The Book of Job and the Sovereignty of God

God owes no man explanation of any sort, for anything. Sometimes He graciously gives it, but he owes it to none.

Many times in my life, when afflictions, trials, or temptations were sent my direction, the book of Job was one of my most comforting reads. The onslaught of his perceived misfortunes seems almost incomprehensible…especially to me, an untouched, unpersecuted American Christian, nestled deep within the safe, suburban neighborhoods of the so-called “Bible Belt.” Also worthy of note is Job’s faithful (but not perfect) perseverance beneath seemingly insurmountable odds.

His suffering was immense, no doubt. And yet, that’s not the primary theme of this holy account, nor is Job the star protagonist of this intriguing biography (from his perspective, anyway). No, the highlight of this book, the glory displayed from these scriptures, the majesty, splendor, and awe-inspiring focus of this portion of the Holy Writ is that of the Almighty Sovereign God, the Lord Himself, Who alone is worthy of praise.

The pious and venerable Matthew Henry writes:

Were ever the being of God, his glorious attributes and perfections, his unsearchable wisdom, his irresistible power, his inconceivable glory, his inflexible justice, and his incontestable sovereignty, discoursed of with more clearness, fulness, reverence, and divine eloquence, than in this book? The creation of the world, and the government of it, are here admirably described, not as matters of nice speculation, but as laying most powerful obligations upon us to fear and serve, to submit to and trust in, our Creator, owner, Lord, and ruler. Moral good and evil, virtue and vice, were never drawn more to the life (the beauty of the one and the deformity of the other) than in this book; nor the inviolable rule of God’s judgment more plainly laid down, That happy are the righteous, it shall be well with them; and Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with them.

God Sovereignly Initiates Affliction

Job 1:1, 5 (my emphasis and parentheses added):

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil…and it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

I told you I wanted to address the subject of the sovereignty of God in the context of this book of Job, so let us begin. Here we read of this “blameless and upright” man of God. Not only do we see his personal holiness via its proclamation thereof in Scripture, we see the effects of his holiness making waves in his family dealings. As an aside, we see Job’s actions here being a far cry from the ways in which the majority of fathers in this day and age have utterly failed to exercise headship, culpability, and responsibility for their families.

Moreover, we see that the text immediately notes the godliness of Job, and his concern for his family. Mixed in amongst these mentions is that of his great wealth. It’s funny, though, how his wealth does not give Job the security to live in sin and licentiousness. No, he is “blameless” and is much concerned with the holiness of not only himself, but his family. Thus, it is established…Job’s a man of God, not harboring sin, or pride, or greed, or envy, etc. Now we read this (Job 1:6-12, my emphasis added):

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

We may deduce several thoughts from this passage. I will consider a few. Number 1, this book, as shown in this passage, is not primarily about suffering, or even Job’s suffering. This book is about God’s sovereignty over all things. Secondly, Satan is not equal in power, stature, or grandeur with God Almighty. There are folks in this world who go for the idea of a balance between good and evil, and these are in perpetual warfare against one another. I believe it’s the ying yang that tries to symbolize this foolish concept. No, it is plain that Satan is subject to God just like any other creature. Consider the fact that Satan does not address the Lord, until he himself is called to do so. You will also note that Satan doesn’t ignore God’s spoken word, nor does he lie (for he knows the futility therein) to Him as to treat the Lord’s question with indignity. So it is as it has always been…God-Almighty, Satan-not even close.

Thirdly, though Satan is the accuser of the brethren, in this particular case, it is not Satan who brings up God’s loyal subject, Job. Rather, it is the Lord Himself who initiates the conversation and its subject matter. Next, Satan acknowledges God’s goodness by proclaiming what God has done for and given to Job. Herein we see that demons and devils do not deny God or Jesus’ existence, they do not even deny His goodness, holiness, sovereignty, etc. They believe these things about God (as they should), but they do not make proper use of such knowledge. This would be why James notes that mere faith that God is true is not saving faith.

Lastly, Satan shows his absolute powerlessness apart from God’s granting. In somewhat understanding the natural heart of man, he says that Job doesn’t fear God for no reason. He then, as I have already noted, talks about the kindness God has shown Job, and implies that this is why he serves so faithfully. But Satan has failed to recognize the reborn heart of man, one regenerated by the Holy Spirit, so he continues with his foolishness and asserts that if God takes all these materialistic things, and family, away, then Job will surely curse Him. But it’s important to note that Satan, by saying “put forth thine hand,” is admitting that God is the One Who ordains, has power over, and permits affliction in Job’s life. This is further recognized when God gives Satan the authority to take away Job’s things, but limits it when it comes to Job’s life.

And so, we see that God is sovereign in not only the giving of gifts, riches, and family, but He’s also sovereign in the initiation, planning, and execution of affliction in the lives of men. In light of this, we ought to remember the first chapter of James’ epistle. James spends the first several verses speaking of trials, afflictions, and temptations. Then, in verse 17 he notes that every good and perfect gift is given by our Father in heaven. The sentence before that starts with “Do not err, my beloved brethren,” noting that these folks, because of their current trials and hardships, begin to question the goodness of God. But he reminds them that these afflictions, though they don’t appear to be so, are really perfect and good gifts from God above, he is molding us according to the good pleasure of His will.

So, then, let us echo Job while facing trial, hardship, temptation, or affliction and proclaim that the Lord gives and He takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!

-Josh-

3 thoughts on “The Book of Job and the Sovereignty of God

  1. You might be interested in this online commentary “Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job” (http://www.bookofjob.org) as supplementary or background material for your perspective on the Book of Job. It is written by a Canadian criminal defense lawyer, now a Crown prosecutor, and it explores the legal and moral dynamics of the Book of Job with particular emphasis on the distinction between causal responsibility and moral blameworthiness embedded in Job’s Oath of Innocence. It is highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Janzen, Habel) and the Review of Biblical Literature, all of whose reviews are on the website. The author is an evangelical Christian, denominationally Anglican. He is also the Canadian Director for the Mortimer J. Adler Centre for the Study of the Great Ideas, a Chicago-based think tank.

    Robert Sutherland

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  2. Reblogged this on That Word in Me and commented:
    Today, I went over the Book of Job to know more about God. Job holds a special place in my heart, for our names came from this book. This is also one of my mom’s favorite Book in the Bible. Some thoughts I’ve written in my journal were beautifully expressed in this blog I came across today. I want to share it and I hope people are blessed and come out even more at awe of our Sovereign God.

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