some tenderness. You are speaking to a grieving father, whose wounds, at the death of his children, are still raw. Say what is true, that you don’t know – no more than any man in the world knows – why Job’s children were killed. Stop and think Bildad. Don’t blurt out what you feel. But, alas, Bildad does. Bildad says the unspeakable. Hear these words! “When your children sinned against God, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” (v.4). To say something like that to a bereaved parent passes belief and breaks every worldly rule of sympathetic compassion. This man is a monster. Imagine anyone saying to the parents of the two little girls who were killed on the railway track outside Aberystwyth last year, “They sinned against God, and he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” One shudders to think such thoughts.

But we have today millions of people all over the world who believe that the many New Yorkers who were killed in the Twin Towers on September 11 were ‘American Devils’ and they ‘got what was coming to them, and what they deserved.’ That is such an utterly inadequate, pathetic and evil view of the problem of suffering. We all know hundreds of beautiful godly people who suffer greatly, but we all also know of many rotten people who grow rich, and live long, and never have a day’s pain in their lives.

What is Job to do? Well, Bildad knows exactly how he is to respond to his grief; “It’s simple enough: you confess your sin to God and he’ll restore you: “If you look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be” (Job 8:5-7). So Bildad is bringing pressure on Job to make a dishonest confession. That’s the logic of his approach isn’t it? So if Job will only say such words as, “Yes I have been a terrible secret sinner,” to get these persistent self-righteous men (who are his oldest friends) off his back, then he will know a certain peace.

Everything is so simple for the Bildads of this world. Life is explicable in terms of merit and reward. If you lived a long, wealthy life, then all men know that God has obviously blessed you as one of his favourites. But if your life is one of suffering, then the reason is quite simple – you have been a sinner. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire! If you haven’t been a sinner in this life, then, in a previous life.” That, of course, would not be Bildad’s view. There is no belief in the transmigration of the soul from one person to another anywhere in the Bible, but such views are common enough even in the Western world today. A former English football coach said publicly that it was a person’s ‘karma’ that results in their suffering in this world. They may be handicapped in some way, and that could be because in a previous life they had lived in a wicked way. So always there is a link between pain and sin. The greater the pain the greater has been one’s sin. If you suffer, then, in Bildad’s sermonette, it’s because you have done something wrong in your life, or (in the view of Hinduism and Buddhism which teach the reincarnation of the soul) you are being judged in this world for something you must have done in another earlier incarnation in this world). What a philosophy of despair! All suffering comes from unattainably unknown wickednesses said to have been done by your soul in another life.

There was an occasion when the disciples went to the Lord Jesus one day and they said, “See, there is a man who was born blind. Now who sinned? Did that man sin pre-natally? Or did his parents sin with the result that they were judged for their misdeeds in their child being born blind?” The Saviour told them, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). So too with Job; exactly so. What occurred to him happened not because of some great secret sin in his life but that a work of God might be displayed to the world of men and the strengthening of the church until moons shall wax and wane no more. The Lord Christ breaks radically the link between the degree of suffering that men endure and the sin that they’ve committed.

iii] BILDAD APPEALS TO TRADITION TO ENDORSE HIS BELIEFS.

Notice, thirdly, Bildad’s appeal to tradition. He says airily that people have always believed this link between sin and pain: “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?” (Job 8:8-10). In other words, “Everybody has always believed what I’m telling you,” Bildad says. “Not everyone can be wrong. Job, you simply cannot be the only one right. Consider the received wisdom of our age.” So it is today. There is the whole Enlightenment tradition dominating the West. Men believe that something called ‘science’ has got all the answers. What gullibility! To the livingness of God? No! To eternity? No! To the question, “What must I do to be saved?” No!

