The Word on Wednesday – Job 8:1-7

“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered, ‘How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a mighty wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression. If you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate. Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”

The book of Job is a notoriously hard book to understand in many ways. Job’s friends say things that seem so true, such as “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?” Of course the answer is “No.” But then you read in 42:7 that God rebukes the friends, saying, “My wrath is kindled against you…because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has..” and you scratch your head.

The problem with “Job’s comforters” wasn’t that their theology was necessarily wrong; rather, it was MISAPPLIED. Job 8:1-7 is a perfect example of how Job can call them “worthless physicians” in 13:4. Bildad made the leap from “God is just and punishes sinners” to “God punished Job and Job’s sons for their sins; they suffered, therefore they must have committed some heinous sin to deserve their suffering.” But the reader knows from the first two chapters that such a conclusion is unjustified: the death of Job’s sons was a part of God’s trial of Job through the agency of Satan and his minions. Suffering cannot always be traced back to an individual’s particular sins, as we see also in the case of the man born blind in John 9 (as opposed to, say, Jonah, or the lame man in John 5, or the Corinthians in I Cor. 11). Therefore it is wrong to jump to the conclusions that Job’s “comforters” jumped to – “Job and his sons must have REALLY sinned to have suffered so greatly.” To read the book of Job with understanding, it is important to keep the nature of the error of Job’s friends in mind, lest you end up siding with them as you read (it’s possible for a surface reading of the text to come away with the impression that Job is a whiner having a giant pity party).

As we diagnose someone’s circumstances, or our own (“Why did this happen to me?”), we must be very cautious, careful, and tentative. We are not omniscient, and we do not see everything that is going on. God moves in mysterious ways, and we must be content with not having answers to all our questions. It is possible to use proper theology improperly, and we need to pray that God would give us grace to use knowledge rightly.



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