Tag Archives: Bildad

Job, Jah Malla, and Utter Depravity

How then can a mortal be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?
Job 25:4 (NIV)

The debate between Job and his three companions takes an interesting twist this morning in a succinct statement by Bildad. If I can paraphrase the debate thus far it would be:

  • Job: “God’s done me wrong, dude. I don’t deserve this.”
  • Three Amigos: “Come on, man. You must to have done something wrong. You’re being punished.”
  • Job: “I can’t be. I’m an alright guy. There are no skeletons in the closet.”
  • Three Amigos: “Yes there are and you know it. ‘Fess up. God blesses the good and punishes the bad. You’re life has fallen apart, ergo you are being punished, ergo you did something to piss God off.”
  • Job: “No, I didn’t (And, stop using Latin. It’s pretentious and annoying). If it’s true that I did something to deserve this, then God needs to tell me what it is and He’s being silent. That’s just another layer of injustice in this whole thing.”
  • Three Amigos: “You did something wrong, man. Just admit it and watch your suffering turn to blessing.”
  • Job: “No, I didn’t. Let God come down here and tell me Himself. But, He’s nowhere to be found.”
  • Three Amigos: “You did something, dude.”
  • Job: “No, I didn’t.”
  • Three Amigos: “Yes, you did.”
  • Job: “No.”
  • Three Amigos: “Yep. Pretty sure.”
  • Job: “No. Shut up.”
  • Three Amigos: [nodding their heads at Job]

Bildad now points the debate in a theological direction. Job’s insists that he’s lived a righteous life and hasn’t done anything to deserve the train wreck of tragedy he’s experienced. Bil responds to this reasoning by pointing out the foundational theological concept of utter depravity. The idea is that ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, humanity has this tragic flaw generally known as “sin.” We all choose to do things we know we shouldn’t. We all choose not to do things we know we should. Bob Dylan put it to music and sang: Ain’t no man righteous, no not one [YouTube of Jah Malla covering the song above, in a distinctly righteous reggae beat].

In other words, Bil has gotten frustrated with Job’s insistence that’s he’s done nothing to deserve his suffering and counters with universal truth: “Look, man, we’re ALL sinners.”

I haven’t peeked ahead to the next chapter(s), but I don’t think it takes a master logician to anticipate Job’s response: “Dude, if we’re ALL sinners, then why aren’t we ALL suffering? I don’t see YOUR pasty white butt covered with festering boils!”

And, this really leads back to the crux of what I’m hearing in this very long (and sometimes repetitive…and, occasionally, a bit boring) debate between Job and his so-call friends. Job’s question isn’t just “Why,” but “Why ME?” And, that’s a question that I imagine we’ve all asked ourselves in times and circumstances relatively less dire than Job’s.

No Friend of Mine

friends notMy relatives have gone away;
    my closest friends have forgotten me.
Job 19:14 (NIV)

Job’s frustration with his three ash heap companions is growing. I had to laugh when I came across Job’s statement “my closest friends have forgotten me.” What about the three friends who have sitting there with him and having this conversation? So, what was Job’s intention with this comment?

He could be implying that after hearing their words and arguments the three compatriots are no longer considered close friends. After spewing their self-centered diatribes of judgement, Job finally sees their hearts and motives with clarity. He recognizes that they are really not his friends. Their status has been lowered.

Job might also be making the point that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have never been considered close friends. If true, then it tells me something about the three of them. The three amigos feel some self-righteous compulsion to visit a suffering man they hardly even know and convict him of his sin. As the old saying goes, “with friends like that, you’ll never need enemies.”

Either way, we continue to see that Job feels increasingly distant from his companions. He claims that even if they were correct that he harbored some secret sin, it was none of their business:

If it is true that I have gone astray,
    my error remains my concern alone.

I see a foreshadowing of the showdown to come between Job and God.

The Many Faces of Prejudice

 “Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
   such is the place of one who does not know God.”
Job 18:21 (NIV)

As I write these words, our nation finds itself struggling with racial tension after a young black man was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and the legal system found no legal basis to charge the officer with wrong doing. I have seen this before. I watched it happen after the Rodney King verdict in California. As a child I remember the conversation which lingered for years after the race riots in Watts, California. As a teenager I attended what was, at the time, the most racially diverse high school in the state of Iowa, and I sat on a student committee with students from the white, black, hispanic and asian communities. Our nation is a melting pot, and we continually struggle to get past preconceived notions of one another, to connect, and to relate to one another on a human level.