The theory of evolution pervades the land. For example, the music critic of the Times, a man named Richard Morrison, recently went along to the Albert Hall to hear a performance of Haydn’s “Creation” and this is how he began his review: “Haydn died 50 years before that nasty Mr Darwin put a scientific boot into the book of Genesis. Which was probably just as well. It’s hard to imagine a faith such as Haydn’s – naive, literal, idealistic and blissfully uncomplicated – not being shaken to the core by “The Origin of the Species.” And then he might never have written “The Creation.” (Times, July 22, 2002). What a patronising attitude to historic Christianity – “naive, literal, idealistic and blissfully uncomplicated.” What simpletons we unthinking Christians are. For this music critic Darwin’s theory is, a little sadly but nevertheless unquestionably, axiomatic. Man came from the primates who in turn came from more primitive life forms, and so Morrison goes to a concert to hear, he says, “this ‘childish’ masterpiece which remains so appealing to our anchorless and jaded sensibilities.” The traditions cannot be wrong for their devotees, though the counsels of bare evolution are utterly despairing. Still the Gentiles are walking in the vanity of their minds, but God delivers favoured men “from their vain conversation received by tradition from their fathers” (I Peter 1:18 JKV).

We are saying, please don’t dismiss the Lord Jesus as outmoded religion. With your enlightened minds please think! Look at Christ’s life; consider what sort of man preached the Sermon on the Mount. Have you thought about it, or have you even read it? Look at the man who made these great claims: “I and my Father are one:” Consider one who raised the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ was himself raised from the dead. Isn’t it important to listen to a man who could raise himself out of a grave?

Bildad is using the argument that everyone believes what he believes, and he gives three illustrations from creation as support of his theories.
i] The first illustration he uses is the papyrus plant (vv.11-13). Where does the papyrus plant flourish? It flourishes in marsh lands where there is plenty of water. What happens if there is drought? The papyrus dies. So too does man if he sins, says Bildad. It is God’s judgement which is drying a man up in death. He becomes a husk. “That’s what has happened to you Job,” Bildad implies. God is drying you out as you sit here on the pile of ashes. The life is draining out of you because of your sin.
ii] The second illustration is the spider’s web (vv.14 & 15). It seems so strong to Mr Spider. He can dance as lightly as Fred Astaire across the surface of his web, but the web gets fragile as the sun and hot winds dry it up. It gives way and breaks. So too, when men forget God their dancing days are over and their life seems to disintegrate like a spider’s thread. “Job, that is what has happened to you. You’ve been forgetting God; that’s what has taken place in your life, and so you are suffering.” Bildad has a cash-register theology of justice. You must keep putting the money in. If you fail God promptly sends in a bill and starts to pull your life apart.
iii] The third image he uses is the well watered plant (vv.16-19). It is spreading all over the garden, thriving because an underground watercourse keeps that part of the soil moist all the year round. One day the gardener’s wife says, “You know, I’m getting a bit tired of that plant and the way it gets everywhere. Let’s put something new in. I’ve seen a pretty plant in the garden centre.” And the husband says, “Do you really think so?” “It’s taken over the garden,” his wife insists. “Let’s have something different.” So they tear it out and put it on the compost heap, and after some years have gone by, you barely remember that virile plant except from old photographs of the children playing in the garden, and the plant can be spotted in the background. It’s gone – all gone. What is the point of this? Lives may appear to flourish for a time while their roots are going deeper into the energies of this sinful world. But God the gardener notices and in time he digs up even these virile men by the roots and discards them. Other worthy men flourish where he once did. To Bildad’s mind sin has to be the cause of Job’s suffering.

So what are Bildad’s counsels to Job? To turn away from his sins and live a blameless life being assured that God won’t reject him. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter” (v. 21). The men in the taverns who have been toasting your downfall will be clothed in shame (v. 22). So that is Bildad’s first speech in chapter 8 of the book of Job. He is the most crass of the three men and he presents that uncaring, health and wealth heresy.

That message of instant retribution cannot live in the light of the life and especially the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. No way! Since the Lord Jesus, the Light of the World has come, that message has been consigned to the pit from which all heresy comes. Jesus’ life was the life of a servant in the world, and though the foxes had holes to live in, and starlings nested where they chose, the Messiah didn’t have anywhere to lay his head. In his cruel death, what Bildad says, that God doesn’t reject the blameless man (v.20) is seen to be false. God rejected this Messiah, the righteous one. Christ cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. God did it because he loved the church of redeemed sinners. He did it that we shouldn’t be deserted. He forsook his own blessed Son so that suffering believers like Job might never be forsaken. This is the one Job knew something about, as the promised one. The lambs were offered on an altar that men’s sins may be forgiven. Men who declared that their hope was in the Messiah who became the Lamb of God often became the object of scorn. The world despised and rejected them as it also condemned their Lord.

