William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,Job Chapter 8
The reasoning of Bildad is precisely the same principle as that of Eliphaz. It is all founded on God's moral government, i.e., the impossibility of causing God grief, and casting down to the ground a really righteous man, and the certainty of His bringing to naught every wicked man. It is all founded upon what is going on in the world now. There was no faith in it. There was conscience, conscience toward God; but conscience, however useful and highly important, as it is, for the soul, never does, nor can it ever, reveal God. It detects our bad state, and the more it is purged by divine grace through redemption the clearer is its judgment. But that was not the case then. Everything was more or less confused, and God was merely regarded as a righteous God. But God is the God of all grace. And many people confound God's grace with His goodness; but the goodness of God is quite a different thing from the grace of God. The goodness of God is that which flows out in every sort of kindness, and in patience with us and consideration of our weakness. But the grace of God means not merely His love, but His love rising above sin; His love triumphing over all our evil.
Now it is clear that that never was nor could be, till Christ came, and it was not even when Christ did come. It was in His death on the cross; it was there and then for the first time that all the love of God met all the evil of man. Both worked fully out, but had never worked fully out before. Man had never shown himself so wicked as round the cross of the Lord Jesus. And it, was universal; it was not merely the multitude, though it is a terrible thing to see how fickle the multitude is. They are just the same to this day, and they will never be any other until the Lord change the face of all peoples. The same crowd that cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" and applauded Him to the skies, with one mouth cried, "Crucify him, crucify him!" within a few days. Well, and how was that? It was the power of Satan. It was their unbelief, because their applause was nothing. Applause is merely human feeling excited at the moment, and that feeling may give way to a totally opposite one, and very quickly. Why, even the children of God are not always to be trusted. The children of God are the most foolish people in the world in many respects. And the reason is because Satan hates them, and Satan entraps them, and they are apt to be deceived by appearances. Some never seem to take warning from the word of God; they are always ready for some new thing; and the consequence is, always tumbling into some mess or another.
Well, this has always been the case; it was the case in the experience of the apostle Paul. "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; which is not another" - it is no gospel at all. It was man but once born; it was poor wretched, fallen man that was the groundwork. That is the same thing with christians now. They are carried away by man, and they are all so anxious to get man to applaud them, and to sacrifice and compromise everything in order to get the assent and consent of people that want to be saved, that have no kind of judgment in things divine, for this never can be had unless we not only have Christ, but know what it is to be crucified to the world and the world unto us. That is, it must be a thorough-going work, and the children of God shrink from that; consequently, they will read anything that merely keeps up their spirits, just like a boy at night whistling through a churchyard. Anything that will keep up their spirits - every little dram, every little sentiment, every little phrase - perhaps a very bad and poor phrase - but still there it is, and that keeps up their spirits. Well now, friends, that is the way to get removed from Him that called us; because it is entirely by growing in grace, and by dependence upon that grace, that we are kept from all these snares that more particularly surround the people of God. At the time of the cross the people of God were the Jews, and that was the reason why they were the worst of all.
And now in Christendom, in the world as it is now, who are the most guilty? Who are ripening now for the severest judgment of God? The world-church. I do not mean by that the Established Church; it will take in the Dissenters just as well. The Dissenters are further away in some respects than even the Anglicans. They are howling politicians, howling for their own will, and calling themselves, in the most extraordinary manner, "passive resisters." Why, "passive resistance" is passive nonsense! You cannot be passive and resisting. If you are resisting you are not passive. It is the same kind of thing as people talking about the Roman Catholic Church; but if it is Roman it is not Catholic, and if it is Catholic it is not Roman, and the two things are just a marvellous piece of contradiction. But what I mean is this - there are different spheres. There are high spheres and low spheres; there are spheres of grandeur and there are spheres of wretchedness of every kind - dishonesty as well as all kinds of contention. And it is upon that that the awful judgment of God is coming.
