Chapter 8:8-22 (ESV) - For inquire, please, of bygone ages,
and consider what the fathers have searched out.
For we are but of yesterday and know nothing,
for our days on earth are a shadow.
Will they not teach you and tell you
and utter words out of their understanding?
Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh?
Can reeds flourish where there is no water?
While yet in flower and not cut down,
they wither before any other plant.
Such are the paths of all who forget God;
the hope of the godless shall perish.
His confidence is severed,
and his trust is a spider's web.
He leans against his house, but it does not stand;
he lays hold of it, but it does not endure.
He is a lush plant before the sun,
and his shoots spread over his garden.
His roots entwine the stone heap;
he looks upon a house of stones.
If he is destroyed from his place,
then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’
Behold, this is the joy of his way,
and out of the soil others will spring.
Behold, God will not reject a blameless man,
nor take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouting.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will be no more.
Question to consider: If God does not reject a blameless man, then why does a blameless man suffer?
Bildad puts forth the idea that God has historically honored the righteous, and that those who come to ruin are those who forget God. While this may be true in the ultimate sense, Bildad’s view of history seems rather revisionist. Jeremiah wrote, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1) I realize that Jeremiah lived many years after Bildad, but people have been asking this question ever since Cain was able to see his offspring prosper into a great city while Abel’s blood cried out from the ground. Throughout history the strong have dominated the weak and people have taken advantage of their neighbor. This idea that someone who experiences calamity must have done something to deserve it is simply false.
I think it comes down to the fact that when people are blessed with material wealth and health, they would like to believe that on some level they deserve it. They want to attribute it to their own good works because then they can justify their nice things and reassure themselves that their neighbor who is in need has received a harvest of their own failures. This is especially true in Hinduism which promotes the belief that people are born into their circumstances due to their actions in a previous life.
It’s not that we can’t do well with hard work and dedication, but not everyone who works hard and is dedicated to their job enjoys financial success. Often it takes the right set of circumstances at the right time to produce success. I’ve known people with good ideas and a strong effort, but their implementation was a couple of years before people were ready to adopt it. I’ve known people who have created some wonderful things, but they don’t have the means to get the word out so an inferior product receives the success.
Bildad’s ending thoughts on God filling the blameless man with joy and the wicked man with shame are absolutely true when it comes to the point at which everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, but Bildad misapplies this truth to the things of this world. Our inheritance in Christ is imperishable and unfading, but it is kept in heaven for us according to the apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:4). While earthly treasures and comforts may make our lives a bit easier for the moment, they are not worth trading for that which is eternal. God is more interested in us receiving an eternal inheritance than an earthly one. He is more interested in our holiness than our happiness. As Christ once said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.