Job 18:1-2, 21 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: “When will you end these speeches? Be sensible, and then we can talk. … Men of the west are appalled at his fate; men of the east are seized with horror. Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God.”
In these verses we have Bildad’s 2nd speech directed at his ‘friend’ Job. From his three speeches we gather that this Shuhite had a very rigid theology that is defined by the formula: ‘the good prosper and the wicked suffer’ with no room for exceptions, no room for the sovereign God of the Universe to have other purposes in human suffering beside punishment for sin.
His inflexible commitment to his (wrong) theological perspective is clear from his conviction that anyone who doesn’t share it is not ‘sensible’, and is therefore not worth having a logical conversation with! From Bildad’s very narrow perspective it was clear that Job must be a wicked sinner because this was the only possible explanation for his intense pain. To Bildad, on the basis of the evidence, his ‘friend’ was ‘an evil man’ and ‘one who knows not God’.
There is a very important lesson for us here. Because we ourselves are finite, sinful human beings, confined in time and space and limited in understanding, we must be slow to attribute causes to particular cases of suffering, either the suffering of others or our own suffering. On the basis of part of the truth God has revealed throughout his Word it is quite possible that we or others are suffering as a result of some sinful action or behaviour, but even if this IS the case there is God’s clear offer of forgiveness and restoration in response to repentance and faith – a point which all Job’s ‘friends’ are keen for him to see!
But what Bildad refused to see is that God has OTHER reasons to take us, sometimes on a long journey, through the valley of the shadow of death. Bildad’s blindness to this finally brought about God’s anger and rebuttal (42:7-10). It is interesting that two of the many punishments in Bildad’s list, summarised here with ‘surely such’, were these: ‘memory of him perishes from the earth’ (17) and ‘he has no offspring or descendants’ (19); when in fact, in the end, God did eventually bless Job with many offspring etc (42:12-17), and the example of Job’s godliness and patience still challenges us today!
Sometimes sin might need to be rebuked; but our very limited horizons should encourage us to err on the side of compassion rather than condemnation and judgement.