Bildad here makes a very short reply to Job's last discourse, as one that began to be tired of the cause. He drops the main question concerning the prosperity of wicked men, as being unable to answer the proofs Job had produced in the foregoing chapter: but, because he thought Job had made too bold with the divine majesty in his appeals to the divine tribunal (ch. 23.), he in a few words shows the infinite distance there is between God and man, teaching us, I. To think highly and honourably of God, ver 2, 3, 5. II. To think meanly of ourselves, ver 4, 6. These, however misapplied to Job, are two good lessons for us all to learn.
God Exalted and Man Abased (1520 B.C.)
1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, 2 Dominion and fear are with him, he maketh peace in his high places. 3 Is there any number of his armies? and upon whom doth not his light arise? 4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? 5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. 6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?
Bildad is to be commended here for two things:—1. For speaking no more on the subject about which Job and he differed. Perhaps he began to think Job was in the right, and then it was justice to say no more concerning it, as one that contended for truth, not for victory, and therefore, for the finding of truth, would be content to lose the victory; or, if he still thought himself in the right, yet he knew when he had said enough, and would not wrangle endlessly for the last word. Perhaps indeed one reason why he and the rest of them let fall this debate was because they perceived that Job and they did not differ so much in opinion as they thought: they owned that wicked people might prosper a while, and Job owned they would be destroyed at last; how little then was the difference! If disputants would understand one another better, perhaps they would find themselves nearer one another than they imagined. 2. For speaking so well on the matter about which Job and he were agreed. If we would all get our hearts filled with awful thoughts of God and humble thoughts of ourselves, we should not be so apt as we are to fall out about matters of doubtful disputation, which are trifling or intricate.
Two ways Bildad takes here to exalt God and abase man:—
I. He shows how glorious God is, and thence infers how guilty and impure man is before him, v. 2-4. Let us see then,
1. What great things are here said of God, designed to possess Job with a reverence of him, and to check his reflections upon him and upon his dealings with him: (1.) God is the sovereign Lord of all, and with him is terrible majesty. Dominion and fear are with him, v. 2. He that gave being has an incontestable authority to give laws, and can enforce the laws he gives. He that made all has a right to dispose of all according to his own will, with an absolute sovereignty. Whatever he will do he does, and may do; and none can say unto him, What doest thou? or Why doest thou so? Dan 4 35. His having dominion (or being Dominus—Lord) bespeaks him both owner and ruler of all the creatures. They are all his, and they are all under his direction and at his disposal. Hence it follows that he is to be feared (that is, reverenced and obeyed), that he is feared by all that know him (the seraphim cover their faces before him), and that, first or last, all will be made to fear him. Men's dominion is often despicable, often despised, but God is always terrible. (2.) The glorious inhabitants of the upper world are all perfectly observant of him and entirely acquiesce in his will: He maketh peace in his high places. He enjoys himself in a perfect tranquillity. The holy angels never quarrel with him, nor with one another, but entirely acquiesce in his will, and unanimously execute it without murmuring or disputing. Thus the will of God is done in heaven; and thus we pray that it may be done by us and others on earth. The sun, moon, and stars, keep their courses, and never clash with one another: nay, even in this lower region, which is often disturbed with storms and tempests, yet when God pleases he commands peace, by making the storm a calm, Ps 107 29; 65 7. Observe, The high places are his high places; for the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's (Ps 115 16) in a peculiar manner. Peace is God's work; where it is made it is he that makes it, Isa 57 19. In heaven there is perfect peace; for there is perfect holiness, and there is God, who is love. (3.) He is a God of irresistible power: Is there any number of his armies? v. 3. The greatness and power of princes are judged of by their armies. God is not only himself almighty, but he has numberless numbers of armies at his beck and disposal,—standing armies that are never disbanded,—regular troops, and well disciplined, that are never to seek, never at a loss, that never mutiny,—veteran troops, that have been long in his service,—victorious troops, that never failed of success nor were ever foiled. All the creatures are his hosts, angels especially. He is Lord of all, Lord of hosts. He has numberless armies, and yet makes peace. He could make war upon us, but is willing to be at peace with us; and even the heavenly hosts were sent to proclaim peace on earth and good will towards men, Luke 2 14. (4.) His providence extends itself to all: Upon whom does not his light arise? The light of the sun is communicated to all parts of the world, and, take the year round, to all equally. See Ps 19 6. That is a faint resemblance of the universal cognizance and care God takes of the whole creation, Matt 5 45. All are under the light of his knowledge and are naked and open before him. All partake of the light of his goodness: it seems especially to be meant of that. He is good to all; the earth is full of his goodness. He is Deus optimus—God, the best of beings, as well as maximus—the greatest: he has power to destroy; but his pleasure is to show mercy. All the creatures live upon his bounty.
