By Mike Dawson
Retired Baptist pastor
Focal Passage: Job 14:1-14
Who was the smallest man in the Bible? Not Zaccheus, although many of us as children sang “and a wee little man was he.” Not even Nehemiah (“Knee-High-miah.”) No, the Bible’s smallest man was one of Job’s friends, Bildad the Shuhite (“Shoe-height.”)
Those are some awful puns, I admit; but our larger text, Job 2:11-14:22, is heavy; so we needed a smile to get started today.
After Job’s terrorizing and disastrous loss of nearly everything he once had, Bildad the Shuhite was indeed one of Job’s three ‘friends’ who came to comfort him. The other two were Eliphaz the Temanite and Zophar the Naamathite.
Job the man not only lost his possessions, property, and people — he also contracted a terrible skin disease. He sat distorted in appearance and wallowing in his grief and pain and loneliness.
The three friends started well in comforting their brother; for days they simply sat in silence with him. Sometimes the most appropriate thing to say to someone who’s experiencing great grief is — nothing. Simply saying by our silence, “I am here for you” can be a profound word of comfort!
But the friends began talking, and the caption under their dialogue might be,“With friends like these, who needs enemies?” They decided to ‘box’ with Job; Round One is described in chapters 2-14. It’s back and forth, with Job landing some good punches and the friends hitting him back from every side. Job’s main stance was “I’m a righteous, innocent man; I don’t deserve any of this!” The friends used direct blows, like “you’re a hypocrite and a sinner, and that’s why you’re being punished!”
They sounded like a lot of people in today’s culture and even today’s church, trying unsuccessfully to solve the problem of suffering, attempting in vain to answer the question “why do bad things happen to good people?”
Before the bell rang to end Round One, the friends reached the terrible conclusion that “bad things only happen to bad people!” Then came our powerful text, chapter 14, verses 1-14, and now during the intermission between Round One and Two we catch a glimpse of “hope defined.”
In the previous chapter to our text, Job had said, “Though He slay me, I will HOPE in Him” (13:15). Such exemplary hope is now defined; Job portrays life as being brief and bothersome (14:1-6), yet “there is HOPE for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again” (verse 7). My wife and I visited giant redwood trees in California. From the toppled trees on the ground, we saw massive new trees growing. There’s HOPE!
Job then asked one of the greatest questions ever: verse 14, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” He answered partially: “If so, I would wait all the days of my struggle until my relief comes.” But God answered completely when Jesus arrived (on the earth) and died (on the cross) and lived again (after the grave).
So in Revelation 1:17-18, Jesus promised, “Fear not … I am the living One; I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Praise Jesus, who takes the fear out of LIFE, and DEATH, and LIFE-AFTER-DEATH! B&R — Dawson is pastor emeritus at First Baptist Church, Columbia, and also serves as transitional interim around the state.