Thursday, August 14, 2003

No post today

A few times a year, I travel to my home church in Richardson, TX, to teach there. They have an agressive and fruitful teaching program there. The teaching of each Sunday morning lesson is peceded by a study guide amde available a week in advance. The lesson is taught on Sunday and then must be manuscripted.

I must confess that I got caught up watching the video, "Children of Dune" last night and only had time to do the study guide, which was due today.

I will resume with Job tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Job 9: Job Responds to Bildad (2)

In response to Bildad, Job began to raise the hard and real issues of suffering.

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.

Job explores the nature of suffering

Bildad's speech showed a man locked into a religious view of the world that was unable to recognize and accommodate a reality that lay outside its domain. Job, on the other hand, was forced to deal with that reality. And thus we should note the progression of his speeches from 1) Lament to 2) Appeal to 3) Facing facts. Job began with an irrational wish for the night of his conception to never have been. In his response to Bildad, he placed the nature of God and the conundrum of suffering alongside his own situation:

Then Job answered: “Truly, I know that this is so. But how can a human be just before God? If someone wishes to contend with him, he cannot answer him one time in a thousand. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength— who has resisted him and remained safe? He who removes mountains suddenly, who overturns them in his anger; he who shakes the earth out of its place so that its pillars tremble; he who commands the sun and it does not shine and seals up the stars; he alone spreads out the heavens, and treads upon the waves of the sea; he makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the constellations of the south; he does great and unsearchable things, and wonderful things without number. 

If he passes by me, I cannot see him, if he goes by, I cannot perceive him. If he snatches away, who can turn him back? Who dares to say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ God does not restrain his anger; under him the helpers of Rahab lie crushed. (Job 9:1-13, The Net Bible)

Job here affirmed God's wisdom and strength and that was an essential affirmation. If God were too weak to spare Job, then Job's suffering had no theological issue. It was this very capacity of the Lord to command that was the base for Job's confusion and need for answers. 

"If he passes by me, I cannot see him." Job was irritated when he spoke these words. God could come and go as He pleased. He could do what He wanted, and no one could rightfully protest. At times, Job had felt God's presence. Now if God were there, he did not show Himself.

"Under him the helpers of Rahab lie crushed." Rahab is another designation of the great sea monster, or Leviathan. In the book of Job, and in other scriptures, Rahab/Leviathan are a metaphor for evil borrowed from the mythology of the surrounding culture. The direct meaning of Job's reference to the helpers of Rahab were that God's anger does move against evil. However, Job was being, I suspect, somewhat ironic with this image. If God's anger targeted evil, why did it also target Job? With this imagery, Job transitioned to his next thought:

How much less, then, can I answer him and choose my words to argue with him! Although I am innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my judge for mercy. If I summoned him, and he answered me, I would not believe that he would be listening to my voice— he who crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds for no reason. He does not allow me to recover my breath, for he fills me with bitterness. If it is a matter of strength, most certainly he is the strong one! And if it is a matter of justice, he will say, ‘Who will summon me?’ Although I am innocent, my mouth would condemn me; although I am blameless, it would declare me perverse. I am blameless. I do not know myself. I despise my life. (Job 9:14-21)

Job was not really addressing his friends here. These words marked the beginning of his struggle with God and suffering. Part of Job's struggle was now facing the possibility that God might not be good. The best contemporary example of a similar struggle is C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. When Lewis lost his wife, he chronicled his grief in a diary that he later published. At one point he wrote:

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, "So there's no God after all," but "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer." [Lewis, C. S. A Grief Observed (HarperSanFransisco, 1961) p. 18, 19]

To Job's frustration, God held all the cards.

