I am following a new plan for my daily Bible reading in 2023. It’s a chronological reading of the entire Word of God in one year. Many books have been written to help readers to appreciate the importance of understanding the “big picture” of the Biblical narrative. I am hoping to get from this plan a clearer overview of the events, covenants, and personalities in the Old Testament, which span several millennia but do not always appear sequentially in the Bible. For example, I expect to get a better understanding of when and how the Old Testament kings and prophets interacted since these books are separated in the Bible. The sequence of events in the New Testament is much simpler to grasp as these occur mostly in the first century AD.
Although it is well known that Job was one of the earliest men to live, it still came as a surprise when the reading plan shifted as early as January 4th to the Book of Job. This followed the initial reading about creation, the fall of Adam, God’s judgement of mankind with a global flood in the days of Noah, and the corruption at the tower of Babel (Genesis 1-11). It is believed that Job lived to about 200 years, which fits him squarely into the early days of the patriarchs, probably in the generation before Abraham’s. Abraham lived to 175 years, “and he died at a ripe old age, having lived a long and satisfying life” (Genesis 25:8, NLT – New Living Translation). Terah, the father of Abraham, lived to 205 years (Genesis 11:32).
According to Job 42:16, Job lived a further 140 years after his severe trials and subsequent vindication by God. “Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life” (Job 42:17, NLT). The Books of Job and Psalms are classified as Hebrew poetry and are grouped together in the middle of the Bible, so it’s easy to forget that the events in Job occurred so early in the history of man.
The reading of the Book of Job has thrown some light on the overall state of theology in the world in those early ages. It is not a good report. Theology is the study of God and His relations with His creation, especially with man. The Reformation Study Bible refers to the theology of Job’s friends as “retribution theology”. It is based on the simple belief that good human behavior always gets rewarded and bad human behavior always gets punished. This is a type of karma that is taught in many of the world’s religions. There is no sense of the marvelous, mysterious providence of God in these religions.
Our eternal and good God always knows the end from the beginning. He is “The High and lofty One who lives in eternity” (Isaiah 57:15, NLT). Therefore, He is able to achieve a good end through what appears to us to be “bad” means. The Bible is filled with such examples of God’s awesome wisdom and providence which capture the imaginations of both Christian and secular readers. Ultimately, God must and will always get the glory in everything – even when the circumstances surrounding an event appear to be evil. Job’s friends had to learn this lesson through a rebuke from the LORD: “…for you have not spoken accurately about Me, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7, NLT). We need to be careful that our theology is accurate and that it is grounded in the Bible.
The consequences of an inaccurate theology can be serious. It can lead to the development of false churches and false gospels, as mentioned by Roark & Cline in their book, Biblical Theology. These authors proposed an important reason for having an accurate theology when interpreting the message of the Bible: “Biblical theology helps us read, understand, and teach the Bible the way Jesus said we should. Jesus Himself says in Luke 24 that He is Scripture’s interpretive key.” It is therefore instructive that the Lord Jesus had to correct His disciples’ misunderstanding of God and His ways when He healed a man who was born blind (John 9:6-7).
The disciples had evidently drawn their own conclusions about the likely cause of this man’s blindness: “Rabbi,” His disciples asked Him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2, NLT). Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ questions would have surprised them: “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins…This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:3, NLT).
The disciples of Jesus had clearly overlooked the sovereignty of God over all His creation. The healing of the blind man should have clearly demonstrated to all who witnessed the miracle that Jesus was indeed the Son of Man, as He claimed to be. The man who received his sight was certain of this and he believed (John 9:38). However, the Pharisees refused to believe so they remained in spiritual blindness. “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see” (John 9:41, NLT). The purpose of God in creating this man blind was to show His grace toward the man and also to confirm judgement upon the Pharisees (John 9:39).
When Moses was reluctant to stand before Pharaoh and proclaim God’s command to release the Israelites, his initial excuse was his inability to speak effectively (Exodus 4:10). “Then the LORD asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11, NLT). God was indicating that He was responsible for Moses’ speech impediment. God would get the glory in defeating the gods of Egypt despite the lack of eloquence from His servant Moses when he faced Pharaoh.
The prolific hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, is a more modern example of a blind person in whom God was pleased to show His power. Fanny became blind six weeks after birth but this did not cause her to be bitter. Instead, she produced some of the sweetest hymns of the modern Church including, To God be the glory and her personal favorite, Safe in the arms of Jesus. Fanny’s testimony is very informative: “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” Fanny was able to see the hand of God in her life and she glorified God in her writing of thousands of beautiful hymns.
A comparison of the state of theology in Job’s era with that of our time will show that not much has changed. Whereas Job’s friends subscribed to retribution theology, modern man follows a theology that does not recognize the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13) or the majestic holiness of God (Exodus 15:11). The pendulum may have swung to the other extreme but unbiblical theology is still rampant today, even in professing evangelical churches.
How is this possible in a time when we have a complete Bible that is so easily accesible? It seems that many Christians settle for second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They may be reading books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about how to keep the Sabbath, He rebuked them with, “Haven’t you read…?” (Matthew 12:3; 5, NLT). Again, when Jesus was confronted by the Sadducees about the resurrection from the dead, He rebuked them with, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures…” (Matthew 22:29, NLT).
Thank God that the Bible is sufficient and clear enough for us to know about God and to know God. All true believers have the Holy Spirit within us. He knows the thoughts of God and is able to reveal them to us (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). God has provided all that we need to understand His Word.