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Doug Van Meter - 21 August 2022

Redemptive Hope (Job 18:1–19:29)

Hope is a strange thing. It often seems to come and go—and then come again. In Bildad’s second speech, he accused Job of secret sin, which, if not confessed, would remove all hope. Job, in response, rose up and declared bold and confident hope amid his terrible ruin. It is a hope we do well to learn from. We will study these two chapters under the following broad outline: 1. Bildad’s Revenge (18:1–21) A. Bildad’s Rebuke: “Job, you are Arrogant” (vv. 1–4) B. Bildad’s Rhetoric: “Job, You are Wicked” (vv. 5–21) 2. Job’s Redeemer (19:1–29) A. Job Assaulted (vv. 1–12) B. Job Alienated (vv. 13–22) C. Job Avenged (vv. 23–29)

Scripture References: Job 19:1-29, Job 18:1-21

From Series: "Job Exposition"

A devotional exposition of the book of Job by Doug Van Meter.

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Hope is a strange thing. It often seems to come and go—and then to come again. So it seems in Job’s response to his friends, as seen in 18:1–19:29.

In this second of the second set of speeches, Bildad speaks and with what is becoming customary anger, he vents his proverbial spleen all over Job. Bildad basically tells Job that he is on the verge of not being forgiven and that he will soon be forgotten. Not exactly what a confused righteous sufferer needs to hear. But again, Bildad—like his friends—is of the view that Job is guilty of some secret sin and so he is merely receiving retributive justice in accordance with the way the world is ordered. And Job waste little time in his response.

In a sense, whereas Bildad tells Job there is no hope, Job is able to rise up and declare hope. Job, in this chapter, speaks of what we might call redemptive hope.

In what is perhaps the book’s most well-known verse, Job declares “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (19:25). There is some controversy around this statement but, having worked through it, I remain persuaded that it a declaration of strong biblical faith and hope. Amid what seemed terrible ruin, Job has redemptive hope. And it is the kind of hope that we need to instil in others. We consider these chapters under two broad headings.

I. Bildad’s Revenge (18:1–21)
A. Bildad’s Rebuke: “Job, you are Arrogant” (vv. 1–4)
B. Bildad’s Rhetoric: “Job, You are Wicked” (vv. 5–21)

II. Job’s Redeemer (19:1–29)
A. Job Assaulted (vv. 1–12)
B. Job Alienated (vv. 13–22)
C. Job Avenged (vv. 23–29)

Bildad’s Revenge

I have somewhat provocatively titled chapter 18 “Bildad’s revenge.” I use the word “revenge” because he is clearly angry. He seems to be angry that Job has insulted his (and his friends’) intelligence. Now he is going to let Job have it. “Now, with the short fuse of his patience burned out, he offers no hope to his friend. Instead, he resorts to a tactic that is intended to shut the mouth of his protagonist once and for all” (McKenna). In short, Bildad has been insulted, so he will insult in return. Specifically, he will level two insults at Job.

Bildad’s Rebuke: “Job, You Are Arrogant”

In vv. 1–4, Bildad accuses Job of arrogance.

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “How long will you hunt for words? Consider, and then we will speak. Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight? You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you, or the rock be removed out of its place?

(Job 18:1–4)

Bildad basically implies that Job just can’t stop talking but that, when he does, Bildad and his friends will sort him out (v. 2). He is irked that Job has implied that they are but brute beasts unable to think rationally (possibly in 17:10 and 12:7). He ends his rude introduction by likening Job to a wild beast himself, tearing at his wounds in anger. He implies that these wounds have been self-inflicted and warns Job not to expect any different outcome (v. 4).

Bildad, like his two friends, is operating from a worldview that is a well-ordered system of retributive judgement: You reap what you sow and only what you so. He caustically accuses Job of assuming he is so important that the world order should be reversed. Yet, “the world was going to remain the same no matter how much Job ranted against the order of things” (Smick). Or, in the words of Longman, “Job’s vociferous anger will not have a major effect. The earth will not be abandoned, and the rock will not be moved.” In other words, the rule remains.

Bildad’s Rhetoric: “Job, You Are Wicked”

Verses 5–21 reveal something of Job’s rhetoric.

“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp above him is put out. His strong steps are shortened, and his own schemes throw him down. For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks on its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him. A rope is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the path. Terrors frighten him on every side, and chase him at his heels. His strength is famished, and calamity is ready for his stumbling. It consumes the parts of his skin; the firstborn of death consumes his limbs. He is torn from the tent in which he trusted and is brought to the king of terrors. In his tent dwells that which is none of his; sulphur is scattered over his habitation. His roots dry up beneath, and his branches wither above. His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street. 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 18:5–21)

These seventeen verses are a long and familiar diatribe in which Bildad follows the party line of condemning Job as a wicked sinner who will pay dearly for his sin. As I read this, I thought that it can be characterised as, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Though clearly are times when believers need to warn the wicked, be sure that the person you are warning is truly wicked. If the shoe does not fit, leave it alone.