Bildad had no concept that one reason why Job suffered so innocently (that is, not for any particular acts of gross wickedness which he had committed), is that we who live today, upon whom the end of the ages has come – 4000 years after Job’s time – might be strengthened in our need to submit to God by Job’s moving life. We look at this book in the 21st century after the death and resurrection of the Lord Christ, and we learn the great lessons that God has taken such pains in its 42 chapters to write for us.

I have a friend named Peter Hulland who has been the pastor for many years in the Derbyshire Dales, in a little village called Stanton Lees. He has a wonderfully brave Christian brother, named Graham who has been very ill for years. He once worked on the staff of Buckingham Palace serving the royal family and in fact many years ago he took Iola and I around certain parts of the Palace. We didn’t have tea with the Queen or anything like that but we did see parts of that beautiful building for the first time with Graham as our guide. Now Graham has had to retire from that delightful work because he has been desperately ill, and when I sat with Graham not so long ago, he showed me a moving letter that Prince Charles had written to him in his own hand. It was a splendid letter of sympathy and encouragement to Graham which I would long to have been able to write, and would have been delighted to have received. One of the things that Prince Charles said in that letter was that he had been reading the book of Job recently and he had found encouragement and help from those scriptures. He knows that Graham is a Christian man and he was reminding Graham of the treasures of the Word. My point is that one of the reasons all these waves of pain broke over Job and his family was that you and I, through the comfort and strength which Scripture provides, might have hope in our grief.

Bildad, of course, had little concept of all that. Men like him live for today and look back at certain human traditions which endorse their own prejudices. They are not the men who look forward to generations of believers yet unborn, and upward to eternity and the living God. But they always have plenty to say, and Bildad will speak to Job again, unfortunately.

2. JOB’S RESPONSE (Chapters 9 & 10).

Job’s response is found in chapters 9 and 10. Now Bildad’s final point, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers” (8:20), is absolutely correct. So Job begins in verse 2, of chapter 9 in this way, “Indeed I know that this is true,” he says. We all know what is true in Bildad’s pontificating. It is his application of the justice of God to Job that in unacceptable. As God is righteous Job then asks, “how can a mortal be justified before God?” (v.2). That is the greatest question a person can ask. How can a sinner be righteous before God? If God does judge men by their works all hope is gone. Now Bildad’s religion was this, that if men do good then God blesses them; if they do evil, then God punishes them. Bildad’s religion, in other words, is a religion without grace. But the dilemma Job’s life creates for Bildad and those who share Bildad’s beliefs is this: Job has been the man who has done exceptional good, he strengthened the hands of the weak, and spoke up for righteousness. He was a friend to the widow and he helped the needy. Job had done no particular act of wickedness worthy of the grief he had known losing his property, children, health, the affection of his wife, reputation and influence. Bildad’s only response is dark mutterings to the effect that there must be hidden sins somewhere, and Job must acknowledge them. Not knowing that God has allowed the devil to bring these afflictions into his life, Job has to resort to other explanations for his pain.

i] JOB SEES GOD AS MIGHTY AND JUST, BUT SILENT.

We see Job’s frustration in his question, “How can I be vindicated before God?” If the seraphim have to hide their eyes in God’s presence then how will the best of men, who are nevertheless sinners, be vindicated if the holy God should visit the best with his awesome judgments? The world will condemn you, “Ah, there is bound to be some heart sin in your life, certain secret sins, and surely sins of omission.” Job, for his part, yearns for heavenly vindication. He would love the Lord to pull apart the heavens like a curtain and shout to all the world, “In my sight Job is righteous.” That is what Job longs for, but that is not going to happen. So what does Job say? He says at length (in the first 31 verses of this chapter) something like this, “I can’t take God to the Court of the Universe. It is quite impossible, but I still protest my innocence to him and everyone. I am sure of one thing, that God would be as silent in such a court set up by mere men as he is at this very moment when he refuses to give me reason why he has stripped me of everything. If I paid the top lawyers in the world to speak in my defence, if I got George Carmen QC to represent me, or if I got O.J. Simpson’s lawyers as my counsels, where would they get with God? “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” (v.4). Our God made the universe, “the mountains without their knowing it” (v.5); he causes earthquakes, (v.6); he can tell the sun “Don’t shine!” and the sun won’t shine. He can covers the whole starry hosts and not a gleam of light will get through (v.7). He stretches out the starry heavens, and he treads on the waves of the sea. (v.8). He would soon silence confident lawyers.

