I am back from Oxford and it was a very refreshing time indeed! Now back to Job....
Job’s three “friends” are sputtering to a halt. Bildad the Shuhite only has a six-verse response to Job in chapter 25. Yet, in those brief verses, Bildad asks a very important question: “How then can a mortal be righteous before God?” The answer of the New Testament is: only through Jesus Christ.
As much as I admire Bildad’s question, I cannot feel the same admiration for his statement at the end of the chapter:
If even the moon is not bright
And the stars are not pure in his sight,
How much less a mortal, who is a maggot,
And a human being, who is a worm!
Does God look upon human beings like maggots or worms? Though some Christians have referred to themselves this way down through the ages, I do not believe this is how God looks at us. Rather, God loved us so much that he gave his only Son for us, so that if we believe in him then we could have eternal life. (John 3:16) Does this sound like something that God would do for maggots or worms? No. David has the better perspective in Psalm 8….
What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
Mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
And crowned them with glory and honor.
I believe David approaches God with a better spirit than Bildad. David wonders at God’s care for humanity. Wondering adoration: that is the right attitude toward God. But then we must acknowledge that God has created humanity glorious: just a little lower than himself, and crowned us with honor. As the little boy said: God don’t make no junk!
Job responds to Bildad’s discourse on maggots and worms by exclaiming sarcastically: “How you have helped one who has no power!” People who are suffering don’t need to be told that they are maggots or worms. They need to be reminded, as we all do, that God created us good and for good, because God loves us, and though it may not seem so at the moment, God’s good purpose will win out in the end.
Rather than thinking he has God taped, as Bildad and his friends seem to assume that they have, Job realizes with awe and wonder that he only knows “the outskirts of his ways…how small a whisper do we hear of him!” In other words, pain and suffering are not puzzles to be solved, but mysteries before which we ought to stand silent.
One thing Job is unalterably committed to doing is speaking the truth. Job is nothing if not honest. And he is right for taking this stance. For when we lose everything else, at least we can maintain our honesty before God and a watching world. (Job 27:4)
In chapter 28, Job asks a question equal to Bildad’s: “Where then does wisdom come from?” Job’s answer is a good one: “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.” Job is confessing that even if he does not understand why he is suffering, God knows why, and that is enough. “Truly the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Fear of the Lord, standing before our holy God in awe of him and his ways—that is the watchword of these four chapters.