“It is all one! That is why I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the guilty.’ If a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks at the despair of the innocent. If a land has been given into the hand of a wicked man, he covers the faces of its judges; if it is not he, then who is it? (Job 9:22-24)

"If it is not he, then who is it?" This marked a point of revelation for Job, and he would press this, along with other ideas, in his future dialogs with his three friends until he had silenced them. There is a sense where Job was correct in this assessment, as we clearly saw in Job chapter 1 & 2 where the Lord does take credit for what has happened to Job. But there is the other sense where Job was plain wrong. Like C. S. Lewis, he was saying, "So this is what God's really like." Job was facing the issue of God's power and goodness. Was He all powerful and not good? Was He good, but not all powerful?

As Job continued this speech, He again moved to address God.

Monday: Job's second prayer.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Job 9: Job Responds to Bildad (1)

Bildad spoke and it was clear that Job's appeal would be ignored.

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.

Job Responds

The opening words of Job's response to Bildad were interesting:

Then Job answered: “Truly, I know that this is so. But how can a human be just before God? If someone wishes to contend with him, he cannot answer him one time in a thousand. (Job 9:1-3)

Given that yesterday, I showed that Bildad's words could not apply to Job, how was it that Job would agree with Bildad and to what extent does he agree?

Bildad quoted ancient proverbs. The equivalent today would be for one of us to quote Scripture. Imagine that I had a friend in trouble and I went to him and quoted proverbs...

If only you will respond to my rebuke, then I will pour out my thoughts to you and I will make my words known to you. However, because I called but you refused to listen, because I stretched out my hand but no one paid attention, because you neglected all my advice, and did not comply with my rebuke, so I myself will laugh when disaster strikes you, I will mock when what you dread comes, when what you dread comes like a whirlwind, and disaster strikes you like a devastating storm, when distressing trouble comes on you. (Proverbs 1:23-27)

... and then went on to tell him that it was clear that who was a fool and never sought wisdom from God and that he better do it quickly or worse would come his way. Have I been fair? Have I accurately used the Scriptures? Here we can see the faulty logic in high relief. Here is the syllogism chart that I presented awhile back.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal. 
All men are mortal.
Aristotle died.
Aristotle was a man. 
The wicked will suffer.
Haman is wicked.
Haman will suffer. 
The wicked will suffer.
Job suffered horribly.
Job was an evil-doer

The left hand column contains properly formed syllogisms. If the 2 premises are true, then the conclusion is true. The right hand side contains faulty logic. Aristotle died, but Aristotle could have been a pet hamster as easily as a man. Job may have suffered, but we must seek other causes besides his being an evil-doer.

And so Job could agree that Bildad spoke truth in the same way my poor friend could agree that I did. It's just that the truth does not apply to the situation.

Job's words above, acknowledged that Bildad spoke truth and then connected with Eliphaz's statement:

“Is a mortal man righteous before God? Or a man pure before his Creator? If God puts no trust in his servants and attributes folly to his angels, how much more to those who live in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like a moth? (Job 4:17-19)

Was Job about to capitulate?

I am out of run way for today. I will pick this up from here tomorrow.

Wednesday: Job explores the nature of suffering

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Monday, August 11, 2003

Job 8: Bildad's Wisdom from the Ancients

Job appealed to his friends for kindness and defended his character. Did they take heart and let up?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


Job had lamented his condition. Eliphaz then suggested that Job had acted foolishly. Job responded by asking for kindness and understanding. He maintained his integrity and righteousness and opened his life to investigation. Against this backdrop, Bildad's words were nothing short of vicious:

Then Bildad the Shuhite spoke up and said: “How long will you speak these things, seeing that the words of your mouth are like a great wind? 

Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. 

But if you will look to God, and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you become pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself for you, and will restore your righteous abode. Your beginning will seem so small, since your future will flourish. (Job 8:1-7, The Net Bible)

"The words of your mouth are like a great winds." Really! Was Bildad still thinking of Job's opening outburst. Did he not hear Job settle into a rational perspective of his condition? Could Bildad really have spoken of Job's response to Eliphaz? If so, Bildad must have concluded that Job was lying. I have concluded that Bildad meant all of Job's words so far. As far as he was concerned, Job had said nothing of value or importance.

"Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?" For Bildad, to investigate Job's assertion of innocence would be a waste of time. God's justice has inflicted Job with sufferings. End of discussion.