Consider all the mysteries in creation before which scientists stand remaining utterly baffled. “Why does it work like that? How does that happen? How did this occur?” They have no explanation at all. “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (v.10). Can’t you see that God is incomprehensible? He made the universe in a certain way and for most of it he has chosen to give us few explanations. More than that, God is invisible (v.11). This same mighty God is with us here and now: “Lo, I am with you always!” Omnipresent! Think of it! There is nowhere, whether in the deepest recesses of the universe or at the heart of sub-atomic particles, where God is not present. Yet he is with us in his grace, to save and sanctify. Again, God is unaccountable; “Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ (v. 12). God doesn’t answ er to the United Nations, nor the Supreme Court, nor the European Court of Human Rights. More than that, the only restraint on God’s actions is his righteousness; “God does not restrain his anger” (v.13). Who are you dealing with? Unrestrainable Jehovah. Then how dare a sinner imagine he can smack his hands together and summon God to come to him and answer some questions. “How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could only answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy. Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason” (vv.14-17).

God is never going to look down, scratch his head, and say, “Ah, yes, I hadn’t thought of that; you’ve finally got me. I declare Job is innocent.” You can’t do that with the Ancient of Days. “Even if I summoned him to appear, I don’t believe he would give me a hearing. If I sent all of the Dyfed Powys Police after him, or told the SAS to haul God to court – (v.19) who are those pip-squeaks? The US Army might try to hem in a criminal like Bin Laden, but no one can do that to God. He is almighty. Who has the authority to summon God to speak when he chooses to be silent? You can’t force open the jaws of the Lord of Hosts and make him say anything when he chooses to be silent. He does not appear before man; we come before him – we must all appear before his judgement seat. Innocent and guilty, we all must give an account to the same omnipotent God. The murderer is kept in life and is indebted to God for the strength to kill his victim, and also for the opportunity, but he is entirely responsible for the wickedness itself and will answer to God.

What happened on September 11 when the hijackers flew those planes into the Twin Towers in New York causing their own deaths and the deaths of thousands of ordinary people going about their daily work? Listen to these solemn words: “It is all the same; that is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ (vv.22&23). The criminal hijackers and the innocent passengers were in a moment all killed and brought to the throne of perfect justice. “It is all the same. That is why I say he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” There is no escape from his righteous justice.

You understand what Job is doing now? We have noticed this again and again. Job is going back to the first cause. He won’t let us blame the devil when bad things happen and then praise God when the good things happen. He won’t have two forces of Good and Evil battling it out in the world. For Job, God is ultimate, but he is not the author of evil. He is the righteous God. He permits sin, but his connection with it is purely negative. It is the abominable thing which he hates with a perfect hatred. Job then takes two illustrations from human life to explain God as the first cause.

i] The first, verse 23, a terrible plague, “a scourge brings sudden death.” What happens in a plague? Does a virus attack bad people alone? Does it go to the prisons but misses the chapels? Of course it doesn’t. Good and bad people alike die in a plague. Righteous men had blood transfusions contaminated with the AIDS virus and passed away as well as the sexually promiscuous.

ii] The second image, verse 24, describes despots taking over a land. For example, Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe is destroying his country’s economy and civil liberties. The innocent as well as the wicked suffer when justice is compromised and the law is no longer exalted. “When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges.” Where is God? He is in Zimbabwe today. “If it is not he, then who is it?” The Ruler of the world seems to mock man’s despair.

“The Lord is King! Who then shall dare
Resist His will, distrust His care,
Or murmur at His wise decrees,
Or doubt His royal promises?” (Josiah Condor, 1789-1855)

But this ultimate King of the universe doesn’t have to appear in any human court and explain why innocent people are killed. Such judgments lie within the secret will of God. We know assuredly this: “When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” (Amos 3:6). Unless sin did occur according to the divine purpose and permission of God, it would occur by chance. Evil would then become an independent and uncontrollable principle and the pagan idea of dualism would have to be introduced into the theory of the universe. But Job’s trust is in one living and true Sovereign God.

