True But Wrong
A daily devotion for December 7th
1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 "How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
4 When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
5 But if you will look to God
and plead with the Almighty,
6 if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your rightful place.
7 Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.
8 "Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,
9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
12 While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
14 What he trusts in is fragile ;
what he relies on is a spider's web.
15 He leans on his web, but it gives way;
he clings to it, but it does not hold.
16 He is like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;
17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.
18 But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, 'I never saw you.'
19 Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.
20 "Surely God does not reject a blameless man
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more."
Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers. (Job 8:20)
When you read Bildad's arguments, you have to ask,
What is wrong with this? It sounds so true and right. It is an argument you hear repeated many times today. What Bildad says is true and logical and supported by plausible argument both from the experience of the past and from the testimony of much of Scripture as well. What, then, is wrong?
I see three things wrong with Job's friends' approaches. First, they answer Job's words without trying to find out what produces those words. They are zeroing in on what he says without understanding his agony. Job himself has admitted that he speaks rashly, but he says it is because of the unceasing torment he is going through. Those of us who have gone through deep, unrelenting pain know how this can try the spirit to the utmost, and we become testy and sharp. And because Job says certain things that sound extreme, his friends leap upon his words and try to analyze them. They make no attempt to identify with Job's hurt in their approaches to him.
The second thing is that these friends' theology was right as far as it went, but it was very incomplete. They always spoke with the utmost confidence that what they were saying was the final word on the subject. There was no apparent understanding that perhaps there were aspects of God and dimensions to His Word that they had not yet seen. Their narrow, limited vision said that difficulties in a person's life are always caused by sin. Many of the problems of life are caused by sin; therefore, it is impossible to say that these men are wrong. Nevertheless, they do not see that there are other reasons God brings us into suffering.
I am reminded of the famous story of the blind men and the elephant. They gather around this huge animal and by feeling it, try to identify what an elephant is like. One, grabbing the trunk, said an elephant is like a snake. Another, feeling the leg, said an elephant is like a tree. Still another, feeling the side of the animal, said that an elephant is like a wall. A fourth, grabbing the tail, said an elephant is like a rope. Thus they argued back and forth. All of them were right, and all of them were wrong, because they did not see the whole picture.
The third thing that is wrong with these friends is that they never seem to refer to God for help for themselves in understanding Job's problem. They never pray with Job. They never ask God to open their minds and illuminate their understanding so that they can help their friend. The book of Job is filled with prayers, but they are all the prayers of Job crying out to God in the midst of his sufferings. His friends never seem to feel the need for further illumination on the subject. What a testimony to us for the need to speak cautiously when we deal with the deep hurts and problems of life.
Teach me to reach out to others who are suffering and pray with them in a spirit of compassion.
Life Application: Christ-like compassion will be quite different from that of Job's friends. How can we avoid being self-righteous, insensitive, and over-bearing when comforting others?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.