Babylon is more loathsome to God than "the Beast." The Beast is open self-will rebelling against God; but Babylon is that which is a harlot in God's eyes, and pretends to be the spouse of Christ. And it is that pretension - that high pretension of being the holy bride of Christ - accompanied by the greatest unholiness and the greatest laxity of doctrine when pretending to be the orthodox, the holy Catholic, Apostolic, and I know not what else. Well, that is Babylon, but that is only high Babylon; there is low Babylon too; and all Babylon, no matter whether high or low - all will be the greatest object of God's fury. For that is the expression of the term. It is His highest indignation. It is all this pretension to what the world has not. They are now giving up true religion as much as possible. What is the intent? To carry on religion with the world, that is Babylon. It is the confusion of two things that cannot be united, and there they are - the greatest and worst confusion that is possible to be.
The Babylon of Christendom is a great deal worse than the Babylon of the Chaldees. What privileges had they? Why, they were the heathen; but there you have only the human mind; in Christendom you have got the New Testament. There they pretend to have the Holy Ghost. There they can give the Holy Ghost to a baby! and they can give the Holy Ghost to a priest! Or they can do anything; bring fire - not from heaven, but from hell, to burn the martyrs of God. They can do anything that is wicked and is at the same time a pretence against God. Well, I say, because of them you must not be surprised that any who have got the truth in a measure are for that very reason the great object of Satan's desire to draw them into what will undermine and destroy. Therefore we need to be guided; we need the guidance of God; we need not to be taken in by appearances and fair promises and good desires that will never keep the same for one day or hour. But on the contrary, the better you desire, if you are not subject to God the more easily you will be drawn into that which will oppose God.
No doubt, nobody means that no christian could be like the Galatians - you do not mean that. They thought they were in the better state. They thought they were getting on, that they were not so narrow minded as some people, that they were not so very bigoted as Paul. Paul was too much in one line; they were the large people; they were the liberal people. And so it was that they got into this terrible snare of the devil. The same thing repeats itself in every age. And I believe that there are persons on the face of the earth that are as much the object of Satan's wiles as the Galatians. But that is no reason to be discouraged; not to be discouraged is the necessary consequence of having the truth - a necessary consequence that Satan dislikes and dreads, and will leave no stone unturned to prevent.
Why was it that Job came to this terrible plight in the Book we are reading? Because God said "There is nobody like him on the earth - a perfect man, a man thoroughly, all round - of integrity." Yes, but there was one thing that neither Job nor his friends understood, and that was grace; and it could not be understood. He did know that God was a faithful God, and his piety led him to feel, and to stand to it, that all the troubles he came into were from God. And so they were, because the devil even had disappeared. It was not merely the devil that endeavoured to cast him down. That he did most fully in both the first and second chapters. But at the end of the second chapter he was defeated and baffled, and went off, and never re-appeared.
It is the greatest mistake to suppose it is only the devil. In the millennium there will be sin and death when the devil is bound. In point of fact, the occasion of Job's breaking out so violently was his three dear friends; and they were pious men, too. But what about that, unless you are guided of God? And that is the very thing that this Book is so instructive in - that we cannot trust to be led even by a pious man. With the best of intentions we require God's guidance and to be kept to it. And it was these three pious men by their conduct, so far from God's thoughts, so thoroughly judging by appearances, it was that that made them think that there must be something very bad in Job, after all his appearance, after all his life that seemed so fair, and after everybody thinking that there was nobody like Job. Certainly, if God said there was nobody like him, you may depend upon it that all pious people thought the same. And it was true, but still there was the great lack; because Job till he got Christ as an object, made an object of his own piety, and thought a great deal of himself.
It is one of the greatest mistakes that a believer can make - to think a great deal of himself. I think I drew attention to a beautiful word of the apostle Paul that teaches the very contrary - "esteeming others better than ourselves"; and that means any christian. And yet the christians may be full of faults in this way or that way. But still, who is the person whose faults I know better than anybody's? My own. And therefore I can honestly and loyally count a man better than myself. I do not know his faults to be anything like the faults I know of myself. Of course, others have the very same and are called to the very same feeling, and they may have more reason, too; that is another question altogether. But we have to do with the fact that we know what we are, and we ought to know and it is a great thing to grow in knowing, that we are not only nothing for guidance, but we are worse than nothing in the sight of God. Our nature is declared to be the flesh in enmity against God. And that is what we know working out, Other people may not see it; other people may not have any reason to see it. But that is what every christian should know who is not like Job, admiring himself because he is not like other people. That is, he is like the Pharisee. "God, I thank thee I am not as other men."