How crucial to us all that these truths be known, believed and treasured as soon as they are taught us, especially before the day of trouble. Job is a mature man with a grown up family. His life is flying by. He says in verses 25 and 26 that his life is as swift as the dive of an eagle dropping upon its prey. There is our birth, and the eagle is hovering, then we begin to crawl, and the eagle starts its fall, and soon we are in man’s middle age, and then at the gates of death as the eagle’s talons grip the rabbit. Our entire lives hurtle by as swiftly as that. Job’s passion is to understand God, but he still doesn’t know why God takes a life here, and sends suffering and pain there, sparing some evil men, while causing some of the loveliest people such anguish. Job sees the cynic and apes their scorn: “If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression and smile,’ I still dread all my sufferings'” (vv. 27&28). Think of the sad little Monty Python entertainers when one of their members died of Aids, their artificial smiles as they sang and whistled defiantly at the crematorium, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” That is all they had to offer. It is called ‘whistling in the dark.’ Dying still hurts. “I still dread all my sufferings” (v. 28); and after death the judgment . . .

“And you Bildad, and you Eliphaz have already decided that I’m guilty – ‘Since I am already found guilty, why should I struggle in vain’ (v.29). While God remains silent all my anguish for an explanation is in vain. I am faced with Almighty Holiness, so I struggle in vain against him, not against you my ‘friends.’ I tell you, if I made myself ever so clean, do you know what God would do to me? I will tell him to his face, ‘Even if I washed myself with soap, and my hands with washing soda’ (v.30) – so that I took all the ingrained dirt from my hands and feet and I cleaned and perfumed myself and then stood before God, do you know what this God would do to me? I say again, I will tell him to his face; ‘You would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me’ (v.31)!”

That is Job’s bitterness addressing his God; “and I would still have no explanation from him of why he has taken from me my wife’s love, my children’s lives, and all that I have. Why has God done this to me and compounded my grief with the mockery of the world, disease in my bones and the incessant opposition of these friends of mine?”

ii] JOB LONGS FOR AN ARBITRATOR WITH GOD.

The next request this frustrated man makes is for an arbitrator. He is getting no joy in appealing directly to God for the Almighty remains silent – “He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court” (v.32). So, could there be some celestial ombudsman who would represent Job both to God and to Job’s critical world? “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to place his hand upon us both” – ‘one hand on me and one hand on God, wouldn’t that be wonderful?’ he says, (v. 33). Such a mediator would be the greatest help, wouldn’t he? He’d bring God nearer me and I wouldn’t be so intimidated because of the silence and the vastness of the gulf between me a mere creature and he who is my Creator. He, so holy, and me, a sinner. He from eternity to eternity, and my life over, almost before it begins, vanishing as swift as the drop of an eagle on its prey.

“Yet I could make contact with him if I had some go-between,” Job says. “Such a man could go up to God and remove the rod of God’s anger out of his hand (v.34), and then I wouldn’t be afraid any longer. Then I’d speak up – if I had this arbitrator at my side. But as things are now, my mouth is stopped and I’m silent” (v. 35), and with that despairing note Chapter 9 ends. Job is yearning that he might find a mediator with God, one as powerful as God himself but also very compassionate, who knows all about Job and yet loves him deeply. Might not this advocate – who understands all about Job and cares about him – speak up for him at God’s right hand? This is Job’s persistent longing and he is going to return to the theme later. What a meeting of hearts and minds! There is this tremendous heart and intellect that we see in Job, this tough, straight-talking, holy man. There is also this all glorious Creator God who is his Father. Then between them both, a loving Mediator. Can one be found?

