OT: Job 8:1-11:20
You know, I thought Eliphaz could have been a little more gentle, but he has nothing on ol' Bildad! Now, perhaps Bildad is just a harsh guy. But also, perhaps Job's speeches are rocking his worldview, and he doesn't like it. Perhaps he likes the world in black and white, and he doesn't appreciate the moral ambiguity produced by Job's scenario. Regardless, in his impassioned speech, Bildad reverts to black and white logic. As such, he relies heavily on concrete imagery, intended to invoke the simple, immutable laws of nature:
"Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless" (8: 11-13).
See, Job?? This is how the world works! The suffering of the wicked is just as concrete and reliable of a truth as the necessary growing conditions for papyrus! And conversely,
"Surely God does not reject a blameless man
or strengthen the hand of evil doers" (20).
In other words: Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to good people. Why are you throwing a monkey wrench into our means of understanding existence??
And in that worldview, Bildad, like Eliphaz, does find hope for Job, which he attempts to share:
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy" (21).
If Job confesses his sin, of course.
The weird thing is, both Eliphaz and Bildad are correct that it is all going to end up "okay" for Job (not that you could ever fully recover from this). However, they are wrong in their assumption that this disaster was brought on by Job's sin. Apparently, the idea of suffering happening arbitrarily is just too foreign--and probably terrifying--a concept for them to entertain.
Job replies with several interesting points. First of all, he says,
"Indeed, I know that this is true.
But how can a mortal be righteous before God?" (9:2).
This argument has been used by many, many people in explaining suffering. Job seems to suggest that as righteous as the most righteous man is, he can never be truly righteous before God. And yet, that explanation doesn't satisfy Job. God is a bully, plain and simple. He is big and powerful (3-14), and yet he torments poor man (10:6-7) even though He knows that man could never stand up to Him (9:15-20).
And you know what?, Job says. Scratch that earlier statement. I am innocent, daggone it (10:7)! He is not. happy. with God.
One kind of cool thing that comes out of Job's mouth during his rant is found in 9:33-35:
"If only there were someone to arbitrate between us,
to lay his hand upon us both,
someone to remove God's rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot."
Thank God that He did eventually send someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from us, so that we no longer have to be terrified of God's wrath. Thank God that He did one day "have eyes of flesh" and that He did "see as a mortal sees," that his days were "those of a mortal" (4-5). In his suffering, it turns out that Job was keenly aware of the deepest need of mankind.
Unfortunately for Job's position, one thing Christ did not do was eliminate the suffering of the innocent. In fact, He worked to prepare His disciples to suffer even more....
NT: 1 Cor. 15:1-28
In this chapter, Paul recaps the basic gospel message. I kind of trailed off in my tracking of the gospel, and I know that Paul fully articulated our version in Romans, but I saw the succinct version today in verses 3-4: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
He admonishes the Christians to stand firm and to believe in the resurrection. In fact, according to Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile" (17a). I have heard several people talk about how great the Christian life is, and that even if it is not true, it's still a better life than most lives. And I honestly agree that the Christian life is amazing. I love my life. I love the deep meaning, the hope, the confidence, the joy, the peace, the love that I have. I love that my days have purpose, that my life has a clear direction, and that my path is marked by love and goodness. And so, I am inclined to agree that the Christian life is a great life, even in this life. Paul, on the other hand, firmly disagrees. He declares, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (19). I wonder if part of that sentiment had to do with the adverse position that Christians were in at the time. Or perhaps I'm doing it wrong, and this Christian thing should be a lot harder. Or maybe it's that Paul just hated the idea of living his life for something that was not true. I hate that idea, also, but I do believe that my life contrasts favorably with so many people who are floundering for meaning and who are suffering from a lifestyle of selfish choices.
David sounds a lot like Job today, only he is firmly convinced that his own sin lies at the root of his troubles.
I like verse 29:
"A wicked man puts up a bold front,
but an upright man gives thought to his ways."
I'm not sure what the first part means, but I like the idea of thinking about our actions and living with purpose.