Yes, that is a very bad state; nothing could be worse - nothing worse in a believer. And these dear saints at that day were in imminent danger, every one of them, not even excepting Job. Job had a better knowledge of God, comparatively, than they; and Job stuck to it with amazing tenacity, first that all the trouble that came upon him was from God; that it was God who allowed it all to come upon him. He could have hindered every bit of it - and that he could not understand. Why, why, why? He had a thoroughly good conscience as far as that was concerned; he had no sin upon him at all, no particular defect of any sort. It was a question of self and not of sin; it was a question of never having judged himself in the presence of God fully.
I should like to know how many here in this room have judged themselves in that way now? I think they had better search and see. That is surely a very great lesson to learn, and it is a lesson that nobody likes to learn. It is always extremely painful, and it is very humbling to our comfortable thoughts of ourselves. Because we are occupied perhaps with the gospel, and we see that the gospel is completely clear. That does not touch self. It ought to lead to it; but it may not at all. And consequently there may be people most zealous in the gospel that are peculiarly ignorant of themselves - peculiarly so. They are generally occupied with other people, and have not much time for sober reflection and self-judgment; and therefore, active work in the Lord may become a snare unless in subjection to Christ. Then we learn in the power of God's Spirit to judge everything of flesh in ourselves. That is where they were all wrong, and it is bringing out that clearly - that it is not merely a question of the righteous government of God; but it was then the secret of grace. Now the grace is published; now it is proclaimed; now it is preached; now it is manifested; and therefore, now it is a far more serious thing. And there was what these Galatians overlooked entirely. They had never learnt that yet; they were converted through the apostle; they were brought into the full joy of as good a gospel as ever was preached in this world - a great deal better than any of us preach it now. They were brought into that by the preaching of that blessed man - and yet they had not profited, to judge themselves. And it is this that we all need most deeply, in order that we may be kept from the snares that surround us, and which may spring upon us at any moment, even from friends just as dear as the three friends of Job. They were the occasion of this downfall, and that in a way that only God could have accomplished.
Well now, Bildad follows the line of Eliphaz, and says: "How long wilt thou speak these things?" He could not in the least understand it. "And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?" Because Job could not understand why, as he was quite sure of the perfection of God, quite sure of the faithfulness of God, quite sure that God loved him, quite sure that he loved God; 'How has all this come upon me; what is the key to all this terrible suffering that I am sure God has sent?' He would not lay it upon circumstances.
But there were, to add to the terrible agony that he passed through outwardly, inward agonies. It really was one billow after another overcoming this poor man in such a sea of trouble as never came upon any man since the world began. How was all that? He was stung by the insinuation of his friends (he held to it firmly that it was all false) that he was not a true man, and that he did not love God. He was not conscious of a single sin; nevertheless, he owned it was God. That was what made the riddle, and no wonder at all. It was impossible that it should not have been a riddle, in those days, except by special teaching of God. There was one that appeared later, and Elihu did in some measure understand; but it was the Lord who put an end to all the uncertainty.
Now that Christ has come, there is no ground for it; only, beloved friends, we may treat the gospel now very much as is done in Christendom, and regard it as pretty much the same thing as there has always been, only with a little more light - a sort of new edition of Judaism - improved, that is all. Whereas it is entirely new - it is an absolutely new creation, a new light altogether. It is not merely the dim torch, as it were, on the earth . it is the light of heaven revealed in our Lord Jesus They had none of that - none whatever. There was a looking for Him, but it was entirely in an earthly way. They looked to Him as the Messiah; they looked for Him as one who would meet their difficulties; but it was very, very shallow - anything that any one of them knew about it. We must not confound prophetic anticipations with the experience of the saints. The prophets did not always understand their own prophecy. They had to search and learn what the meaning was, just as you have to do now; but if you have all the prophecies, they do not give you what the gospel does.
