The discourses between Job and his three friends continue on as they discuss the reason for Job’s suffering and how God runs the world. The answer that Job’s three friends have for Job is that Job must have sinned. The friends are undeterred by Job’s claims of righteousness, continuing to beat down on Job that he must have sinned. One of the important messages we are learning from the book of Job is that the way God runs the world is far more complex than just a simple rule or principle. It is not as simple as saying that God is a just God and so God acts only on that basis. There are far more factors at work which keep us from definitively answering the reason for suffering on any given occasion. The friends of Job believe they have the answer, which is that Job sinned. But the first two chapters of Job show that God’s righteousness and goodness was being challenged and this is the reason for the events that have befallen Job. Bildad now takes another opportunity to instruct Job about his suffering and the way God runs the world in Job 18.
Bildad’s discourse is a description of the wicked’s fate. Their light is put out, their steps are shortened, and their own schemes throw them down. They are hunted and must watch their steps (18:5-10). But this is not an innocent description of the wicked. Bildad starts describing what Job is experiencing to show to Job that he is wicked. The wicked have terrors frighten him on every side (18:11), lacks strength (18:12), and his skin is consumed (18:13). His children are killed (18:19) and people are appalled at him (18:20). This is surely the description of the life of the unrighteous and those who do not know God (18:21).
Bildad continues that the life of wicked people can seem good on the surface but there are dangers that lurk under the surface that will catch up to them. Thus, all the good Job experienced was wiped away because Job was wicked and wickedness always catches up to people in this life. But the writer of Ecclesiastes observed the opposite.
Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:10–11 ESV)
Bildad’s error is that justice does not always come quickly. Justice does not always come in this life. Often the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. We must accept this. This is how God set up the world. Justice is not swift and immediate.
Job engages in another personal response to these friends in chapter 19. “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” These friends have shown no shame in attacking and wronging Job (19:3). Even if he had sinned, this is an unjustified response (19:4). Job calls out for help and justice but there is none. His honor has been stripped from his and he does not know what to do (19:8-9). God has demolished him and he is finished (19:10). God has kindled his wrath against him and counts him as his adversary (19:11). It is painful to read the devastation of Job’s life. Relatives stay away and friends turn against him (19:13-14). His family is gone and close friends have forgotten him. This is so true in trials. So many turn against you when you are going through severe trials. Job’s servants will not even listen to him when he gives them directions (19:16). Job is even repulsive to his wife and little children despise him (19:17-18). Those who he loved has turned against him (19:19). Job is nothing more than skin and bones and he is barely alive (19:20).
Job closes by pleading for the mercy of God. He begs God to stop attacking him (19:21-22). There is irony in verses 23-24 as Job wishes that his words were inscribed in a book and engraved in a rock to be read forever (19:23-24). Little did Job know that his words would be preserved by God and read by millions of people for help during suffering. But consider why Job wanted his words kept for the permanent record.
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! (Job 19:25–27 ESV)
A redeemer was a defender and benefactor, someone who would rescue when a family member was in personal and economic distress. Job says that God will be his redeemer once the facts are laid on the table. God will be his defender. Job is saying that his skin may peel off as he waits for the Lord as his Redeemer, but God will defend him because God is just. There may not be anything left of Job, which is why he wants his words permanently written in the record, but God will redeem and vindicate him at some point. At the apex of this book, Job declares that he will see God. His pain is causing him to hope for something more. Then friends should watch out what God will do to them (19:28-29). Just wait to God comes and vindicates me!
I think everyone has felt the cry for God’s justice in the face of wickedness and suffering. The wicked prosper inexplicably in the way God runs the world. How often the people is the scriptures cried out for vindication and justice from God! The Psalms are filled with people who desire to see vindication!
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. (Psalm 26:1 ESV)
The book of Revelation follows a similar path. The people of God are pictured as being killed for the sake of Jesus (Revelation 6:9-11). Their vindication comes later as they are pictured surrounding the throne of God (Revelation 7:9-17; 14:1-5). When we read the book of Revelation, when are God’s people finally vindicated? When do the righteous receive their reward? When are the wicked finally judged for their deeds in the flesh? When does Satan finally receive the recompense for his rebellion? The book pictures nothing in this life as the time of vindication. The righteous are not vindicated now. The wicked and the righteous both die. The death of the wicked is not vindication because we will all die. Wickedness continues to run rampant and it appears that there is not justice. But God is just.
Amazingly, Job has such a great faith that he knew somehow God would do something to be just against the wicked and vindicate the righteous. He did not know how. But he wanted his life record in the book because someday God would vindicate his life. Job is correct. God will vindicate. The book of Revelation shows this judgment and vindication not until the final day of judgment. Then Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, tormented in judgment forever (Revelation 20:10). Only on the final day of judgment are the books of the dead opened and every person stands before God and receives justice (Revelation 20:11-15). So we suffer now waiting for the redemption and vindication of our lives. One day God will act. One day God must act because he is righteous, true, and just. May we sing with this hope the song, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” as we wait for the Lord!