“Job, You Should Be Fearful”

In verses 5–10 Bildad warns Job that he has every reason to be fearful:

“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp above him is put out. His strong steps are shortened, and his own schemes throw him down. For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks on its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him. A rope is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the path. Terrors frighten him on every side, and chase him at his heels. His strength is famished, and calamity is ready for his stumbling. It consumes the parts of his skin; the firstborn of death consumes his limbs. He is torn from the tent in which he trusted and is brought to the king of terrors. In his tent dwells that which is none of his; sulphur is scattered over his habitation.”

(Job 18:5–15)

Bildad speaks of the guilty as those whose light will be put out in obscure darkness with the result that, like a hunted animal, they will be caught in a trap destined for destruction. In short, Job is wicked and therefore he is sure to fall. The implication is that the wicked will fall here and now.

Verses 11–14 portray a terrifying and terrible picture. The wicked are not only on the verge of a certain fall but will also be plagued with such fear that the vitality of their life will be famished. Bildad may be picturing the physical demise of the body and perhaps there is hint of divine punishment as well (“sulphur” [v. 15]). The message is clear: “Job, be afraid.”

“Job, You Will Be Forgotten”

Bildad warns Job, in vv. 16–21, that he will be quickly forgotten.

“His roots dry up beneath, and his branches wither above. His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street. 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 18:16–21)

Whereas, in the previous passage, Job used the metaphor of destroyed tents to describe the demise of the wicked, here he uses the metaphor of a tree being destroyed (v. 16). Like a tree that withers, it leaves no fruit behind. Such is the miserable picture painted by Bildad of the wicked (the wicked, in his mind, being Job). Ultimately, he will be forgotten and, in the ancient world (as in ours!), “to be forgotten was a fate worse than death (cf. Ps 34:16; Prov 10:7).”

These are some of the cruellest words of the speeches. Bildad is no doubt referencing the death of Job’s ten children (vv. 17–19). With the death of his children, Job, like the wicked, will have no posterity by which he will be remembered. In fact, the wicked, according to Bildad, are so beleaguered by God that they will receive global infamy. Whether from west or from the east, all will see the fate of the wicked, the unrighteous (Job), who does not know God (vv. 20–21).

Alden sarcastically writes, “This ‘evil man’ of Bildad’s description was emaciated, scared, and ignorant of God, a forgotten man. And these were supposed to be words of comfort?” McKenna summarises: “Without so much as a tear of remorse or a twinge of regret, Bildad consigns Job to the dwelling of the wicked and a place among fools (v. 21). In Bildad’s mind, the debate is over.” For, as Anderson comments, “According to Bildad, the moral order, which Job is overturning, is as fixed as the earth and the hills. The fate of the wicked equally follows a strict law.” In other words, sinners suffer; Job is suffering, and therefore, he is a guilty sinner. That is a big and, as the reader knows, erroneous assumption. Simplistic syllogisms can be destructive.

Brothers and sisters, be careful about answering a matter before you have all the facts. Assumptions can be false. And destructive.

Job’s Redeemer

Job responds, in chapter 19, to Bildad’s verbal barrage and pulls no punches. He is hurt, but he is also angered by the false accusations and by the heartless condemnations.

Job Assaulted

Job’s response reveals, first, that he feels assaulted.

Then Job answered and said: “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself. If indeed you magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me. Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice. He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped from me my glory and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me and counts me as his adversary. His troops come on together; they have cast up their siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent.

(Job 19:1–12)

Job responds saying that he has been shattered (v. 2) by his friends’ simplistic system. His main point is that, even if he is guilty of some secret sin, they have no business usurping God in their judgement (vv. 4–6). “Even if he did err, he is suffering for it, and they do not need to help the process along…. Even if he has done so, they are not justified in their response” (Alden). Rather, Job says that it is God who is behind this and so they need to back off.

There is a difference between godly, concerned confrontation and ungodly, self-righteous condemnation. The Bible teaches the former and condemns the latter (19:17–18). Job is of the (erroneous) view that God has assaulted him. As painful as that is, the assault of his friends merely rubs salt in his wounds.

