Job 18:5, 18-21 (ESV)
“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out,
and the flame of his fire does not shine.
He is thrust from light into darkness,
and driven out of the world.
He has no posterity or progeny among his people,
and no survivor where he used to live.
They of the west are appalled at his day,
and horror seizes them of the east.
Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
such is the place of him who knows not God.”
Job 18 is Bildad’s second response to Job. His argument is that bad things happen to wicked people. The wicked are devastated, wiped out, and forgotten. His implication is that because bad things happen to bad people, and bad things are happening to Job, therefore Job is bad. But there is a breakdown in his logic. First, history shows us that the wicked are not always wiped out and forgotten. Sometimes they prosper, and their memory lingers for generations. Sometimes history is even rewritten to make the wicked look good.
Bildad is correct about the destiny of the wicked in the end. Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” There will come a time when the wicked will be forgotten, but that is not in our lifetime. That is in the new creation. In his argument, Bildad has gotten ahead of God.
Second, even if Bildad is correct…, even if it is true that bad things happen to wicked people, that does not mean that people to whom bad things happen are wicked. It is true that a dozen is twelve, and twelve is a dozen. It is true that grapes are fruit. It is not true that all fruit is a cluster of grapes. It is true that a dog is an animal. It is not true that an animal is a dog. Not every statement of truth can be reversed. Bad things will eventually happen to wicked people. That does not mean that if something bad is happening you therefore must be wicked. Good theology can lead to bad application when it is handled poorly.
When we live with our convenient boxes of truth we tend to jump to conclusions, judge those different from us, and do more damage than good. What Bildad needed was discernment. He looked into his disconnected boxes of truth, found where Job seemed to fit, and jumped to a conclusion that had a ring of truth to it, but he missed the truth by a mile. That is why we need to listen to the Spirit of God as well as knowing our Bibles.
The Spirit of God will never lead contrary to his Word. After all, he is the one that inspired the Bible. He will never lead contrary to his Word, but he might lead contrary to our understanding of his Word. Too often we assume that we know the Word. We assume that we have a corner on truth. We have our neat little boxes of theology all wrapped up nicely. Anything else is evil. But often, we have not listened well. We have jumped to conclusions based on our own culture and experience. We have not wrestled with the hard questions.
Bildad was sure that he had it all figured out. Job was wrestling with the question of why bad things were happening to someone who had been honoring God. Bildad didn’t feel the need to wrestle with that question. His neat, tidy theology explained it all. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things were happening to Job. Therefore, Job was bad. It was as simple as that.
Bildad has all his theological “I”s dotted and “T”s crossed. The simple truth was that God was doing something outside Bildad’s boxes of understanding that he had never seen before. God has a way of doing that. Will we listen, or will we force God back into our neat theological boxes? Maybe he is trying to teach us something. The big question is: Are we listening?