The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 9 – Bildad puts God in a box

by Mike Ratliff

And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken. (Ezekiel 22:28)

I cannot count the number of times I have heard an argument similar to the following statement from someone who did not agree with a doctrinal statement I or someone else was teaching. They say something like, “That passage cannot mean that because my God wouldn’t do something like that.” Of course, what they mean by that is their concept of God and His ways does not line up with some teachings from the Bible. People who say things like this actually have created a god in their own image. This god is subject to Human Reason. This god will never violate the principles or values they have constructed for him. In the last post we looked at the following passage.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:14-19)

Notice that when Christians mature in grace they no longer regard Christ (or God) according to the flesh. That means that we are to regard God spiritually, that is, by faith not by sight. The unregenerate and even the immature or baby Christian will regard God via the flesh, that is, by Human Reason. The god conceived of via the flesh has been put in a box. He has a set of attributes that vary depending upon mood and emotion while being subject to Men’s traditions. He is the god of the unregenerate and the pretender in the hearts of the immature Christian. God, the living God, is out to put the imaginary god of Human Reason to death. As Christians grow in grace and learn to walk by the Spirit, walk by faith and not by sight, God replaces this false god in their hearts with Himself. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of believers from the moment of the new birth. However, each of us are unique. God does not mature us at the same rate or the same way. Some come to the realization of this very quickly, while others take longer. As we are getting ready to see, the second of Job’s friends, Bildad, is getting ready to speak and his concept of God is flawed by Human Reason.

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. (Job 8:1-4)

The first thing Bildad does is accuse Job of being full of hot air as Job defends himself. Then he builds a straw man or straw god to use to attack Job. This, of course, is the god created by Bildad’s Human Reason. This god has some of the attributes of the Living God, but he is incomplete because Bildad has put him in a box. This god does not pervert justice. The Living God doesn’t either, but the standards of His justice are His not Bildad’s. The standard of justice of Bildad’s god are based within Human Reason, therefore, they are based in the flesh of men. Not only does he call Job a windbag, he sticks a sword of hurt into Job by accusing Job’s now dead children of sinning so much that God killed them. Of course, he is using his straw god’s values to come up with this. This one probably hurt Job worse than his own skin disease.

If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great. (Job 8:5-7)

Did you notice how Bildad’s god is into works righteousness? Isn’t this right out of Human Reason? Bildad tells Job that if he will seek God and plead for mercy (so far so good), if Job is pure and upright then God will restore him and make him great. Well that sounds right to our Human Reason, but is this the God of the Bible or is this the straw god? God takes sinful people and, being sovereign, uses them according to His will. He grows and matures them according to His will. He allows suffering into their lives to accomplish His purposes in their hearts according to His will.

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Paul was very blessed with surpassing revelations that would feed the pride of any man. Therefore, God gave him some hurtful tribulation to keep him humble. This was God’s purpose in that suffering. Bildad thinks that anyone who is suffering must have offended his straw god, therefore,they are cast into a bed of suffering or are killed.

“For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? “Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden. His roots entwine the stone heap; he looks upon a house of stones. If he is destroyed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’ Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the soil others will spring. “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting. Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.” (Job 8:8-22)

According to Bildad, his straw god always acts towards sinners one way and always acts another way towards the righteous. What is his god missing that abounds in our Living God? Yes, the Living God is holy, righteous, and just. However, He is also gracious. He places his affections on His people and by grace through faith He saves them. Those whom He saves are not perfect and still struggle with sin, but they desire and pursue righteousness because that is what a regenerate heart does. So, is God going to punish His children when they sin, cutting them out of their inheritance as Bildad’s straw god does? Or, is He going to cause conviction and possibly chastisement to come into their lives to draw them into repentance? As we saw in the last post, our wills are subject to God’s will in that the Word of God is powerful and causes our desires to change and match His. When this happens our will goes after the highest desire and chooses to obey God. Don’t you think God could cause Job to repent of his sins if this was what Job’s problem was? Sure, but Bildad’s straw god, subject to Human Reason, can only act from within the box in which he was created. We must forsake the straw god of Human Reason and seek the Living God.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)

Even though this passage seems to state what Bildad told Job to do, it is different. Bildad told Job to cleanse himself and make himself pure then go to God. James tells us to deny self and in humility turn to God. Then and only then can we become cleansed, resist the devil, purify our hearts and cease being double-minded because God draws near to us when we draw near unto Him. How does God so this?