Along the journey I’ve discovered that prejudice comes in many different forms. Race does not have a monopoly on pre-judging others. There is socio- economic prejudice as in “All rich people are…” or “All those white trash are….” There is regional prejudice as we speak of east coast liberals, northern yankees, southern hillbillies, west coast granola types, midwest farmers, and etc.” There is increasing political prejudice on both sides of the aisle. And, there is also spiritual prejudice which we see in today’s chapter.

Bildad’s rhetoric is getting more intense as he begins to lose patience with Job. He sets off on what he perceives to be the common end of all who are “wicked” and it looks a lot like Job’s present circumstances. The problem is, Bildad is painting his picture of the wicked with a very broad brush. For every wicked person who gets what we believe to be just suffering for their wrong doing, there is another wicked person who gets away with it. For every righteous person who seems to wallow in abundant blessing, I can show you a righteous person who endures unbelievable suffering like Job.

Today, I am reminded that Jesus repeatedly commanded us NOT to judge others, even as He commanded us to LOVE even our enemies and those who hate and persecute us. Until each one of us obediently follows both commands we will continue to struggle with all of our prejudices.

I Wonder if Love Isn’t the Best Defense

Superman Band-AidOh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.
Job 11:5-6a (NIV)

I remember a young man with whom I went to school. It was the 1980s. While most of us were accenting our permed mullets with parachute pants and Forenza sweaters as we carried our Jansport backpacks to class, this well cropped young man was wearing a three piece suit and carrying his Samsonite briefcase. He was a firebrand. Always speaking from a well entrenched position of know-it-all-ness, he seemed to have assumed the role of God’s attorney. His truth was God’s truth and he was ready to make his case whether you wanted to hear it or not.

I thought of my classmate this morning as I read the treatise of Job’s third friend, Zophar, who finally speaks up. He’s heard Eliphaz and Bildad have a go at Job, and he’s heard Job’s responses. Zo’s soliloquy starts off like a boiling pot blowing its top. Zo seems to feel the need to defend God from Job’s word. Like my friend from school, he takes on the role of God’s attorney, speaking on behalf of the Almighty.

What I find most interesting in Zophar’s message is that he is at once chastising Job for assuming he knows the mind of God and making the same assumptions about Job. Like his other two amigos, Zo speaks from an assumptive position of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Job has done something sinful to deserve God’s wrath and punishment.

I have to be honest. When I ponder Job’s friends, I not only think of my briefcase toting friend, but I also see shades of myself 30 years ago. The further I get in my own personal life journey the less passionate I feel about defending God with my words and the more passionate I feel about simply representing Him with my loving actions. Zophar asks Job if he thinks he can fathom the mysteries of God, and I am increasingly comfortable with the fact that I cannot.

This morning, I’m thinking about what I would do or say if I were one of Job’s friends, sitting with my buddy on the ash heap. The truth is, I’m not sure I would try to make sense of it. I would tell Job I love him. I’d admit that I don’t get it either, and I would apologize that I don’t have any answers. Then, I’d ask if there’s anything I can get him to ease his suffering. A cup of cold water, perhaps. Some Superman Band-Aids for those sores? Maybe telling a bad joke or two in an effort to coax a smile. It still falls short of meeting the depth of Job’s need, but I feel like it comes closer than what I’ve seen from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

Bildad’s Blunder

bildad“How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
Job 8:2-4 (NIV)

Bildad is the second of Job’s friends to speak, and Bildad doesn’t mince words. In fact, Bildad has all the tact of an atomic bomb. He opens his argument with an insult (“Job, you’re a blowhard”), and quickly follows with a sharp accusation of Job’s children (“They had it coming”). By the time Bildad got to all of his talk about hope and restoration I’m afraid he’d already alienated his audience.

Wise King Solomon observed that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. I’m afraid Bildad’s harsh opening only assured an angry response from Job.

Today I’m thinking about a handful of recent situations in which harsh words were spoken. I cannot control what others say or think, but I can certainly control my reaction and response. Along the journey I’ve come to realize that conflict is like a math equation: Two negatives result in a negative. I’m not always the best at responding appropriately, but disciplining myself to keep anger in check and respond in a gentle, controlled manner leaves the door open for meaningful dialogue and hopefully, a positive resolution will eventually follow.