There are two themes in today’s reading. Bildad the Shuhitespeaks of the wicked being punished and the terrors of death and Job counters with his trust in his redeemer. Like Job and his weariness of the ongoing battering of words from his three friends, Bildad is also weary of listening to Job. They listen to each other but it is very clear no one will change their minds. Job maintains his innocence and his friends continue to believe he has committed egregious sins and that is why he is suffering. Bildad resents the implications of Job’s speech and says so, plus he sees Job’s suffering and tells Job that what he is blaming on God is really his own fault. He even speaks of burning sulfur raining down on Job, a reference to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great sin. Part of the fate of the sinner and the wicked is that God will wipe out any memory of them. It will be as though they never existed. Job will counter this in chapter 19 when he asks that his suffering and struggles might be written on a rock in lead so that people will understand what happened to him and know he is innocent. Bildad woundup his speech by refuting Job’s allegation that God had turned him over to the ungodly. And he believed that the evidence he presented in verses 5-20 implicated Job himself as the cause of his own problems.
Job responded with examples of his own. He too wonders when his friends will just shut up and leave him alone. Job is convinced that justice has been delayed and that God haswronged him. Job feels trapped by God and he sees no way out of his struggles and darkness. He has cried out for help and it has fallen on deaf ears. Everyone he once knew has rejected him or ignores him and he has escaped death only by the skin of his teeth. This is most likely a reference to his teeth falling out because of his health challenges. We know that the hand of God had struck Job through the permission he had give the evil one.Amid Job’s struggles and darkness we see a flicker of hope. Job confesses that he knows his redeemer lives and He will stand upon the earth at the last. His faith in a redeemer can only find fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The same was true for his request for an advocate and witness in heaven. The term redeemer comes from both criminal and civil law. An individual could redeem or avenge wrongful bloodshed or redeem lost property, perhaps by buying back a slave or marrying the heir’s widow. The Old Testament knew the Lord as redeemer but New Testament believers know that the Redeemer is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Job wanted most of all to be able to declare his innocence.
Job also expresses his confidence in his living Redeemer, which in this legal case may be translated Vindicator or protector of family rights. Job’s longing for a mediator and his desire for someone to plead on his behalf with God may suggest that he is thinking of someone other than God as redeemer. Ultimately Job’s longing for a mediator, someone who would stand up for him in the presence of God, was fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Lord.
At the time of Job the thought of afterlife looked vastly different that what we know and believe. Writers in the Old Testament describe the realm of the dead as a place beneath the earths surface to which people descend. Sometimes they are swallowed alive. (Numbers 16:31-33) But generally they are dragged down by the cords of death. In the Old Testament the afterlife is generally regarded as a gloomy, hopeless place of no return. In the Book of Job the key images of the realm of the dead are dark and dusty Sheol, a pit fouled with the filth of decomposition and the grave. The Old Testament does give occasional hints of deliverance from the grave. These hints give Job hope that Sheol might relieve him of his troubles and that a redeemer might justify him even after his death. Only the New Testament gives the full promise of redemption from death.
The Book of Job deals with the mystery of human suffering. Bildad’s speech to Job can be summed up: you got what you deserved. And Job’s other two friends, Eliphaz and Zophar hadalready concluded that Job’s suffering was certainly evidence of some sin in his life. Job’s friends were not reciting falsehoods. Much of what they said was theologically sound at least in the abstract. The scriptures, especially Deuteronomy 27-28 indicate that the righteous can expect God’s blessings while the wicked can expect God’s curse. Both Eliphaz and Zophar conceded that sometimes the wicked enjoyed temporary prosperity as Job had. But ultimately they believed that the wicked would be punished. So where did Job’s friends go wrong? Their mistake was that they misapplied an abstract truth. Yes, in the end God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Moreover God Himself had declared to Moses that He would not leave the guilty unpunished. But Job’s friends did not have God’s perspective on Job’s situation. Like Jesus disciples, they automatically assumed that when catastrophe struck, it was God’s punishment on that person. But Job’s story and Jesus response to His disciples indicate that human suffering is not always a sign of God’s judgement. In this fallen world, sometimes the innocent suffer. But even through their suffering, God accomplishes His will. In Job’s case, satan’s false accusation is refuted and God’s sovereignty was proven. Often our suffering or the suffering of others blinds us to the reality that the sovereign God is working His own good purposes through a fallen world.
Many times the things that happen to us are confusing and like Job we do not understand. We look to the Lord and question why, and the answer is not always forthcoming. This is the hard part of our faith, of believing in the Lord. We are called to trust that God is working out His good plan. Knowing that, we can confess along with Job…I know that my redeemer lives.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W