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Conversations from the Ash Heap: When God is Merely a Factor in A Formula
by Dan Vander Ark
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When God is Merely a Factor in A Formula
(Job 18)

“You are a two-faced hypocrite who is under the judgment of God!”

Those are not words from Job chapter 18, those were words spoken to me a couple of months ago. I haven’t been pastoring for about three years, and it was the conclusion of this individual that this was why I wasn’t shepherding a church. But they simply didn’t know the facts.

Bildad didn’t know the facts either (or the heart of Job), but that sure didn’t keep him from sermonizing and from an explosion of misguided and cruel conclusions. The “You are a two-faced hypocrite who is under the judgment of God” is the Cliff’s Notes version of the Comforters’ theology over these 18 chapters.

Whereas Eliphaz shows (at times) a more kindly and pastoral concern for Job, Bildad just blasts away and becomes downright brutal and cruel. Remember chapter two? “And they (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar) made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him….they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” (2:11 & 13). But they got more than a little off track – somewhere they totally lost sight of their objective to bring encouragement to Job.

FI Anderson writes this about these first few verses, “Bildad is more concerned for his own reputation than for meeting Job’s needs…Bildad continues to do what Job has rightly complained about, he kicks a man when he is down.” The Comforters apply their theories & theology instead of applying ointment and bandages. May that indictment never be said of our churches.

18:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite responded, 2 “How long will you hunt for words? Show understanding and then we can talk. 3 “Why are we regarded as beasts, as stupid in your eyes? 4 O you who tear yourself in your anger-- for your sake is the earth to be abandoned, or the rock to be moved from its place?”

“How long, Job?” Job’s sores irritated him constantly, but Bildad was irritated with Job’s words. Bildad started his first speech (chapter 8) with the same words (How long…). That was the chapter in which he implied that Job’s kids got what they deserved. You get the feeling Bildad is more than a little peeved with Job for even insinuating that their theology (when devastation comes, it proves you are a sinner) could be wrong.

I love the words of Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on Job, “But, like some folks to this day, Bildad’s theology doesn’t have room for mystery. Everything is black and white.” “Bildad’s theology doesn’t have room for mystery.” Bildad didn’t believe “His Name shall be called Wonder-full.” To him, Jehovah is the “Figured-Out God,” the God Who doesn’t do things beyond the comprehension of Bildad.

18:5 “Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out, and the flame of his fire gives no light. 6 The light in his tent is darkened, and his lamp goes out above him. 7 His vigorous stride is shortened, and his own scheme brings him down.

FI Anderson translates the first part of verse 7 this way, “His athletic pace becomes a shuffle…”

18:8 “For he is thrown into the net by his own feet, and he steps on the webbing. 9 A snare seizes {him} by the heel, {and} a trap snaps shut on him. 10 A noose for him is hidden in the ground, and a trap for him on the path.”

Sometimes preachers go overboard with their illustrations. Bildad sure did! There are SIX different Hebrew words for “trap” in these 3 verses – two in each verse. A couple of illustrations would have sufficed, but six? And just what is Bildad trying to say? Just this (as per Hartley), “…it is impossible for any wicked person to escape the heavenly trapper.”

18:11 “All around terrors frighten him, and harry him at every step. 12 His strength is famished, and calamity is ready at his side. 13 His skin is devoured by disease; the first-born of death devours his limbs. 14 He is torn from the security of his tent, and they march him before the king of terrors.

“Terrors frighten him…” Is Bildad referring to chapter 3:25 where Job lamented, “"For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” Probably. The “first born of death” would refer to the plagues of chapter one. Note the words terror, calamity, disease, death, devour, and “king of terrors.” How would you like to sit through that encouraging sermon? To Bildad, “Job’s emaciated body is the convicting evidence of his wrongdoing.” (Hartley)

18:15 “There dwells in his tent nothing of his; brimstone is scattered on his habitation.”

Translation: “Hey Job, unless you repent, fire and brimstone are coming; you are on your way to hell!” Bildad is obviously, in a not so subtle way, referring to the events of chapters one and two.

18:16 “His roots are dried below, and his branch is cut off above.”

Translation: Job, you want to know why devastation hit you and your family? Because the “Below Job” (the root, the hidden and spiritual side of Job) didn’t match the “Above Job” (the fruit or branch, the Job seen by the world). “You’re a hypocrite…you cut yourself off from God (the Root), pretended to be righteous, but your branch withered.”

18:17 “Memory of him perishes from the earth, and he has no name abroad.”

Translation: You get just an unmarked grave; no ornate sepulcher and no fancy granite headstone engraved with “Here was a truly wonderful person.”

18:18 "He is driven from light into darkness, and chased from the inhabited world. 19 He has no offspring or posterity among his people, nor any survivor where he sojourned.”

Again, a not too subtle implication as to the underlying cause for the death of Job’s kids.

18:20 “Those in the west are appalled at his fate, and those in the east are seized with horror. 21 Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God."

Do you see those last words, “…this is the place of him who does not know God?” You just shake your head at Bildad’s ironclad theology. His speech is the same song as chapter 8, just the second verse. Wait until we get to the 3rd verse of Bildad’s song, it’s even more appalling!

Against the awful backdrop of such heartbreak, devastation and sadness (and the cruelty of the comforters), there is, threaded throughout this magnificent book, the theme that “There IS a God of Wonders, Who is far beyond our galaxy, Who does things incomprehensible to our imagination and even ability to think about it... “

I would like to close with a paragraph from FI Anderson’s commentary (page 190), “Bildad’s description of the fate of the wicked is academic. He does not think how horrible it must be to be God, doing such things to helpless men, however justly. He does not stop to think how horrible it must be to be a man suffering such things, whether justly or unjustly. Bildad recounts the disasters as the outworking of moral laws which control the movements of men around the central God as gravitation governs the movements of planets around the sun. God’s justice consists of His maintenance of these laws, natural and moral. This is a common opinion of philosophers, whose god is a factor in a formula.”

Has the life of Jesus within us given way to merely an academic discussion of “I wonder why that person is hurting?” And has the Incomprehensible God of Glory simply become a factor in one of our theological formulas?

(Previous chapters on this devotional commentary can be found at "conversationsfromtheashheap.blogspot.com")

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