Job 4:7-11(2)

Sermon preached on December 6, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In 1998 I bought a Toyota Camry. One of the reasons I bought it was because Bill and Sharon G. raved about how reliable their Toyotas were. The story of their experience with Toyota is actually pretty funny. In the early part of their marriage they always bought cars from American manufacturers. But they didn't find them reliable. They always needed repair. Sharon got fed up and, hearing about the reliability of Toyotas, bought a brand new Toyota. Bill was a little miffed at her and sometimes would call her Tokyo Rose—like she was a traitor. But what happened was that Bill's truck kept breaking down, while Sharon's Toyota kept going and going. So when it came time for Bill to get a new truck, he finally saw the light and bought a Toyota. After that there was no turning back because their Toyotas just kept running, trouble free.

But the Toyota I bought was nothing like that. Of all the new cars that I've bought it's the only one that I had trouble with and that trouble was continuous. Shortly after I bought it one of the warning lights came on that there was something wrong with the airbags. I brought it to the dealer. They said it was a faulty sensor and fixed it for free, because it was under warrantly. But that kept happening and for the five years or so that it was under warrantly, I had to get the sensors replaced 5 or 6 times. After the warrently expired, the sensors continued to fail, but I stopped getting them fixed.

The other thing that it did shortly after we bought it was that the steering wheel would lock after you parked it. You've probably all experienced that a little bit. Sometimes you get in the car, try to start it but the key won't turn because the steering wheel is locked and won't turn. But if you wiggle the steering wheel a little a bit, it will become unlocked and you can go on your way. But sometimes ours would not unlock right away. It would be locked tight. Sometimes we'd spend 5 or 10 or 15 minutes trying to get it unlocked. When we complained to Toyota the dealer said they never heard such a thing and said their was nothing wrong with the car and because it only happened occasionally, they never did see the problem when I brought it to them. They even implied that there was something wrong with Marg and me, the way we parked the car. At that point, between us Marg and I had been driving for about 60 years and we never had a problem like that with another car. We both knew that there was something wrong was the car. It was only after much complaining that the higher ups at Toyota, with great reluctance, agreed to change the key lock on the steering wheel. Once they did we never had the problem again.

So my experience with Toyota was not good. It was the worst experience I ever had with a new car and a dealership. Before or since I've had nothing but good experiences. So when it came time for me to buy another new car—one thing that I was absolutely sure of was that it was not going to be from Toyota.

But most people have had great experiences with Toyota. Heather has being driving Toyotas for over 10 years and her experience has been just like Bill and Shaon's. I just happened to get a lemon. So even though I would not recommend that anyone buy a Toyota, I recognize that my experience with them was unusual. It was atypical.

But in a situation like that, a problem comes in when you don't realize that your experience is not the norm. For example, when I was in Lisbon I used to spend quite a bit of time visiting elderly people. One of the things I quickly learned from some of them was that they were afraid of going to the hospital. They were afraid of doctors and hospitals. If they got sick they didn't want to go to the hospital. They had seen some of their elderly friends get sick, go to the hospital and die. And then they began to associate going to the hospital with dying, as if it caused people to die. But going to the hospital doesn't cause you to die, except in very rare cases. If you're sick going to the hospital is a very good thing to do. It could well save your life. The vast majority of people who die in the hospital die because they were very, very sick and even the best medical treatment could not save them. But the elderly people I visited didn't see it that way. Their limited experience was giving them a distorted view of things.

It was the same way with Eliphaz.

Eliphaz was judging things by his own experience and he didn't leave room for other possibilities.

One of the key phrases here is found at the beginning of verse 8. Eliphaz said,

"As I have observed,
those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it."

Eliphaz was going by his own experience and to him, that was decisive. He didn't leave room for other possibilities. He had no idea that God worked differently. He couldn't even conceive what happened to Asaph. In Psalm 73 Asaph wrote, (verses 2-9)

"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from
the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance
they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth."

Asaph saw the wicked prospering and doing that for a long time. Eliphaz seemed to have no conception that the righteous could suffer. Yet Hebrews 11:35–38 describes some of the best Old Testament saints this way,

"Others were tortured and refused to be released,
so that they might gain a better resurrection.
Some faced jeers and flogging,
while still others were chained and put in prison.
They were stoned; they were sawed in two;
they were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute,
persecuted and mistreated—
the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains,
and in caves and holes in the ground."

