Job 18

Job 18 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson

                         Bildad is not the encouraging type.  He is not a quiet listener who nurtures, listens, reflects, and responds with a gentle nudge of truth.  Nor does he seem to be overly empathetic.  And I am being overly generous.  Bildad has a theological grid or paradigm and life fits into that system.  Bildad’s theology is this: The unrighteous suffer in this life.  Therefore if you are afflicted and suffering, you are, de facto, unrighteous.  If you are righteous, you will not be afflicted or suffering.  So if you are outwardly blessed, you are, simply and clearly, righteous.

            Bildad claims this is what the ancients have observed and taught (8:8-10).  His theology is just Biblical truth.   This theology is true and indisputable.  From Bildad’s perspective, there is really nothing to debate.  There are no grey areas; no fluid boundaries.  This is not a novel approach but an ancient, verifiable understanding of God and humans.  There is security in these ancient truths. 

            In verses 1-4, Bildad can’t understand why Job can’t get with the program.  He has already stated that Job’s words are wind (8:20).  “Just listen to us, Job.  We will set you straight.” To be fair, isn’t that the way I begin a sermon, a class?  After all I have prepared, I have prayed and I am confident that what I have to say is helpful and true.  Is that wrong?  You might think some of your listeners are operating in an alternate universe (v.4).   They should accept the truths you are teaching.   

Bildad’s theology and Bildad himself could benefit from reflection, humility, and closer observation of people.  Granted, this may have been written prior to the first five books of the Bible.  How accurate Bildad is about some things.  Yes, the unrighteous will be brought to the “King of Terrors” as 18:14 calls God.  This is a fascinating term to describe God in relationship to the unrighteous.  Yet, Bildad is far too wooden, too literal, and too unbending in his understanding of life.   Bildad is way off in his application of his poor and simplistic theology.

            Would that Bildad could have responded with something like, “Job, you are perplexing to my faith.  I know what a good man you are.  Yet my theology tells me the unrighteous suffer.  So either you are unrighteous or my theology needs to be corrected.  And to suggest that my theology might be wrong is extremely unsettling for me.  It is easier for me to blame you.  Yet, that goes against all that I know about you.  I am baffled.”

            I do not ever want to suggest that we should not correct or teach in times of pain or affliction.  Thomas Boston in The Crook in the Lot observed that the first thing we want when we are in affliction is to get out of it.  I am so focused on getting out of the pain that my mind blocks out everything else.  While this is a normal reaction, Boston and the Bible reminds us that affliction may be God’s best for you. 

            Interestingly, Job and his friends agree that God has done this.  Both sides accept the argument that God punishes the unrighteous.  Job keeps maintain his innocence.  God is unfair, Job argues, because I should not be suffering because I am righteous.  Yet, there is another approach.

            Well, you know this as well as everyone who has read this book or heard a teaching on it.  God allowed Satan to afflict Job but not because Job was unrighteous but because he was so righteous.  How do you reflect upon that?  What can we glean from this?

            As we keep stressing, listen, listen, listen.  You provide comfort and understanding when you listen to people as they gave vent about their pain.  Most of us, when people talk about their cancer, answer with our own stories of cancer.  Just listen.  Don’t talk.  Just listen.  It takes discipline.  But as you  listen, you are ministering to that person at that moment  Look at them and listen. 

Also, we don’t need to correct every bad idea we hear.  In 2021, there are so many ideas people have about masks, covid, voting, Afghanistan, etc.  Can you and I listen to others that we do not agree with without getting into an argument?  People have ideas about our government, the economy, taxes, etc.  It is okay to listen without ending a relationship.  And it is okay to not agree. 

God’s will is so very far beyond our understanding.  When we look at our lives, other people, loss and affliction, we need to remind ourselves how very little we know about the past, our present, and our future.  We need to remind ourselves to trust God in the midst of pain.  We have to go through pain, not back up and go around it.  There are reasons why that we just can’t know or understand God’s ways.  But someday you will.  And it will completely satisfy you.

Can you accept that you will never know certain things?  Can you be the person who is there, touching, praying, and listening to a grieving person?  Can you be settled, secure, and stable in the midst of deep, staggering, never-get-over loss.  Can you still love and trust your Heavenly Father? 

Dear Father, how can You ever forgive us for the things we have thought and said about You?  We will do almost anything for comfort, safety, and pleasure.  Curb the desire You gave us to understand those things placed at a level we can’t reach.  You put them there and You placed us here.  May we be able to love people by listening and by simply being with them.  Help us to know when the gospel needs to be shared, taught, preached, and brought up.  Never let us not speak of Christ claiming we were just listening.  We need Your wisdom to know the times You have given us to speak and to listen.  In the Suffering Servants Name, Amen.