Blessed with all the light of the new covenant we can sympathise with Job’s longing, can’t we? You who are not yet Christians, even you can appreciate this desire. When you have trouble in the company and some dispute is going on – then a mediator may be sent for who can bring justice and a settlement. Where could Job or any of the Old Testament saints find one? It was in the promise. One is going to come who will bruise the serpent’s head. The seed of the woman is going to come, and he will be one of Moses’ brethren. Won’t Jesus the promised Messiah speak up for us? Before whom did he turn silently away if they came to him in longing for help? He will be our great High Priest, not of the mortal line of Aaron but one of the special order of that mysterious figure of Melchizedek, one who suddenly appears before Abraham and as quickly disappears. He is one of those theophanies of the Old Testament. In Christ we meet one touched with the feeling of our infirmities having been tempted in all points as we are and so exquisitely equipped to understand our plight: “I know Father, what a man like Job is going through. Look Father, he’s lost his children! See, Father, his wife has turned against him, and his friends are turning the knife. In what a state of weakness and pain he sits day by day. Strengthen him now, Father. Watch over him, and help him Father.” A great Mediator. We are blessed aren’t we, this very day, who live after the Lord has come, to know that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus? Do you go to God through a Mediator? A Christian does. Do you have your very own Mediator this moment, one who will speak for you in the presence of God? Do you cry to God that this Mediator of whom I speak would become your Lord and your Saviour? I have a divine Mediator with God for you to receive now. Won’t you keep asking him to take care of you, until you know he has answered you?

iii] JOB’S EXPRESSES THE BITTERNESS OF HIS SOUL.

So Job says, I can’t take God to court to prove my innocence, but I am innocent. how I wish I had a mediator, but I can’t see him. What will I do? The first thing he announces in chapter 10 is that he is going to speak out against this silent God, and his words are going to be in considerable bitterness of soul. In Chapter 9 he has been speaking to Bildad, Eliphaz and to anyone else who wants to hear him. In Chapter 10 you meet Job talking in anguish to God. Remember this prayer is coming from a dying man who is sitting on an ash heap, deserted by everyone. This is a man before whom God is silent; Job is sick of his life and he cries angrily to the God who is mute.

We must give a brief overview of this tenth chapter. Ready? Are you with me? You’ve got your Bibles open at Job chapter 10 ? This is a summary of what Job says to God: I loathe my life, and tell me, what charges are you bringing against me that I should be punished like this? (v.2) This is punishment without any charge being made. What sort of justice is this? Are you in fact getting pleasure in some masochistic way from oppressing me and from seeing what my oppressors do to me? (v.3) Can’t you see what is going on? (v.4). Are you capricious like a mere man is capricious? (vv. 5 & 6). You know I’m not guilty, don’t you? Yes, you do know that (v.7). You created me, are you now going to destroy me? (vv. 8 & 9). But there were years when you were so good to me (vv. 10-12). Look at the blessings you once gave me. Is your object now to humiliate me, because I can’t hide anything from you? You’ll punish my sins if I had sinned (v.14). Innocent or guilty I can’t hold up my head in your presence. You seem to grow in your anger and the judgments you bring upon me (v.17). Why was I ever born? I wish I had died at birth (vv. 18 & 19). But I will soon be dead (v. 20) and in the grave, that place of gloom and darkness, (vv. 21 & 22). Oh God, turn away from me so that I can have a moment’s joy (v.20).

That is basically what Job says to God in this tenth chapter. We didn’t take long – a mere minute – in summarising it. Have I actually skimmed a chapter of Holy Scripture in a minute? In-depth exegesis that was not! I hang my head! My only plea (besides fighting against the clock) is that in this chapter are themes of human despair that we will return to throughout the book of Job.

CONCLUSION.

What do we have here? Job overwhelmed with self-pity, complaining to God with the deepest pathos as to how unreasonable the Lord has been in allowing all this to happen to him. Job is a fallen creature, and creatures who have not fallen into sin must yet bow before their Creator with their mouths stopped. All mankind must be a bowing people, and one day every knee will bow to the Lord. But Job is not only a creature, he is a sinner and sinners have a more grievous reason to always bow silently before a holy God. Sinners have forfeited every right to argue with God, and so you cannot prate before the Ancient of Day as Job does no matter what we have suffered. We do not cross-examine God concerning his dealings with us. The best of us see through a glass darkly. We do not understand fully what God is doing in anything, but we do understand that in everything we’ve done, we’ve never done one thing wholly without sin. Yet how often do we hear sinners saying, “When I meet God I will have some questions to ask him!” Glorying in their shame. We cannot dream of submitting the Almighty to the third degree of interrogation for what he has chosen to do or not do to rebels. He chooses to say some things to us, and there are times when he is silent.