But Eliphaz was rejecting everything that he had not seen. Eliphaz was going by his own experience—or at least he thought so. But he was even wrong in that. He thought that he saw the righteous prospering. He thought that he only saw the wicked suffering. But he wasn't even interpreting his own experiences correctly. Job was in front of him. Job was the most righteous man on the face of the earth and he was suffering. Eliphaz thought he was going by his own experience, but he didn't even read his own experience correctly. He got it all wrong.

We need to be careful so that we don't draw false conclusions from our experiences.

But we need to be careful that some of our experences don't lead us into error. That's what happened to Eliphaz. Eliphaz obviously tried to be righteous. Things were going well for him. If it was that way for him, if God was blessing his righteousness, he concluded that it must be that way for everyone who is righteous.

So often we Christians are like him. We judge things by our experience. For example, I've seen Christians who use their experience as an excuse not to be kind to the poor. They have a self-righteous and very independent attitude. They think,

"I worked hard and I was successful. If those that are poor did what I did, worked hard and didn't waste money— they wouldn't be poor. So I'm under no obligation to help them."

No. No. No. Nabal judged David like that. Remember what he said about David,(1 Samuel 25:10–11)

"Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse?
Many servants are breaking away
from their masters these days.
Why should I take my bread and water,
and the meat I have slaughtered
for my shearers, and give it to men
coming from who knows where?"

It seems he did know of servants who ran away from their masters. But David was not like them. He was the Lord's anointed. Nabal made a great mistake.

Eliphaz gave his experience too much weight. He reminds me of Nathanael in the New Testament. You'll remember when his friend Philip was called by Jesus, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, (John 1:45–46)

"We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law,
and about whom the prophets also wrote—
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

Nathanael replied,

"Nazareth! Can anything good
come from there?"

Nathanael obviously knew some people from Nazareth. He must have had some bad experiences with them. Perhaps they had cheated him, lied to him. Or maybe it was that everyone he knew from there was of bad character.

When I was growing up there was an area just outside our town that had a really bad reputation. It was the G. Road. It seems that 90% percent of the names in the newspaper police blotter had to do with people from the G. Road. It was a really rough crowd. There were reports of fights, domestic abuse, and people being arrested for stealing and bulgary. The impression that I got was that everyone who lived there was either a thief, a drunkard or some other sort of criminal. It was a place I wouldn't go near. I certainly wouldn't date a girl from there. The people from there had a very bad reputation.

Nathanael had a similar impression of the people from Nazareth. Whatever the reason, Nathanael's experience taught him that no one good could come from there. He's basically saying to Philip,

"Nazareth? Have you lost your mind? What's wrong with you in thinking the Messiah could come from there? No good person could ever come from there!"

But what did Scripture say? Matthew 2:22-23 tells us that when Joseph took Mary and Jesus back to Israel, he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea, in place of Herod his father—so Joseph was afraid to go there. So they went,

"and lived in a town called Nazareth.
So was fulfilled what was said
through the prophets:
'He will be called a Nazarene.'"

If Nathanael had gone by his previous experiences, he would have missed Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Our experiences are important—but unless we look to the Word of God and interpret our experierences in light of it, our experiences can lead us astray.

For example, our experience tells us that after someone has abused us a few times, we should stop forgiving them because our experience has taught us that they will continue to abuse us. Remember Peter's question to Jesus, (Matthew 18:21–22)

"Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother
when he sins against me?
Up to seven times?"

Peter's experience told him there should be a limit to our forgiveness. But Jesus said no. He answered,

"I tell you, not seven times,
but seventy-seven times."

We are to forgive and forgive and forgive. There is to be no end to our forgiveness.

Some Christians don't check their experience with the Scriptures and that leads them into error. For example, some Christians who have had a dramatic conversion experience. They weren't raised in a Christian home and really didn't live that well. Then there was one day, one hour, one minute, when they heard and understood the gospel and accepted Jesus. At that moment they became new creatures—their lives were dramatically and permanently changed. When these Christians hear that some other professing Christians haven't had a 'dramatic' moment, that they were raised in a Christian home and gradually came to Christ, and can't point to a day or hour when they became Christians—they doubt whether they're really Christians. That's totally wrong.