Verses 7–12 picture a man shattered in a siege by silence. Job cries out “violence” and “help” and the response is a silent heaven. There is not much more painful than this. Job is hopeless (v. 10). After all, with God as your adversary, what hope is there? Good point—if it were true. In Job’s case, it was not (chapters 1–2).

Job Alienated

Not only did Job feel assaulted; he also felt alienated (vv. 13–22).

“He has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me. My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me. The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger; I have become a foreigner in their eyes. I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy. My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?”

(Job 19:13–22)

Here we find Job alone, feeling abandoned by family and friends, and disabused by those who should be showing him deference (vv. 13–19). Even his wife seems to be wilfully alienated from him (v. 17). Job summarises, “Those whom I have loved have turned against me” (v. 19). McKenna comments,

Job has plummeted to the depths of physical pain, emotional despair, spiritual futility, and relational loneliness. Now, as a result of God’s pursuit and his friends’ persecution, he voices the pain of suffering from humiliation. From his community, he needs solace; from his household, he needs respect; and from his family, he needs intimacy. Instead, he is avoided by brothers, estranged by acquaintances, failed by relatives, forgotten by friends, alienated by maidservants, ignored by manservants, rejected by his wife, repulsed by his children, despised by urchins, abhorred by friends, and betrayed by loved ones.

Job, barely alive (v. 20), in seeming futility pleads for mercy from his friends, expecting none. His God and his friends have forsaken him. He finds himself in a pretty hopeless situation. Or is it? For those who know the story of the gospel, and who know the story of the Lord Jesus Christ, such a situation only seems hopeless. Jesus was likewise forsaken by all. Even forsaken by God. Yet that was not the end of the story. For God brought great victory out of what seemed like certain defeat. By the resurrection, Jesus Christ was vindicated. And therefore so can you and I. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Job Avenged

The closing verses (vv. 23–29) reveal Job avenged:

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgement.”

(Job 19:23–29)

We see, in vv. 23–27, a glimmer of hope of vindication.

With v. 23, Job records words of hope concerning his eventual and certain vindication. Yes, he knows that he will die and hence, like a tombstone, he wants his hopeful words to be inscribed for posterity (and here indeed they are!). Though Job would like to be vindicated while alive, he is sure that one day his “Redeemer” will vindicate him.

This word first occurs in Leviticus 25 with reference to a kinsman redeemer. If someone was in financial debt or legal trouble, a near relative could “redeem” (or deliver) them. By standing in their place, those in debt could go free; they could be vindicated through the deeds of another. The most notable example is Boaz and Ruth. But the word also referred to a relative seeking to avenge the murder of a fellow kinsman (Deuteronomy 19:6–12). It is perhaps this latter sense that is emphasised here.

In chapters 9 and 16, Job spoke with hope of a heavenly witness who would plead his case and vindicate him before God. Though assaulted with false accusations by his friends and foes, though struggling with the thought that God was afflicting him as an enemy, he nevertheless holds onto hope of eventual vindication. Longman notes, “He expects that God would move from being his accuser to being his defender once the facts are laid out on the table.” This is true even if he dies first for, as Smick comments, “Job was convinced that even if he died, he would live again to witness his own vindication.” This assurance of vindication before God—by God!—is such an overwhelming thought that his “heart faints within” him.

Job’s hope rushes in almost out of nowhere. But this is the nature of biblical hope. When all is dark, the believer can be assured that God is up to something good. Alden helpfully observes, “Like other passages expressing hope, it stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding gloom and doom, but that background also serves to accentuate the extraordinary character of these passages. Diamonds are displayed best on black velvet.”

This is precisely a glory of the gospel. Amid the gloom and eternal doom of our sin and the sin of surrounding world, the good news that God redeems believing sinners—that God vindicates their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ—by reconciling them to himself forever, is a diamond of divine love and grace that shines bright with hope.

Job concludes (vv. 28–29) by warning his friends that, since he will be vindicated—by God!—they need to beware of their continual condemnation based on false accusation. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbour is sin inviting God’s wrath.

Having considered the text itself, let’s conclude with a few applications.

First, when counselling afflicted saints, listen and ask before labelling and assuming. Use the whole counsel of God, not superficial and misapplied tradition. Wisdom teaches us that things are not always as simple as they seem to be. The false accusations levelled at Jesus are perhaps the greatest example of this.

Second, be aware that judgement is an easier default than is mercy. Sometimes people need both but beginning with mercy is often the right approach.

Third, in your affliction, and in others’ affliction, look for and wait upon your Redeemer. Praise God that our Redeemer will stand on earth one day and our faith, like that of Job, will be fully vindicated (1 Corinthians 15:20–28).

AMEN