Day 146: Job 9-12; Bildad and Zophar

Today we continue with our exploration of Job’s friends.  Yesterday we saw of two usual reactions that take place when bad things happen to seemingly good people.  We see how people are so quick to offer explanations, thoughts, and opinions about what is going on and why.  We are focusing on these folks instead of Job because of their reactions and how they often reflect what our reactions are.  Job’s reactions in this, his questioning and pleading with God… these are natural emotions and issues to work through.  Anyone that has dealt with pain and/or suffering on a level such as this knows that the questions that Job raises are natural.  The book of Job is a book of contrasts, showing the natural reactions, which God welcomes and is not at all afraid of against the human reactions to discomfort that are both wrong and completely unhelpful.

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding...

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We pick up the story of Job where we left off yesterday, with the respond of Job’s friend Bildad.  Unfortunately, this response is not anything better than that of Eliphaz, whom we spoke of yesterday.  Remember that Eliphaz chose to suggest that Job had done something wrong.  He does so in a non-accusatory tone, suggesting that it is the innocent that prosper, not the wicked.  Eliphaz suggests that Job should seek God and find out what he did wrong, though not directly.  We do this sometimes too don’t we?  Make veiled suggestions without actually accusing someone of something?  It makes us feel like we can explain away the situation, which makes us feel much better.

English: Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas

English: Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the speeches of the friends continue, we encounter Bildad who, like Eliphaz, suggests that there is clearly something that Job has done wrong and he needs to repent.  This is a bit more direct than Eliphaz, but still completely misses the point.  Bildad says that God wouldn’t do such things to someone who was righteous, therefore Job must have done something wrong.  This sounds like a familiar cadence does it not?  When the planes struck the towers on 9/11 certain religious people claimed that this was God punishing them and us for our sins.  The same was true when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans; judgement from God on the sins of that place.  What about the people from Westboro Baptist?  They claim that the deaths of soldiers in the military are the result of God’s judgment on America over the issue of homosexuality.  What a comfort it must be to explain away the pain and sadness, the suffering of people that are no worse than their accusers.

Next we encounter Zophar, whose response to Job’s pain takes a different but still familiar route.  Someone in pain expresses some of the difficulty that they are going through and the response of this friend is “it could be worse.”  Zophar appeals to the truth of the human condition of sin, knowing that there is obviously something that Job did wrong at some point in time.  While this is true of us all and we have indeed sinned, there is no comfort found in suggesting that the darkness could always be a bit darker.  No one find comfort in knowing that their pain is not as bad as it could be, but it sure calms the nerves and the discomfort of those who are attempting to be a support.

Again, both of these responses are veiled and empty.  Rather than being sympathetic to plight of Job in this time of trial and pain, these ‘friends’ of Job offer explanations that are unhelpful of a situation that they cannot explain.  While their responses speak of God and God’s actions as if they understand, the fact is that we don’t understand why there is evil and pain in the world.  We live in a broken world and, though we lived as redeemed people and have seen the beginning of the restoration that has begun in God’s actions and been advanced in the reconciliation brought through Jesus Christ, we also know that we are not there yet.  We live in the reality of the resurrection, the reality that there will be no more pain or death or suffering, yet we also understand that it has not yet been completely realized.  God is at work, this is incredibly true and we see it in the grand scheme of things, even if it is not so evident in the moment, but the world is still broken.  Sometimes we need to just sit in that brokenness, be uncomfortable in the pain, and dwell in the dark places with our loved ones as they journey through times of pain and suffering with them rather than minimize their suffering to quell our discomfort.

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