Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blogging the bible: Bildad's desparate argument

Bildad pushes back into the fray in chapter 18, basically he says, “Why insult us? You can’t make yourself an exception to the rule: the wicked get punished. That’s what’s happening to you.

Note that that Bildad’s argument has a hint of desperation to it. It’s a denunciation more than a dialogue, and he begins to berate Job, telling him that there’s really no point in talking till Job comes to his senses. Job has said that Eliphaz and co are not wise, Bildad says, no Job, it’s you who’s not wise. It’s a debate that is descending in quality as emotions start to get hotter. From Bildad’s perspective, Job is worse than wrong: he is perverse or insane. He’s willing to overturn the very fabric of the universe to justify himself: “You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you, or the rock be removed out of its place?

Note also that Bildad is determined to make Job see the horrible end of the wicked. The rest of the chapter is all about the fate of the wicked. “The light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine…His strong steps are shortened, and his own schemes throw him down…For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks on its mesh.” Bildad uses 6 Hebrew words for traps, more than in any other Old Testament passage. Whatever Job would do, Bildad says, would ultimately trap him. So Job would be terrified wherever he turned, which calamity following on him wherever and whenever he stumbles. Furthermore, in this he would suffer terrible agony. His skin would be consumed, Bildad says, referencing his skin problems. Furthermore, this is the worst of possible diseases (Diseases are deaths children, so the firstborn of death is a reference to the worst of these diseases). But that’s not the end. He would be taken from his tent, and subject to the king of terrors, i.e. death.  In the final tally, he would be cut off from the community, and be forgotten, “His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street,” he would die survivor less, as someone whose fate is appalling to people from every direction. This fate is a lesson for all around as to what happens to the wicked, Bildad thinks. The result is that all will learn see that “Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.” Ultimately, what Bildad is saying is, “Job is not only wicked, but completely ignorant of God”. That’s why all this has happened. Since he refused to repent, how can he possibly be righteous, or know anything about God?” It’s the only conclusion he can come to.

What are we to make of all this. On one level, what Jobs friends are saying is completely in line with themes we find throughout scripture. God is just. Justice will be done and all will see that it is done. Someday, “ever knee will bow (Philippians 2)”; everyone will eventually be made to acknowledge that God is right—whether in the reverent submission of faith, or in the terror that cries for the rocks and the mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelations 6). The theme is repeated time and again. And it must be. D.A. Carson observes that “The alternative to judgment is appalling: there is no final and perfect judgment, and therefore no justice, and therefore no meaningful distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil. Not to have judgment would be to deny the significance of evil. However, at the same time, if we apply this truth to quickly and freely, if we treat it as a mechanical cause and effect, and act as if we are omniscient and know all the facts, destroys the significance of evil from another angle. We rule out innocent suffering (as Jobs friends did). D.A. Carson notes that “To call a good man evil in order to preserve the system is not only personally heartless, but relativizes good and evil; it impugns God as surely as saying there is no difference between good and evil. Sometimes we must simply appeal to the mystery of wickedness. Carson is on to something. At times we must step back, and acknowledge that we don’t know all, we are not omniscient, we see but through a glass dimly, ultimately only God knows all, and we must be careful not to act is if we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment