Bildad Speaks to Job
Scripture to meditate on:
Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
“How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
But if you will seek God earnestly
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 prosperous state.
Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.
“Ask the former generation
and find out what their ancestors 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?
Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider’s web.
They lean on the web, but it gives way;
they cling to it, but it does not hold.
They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;
it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.
But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, ‘I never saw you.’
Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.
“Surely God does not reject one who is blameless
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more.” – Job 8
Poor Job. Not only has he lost his family, his health, his home and all his possessions. He is saddled with the most insensitive trio of friends since Larry, Moe and Curly. As Bildad offers his assessment of Job’s trials in chapter 8, he even goes so far as to observe that Job’s children must have deserved their fate. He echoes the words of Eliphaz and insists the Job should turn to God and repent for whatever sin has resulted in this predicament. Again we see the worldview of Job’s friends — that the sinful will suffer, and the godly will be blessed.
Biblical scholars refer to this kind of thinking as retribution theology, the idea that sin leads to suffering and that suffering is a symptom of sin. This is a theme we see repeated elsewhere in scripture (Deuteronomy 28, Proverbs 15 & 21). Bildad’s words also reflect the reverse of this curse; what’s come to be called prosperity gospel. This is the idea that God is waiting to lavish health, wealth and happiness on all his people if they will only return to Him.
If we are to take the lessons of the book of Job to heart we will see that neither of these views fully embrace the justice of God on the one hand nor His goodness on the other.
Jesus’ disciples were also caught up in this kind of thinking. When they came across a man who was born blind, they asked Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” (John 9:2) Jesus told them neither. That the man was born blind so that God’s power might be revealed in him.
“God does not reject the innocent, and he does not grasp the hand of the wicked.” – Job 8:20
Questions to ponder:
- Do you believe that God punishes sin with earthly suffering? Or rewards goodness with blessing?
- What do you think Jesus would say to Job’s friends?
- How have you seen God’s power revealed in the difficulties of your life?