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How Can a Man Be Righteous Before God?

Job had made a powerful case, demonstrating that suffering comes upon all people regardless of the righteousness of their behavior. However, Bildad the Shuhite refused to acknowledge—at least directly—the strength of Job’s case. Instead, he turned his attention to the distance that lies between God and all men, emphasizing the exalted nature of God compared to the lowly situation of men. Giving a brief reply to his friend, likely because he had no answer to Job’s argument, he said, “Dominion and fear belong to Him; He makes peace in His high places. Is there any number to His armies? Upon whom does His light not rise? How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman? If even the moon does not shine, And the stars are not pure in His sight, How much less man, who is a maggot, And a son of man, who is a worm?” (Job 25:2-6). 

Bildad’s perspective focuses on the grandeur of God in all His power and ability. He has everything He needs at His beck and call. God deserves to be revered because He alone can determine what He will and will not accept. He alone has the power to determine the fortunes of armies and therefore nations because He rules over forces far more vast. His authority extends over all men no matter where they may live upon the earth. To Bildad, God is so far above mankind in His concerns that man’s situation means nothing to Him. Compared to the wonder of the moon and stars, he argues that man is a meaningless pest, a bug to be squashed. Bildad thus sees the sovereignty of God, but he fails to see His love, grace, and mercy. To Job’s friend, the great holiness of God makes righteousness an impossibility for man. To him purity in the sight of God is unattainable because man is not worthy of the attention of such a great God.

This unbalanced view of God’s holiness has been adopted by some, particularly those who view God as somehow different in the Old Testament than in the New. Indeed, the doctrine of total heriditary depravity has much in common with Job’s friends, but not much in common with Job. Job’s trials in his innocence caused him to abandon such a materialistic view of fellowship with God and reach out to Him in need. He knew he had not sinned, yet he suffered. Had God abandoned him? Did God not care? This he could not accept from everything else he understood. And rightly so. However, the questions posed by Bildad in the midst of his speech deserve an answer. “How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?” As Job suspected, because God is indeed interested in man, He cares more than they ever would have imagined possible. We can become righteous and pure through God’s love which He bestowed upon the world in the form of His Son who is righteous and pure (Rom. 5:8; 1 Jn. 2:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). God is indeed sovereign. He is powerful and mighty. But He is also love (1 Jn. 4:8). He made us, and He also loves us—all of us—far more than we deserve.

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