Bildad and His Traditions
You know, the more I look at Bildad, the more I see him as the kind of person whose mind is already made up—not only on every important question but on many unimportant ones as well—his faith is a simple matter of sticking doggedly to the old catechism of tried-and-true answers. As he himself puts it, “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing.”
People who place such heavy reliance on tradition show that they have little in the way of a personal relationship with the Lord. I have seen people get upset when their church abandoned the old King James version of the Bible, and switched to the New International Version (and their complaint had nothing to do with Scriptural accuracy or reliability. It was solely due to the change). Bildad implies that Job’s faith is like “relying on a spider’s web. He leans on his web, but it gives way.” Yet, Job was not leaning on a spider’s web at all but on the living God. The real question is what is Bildad leaning on? Is it anything more than a carefully constructed pile of precious nuggets that he picked up in “Sunday School” years before? A man like Bildad had no stomach for the spiritual battle that Job was in. To him, Job’s complex arguments and thoughts are nothing but a load of double-talk and he tells him so, outright. “Your words are a blustering wind.”
You know, I realize I have painted a pretty of negative portrait of Bildad, and the other friends as well, realizing that there is a danger in being too condemning of Job’s friends. Pharisee-bashing can be a pretty entertaining sport because there is something satisfying about rooting out hypocrites and throwing them to the lions; it makes the rest of us feel like shining saints. I wonder, though, how many have gone on witch-hunts only to be tainted by witchcraft ourselves? We have to be honest and ask ourselves if we really are so confident that we can tell the difference between the diehard legalist who is a danger to true faith, from the immature believer who is our brother in Christ? This is the problem we face in the friends of Job and, more importantly, in the people we know who may be like them. In fact, this problem confronts us in the depths of our own souls. We step over a line, into the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, there is no line to step over and suddenly be transformed into mature, loving people.
In reading Job, just as in reading any serious and complex writings, the most benefit we gain isn’t so much in identifying with one character or another, but when we can see ourselves in several different characters. It would almost be as if each character was a window into our own psyche. When we look at Job’s friends and can see their hypocrisy, the story can help us to identify pharisaism and see it for what it is—not just in the heart of others, but in our own hearts. That has to be the way we take Jesus’ warnings against the Pharisees. Not only did Jesus tell his disciples to “leave them; they are blind guides,” but He also told us to “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees.” In other words, we are to be on guard against our own legalistic tendencies. If we are unable to see the yeast of the Pharisees in ourselves, it is probably because we are up to our own eyeballs in it.
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