People have only so much patience, even when they are trying to make extra efforts to show self-control. An insult from a person whom they have reason to despise is a hard thing to take. It is very tempting in the heat of self-pity to return evil for what surely feels like evil. The friends of Job feel insulted by the great man. It is Bildad’s turn to speak, and he has something to say to Job.
“Why are we stupid in your sight?” Loving mothers don’t like to be thought of as cold-hearted people. Successful entrepreneurs don’t like to have to shut down their own struggling enterprises. And intelligent and accomplished teachers don’t like to have their wisdom treated as stupidity by those to whom they have been speaking. When these things happen, a person just might lash back at the people he was trying to serve. Bildad apparently thought that Eliphaz, Zophar, and he had made some important points, diagnosing Job’s secret problem, and suggesting a way back into the good graces of God. Job has responded by saying to them, “I shall not find a wise man among you.” That’s too much for Bildad to take, so he points to Job’s wounds and mocks him: “You who tear yourself in anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you?”
Job admittedly looks ridiculous. He has been scraping at his sores with a piece of broken pottery. No doubt he would bear the scars of this experience for the rest of his life. Now they are perhaps his shame. One day they would rightly be thought of as badges of glory, for he would be the man who was brought low for some unknown reason, who was then met directly by God, and was declared to be righteous in the midst of those who had lost their patience with him.
This is not how Bildad thought that Job’s story would end when he spoke his indignant mind to God’s suffering servant in Job 18. He was convinced that Job’s troubles would be incurable unless Job would humbly listen to the godly advice of his friends and would repent of his secret sins.
Yet Job had showed no signs of the listening ear and repentant humility for which they were looking. Therefore, it would appear that he would only move from current disaster to final doom. Like all the wicked, his light would eventually go out, a victim of his own secret and evil schemes. Bildad expresses this expectation of a horrible end with very colorful language. Job’s heel is caught in a trap. Calamity consumes his skin. He is like a man dragged from his tent by a vicious beast in the night, who is then taken to some cruel master for his final condemnation. Job will have nothing left at all, and people will not even want to remember him lest they seem to be in league with a man who was so obviously cursed. He will have no survivors and no future generations. The community that once honored him will be afraid to invoke his memory, lest they catch his horrible guilt by association.
Bildad closes his second speech with suggestions of two sweeping accusations against Job. Though he does not say directly, “Job, I am talking about you,” there can be little doubt that he means to connect all these remarks about a wicked man to his earlier words, “You who tear yourself in your anger.” His two charges against his friend in the final verse of the chapter are these: Job, you are unrighteous, and Job, you do not know God.
Of course, these charges were false. Job was the most righteous man of his day, and his knowledge of God was far above that of his neighbors and friends. But Bildad was insulted. Those who think of themselves as more righteous than they really are can only take so much. When they are stung painfully enough by a remark that hits them at their point of presumed identity and excellence, they will eventually reveal what is on their minds.
Why did Jesus have to die? From the vantage point of the lawless hands that were raised against Him, He had to die because He had fatally provoked them. His evil had to be publicly exposed. He had to be put to shame as an example for others who would presume to speak against the traditions of the elders, and to publicly teach against leaders who firmly held to their righteous superiority in those traditions. But there is a bigger and better story here which must be granted the final word. From the standpoint of Almighty God, Jesus had to die as the perfectly righteous Man, the one who knew the Father from before all time. He had to die in order to satisfy the demands of the Lord’s justice against us. He had to die to procure our redemption with His spotless blood. He was the only Man who could do this. The cross was once His shame, but now His wounds are eternal reminders of His glory and our forgiveness. This story of God’s love has now become our good news. We have received this Word with hope, and we worship God through Jesus the Messiah.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, will we be miserable comforters who can only think and speak of ourselves? Will we keep on correcting those who seem to have no light of life left in their eyes? What can we say about death? Is it time to speak about sin and misery? Is there a word of hope that will be useful, or should we say nothing? Is it time to smile? Is it time to cry? Restrain us from making brash accusations against those that You have blessed in former days. You can make a man recover from a difficult time of loss. Teach us the blessedness of waiting. Teach us the wisdom that comes from loving.