2. What low things are here said of man, and very truly and justly (v. 4): How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean? Man is not only mean, but vile, not only earthly, but filthy; he cannot be justified, he cannot be clean, (1.) In comparison with God. Man's righteousness and holiness, at the best, are nothing to God's, Ps 89 6. (2.) In debate with God. He that will quarrel with the word and providence of God must unavoidably go by the worst. God will be justified, and then man will be condemned, Ps 51 4; Rom 3 4. There is no error in God's judgment, and therefore there lies no exception against it, nor appeal from it. (3.) In the sight of God. If God is so great and glorious, how can man, who is guilty and impure, appear before him? Note, [1.] Man, by reason of his actual transgressions, is obnoxious to God's justice and cannot in himself be justified before him: he can neither plead Not guilty, nor plead any merit of his own to balance or extenuate his guilt. The scripture has concluded all under sin. [2.] Man, by reason of his original corruption, as he is born of a woman, is odious to God's holiness, and cannot be clean in his sight. God sees his impurity, and it is certain that by it he is rendered utterly unfit for communion and fellowship with God in grace here and for the vision and fruition of him in glory hereafter. We have need therefore to be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, and to be bathed again and again in the blood of Christ, that fountain opened.
II. He shows how dark and defective even the heavenly bodies are in the sight of God, and in comparison with him, and thence infers how little, and mean, and worthless, man is. 1. The lights of heaven, though beauteous creatures, are before God as clods of earth (v. 5): Behold even to the moon, walking in brightness, and the stars, those glorious lamps of heaven, which the heathen were so charmed with the lustre of that they worshipped them—yet, in God's sight, in comparison with him, they shine not, they are not pure; they have no glory, by reason of the glory which excelleth, as a candle, though it burn, yet does not shine when it is set in the clear light of the sun. The glory of God, shining in his providences, eclipses the glory of the brightest creatures, Isa 24 23. The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Sion. The heavenly bodies are often clouded; we plainly see spots in the moon, and, with the help of glasses, may sometimes discern spots upon the sun too: but God sees spots in them that we do not see. How durst Job then so confidently appeal to God, who would discover that amiss in him which he was not aware of in himself? 2. The children of men, though noble creatures, are before God but as worms of the earth (v. 6): How much less does man shine in honour, how much less is he pure in righteousness that is a worm, and the son of man, whoever he be, that is a worm!—a vermin (so some), not only mean and despicable, but noxious and detestable; a mite (so others), the smallest animal, which cannot be discerned with the naked eye, but through a magnifying glass. Such a thing is man. (1.) So mean, and little, and inconsiderable, in comparison with God and with the holy angels: so worthless and despicable, having his original in corruption, and hastening to corruption. What little reason has man to be proud, and what great reason to be humble! (2.) So weak and impotent, and so easily crushed, and therefore a very unequal match for Almighty God. Shall man be such a fool as to contend with his Maker, who can tread him to pieces more easily than we can a worm? (3.) So sordid and filthy. Man is not pure for he is a worm, hatched in putrefaction, and therefore odious to God. Let us therefore wonder at God's condescension in taking such worms as we are into covenant and communion with himself, especially at the condescension of the Son of God, in emptying himself so far as to say, I am a worm, and no man, Ps 22 6.