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Lesson 7: Retributive Punishment *

Introduction: I love logic! So, does Bildad, one of Job's friends. Bildad knows his theology, he knows his logic, and he deduces that Job's children deserved to die. You could call that real "Retributive Punishment." Sometimes logic lets us down. Sometimes our view of how God operates is mistaken, and thus our logical deductions are also wrong. Let's dig into our study of the Bible and find out about love, logic and retributive punishment!

  1. Blustering Wind

    1. Read Job 8:1-3. Bildad, one of Job's friends, enters the picture. What is Bildad's goal? (It is not to comfort Job. Rather, he wants to vindicate God.)

      1. Let's back up and see what Bildad thinks is "blustering wind." Read Job 7:19-20. What is Job saying? (That he does not deserve to be a "target" of God's punishment. If he has sinned, it has not harmed God.)

      2. Why is Bildad so upset about that? (It makes God appear to be unjust. Bildad thinks that Job knows what he has done, he just refuses to admit it.)

      3. Why is Bildad so certain that Job has sinned? (Because he shares the Deuteronomy 28 view we discussed in earlier lessons - if you obey you prosper, if you disobey you are harmed.)

    2. Read Job 8:4. How harsh a blow is this to Job? (Read Job 1:4-5 and Job 1:18-19. This is the worst thing Bildad could say because it reflects Job's private thinking. Job may have known about himself and sin, but he did not know for sure about his children - especially after a party.)

      1. What is wrong with Bildad's statement about Job's children? (Bildad is making a deduction based on his understanding of theology. He is not making a statement based on his actual knowledge of sin. If Bildad's theology is wrong (in general it is not), or it does not apply in all circumstances (which is the case here), then Bildad has added to Job's suffering.)

    3. Read Job 8:5-7. Do you think Bildad believes these are words of encouragement?

      1. How would you react if you were Job?

    4. Read Job 8:8-10. How does Bildad believe we should understand God's actions today? (By looking at history.)

      1. Do you agree? (I do.)

      2. Is this why God included the book of Job in the Bible? (Yes!)

    5. Read Job 8:20-22. Is God as simple and predictable as Bildad claims?

    6. Read Job 9:1-4. How does Job respond to Bildad's view of God in history? (He admits the general rule is that good people prosper and bad people suffer, but Job sees God as being complex. "His wisdom is profound, and His power vast." By predicting what God will do in all situations, Bildad made God just like him. What a mistake.)

  2. Zophar's Answers

    1. Now we hear from Zophar, another "friend." Read Job 11:4-6. Is Zophar right that there are always two sides to a story?

      1. What "side" does Zophar think needs to be explained? (Job's lies about being "pure" need to be exposed. Job is so sinful that "God has even forgotten some of [his] sin.")

    2. Let's go back and find out why Zophar feels this way. Read Job 11:1-3. What is Zophar's goal? (He believes he should rebuke Job.)

      1. Why? (Both Bildad and Zophar feel an obligation to vindicate God's character. They think that Job is falsely accusing God of violating God's rules.)

      2. Are there really "two sides" to this story? (Zophar says there are two sides, but he does not really believe Job's side is valid.)

    3. Read Job 11:7-9. What is Zophar's view of God's intelligence and knowledge? (Limitless.)

    4. Read Job 11:11-12. What is Zophar's view of Job? (He suggests that he is "witless." Clearly, we do not have "two sides" in Zophar's mind.)

      1. What does Zophar teach us is the wrong way to approach these kinds of disputes over God's will? (To think that the other side is stupid, and to say just that.)

  3. Job's Response

    1. Read Job 12:1-3. How does Job respond to the charge that he is a witless? (Job says that he is as smart as Zophar. In addition, he also knows about the rules of the universe that Zophar and Bildad have been stating.)

    2. Read Job 12:4-5. Job maintains that he is "righteous and blameless." Why does he say that Zophar and Bildad cannot see this? ("Men at ease have contempt for misfortune.")

      1. Let's consider whether what Job says is true. Do people who do not share your problems think your problems are your fault?

        1. Is it generally true that our problems are our own fault?

    3. Read Job 12:6. Are "marauders" bad people? (Of course.)

      1. What is Job saying? The rules do not always apply equally?

        1. If Job is really saying that, he is denying justice. Justice is even-handed. Do you have a different explanation for the marauders' secure life?

  4. Punishment

    1. Read Numbers 16:1-3. Do you agree that some leaders set themselves above the rest of the religious community?

    2. Read Numbers 16:4-7. Moses is the leader who Korah and the Levites were challenging. What is Moses' reaction to this rebellion? (He humbly turns to God. He says "let God choose.")

    3. Read Numbers 16:28-33. Could Zophar and Bildad have predicted this?

      1. Could you have predicted this outcome for Korah and his allies?

      2. We have previously discussed God's "automatic" rules of the universe, but here we see God's active intervention to punish rebellion. How much of that do you think goes on now?

  5. What Should We Conclude?

    1. Let's see how all of what we have studied applies to us. Clearly, we will have disputes over what we think is God's will. I can think of a big dispute in my own church right now. Korah thought Moses was wrong. Bildad and Zophar thought Job was wrong. What is the first question we should ask in situations like this? (Do we really think we have a better grasp of God's rules and God's will? Do we really think we are smarter or more faithful than those with whom we disagree?)

      1. What do we learn from Moses' approach? (Moses did not say, "I'm smarter or I'm the leader." Instead, he humbly turned to God and said, "Let God decide.")

        1. Will that still work today?

      2. What other questions are appropriate for us to ask when we have a dispute? (Are we really sure that this is God's will in this particular instance? We might know God's general rules, but is it possible they do not apply here?)

        1. How will we know when the "marauder exception" ( Job 12:6) applies? (I don't think the marauders were an exception to God's rules, I think they show us that God acts in His own time.)

    2. Look again at Job 8:4. What rule do you think should have been applied here? (Read 1 Corinthians 16:14. Bildad is not showing love to Job because there is nothing Job could do to change the death of his children.)

    3. Friend, when you get into a dispute over God's plans or His actions in the universe, will you first turn to God in prayer? Will you ask yourself if you are smarter, if you are sure about the rules in this instance, and if you are showing love? Why not, like Moses, let God vindicate Himself?

  6. Next week: Innocent Blood.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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