The gospel is the revelation of God's righteousness. They were all occupied with man's righteousness produced by divine goodness, by faith, by looking for the Messiah; but they had no idea of the total judgment of man, and that this is an entirely new thing from God, communicated to the soul. This is what Christendom has never endured and never possessed. It has Christianity, but a very small amount of Christianity is quite enough for Christendom. Well, here then this man breaks out into this rebuke of Job for his extreme feeling. How could a man do anything but feel? And what were they about that they did not deeply feel for him? There they were, quite comfortable; and there they were, judging there must be something very bad; and I need not tell you that that deeply wounded the poor injured man. It was pouring vitriol into his wounds; it was not binding them with wine and oil, cleansing the wound, but, on the contrary, deepening and poisoning it.
And these were his three friends! What a lesson! Well, Bildad goes further, however. He says, "If thy children have sinned against him and he have cast them away for their transgression" - there they thought they had him. How could God do such a thing as to kill all his children unless there was something very bad in them? It was all the same principle, and the same false principle. And what shows the falsity of the principle is the universal test. Bring Christ in. Was it any want of God's delight in Christ that allowed Christ to be the greatest sufferer, far beyond Job? It was therefore altogether a false estimate, and a false principle underneath the estimate, to imagine that there must be evil in the person that came to this depth of suffering.
"If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression" - they never could rise above that - "If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; if thou wert pure and upright" - ah! there they were at it again! It was not merely the children then that had transgression! "If thou wert pure and upright" - why, Job was much more so than they - "If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee." Certainly not; the Lord was going to have the trial brought to its full completion; and He allowed all these discussions in order to bring out everything that was in their hearts, and then came He in with His own word completely casting down these principles which governed the three friends, and Job not able properly to answer them.
He could demolish their arguments, but that is a very' different thing. A clever man could, of course, easily overthrow a foolish reasoning; but that is a very different thing from getting in the truth. The truth requires God and His word and His Spirit; and we never can have these in a difficulty except by entire dependence upon God. And if we have got any self-will at work. which was very much the case with Job as well as with his three friends - self-will is a most darkening thing - you never can have the certainty of the will of God where self-will is not steadily seen and judged as altogether beneath you. "Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase."
Then he appeals to another thing. Eliphaz had spoken of his own personal experience. Bildad differs in the manner in which he defends their theme by bringing in the traditions of other people. Those are the two ways in which men are apt to slip away from the truth - confidence in self; confidence in other people no better than oneself; confidence in anyone but God. So he says," Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age" - for people think that a little further back is where we should go. Why, beloved friends, we want to go back to the beginning; we want to go back to God's beginning. People talk about the early fathers; well, that is a great deal too late; why do not they talk about the apostles? Because they are as far from them as they can possibly be! There is not the slightest resemblance - except the mere name of things - a totally different reality. And so it was here. Had they gone back to the garden of Eden? Ah, that is not a former age; that was the beginning where God manifested Himself.
They were all arguing on the ground of righteousness. Not one of them had taken in, up to this and for long after, any thought of grace. And Job only arrived at it at last by the intervention of God. There he was dust and ashes. There he took the place of nothingness and worse than nothingness; and then it was he was blessed; then it was that he was vindicated by God, and not till then. So Bildad goes on with this, "Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?" But we want the words out of God's heart; it is not any but His heart that can do. "Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water?" Well, that is just what their condition was - mire and water, no substance at all, but just mire and water; and their thoughts were no better than the flag that grew out of the water, or the reed that grew out of the mire. And he talks about the hypocrite being no better than a spider's web. That is just exactly what they were, though they were not hypocrites; but still they were all wrong in their reasonings, and wrong reason is never better than a spider's web.
And so he describes in a very lively and wonderful manner the man that had known the hypocrite, and all this was a sly hit at Job. There is where they were so very wrong. "He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden. His roots are wrapped about the heap" - to get a little strength from the heap - "and seeth the place of stones." That is what the reed does in order to get tenacity. "If he destroys him from his place, than it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee". That is the case with man upon the earth; he passes away, and his memory is so forgotten that the place itself even says it never saw him, or it was all completely forgotten. This he applies to the hypocrite. "Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man." But God was trying and troubling the perfect at that very moment; they never could take this into their minds; they did not understand it nor believe it in the slightest degree, and hence their reasons were all false, and more than that, thoroughly unkind; and it is a sad thing to be unkind to what is good and true, as also it is a sad thing to be very kind to what is not good and what is not true. This is what they were about; that is where they got through want of the guidance of God, and of the truth.
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.
He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.
Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.