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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Revelation Trumps Experience

The book of Job opens with heaven’s view of Job’s suffering. Few stories have that advantage. Job grasps by faith what God reveals in eternity. God describes Job as a "blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (1:8; 2:3). Though Job is unaware of this heavenly assessment, he lives, by faith, in light of this assessment. 

Job understands that man's relationship with God is not based upon personal merit but on an acceptable sacrifice. He responded to all of the revelation or light that he had about God. 
A man doesn’t know who his friends are until he suffers. Satan sometimes uses those who “mean well” to discourage faith in God. Job’s three friends each share an ideology that seeks to de-rail Job’s faith. 
Eliphaz assumes an experienced-based all-knowing position. Eliphaz sees life and evaluates suffering through an ideology that says, “Experience trumps faith.” Eliphaz elevates the powers of observation, feelings, and experience over revelation. "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it" (Job 4:7, emphasis added). "Consider now" begins Eliphaz as he filters Job's suffering through his "personal experience” filter and He concludes that innocent people don't suffer (partly because he saw himself as innocent before God and he certainly wasn’t suffering. He assumed, therefore, that Job must be guilty of some wrongdoing, "those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it".
Experience is earth-bound and is therefore limited. It only considers the here and now and therefore makes decisions based on limitations. Only God knows all things, therefore only His assessments are correct. 
Adam and Eve made an experience-based decision. Death was not a part of their experience and they made their decision accordingly.

Human experience is limited. Revelation from God discloses eternal reality and always requires a response of faith.  
Btw, many young adults walk away from church and the faith of their family because it “does nothing for them” and they didn’t see their family experience “the real deal”.  "There is a way which seems right to a man but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12;16:25).

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"Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it."

"Consider now" begins Eliphaz as he filters Job's experience through his "experience sieve." We all have filters through which we drain life's happenings in order to make sense of our world. The book of Job contains and illustrates all four sources of knowledge through which people filter and understand life.

The book of Job opens with the revelation filter. The reality of Job's situation is defined by what takes place in heaven and what God reveals about the situation. God describes Job as a "blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (1:8; 2:3).

Eliphaz filters/interprets Job's suffering through what he knows by observation and experience. Innocent people don't suffer. Therefore Job must be guilty of some wrongdoing: "those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it".

Bildad filters/interprets Job's suffering through what he knows by tradition or what has been passed down to him by those who've lived previously: "For inquire, please, of the former age, and consider the things discovered by their fathers for we were born yesterday, and know nothing" (8:8-9). Therefore, he challenges Job that "God does not pervert justice." 

Zophar filters/interprets Job's suffering through human reasoning: "If you devote your heart to him . . . then you will lift up your head without shame" (11:13-15).

Though thousands of years have passed since the suffering of Job man still filters suffering through the sieves of observation, tradition, human reasoning, and revelation.

The person who rejects the Scripture as ultimate authority does so by using one of the other three filters. They may depend upon their own personal experience; they may rely upon the traditions of men; or they may count upon the assured results of human reasoning. In the end, however, all these lines of authority fall short. "There is a way which seems right to a man but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12;16:25).

Job didn't know about God's conversation regarding his character until the end of the story but he did know about creation, the fall, sacrifice, and the flood. He understood that man's relationship with God is not based upon personal merit but on an acceptable sacrifice. He responded to all of the revelation or light that he had about God. By the end of the book his view of God had been enlarged. We all benefit from that enlargement.

It is what God says it is; therefore we must know what God says it is. We must believe His Word even when everything seems to contradict. That is faith. And, that is the only thing that pleases God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Job 4:1-7:21

  • How does Eliphaz view Job?
  • What does Eliphaz experience and how does he rely upon that experience to interpret Job's situation?
  • What is Eliphaz's view of God?
  • What does Eliphaz understand about calamities and those who suffer with them?
  • Should Job apply Eliphaz's reasoning, what would he conclude about his situation and his relationship with God?
  • How does Job respond to Eliphaz and his reasoning?
  • What name does Job ascribe to God that reveals his frustration with his situation?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you more aware of your "life" filters. Ask Him to help you develop and use a Biblical filter.