February 19, 2019
The scriptures explain that God’s people should, under no circumstances, “judge one another.” Unfortunately, this is a heavily confused subject, in and out of the church. The English translation of the Bible makes this concept difficult to understand at times. The original Greek language of the New Testament uses three different words that are all translated into the English word “judge.” This means that, while the original language meant three different things using three different words, the English translation makes it seem as if God is against all forms of judgment. Jesus instructed His disciples to “judge with righteous judgment.” Since we do not have our own righteousness, the context shows that Jesus was simply giving the command to discern, not to “judge” in the manner that He will according to His righteousness. Jesus alone is Judge of the living and the dead because He alone is wise. He alone is able to know what is truly right and wrong, having clear and perfect understanding of the intents of the human soul. This is what makes Jesus’ righteousness unique. He is able to uniquely do right because He uniquely has all of the information to know what “right” really is!
We on the other hand are severely crippled in this regard. As people, we often don’t know our own motives, let alone the motives of others. We don’t know all of the purposes of the Father. We don’t have insight into the spiritual plane of reality to know what’s going on there. We don’t understand who people really are and can’t see others as God sees. Therefore, how could we render a verdict concerning the character of another person? How could we come to conclusions about why certain things are happening to people? How can we know what God will ultimately do with any person at a given time? Do we really know whether God will send a person to heaven or hell if we don’t know what their heart is really like? If we often question our own faith, how can we be so certain about the faith of others? This is why we should not look at others and assume we know what God is doing in the lives of others. This is why we should not look at others to make accusations about them as if we can see and know as God does. The Bible shows that when people do these things, they set themselves up for failure, making themselves out to be the fool.
The testimony of Job shows how people of God can often become chief offenders of hypocrisy and judging. It is often the things we know about God that lead our corrupted souls to think that we share the wisdom and authority of God to make declarations and take charge of people. The Bible commands the people of God to serve the needs of others, not seek to lord over them as if we are better or know better. The Bible says that we are to esteem others as better than ourselves, not ourselves better than others and superior authority figures. In Job 8:8-22 the Bible shows that Job’s friend Bildad had a hard time understanding this truth. When he spoke to Job, he confessed that his knowledge and wisdom was limited. Bildad confessed that his understanding was limited because he had not been on this earth for long. This goes to show that our wisdom is limited by the time we spend on this earth, and since our time is short, it speaks to how little we really know. Bildad was humble to make this remark, but his confidence to speak down to Job came from another place.
Though Bildad admitted that his understanding of the details of Job’s situation was like “a man born yesterday,” he figured that Job’s circumstances could be explained based on a close examination of history. Bildad didn’t understand what was happening in the moment, but figured he could make sense of the present by examining the things of the past. So, instead of having Job listen to his own words, Bildad urged Job to take a diligent account of the past to see that their accusations of Job’s hypocrisy was for a just cause. In other words, looking at God’s past dealings with hypocrites looked a lot like what was happening to Job. Therefore, Job must have been a hypocrite. Bildad showed that he had a good understanding of God’s past work with hypocrites, so his explanation continued on as an accusation against Job, who was in fact innocent of hypocrisy.
Bildad compared the hypocrites of times past to three different examples. Bildad compared hypocrites to papyrus reeds, spider webs, and large green trees. Bildad explained how a papyrus reed grows in the muck and mire of the delta banks. It grows out of mud and doesn’t take deep root because of the marsh that surrounds it. Those plants don’t last long and are easy to pluck up. Bildad explained that papyrus doesn’t have to be cut down like grass because grass takes deep root. Instead, the papyrus simply withers away while it is green. It doesn’t need to be cut off with forceful judgment, but will die of itself while it looks to be prospering because its foundation is brittle and shallow. Bildad said that hypocrites are just like this. They are shallow in their pursuits and don’t often take deep root in anything. They seldom need to be cut down with forceful judgment because they wither within themselves, having no true substance in their lives. A hypocrite might look good outwardly, but has no spiritual root or substance, and so the normal elements of the world cause them to weaken and shake and die even while it appears that things are good. Bildad’s general assessment of hypocrites is correct in this regard, but these circumstances didn’t match Job’s circumstances, regardless of how things looked to Bildad.
Next, Bildad compared hypocrites to spider webs. Spider webs are spun from the butt end of the spider. They are the dwelling place for the spider, and the spider alone. They are the dwelling place of the spider, and the trap for others. The kind of web that Bildad referred to is a sort of cobweb, so it is not a web that is left standing effectively for long times. A cobweb is a nuisance and is easily swept away when the house is cleaned. In this way, the web is brittle, serving purpose for a short period, but is easily taken away when its futile nature is discovered by the homeowner. The hypocrite is like this sort of spider web too. The Bible is true to describe hypocrites as self-serving individuals. The Bible indeed describes hypocrites as those who look out for self, laying traps for others so as to gain their personal affections. However, this manner of living also has no substance. Those who live for “self” will swiftly be swept away by the Lord when it is time for His judgment. When the Lord decides it is time to “clean house,” those cobwebs that dirty the house and have no purpose will be easily removed and thrown in the trash. This is certainly true of what the Bible teaches about hypocrisy, so Bildad’s general assessment of hypocrites is true. Still, this was not true of Job and his specific circumstances.
Lastly, Bildad compared a hypocrite to a large green tree. This person is not like the papyrus reed. In fact, they would swear that their foundation is strong and their substance in life is worthy of praise because of the appearance of fruit. Bildad said that this sort of hypocrite appears to be a flourishing tree, with branches spreading out across the whole garden. The trees roots are wrapped deep in the ground and around the rocks, so its life within itself seems strong and self-sufficient. This sort of hypocrisy mirrors the sort of hypocrisy of Nebuchadnezzar, who had dreams of himself being a huge, fruit-bearing, life-giving, tree. However, the end of this tree is more violent and forceful. Though the tree doesn’t wither from within, it is cut down in its time so that the ground in which it was planted doesn’t even remember the tree was there. This speaks to the manner in which the Lord will bring down the hypocrites who are proud in their self-righteousness. Like Nebuchadnezzar was swiftly chopped down from his place of boasting, and made a lunatic for some time, the Lord will do this with all hypocrites. This is a truth proclaimed throughout all of scripture. Those who trust in self and point to the things they think are the effect of their own efforts, will stand in harsh judgment against God and will be cut down. Yet again, this was not true of Job.
At the end of Bildad’s explanations, he sought to encourage Job with hope. His remarks about God’s judgment of hypocrites was true in history, was true at their time, and continues to be true today, but was not true of Job. Job was not a hypocrite. Job’s suffering was not because of self-righteousness. Either way, Bildad reminded Job that the Lord will not cast away those who are blameless. Instead, God will uphold His people that are faithful servants, shut the mouths of mockers, and fill the hearts of His true people with joy and restoration. If Job were truly blameless and repentant before God, Bildad reminded Job that he would not be destroyed like the hypocrites. On the other hand, Bildad reminded Job that if he is a hypocrite, and is unwilling to confess his issues, God will indeed make a swift end to him as He has in times past. These things are generally true about God’s manner of judgment, however Bildad was not qualified to determine Job to be one or the other. It is true that God upholds the blameless, but who are we to determine who is blameless to know who God will uphold? It is true that God will make a quick end to hypocrites, but who are we to determine who are the hypocrites to know why certain people are suffering certain ways? Just because we know general principles about God doesn’t mean we have all of the facts that God has. Therefore, we would be wise to keep from making assessments, declarations, and determinations about people and their character lest we become the person we are criticizing.