Bildad’s first speech contains some important (negative) lessons about human nature in general and about the qualities of counsellors in particular. Bildad hears Job’s words with his ears, but he does not listen with his heart. Bildad’s attitude should be seen in the light of Job’s begging for pity in Job 6. All people need pity in most everyday situations, how much more Job in his exceptional suffering. Repeatedly Job calls himself helpless (Job 6:1313“Is it that my help is not within me,
And that deliverance is driven from me?) and desperate (Job 6:14,2614“For the despairing man [there should be] kindness from his friend;
So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.
26“Do you intend to reprove [my] words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?
), a man who needs the pity of his friends.
Anyone who curses his birthday and prefers death to life needs help. His three friends have come to that end, but it does not come to anything. Job, by their attitude, sees them more as part of his problem than as those who offer a solution.
It is almost unbelievable that his friend Bildad answers him so insensitive. There is not only indifference to Job’s condition, but also a certain arrogance. For example, he suggests that Job’s children have received what they deserved (verse 44“If your sons sinned against Him,
Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.
) and that Job is on his way to suffer the same fate (verse 55“If you would seek God
And implore the compassion of the Almighty,
). The lesson to be learned is that there are such people in the world. They do their ‘non-service’ to people under the guise that they are special friends of God. And we are no better by nature. If the Lord does not keep us, we, like Bildad, can be businesslike, sharp and arrogant towards those who are in great need.
The lessons we learn from Job’s friends about help are negative, but the three friends are not equal. There is a difference between them. The book proposes three helpers instead of one, because each of them has their own approach of and message for Job. Eliphaz does start with some sense of Job’s need, but later he also loses his patience (Job 22). The other two are more distant and are above him. None of them is able to accept Job unconditionally.
Certainly, Job is a persistent ‘patient’, but they are incapable of being involved with him. Their advice will be well-intentioned, but has the effect of making Job even more persistent towards them and offering them more and more resistance. Undoubtedly much of the problem is their academic insistence on the point of view – which they refuse to change – that sin causes suffering, and vice versa that suffering proves that there is sin.
An important lesson to be learned from this book is that counselors, those who provide pastoral care, should not sit in an ivory tower. They should be able to listen, get involved and respect the sincerity of the personality of the person they are trying to help. They should also always keep in mind that they may not have a full understanding of the nature of the problem. Again, our understanding is limited and our knowing is in part and therefore imperfect (1Cor 13:99For we know in part and we prophesy in part;).