I had an interesting experience when I attended the Free Chruch College in Edinburgh. One day I arrived and a couple of students were waiting for me. One of them had gotten a catalog from Westminster Seminary, which I had attended. What really bother them was a picture of some Westminster students sitting in class wearing short pants. One of my fellow students asked me,

"How can they be Christians?"

He thought that their dress reflected bad character. His culture was different, much more restrained in fashion. But cultures, experiences are different. We dare not call into question the Christianity of others based on a different conversion experience, or a different cultural background.

The book of Acts teaches us not to do that. In Acts 11 we see that when Peter went up to Jerusalem after Peter went to meet with Cornelius and other Gentiles, (Acts 11:2–3)

"the circumcised believers criticized him
and said, 'You went into the house of
uncircumcised men and ate with them."

It was their experience that God worked through the Jews, that salvation was for them and that they, as Jewish Christians, should stay away from the Gentiles. Peter had to explain to them about Cornelius calling for him and how the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as he was speaking to them.

Christian living can sometimes be very complicated. It's easy to go astray, to get it wrong. What does our experience with hanging out with a bad crowd teach us? It teaches us that they will want to lead us astray. We see an example of this in Proverbs 1:10–14

"My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them.
If they say, 'Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those
who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse…'"

In 1 Corinthians 15:33 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do not be misled:
'Bad company corrupts good character.'"

But that does not mean that we should be like the Pharisees. They avoided contact with sinners. They looked down on sinners. When they saw Jesus eating and drinking with sinners, they were aghast. They said that He was, (Matthew 11:19)

a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and 'sinners'."

But it's obvious that if we're going to evangelize, if we're going to tell people about Jesus, if we're going to show them His love—we need to be with them.

Now all this shows us how much we need to be in the Word of God, how much we should be praying that God would show us the right path. You see, not only are our we depraved, our minds, our wills, our emotions have all been affected by the fall into sin—but some of our experiences have the tendency to lead us astray.

In a way we're like NFL football players. Do you watch football? I didn't really watch football until I moved to the states. I've found that there's something unique about football that they don't have in other sports. It's that when a team is playing defence, all the players, even the ones on the sideline, try to help the referees by making the call before the referees do. For example, if there's a play and it's close, like whether a player actually caught the ball or if he was out of bounds when he caught it—all the players on the defence will signal that it wasn't a catch or that it was out of bounds.

But do you know what? They're wrong most of the time. I don't think they're lying but they're so biased that they think it's not a catch when it is a catch. Or they think that the receiver was out of bounds when he caught the ball but he really was in bounds. They biased and they often don't see things correctly.

That's the way it is with us and our experiences. We draw the wrong conclusions. We're like Eliphaz here.

Christian, look at yourself. Are you putting your experience above God's Word? Do you have attitudes and practices that have been derived solely from your experience and not from God's Word? Are you unloving because people have abused your love? Your personal experience can lead you astray. It is not to be trusted on its own. It must be held up to the scrutiny of God's Word.

Christians, are you closing your eyes to parts of God's Word that don't fit in with your own personal theory? Do you close your eyes to clear things that are happening around you because they don't fit in with your beliefs? There are so many people around you that are hurting. There are so many people around you who need to see what the love of Christ is like. Are you closing your eyes to them? Are you closing your eyes to God's calling for you?

Consider your experience with Jesus. He called you when you were dead in your trespasses and sins. He has treated you far better than you deserve. He forgives you daily. He pours out kindness and compassion on you. Why? It's not so that you'll be like Eliphaz, being self-righteous, unkind and unhelpful. No. He wants you to be a blessing to others—to love others as Jesus has loved you. He wants you to be helpful to others—showing them that God's love transcends our little experiences and is so great that it is to be shown to the most unworthy.

For those of you who are not Christians.

Know that you're misreading your experience.

So far your life has been good without Jesus. You're assuming that it will continue that way. Are you closing your eyes to some realities that you just don't want to believe? When you hear warnings to repent, to escape the judgment to come, to give your life to Jesus, when you hear about the glory of Jesus, His love for sinners, do you close your eyes and deny that you need Him? Closing your eyes to these truths is the most illogical thing you could ever do. Open your eyes. See reality. See the judgment that is going to come upon the world. See Jesus and His glory—and go to Him.