Eliphaz has tried to correct Job’s thinking in chapters 4-5. Eliphaz tells Job that he may be a righteous man, but trouble does not come from thin air. So as good as you are, no one can be righteous before God. You did something wrong and if you would just repent then you would experience restoration. But we were told in the first two chapters that this is an incorrect assessment. We know that Job is blameless. We know that he is not being punished for hidden or insignificant sins. This is a trial. This is a test of Job as God has been accused of being too good and generous to his people. Since Job does not accept Eliphaz’ instruction, another friend of Job named Bildad will attempt to correct Job. We will look at the help that the friends give, consider Job’s response to the friends, and then draw applications for our lives for dealing with suffering and trials.
Bildad’s Speech (8:1-22)
You will notice as you read Bildad’s speech that he is not interested in comforting Job in his suffering but in defending retribution theology. As we have observed in our prior studies, retribution theology is simply the belief that blessings are given to the righteous and suffering and punishment falls on the wicked. Therefore, if you are suffering you must have sinned. You are wicked. If you are physically blessed, then you must be righteous. Notice that this is all Bildad has to offer to Job.
First, Bildad calls Job a windbag (8:2). Job’s speech is a blustering wind. God does not pervert justice (8:3). If Job claims innocence, then Job must be implying that God is unjust and perverts justice. Because Bildad so strongly believes in retribution theology, then God is just and only sinners suffer. Therefore, Job must have sinned. This is why Bildad doubts Job’s innocence (8:4-6). Bildad’s point is that all who sin against God get what they deserve. Your children sinned and they were delivered to the consequence of their sin (8:4). Yet Job, “if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation” (8:6). Bildad is not suggesting Job is pure and pointing out that he cannot be pure. Notice verse 5, “If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy….” Bildad’s point is that Job is not pure but if he will become pure then he will be restored.
In verses 8-10 Bildad tells Job that his lack of understanding these principles of wisdom is his problem. Job needs to trust this long understood wisdom. Everyone knows and understands what Bildad is saying. Job needs to accept it as well. Bildad pushes this point further in verses 11-13 using metaphors to describe humans dependence on God. Without being connected to God in righteousness, humans wither to insignificance. If nothing else, Job has forgotten God (8:13) and the hope of the godless perishes. Consider what Bildad just said: if you are hopeless, then you are godless. This whole issue is simple to Bildad. It is black and white to him. God does not reject the blameless man and he does not strengthen evildoers (8:20). Your loss means you have done something wrong.
Karma and Retribution Theology
Before we consider Job’s response, we need to consider what Bildad has said. We are often drawn to this retribution theology. So many people hold to the idea of karma. People want to believe that what goes around comes around. If you do something wrong, then you are going to get what you deserve. What goes up must come down. We use these ideas when we speak and sometimes use these ideas toward others who suffer. Sometimes we will even use this idea in a malicious way. When we see the wicked prosper, then they will come crashing back down to earth at some point. This is all basically karma. Karma is a critical concept in eastern religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. What we are attempting to do is create some kind of control for the future. The whole idea of karma is if if you have good intentions and good deeds will contribute future happiness. Bad intentions and bad deeds will contribute to future suffering. As Christians we cannot subscribe to this kind of thinking. God does not teach karma. Further, it should take about 10 seconds to consider that karma is not true in society. Doing good does not mean tomorrow will be good and doing bad does not mean that tomorrow will be bad. Life does not work like this. Karma taken to its furthest extent teaches reincarnation and rebirth. You are amassing good deeds so that when you are reincarnated after death, you will be something good and positive and not something awful and painful if you amassed bad deeds.
God has not created a system where if you do something bad you will be punished in life for your bad act. Nor has he created a system where if you do something good your will be rewarded in life for your good act. Doing good does not mean you will have a good life. Being righteous does not mean that you will have a comfortable life. God does not rule the world in this way. This is not the laws of the universe that he set up. We gravitate to this thinking because we want to believe that we have control over our future. We want to believe that we can control what will happen to us tomorrow. This belief system makes us feel better about ourselves when we are not suffering. You must have done something wrong for your suffering, so that won’t happen to me because I am not a sinner like you. The scriptures destroy this system:
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)
Notice they are suffering while doing good. The book of Job intends to destroy retribution theology. Job was blameless, upright, feared God, and turned from evil and he lost everything. Karma is not true and God does not run the world in this way. A flat tire does not mean you did something bad and having no traffic does not mean you did something good. We must work to rid ourselves of this retribution theology. It is easy to believe it. It is easy to accept it. It is easy to think it is Christian and godly. Bildad thinks he is giving godly advice. Yet the way he applies godly principles is utterly false.
