The Life of Job: A Lesson on the Absolute Sovereignty of God in Every Persons Life
Some find the idea of God’s sovereignty repugnant. They reason that if God has the ability and power to keep terrible things from happening, why doesn’t He? Since God doesn’t prevent terrible things from happening He must not be sovereign because any loving Father would surely intervene.
This isn’t a new way of questioning God’s sovereignty. This has been the predominant opposition to the idea of sovereignty on the part of skeptics, doubters, and Christians alike.
While God’s sovereignty is without question one of the most difficult, and, at times, troubling aspects to discuss, it is also one of the most critical to understand.
My Answer to the Question:
I have a simple answer to those that say God must not be sovereign because a loving Father would not allow terrible things to happen to His children.
What about Job?
In the account of Job we have a unique insight into God’s sovereignty particularly as it applies to His children. Here we see a man that is “the greatest of all the people of the east.” (1:3) He has been tremendously blessed by God and was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (1:1)
Job was such a faithful follower of God that God Himself pointed him out to Satan. When Satan came before God after walking throughout the earth, God asked Satan if he had “considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” (1:8)
Clearly Job is a faithful believer, one that we would say God loves. And Job lives a life that is pleasing before God, so much so that God Himself points Job out to Satan. What happens next is a clear picture of the sovereignty of God. And not just God’s sovereignty, but God’s absolute, complete, perfect sovereignty. A Sovereignty that must be understood as God having complete control over all things that happen on earth, and in the life of people. If we don’t understand sovereignty in this way, we are in danger of creating a pseudo-sovereignty that assumes God is in control, until He isn’t. In this view God would really like to stop bad things from happening, but because of sin, because satan rules the earth, God simply cannot or will not intervene. But nothing could be father from the truth.
Satan replies that of course Job fears God, God has “put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has.” (1:9) This is an admission by Satan that God is in control. God has protected Job and there is nothing that anyone, including Satan, can do about it. God is exercising His sovereign will, His sovereign control over the life of Job. Job lives his life day to day doing what he pleases. But God oversees it all with divine, sovereign authority.
What God does next further reiterates just how in control of all things He really is.
God turned over all that Job owned and his family to Satan. “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.” (1:12) Here we can see that God has such control over all things that He can turn over some control to others, including Satan. But notice that though God has given all of Job’s family and possessions into the hand of Satan, God sets limits as to what Satan can do. “Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” (1:12) God is making clear that Satan has limits and though he now has God’s permission to inflict pain and suffering in Job’s life, he may not harm Job himself. Truly God is sovereign, exercising control over all things and doing as He wills for His own good pleasure.
The account doesn’t stop there. In chapter 2 we see God giving permission for Satan to attack Job’s health. (2:6) But even here we once again see God exercising his sovereignty over all things by telling Satan he may not kill Job. Satan is given permission from God to bring about physical suffering and illness in the life of Job, but he is not allowed to take Job’s life. God set the boundaries. God exercised his sovereign will and control over the life of Job.
Does this mean God is the author of evil? Is it God that cause and creates evil in our world? Does Satan ask permission from God to cause a hurricane and, if God agrees, then cause a hurricane?
The problem of God’s sovereignty as it relates to the evil of this world is understandably troublesome. But it’s important for us to understand so we can rightly relate to the God of Creation in the way people like Job, Joseph, David, and Paul did. This comment from an article I read on this topic is helpful:
“The book of Job is uncomfortably informative, for in this account we see that God is great, God is good, and God is sovereignly in control of Satan, sinners, storms, and God is responsible for suffering. God is neither delighting in evil, nor authoring evil, but he is planning it and providentially using it for his glory and his children’s good.”
The book of Job undoubtedly brings us confirmation that God is in absolute control over all things that take place in the universe. That truth brings me tremendous comfort. There is peace in knowing that nothing can happen around me, near me, or to me, that does not first pass through God’s divine will. Job makes this clear in numerous statements:
Job 1:21: “… The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 2:10: “… Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Job 13:15: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”
Job 14:5: “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”
Job 23:13-14: “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store.”
Job 42:2: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”
John Piper, in a sermon, made the following statement concerning God’s “role” in evil in the world:
“[E]verything that exists—including evil—is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly. . . . Adam’s sin and the fall of the human race with him into sin and misery did not take God off guard and is part of his overarching plan to display the fullness of the glory of Jesus Christ.”
The truth is simple, yet profound and often difficult to understand: either God is sovereign over all things, or He is not sovereign at all.
God cannot be in control of some things. He can’t be in control and sovereign over nature, except when hurricanes happen. He can’t be in control and sovereign over wild life, except when they attack children. And God can’t be in control and sovereign over conception (Hosea 9:11-14) and the death (Job 14:5) of humans, but nothing in between. Are we really about to admit that it is God that determines when a person is born, and when that person dies, but He has no sovereignty over any action in the life of that person? This would be a disastrous and patently unbiblical conclusion.
This statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith reiterates God’s absolute sovereignty over all things:
WCF 5:1: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”
This passage from Romans further explains that God even raises up evil people into power on earth for the purpose of His own glory. The sin cased by such people is ordered by God, and within His control at all times. The passage further explains that God, being the Author and Creator of all things has not only the power, but the right to do what He pleases in His creation.
Romans 9:14-23: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath– prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory.”
In the life of Joseph we have an example of God allowing evil for His own purpose. In Genesis 37:18-36 we learn that Joseph’s brother decide to sell him into slavery. There’s no doubt that such an act is evil. Selling a person to another person as a slave is a heinous act worthy of condemnation. And yet, God allows the action. Certainly he could have stopped Joseph’s brothers from selling him, but God chose to allow this evil act. And when it’s all said and done Joseph admits that their act was evil, that God allowed it, but that God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20).
And this article shares helpful Scripture showing that God’s plans include many things hard for us to understand. Take a look at the verses cited in the article to see:
God changes not his plan.
God’s plan includes the disastrous.
God’s plan includes the devilish.
God’s plan includes the free will decisions of men and angels.
I find tremendous rest, and peace in knowing God is in control of all things. This world would be a terrifying place if God was not in absolute control at all times. But knowing that God is sovereign over all things at all times brings great peace, and trust in God. The book of Job shines a light on why suffering happens; even suffering we believe to be “unfair.” Job also makes clear that it is God that brings about suffering in the life of people for His own purposes, and His own glory, and to point to Jesus.
Praise God for His sovereign will and the blessed knowledge that my life is in His hands and all things, good and bad, are for His glory.
For an excellent list of Scriptures showing God’s absolute sovereignty over all things, read this article.