In our study of Job chapter eight, we look at the fact that tradition is not a good substitute for wisdom from God. We will look at the words of Job's second "friend" as they continue to debate the nature and solution to Job's current situation.
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Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
Now, we are introduced to Bildad whose name means "confusing love" or "Bel has loved" and, as we will see, this was truly a man that was confused about the nature of God. He was a descendant of Shuah which was a son from the marriage of Abraham and Ketura (after the death of Sarah) and they lived in the Arabian desert areas. We also see (in Genesis 25) that Abraham had sent the children from this marriage away to the east. They must have come under the influence of the pagan gods of Babylon as Bel was the name of one of the them. Once again, we are reminded of the fact that we must be careful about who we allow to give us advice. As we shall see, Bildad did not truly know God but, in fact, was leaning on traditions that had been passed down to him.
'How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind.'
Evidently, Bildad was younger and less patient than Eliphaz as he jumps right into the attack on Job by basically calling him a windbag. He was telling Job that he was using an abundance of words to cover up the facts concerning his present situation.
'Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?'
In chapter seven, we saw that Job had implied that God was being unjust in His treatment of Job. Here, Bildad defends the justice of God and his words are true but we are still reminded of the fact that Job's current situation was not the result of judgment from God. Although they did not know what was going on in the spiritual realm, they never considered that fact. Eliphaz did not consider it because of his past experiences while Bildad did not consider the possibility because his ancestors had never told him that it was a possibility. This is a reminder to us that, not only are our personal experiences limited when it comes to the ways of God, but those of our ancestors were as well.
'When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.'
Can you imagine telling a grieving person that the reason their child has died was because of their sin? That is basically what Bildad has done and we remember that Job had been concerned about his children sinning as he had constantly offered sacrifices just in case they had sinned. Bildad's logic was based on a partial truth as, under the Law of Moses, the penalty for sin is death but the law did not say that every death was due to the sins of the departed person. Because he did not understand the nature of God and have insight into spiritual matters, Bildad just assumed that, since they were dead, they had to have been punished for their sin. It is sad to say but the same type of thing happens today even among Christians. Many Christian people have been passed on this same tradition without spiritual insight and so, when they see bad things happening to someone, they automatically assume that there is a hidden sin.
'But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.'
Now, Bildad continues to heap insults on Job by basically calling him a hypocrite as he tells him to seek God "earnestly". He implied that Job had been pretending to be a man of God while all the time he was hiding his sin. Once again we see that Bildad was just relying on the teaching of his ancestors as he says that God will restore his wealth if he is "pure and upright". Although Job will be returned to prosperity by God, it will not be because he has done anything but trust in God. This brings to mind the questions of: Are there hypocrites in the church and what does that mean? The answer to the first part of the question is a definite yes. A hypocrite is basically an actor and, in relation to the church, this could speak of two types of people. The first is someone that is going through the religious motions of showing up to the church but not really accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. The second is a person that shows up at the church and pretends to be a "super saint" and without sin in their life while at home their lives are a mess. How do you answer the charge of being called a hypocrite? First, if you claim to be a Christian, make sure you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and don't put your hope in the family tradition of attending "church". Second, acknowledge the fact that you sin on a daily basis (we all do so) but remind your accusers that your sin was paid for by Jesus Christ.
'Your beginning will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.'
Bildad continues to give advice to Job and, here, it seems like he is giving Job some encouragement and what he says is actually going to happen as we will see in the end. The problem with what Bildad is saying is that he is linking earthly wealth and prosperity with righteousness. Bildad's relatives had probably passed down this method of evaluating someone's relationship with God. To him, it was pretty cut and dried that a poor man sitting on a pile of trash could not possibly "be right with God". The same sort of thing goes on today even among Christians and this tradition is what is known as the "prosperity gospel". This is basically the same thing that Bildad was telling Job that, if you are right with God, then, you will have everything that your heart desires. Once again, Job's friends are so focused on the physical that they have no insight into the spiritual. They are looking at "the fruits of the world" or lack of it instead of looking for the "fruits of the Spirit" to determine someone's status with God. You can possess all that the world has to offer (fruits of the world) and yet not have a right relationship with God but you cannot have the fruits of the Spirit without that relationship.
'Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.'
Bildad appeals to Job to look at the knowledge that has been accumulated and passed down through the years. He acknowledges that a single man does not have sufficient time on this earth to learn everything but believes that each generation builds on the wisdom of the former. This may seem like it is all well and good and it is but only to a point. We learn more and more as we build on what has been revealed to others but it is limited especially when it comes to the things of God. We can learn facts from the past but to know God it must be due to a personal experience.
'Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding? Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass.'
Bildad continues to appeal to Job in hopes that he will look to the wisdom of their ancestors. He uses the papyrus plant as an example of what happens when people forget the wisdom of their ancestors. The papyrus plant grows in swampy marshland and on the banks of rivers/lakes because it takes a lot of water to grow. Without the water from the swamp, the papyrus plants would wither and die even more quickly than grass. Throughout the Bible, water is often used as a symbol of God's word but, with his example, Bildad is elevating the wisdom of his ancestors to a position above the word of God.
'Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider's web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.'
It seems that what Bildad is saying is true and even good but what he is basically saying is that Job is withering like the papyrus plant that has had the swamp drained. He implies that it is due to the fact that Job has gotten away from the religion that was passed down to him from his family. He goes on to use the example of a spider's web to describe a person who has gotten away from their traditions. A spider web is used to entangle and trap food for the spider to eat and it is strong enough to do that as it traps insects but it is not strong enough to hold up a man. Bildad is basically saying that Job has gotten entangled in ways that were not passed down by the ancestors and so his faith is fragile. We are reminded of the fact that Job's friends are still looking at the situation from a purely physical perspective and not considering even the possibility of another explanation for the current events. That is the danger of tradition as it can become a trap that limits our ability to see God at work in new ways in our lives.
'They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine, spreading its shoots over the garden; it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks and looks for a place among the stones. But when it is torn from its spot, that place disowns it and says, "I never saw you." Surely its life withers away, and from the soil other plants grow.'
Bildad continues to use the wisdom of their ancestors (which was developed by the fact that they were farmers) to try to explain Job's current situation. He compares Job to a plant that had everything that it needed to be fruitful but went searching for something else. In so doing, Bildad is basically saying that Job's situation is due to the fact that he has strayed from the religious teaching of his ancestors.
'Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthen the hands of evildoers.'
Bildad is blunt and basically comes out to tell Job that, like the withering plant, his current situation can only be due to the fact that he is a miserable sinner that is not right with God.
'He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Your enemies will be clothed in shame, and the tents of the wicked will be no more.'
Based on their traditions, Bildad is confident that God will make Job happy again and that his enemies will be defeated. He is confident that it will happen but he completely misses the reason behind it. Once again, we are reminded of the fact that traditions and the experience of our ancestors is good until it limits our ability to see God at work in ways that they never saw. It is kind of like driving a car forward but only looking in the rear view mirror. The traditions and experience of those who have gone before us can provide a solid base of understanding of our faith just as the Apostles did as is recorded in Acts. But, if you stopped learning at that point and did not read Revelation, you would not really be as strong and mature in your faith. This would also limit your ability to see what is happening today.