Job’s Response (9:1-10:22)
Job begins his response to Bildad by declaring that he understands the principles Bildad is proclaiming (9:2). Job agrees that God does not reject the blameless. But Job has no way to make his case before God (9:3-15). God apparently does not know that Job is righteous. How can one obtain the verdict of righteousness before God? Who can stand before God? God can use all the cosmos as a weapon against those who oppose him. He commands the sun, he removes mountains, and seals up the stars. Job understands that he has no forum before God. God is too immense and too great. The friends are tell Job to appeal to God by repentance. Job continues to response that he desires to appeal to God, not by repentance, but to make the case for his righteousness. But God seems unapproachable (9:11-14). But how can a person make that appeal? God can defeat the most fearsome of creatures. So how can a human come into God’s presence (9:13-14)? Rahab was the name of the sea monster (cf. Isaiah 51:9) so this is a picture of God able to control and conquer all of the creation. God’s power is intimidating (9:12). No one can come into the presence of God (9:16-20). God’s power and might are so immense and irresistible, God would overwhelm any opponent foolish enough to summon him into court (9:19-20). Though Job is in the right, such a scene would not go well for Job. He knows being in God’s presence would not be to his benefit. But he will say it anyway because he has to. His life is almost gone. He feels resignation and doom (9:21-22). There is no justice before God. The wicked and the righteous are both destroyed (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:14-15). God treats the wicked and the righteous alike. God laughs at the despair of the innocent (9:23). There is no justice (9:24). The judges are blindfolded so that they cannot give a just verdict and injustice is the result (9:24). Job feels that his life is slipping away (9:25-26). Even a happy resignation is no help (9:27-29). Putting a smile on his face and pretending everything is fine is not a solution. Even if Job thoroughly cleansed himself, Job believes it would not matter because God has determined him to be guilty without cause (9:30-31). Job recognizes that he needs a mediator, someone to arbitrate his case before God (9:32-35).
In chapter 10 Job returns to his lament. Job hates his life (10:1) and cannot understand why God is accusing him (10:2-5). Job continues to maintain his innocence and points out that God knows he is innocent (10:6-7). Job pleads to God to remember that he is just dust (10:8-11). He cannot handle the devastation he is experiencing. It does not matter what Job does, whether wicked or righteous, he feels condemned by God (10:12-15). He feels attacked by God (10:16-17) and wishes for God to leave him alone (10:18-22). Stop attacking me and let me die with what little cheer I can muster (10:20-21). With this Job ends his second response to his friends.
Messages For Today
I want to look at one of the concepts Job grasps that is important for us to consider. Job points out that he cannot stand in the presence of God. God is too mighty and too immense to be able to do so. It does not matter how blameless Job is, to stand in God’s presence is a frightening proposition. We see this truth pictured for us a few times in the scriptures. Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord’s throne room which causes him to declare, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). Ezekiel sees a vision of the Lord’s throne room. “And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28). When John sees a vision of the Son of God, “I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17). I think people have this strange idea that you can just stand before God. But the scriptures constantly show us that you cannot be in the presence of God. That is why people could not enter the tabernacle or the temple. When God came to Mount Sinai, all the people and animals had to stay back. You cannot handle standing in God’s presence. Job expresses this truth and recognizes that he needs a mediator to act on his behalf.
Here is what is amazing. God gives us that mediator. The high priest in the days of the temple and the tabernacle gave us this picture. There was only one person who could come into God’s presence. The high priest, one time a year, after offering sacrifices for himself and for the people, could enter into God’s presence and make atonement. Hebrews 9 resets this vivid picture and points out that Jesus is our high priest to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God…so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:14-15). What Jesus does is “appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24). What Jesus does is make the impossible possible. No one can come before the throne of God. You do not come into his presence. But through Jesus we can draw near the throne with confidence and find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We have the mediator we need. We have the access we need. We can present our troubles and despair to God. The sacrifice of Jesus purifies our consciences so that we can approach. Jesus makes the impossible possible. May we always be thankful and grateful for what God has done through Jesus so that we can approach him. Jesus is your mediator. God is near you. Approach the throne during your trials find your God who loves you.