Now this great God is delivered from being exclusively sovereign, austere and high because he has come so close to us in his Son Jesus Christ. He has pitched his tent alongside us where men like one man who was born blind spend their entire lives in darkness, and where a man like Job suffers excruciating anguish. But the infinitely holy and blessed Son himself suffered imaginably more than that which Job suffered. I was thinking of what had happened in Margam Steel Works in Port Talbot, South Wales, recently in one of its great furnaces where a mass of molten metal and noxious gases are kept confined and are being purified within walls a meter thick. Suddenly there was a mighty explosion resulting in an unprecedented break-out, and white-hot metal and clouds of acidic fumes flooded that part of the steel mill like a river, and men were killed.

Then I thought of my Saviour. Does Golgotha see One keeping within his little body of frail humanity all our guilt and blame? Can that man endure the entire wrath of a sin-hating God as the Holy One focuses all his just displeasure upon Jesus Christ the bearer of our iniquities? Is God strengthening him as he is destroying him? There the sluice gates of the lake of fire have been opened and they are baptising the Substitute, the Lamb of God. How he is being tempted to move away from under that flow. Let there be a break-out from the furnace of God’s wrath. Let it stay in the heart of a God of wrath. Let it fall elsewhere. But where? Can there be another Lamb? Another Jesus? “Call for legions of angels to rescue him! Enough is enough! Get Elijah to come and help, for he knows about the fires of God’s wrath falling and consuming the sacrifice. Call for your Father to deliver you!” But Jesus resists all those temptations. He keeps all our sin and all of God’s wrath against it in his own body on the accursed tree. He deals with it all by himself. It’s all there on Golgotha’s central cross, our sin and God’s magnificent rectitude against everything that contradicts what he is. We believing repentant sinners have thus been rendered absolutely safe; we are untouched and uncontaminated because all our condemnation has been dealt with by the Lamb of God, and he has taken it away.

How can Job presume to interrogate God – such a Lord as this? How can sinners dare to question such a God who sent his Son to that death, and spared him not? How can we use Job’s protestation: “Your hands shaped and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me?” (v.8). Does he not have the right to create and to destroy sinners? Who are you dealing with? This is the God who destroyed his lovely Son because he was not willing for us sinners to perish. Shall we hurl our questions defiantly at Father and Son and Holy Spirit as though we were sinless and he had done some wrong to us? God has no need to give us an explanation in this world for anything he does to us, with us, for us. Truly he is a God who hides himself, Oh Saviour of Israel (Isaiah 45). But he is under no obligation to speak up and explain everything he does. The Judge of all the earth does right. We live by faith and we have to go on living trusting the Lord each day, and there is no excuse in using pain as the reason why we are not bowing before him and acknowledging him as our Lord God and Saviour. Sinners simply use suffering as an excuse because it is so inconvenient to pride and self to bow before blessed king Jesus in this world and go on doing his will, thanking him for such a privilege.

Let me say, whether we Christians understand only a few implications of how providence has dealt with us, that there is a definite creative, redeeming, sanctifying, God-glorifying, God-serving purpose and significance in everything we are called upon to endure in this world. Nothing happens merely by chance. The Lord Christ does not step off the throne of the universe for even a moment to let cruel chance or evil devil take over. We know that God will work all things together for the good of his own people. Job was right when he acknowledged, “You gave me life, you showed me kindness, and in your providence you watched over my spirit” (v.12). He was the one constantly watching over Job on the worst of days, and he is watching over us now. Job momentarily, like all of us, blurted out to the Lord foolish things when pain is just too much to bear and we feel so angry with ourselves, with people and God. But the Lord understands our hearts, and that anger can be covered by the blood of Christ. There is forgiveness for hurting foolish Christians who go to God in Jesus’ name and say, “Sorry Lord for my wicked words. Where would I be without thy mercy?”.

Let us pray.

“We ask Thee most blessed God to help us to understand Thy word. Deliver us from self pity in the midst of some of the deep perplexities of our lives. Help us to trust Thee, and trust Thee with all our hearts, even every day of our lives, in Jesus’ name.” AMEN.

GEOFF THOMAS