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

The Word of God is at work in believers. This means that we obey God and do His will by Him working in us. We must work, but it is God who works in us. Bildad’s straw god is not like this at all. He is holding scales and weighing people to see if they measure up. He is punishing the wicked and rewarding the righteous, but is is all based on their own desires and abilities. In contrast, the Living God, our God, works in His people to accomplish His will in them. Some suffer much. Some suffer little. Some struggle mightily with sin(s). Some are completely victorious over their besetting sins. Why is there a difference?

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)

This passage tells us that a man was born blind for the glory of God. Don’t you think He, being the potter, can make His vessels any way He desires? The straw god of Bildad would never do such a thing because this is unfair according to Human Reason. Thank God that He is not subject to our finite Human Reason!

8 thoughts on “The Sovereignty of God in the Suffering of His People part 9 – Bildad puts God in a box

  1. Last night, my daughter played in a basketball game. The air conditioning in the gym was not working, and the temperatures during the day had climbed near 100 degrees. Each team played two games. At the end of the final game, the girls shook hands with the other team, huddled together, and gave their final victory cheer. Two of the girls gave each other a high five. In the next moment, one of those girls fell to the ground…her heart stopped beating…and after being rushed to the hospital, she died.

    I have spent the morning praying with and speaking to the parents, coaches and 13 year old girls who witnessed this tragedy…all are trying to understand. And within the finite space between our ears and within the sphere of the here-and-now…it doesn’t make sense. But I know Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able…to use this tragedy for His eternal glory…and for the good of all who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Your words, Mike, were a comfort…and a conviction… A straw god just will not suffice right now…

  2. Jessica,

    I greive with you, but rejoice that God, the living God, is sovereign and perfectly righteous. He will always do right. Things like this tragedy are hard for our finite minds to grasp. God knows what he is doing and He is always right.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. It is the truth, Mike. We all admire the Apostle Paul, but how many of us would want his mantle. And unlike most of the invented “prophecies” today, God told Paul at the outset of his Christian life “how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake”. Do we think as Paul walked through the Gates of Splendor he would have changed anything? Paul not only trusted the Lord through his troubles, he GLORIED in his infirmities! We only have one life with which to glorify our Risen Savior – Lord grant Your power and grace. All praise to His Name.

  4. Oh, to be able to walk by faith as Paul did though. To be able to say that I glory in my weaknesses for God’s glory is amazing. Let’s agree to pray for each other that we will attain to the humility to grow in grace as Paul did.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Jessica,

    What a terrible tragedy. I hear and understand your strong words of faith but if I may, I ask that you consider the mother of the child who was lost. I too lost a child and the most difficult part was hearing members of the faith to say over and over how it was God’s will. While true it is no comfort to the grieving mother who simply wants to hold her child. Less than a week ago after sharing my grief with a good friend and crying about my loss, she remarked that she knew that Jesus lived. She went on to say that her own daughter had been hit head on by a truck and walked out of the car uninjured and that was evidence that God was real and that he lived and she would serve him always. That is great for her to say and easy for her to do.

    It is easy to proclaim when we get the things that we desire and hope for but there is no wound deeper that that of a parents grief over a lost child. Please take this opportunity as one that is so much more than simply speaking God to the parents and use it to examine what God has to teach you about compassion, patience, loving, and God himself. Sometimes the pain that others suffer is God providing an opportunity for his faithful to show up in a might way and touch their lives in human form. As in the story of Job it is far easier to “talk about” God that to truly work compassion in the lives of others through him.

    Not suggesting that you would, but please use your strong faith to prepare you to be a comfort. Like Job these parents need comforters who see them in this moment and feel their deep loss and pain.

  6. How dilegently and faithfully we, the regenerate, must be in God’s Word that we might know HIM. It happens far too easily and in such ignorance that we define God in error or define God’s terms, precepts, or characteristics in error. In His infinite mercy and grace HE has given us HIS WORD that we can know HIM and He had given us HIMSELF through HIS resident HOLY SPIRIT that we can know HIM. May our gracious Father keep us ever mindful that HIS thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are HIS ways our ways. It is so easy for humanism to be the foundation of our reasoning. We have been immersed in it since birth, in North American culture.

    Recently I listened to a series of 4 sermons by Paul Washer (who I first read about here on Possessing the Treasure) on Hebrews 11; faith. In these sermons I saw where much of my thinking was twisted because of humanistic foundational beliefs I did not know I had.

    By God’s grace HE shapes HIS own more and more into the image of Christ. Praise HIM!

  7. Yes, Kim, Praise Him and thank Him that He has revealed Himself to us in His Son and through His Holy Word. I fear that many “Christians” well stand ashamed before His throne someday for relying on Human Reason rather than spiritually discerning God and His ways.

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