|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
1-10 roughly cover Ch.1-4
11-20 roughly cover Ch.4-7
21-30 roughly cover Ch.8-11
31-40 roughly cover Ch.12-15
41-50 roughly cover Ch.16-21
51-60 cover Ch.22-33
61-68 cover Ch.34-42
Meditation No. 46
Meditation Title: If Only
Job 18:5 The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning.
There is a temptation, which I have observed in the world at large, to think superficially, and it is as true of those of us in the church as much as it is outside. At the time of writing this particular meditation I have been privileged to be involved in a particular project which received much comment on websites and blog sites around the world. What was disheartening was to observe the unthinking and shallow nature of so many of the comments that were made about it. It was not a case of disagreeing but of making comments that clearly had no factual basis to them. When it comes to spiritual matters we like to keep it simple, but it isn't always like that.
As we move on into chapter 18 we find Bildad stepping up to the mark for the second time and after some initial objections he is going to wade in with a very superficial assessment of life.
First his initial objections: “Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: "When will you end these speeches? Be sensible, and then we can talk.” (v.1,2) When he uses the word ‘speeches' he is meaning fine words meant to impress or even denigrate, and in what he then says, it is the latter he has in mind: “Why are we regarded as cattle and considered stupid in your sight?” (v.3) I suspect that he doesn't like the way Job has spoken of them – ‘miserable comforters' (16:2) and even ‘mockers', and Job's defence has got under his skin. Stop trying to overcome us by words (implied) and stop treating us like stupid animals that have no sense. No, you need to come to your senses, be sensible and stop seeming so high and mighty (implied) so we can really talk together.
Look, he goes on, “You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger, is the earth to be abandoned for your sake? Or must the rocks be moved from their place?” (v.4) What is that all about? Your anger about what has happened to you is tearing you apart. Are the cold facts of life to be abandoned for you? Shall we reject what we know about the earth, about the world, and must we change everything about (the rocks moved) just to suit your wrong way of thinking. Oh no, it is quite obvious (implied from this) how God has designed the world to work. Everything that follows to the end of this chapter is how Bildad sees this world working.
Let's see what he says: “The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning.” (v.5) The lamp or life of the wicked is put out. That is the basis of his argument: the wicked perish! “The light in his tent becomes dark; the lamp beside him goes out.” ( v.6) Light here probably refers to his life but it may mean his general wellbeing which, Bildad maintains, deteriorates. “The vigor of his step is weakened; his own schemes throw him down.” (v.7) i.e. he starts out strongly with a strong step but as he progresses in his sin, that step gets weaker, weakened by sin, and indeed his sinful schemes bring him down. It's like, “His feet thrust him into a net and he wanders into its mesh,” (v.8) or, if you like, he gets caught up in the web he has weaved (my parallel) or entangled in a net of his own making. To use another picture, “A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast.” ( v.9) i.e. the murky world that he lives in, jumps up and bites him and he finds himself snared by his own dubious affairs, or to use even another analogy, “A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path.” (v.10), i.e. where he walks in his crooked life, he gets snared. In each of these pictures, he shows the wicked being brought down by his own lifestyle.
In the next section, he unwraps the effect that this has on the wicked: “Terrors startle him on every side and dog his every step.” (v.11) In other words, this life of wickedness is a scary life. “Calamity is hungry for him; disaster is ready for him when he falls.” (v.12) i.e. things are just waiting to go wrong. Then he starts getting personal and using illustrations that seem too close to home: “It eats away parts of his skin; death's firstborn devours his limbs.” ( v.13). That's what is happening to Job. “He is torn from the security of his tent and marched off to the king of terrors.” (v.14) His security has been snatched away from him and he is being taken off to death. “Fire resides in his tent; burning sulfur is scattered over his dwelling.” (v.15). Fire can be anguish. Burning sulfur infers destructive thoughts or anguish that covers everything and destroys. “His roots dry up below and his branches wither above.” (v.16) His past becomes an arid memory and his future is rapidly shriveling. Because of this, “The memory of him perishes from the earth; he has no name in the land.” (v.17) His once great reputation is rapidly vanishing.
“He is driven from light into darkness and is banished from the world,” (v.18), points out how his condition has taken him form his past life and pushes him towards death. What has happened has meant that, “He has no offspring or descendants among his people, no survivor where once he lived.” (v.19) i.e. he is left alone in the world. “Men of the west are appalled at his fate; men of the east are seized with horror.” (v.20). Those from neighbouring countries who knew of him are now appalled at his downfall. His conclusion: “Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God.” (v.21) There it is in a nutshell. Evil falls on the wicked, Evil has fallen on Job, therefore he must be wicked.
There are two flaws in Bildad's logic. The first one is that although the picture that he paints of the wicked is often true, it isn't always! If only it was! If only the wicked did always get their dues, but a simple observation of the world shows that it isn't always so. We conclude that sometimes the Lord allows the wicked to live without repercussion – this side of death anyway! The second flaw, as we've noted a number of times is that Job isn't a sinner, isn't wicked, and is not suffering for his wickedness. Beware superficial conclusions!