Bildad, following Eliphaz's lead, again hits Job with the death of his children, "If your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin." The logical extension of Bildad's belief that Job suffered for sin was that Job's children likewise suffered for their sin. Here we must remember how Job continually offered sacrifices for his children, "just in case." If Job were to believe Bildad, that activity had been a waste of time.

For Bildad, the answer for Job was simple, "Look to God. ... become pure and upright." But we know that Job, in the Lord's eyes, was already "pure and upright." The advice was bad.

Eliphaz held is convictions by observation, although it would seem that they were selective observations. Bildad's opinions came from religious study. Whereas Eliphaz might have possibly been persuaded to change his mind, Bildad was entrenched:

“For inquire now of the former generation, and pay attention to the findings of their ancestors; For we are recent and do not have knowledge, since our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and speak to you, and bring forth words from their understanding? (Job 8:8-10)

Now we ourselves have the Scriptures, which are our words of the ancients. So we must conclude that Bildad was not entirely wrong in what he believed. The same would be true for Eliphaz; it was not wrong for him to observe and draw conclusions. However, both men were confronting a new situation and were not able to see it. Eliphaz was the religious intellectual and Bildad was the religious scholar. Religion is often adequate to handle the status quo, but throughout history it does poorly with new situations.

  • Once upon a time, Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, the language of his day.
  • Some time later, Tyndale suffered a martyr's death for translating the Bible into English for the same reason. However, at the time Latin was God's language.
  • A good English translation finally came to be with the Authorized Version, aka the King James Version. Its language use and idiom contemporary with its day.
  • Many today would say that the King James is the only good English Bible and speak ill of any contemporary English version.
  • Among those who accept contemporary English translations, there has arisen an issue concerning how gender specific Hebrew and Greek words should now be translated. [See: Bock, Darrell L. Do Gender Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily (Online: Available]

I do not mean, by the above, to be critical as illustrative. Religion tends to stabilize and perpetuate, and that is a useful function. But to grow and meet the needs of succeeding generations, religion must learn how to change. It must acquire wisdom to know what to change. Eliphaz, Bildad, and soon Zophar faced something they had never thought to see: a righteous man who suffered. Their religion blinded them to seeing an important truth, and in that blindness, these good men became cruel. The book of Job is about the sovereignty of God. It is also about the tendency of religion to lock itself into perpetuating patterns that fail to achieve its own purposes.

So Bildad, appealed to ancient wisdom that contradicted Job's correct assertions of innocence. I think much of what Bildad then said consisted of quoted material:

Can the papyrus plant grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish without water? While they are still in their early flowering and not ripe for cutting, they can wither away faster than any grass! Such is the destiny of all who forget God, and the hope of the godless perishes, whose trust is in something futile, whose security is a spider’s web. 

He leans against his house but it does not hold up, he takes hold of it but it does not stand. 

He is a well-watered plant in the sun, its shoots spread over its garden. It wraps its roots around a heap of stones and it looks for a place among stones. If he is uprooted from his place, then that place will disown him, saying, ‘I have never seen you!’ Indeed, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth others spring up. 

What was Bildad saying about Job?

  • Job was like a papyrus plant in a drained marsh. Papyrus needs a lot of water and will very quickly shrivel up in less than marsh conditions. Job had allowed the protecting dam to break.
  • Job had built his life on a bad foundation and poor construction.
  • The connection between Job and the "well-watered plant in the sun" seems to be this. Some plants grow into unwanted areas and the gardners will remove them. The ground does not care, because other plants will grow in their place. Job tried to grow in rocky places and was easily uprooted.

So Bildad's message for Job was to shape up and watch God move on his behalf.

Surely, God does not reject a blameless man, nor does he grasp the hand of the evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with gladness. Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.” (Job 8:11-22)

If only Job, "pure and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evi,l" would become pure and upright. Then God would no longer reject, but accept him and change his fortunes.

Tuesday: Job responds to Bildad

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>