“I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 8).
Bildad does not understand faith-based righteousness due to substitutionary atonement; therefore, he entertains a warped view of God and interprets Job and his suffering without compassion, “If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgressions” (Job 8:4). Bildad’s is a works-based righteousness, “Behold, God will not cast away the blameless, nor will He uphold the evildoers” (8:20). People who entertain a low view of God interact with others without compassion.
Zophar doesn’t understand faith-based righteousness due to substitutionary atonement either; he exhorts Job to inspect himself until he discovers the sin that cause his suffering, “If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then…you would forget your misery” (11:13-14, 16a). Zophar sees God as hard and unrelenting, “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves” (11:6b); therefore, he urges Job to look within himself instead of look up to God. People with a low view of God are introspective; they make poor counselors as they encourage others to look within themselves.
Job entertains an under-developed view of God. Suffering forces him to evaluate his theology of God, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity, yet You would destroy me” (10:8); “If I am wicked, woe to me; even if I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head” (10:15); “You hunt me like a fierce lion, and again You show Yourself awesome against me” (10:16).
As I read Job’s response to his suffering I am reminded of Naomi’s response to her loss of husband and sons, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21). Naomi’s assessment of God and her situation was pre-mature. Little did she know that she would become the great-grandmother of the king whose heart pursued the heart of God!
Suffering reveals theology, both good and bad! Bildad, Zophar, and even Job entertain thoughts unworthy of God. A person’s view of God dictates their response to suffering.