Soli Deo Gloria

Job 26 – Job Answers Bildad’s 3rd Statement – “God’s Majesty Is Unsearcheable”

Job rebukes Bildad. His point is that Bildad hasn’t helped the powerless, saved the weak, counseled the fool, nor declared sound knowledge. In verse 4 Job exposes Bildad’s weakness: “self-contradiction”. If the doctrine of God’s holiness and righteousness means that sinful people are unable to speak and live righteously, then who is it who has helped Bildad to utter his self-perceived righteous breath/words? The dead tremble under the waters. Sheol (the grave/afterlife) is naked before God, and Abbadon (place of ruin, death, desolation, or destruction, in Greek Appolyon) has no covering. God stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing. God binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them. God covers the face of the moon and spreads over it his cloud. God has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at God’s rebuke. By God’s power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab (Rahab is the “embodiment of all evil forces” [1], see also Job 9:13). By God’s wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent (maybe a reference to Leviathan, see also Job 41:1). Behold, these are but the outskirts of God’s ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?

Job corrects Bildad on two fronts: First, Bildad contradicts himself. If God doesn’t help any men speak and act righteously why does Bildad speak as though his act of speaking is righteous? Second, Bildad mis-reads Job’s trust in the sovereignty of God. Job powerfully articulates the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Yet, there’s more mystery in how God works, for which Bildad’s rebuke leaves no room. Job acknowledges the depravity of men before a holy God in the way that he outlines that the only way men may speak or act righteously must come from a helper, namely God. In our zeal for the doctrine of God’s perfect righteousness and man’s depravity we can make the mistake of saying that the phrase “no one is righteous” means that God is unable to help His people “live righteously”. At the sound of any “moral exhortation” (or in this case at the sound that Job maintains that he has been “righteous”) some jump up and declare “gospel-denying-legalism!” But in doing this they are doing what they believe is a righteous act and thereby deny the fact that God is able to help his people as they seek to live a life of holiness and righteousness. The righteous acts that God helps us to live don’t save us, Job hasn’t been claiming this. Only the perfectly righteous life of Jesus Christ (Job’s “Redeemer” Job 19:25) is able to save. God declares unrighteous people righteous (justification) by His grace alone through faith alone in the Redeemer Jesus Christ alone. Then after that initial declaration God helps His people live righteously as they pursue to live righteous lives of holiness (sanctification). If what Bildad is saying is true, then every person would suffer in this life constantly for their unrighteousness, because there are none who are righteous. It’s not as simple as that. God is sovereign and man is responsible, but when a man suffers it does not mean that one is suffering because he or she has wholly failed in pursuing what one is responsible for with God’s help. This text exposes our inclination to self-deception. Bildad is acting like a modern man who says that there is no truth, but is blind to the fact that if that statement is true, then the statement is blatantly false. If there’s no truth, a “truthful” declaration that there is no truth isn’t true. It’s the kind of thinking that fails the law of non-contradiction. Labor to not emphasize certain doctrines to to the destruction of others.

[1] Hartley, John E. The Book of Job, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 367. See another possibility here: Ash, Christopher Job, The Wisdom of the Cross, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 266: “‘Rahab’ (v. 12), also called ‘the fleeing serpent’ (v. 13), is a storybook name for the gigantic sea monster or sea serpent that lives in the sea and embodies all the anti-God forces of evil in the universe.”

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