“When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, God blindfolds its judges. If it is not He, then who is it?” (Job 9:24)
These are the words of a despairing man, Job. Job is the patriarch of the Bible who, in a rapidly occurring series of tragedies, lost all ten of his children, all his possessions, and all his health (Job 1–2). And because tragedy is a gift that keeps on giving, it also caused to the loss of his friends and his wife’s love and support. Remember, she was grieving as deeply as he was.
Job’s tragedy also alienated him from a society which embraced the conventional wisdom of the day: God blesses the righteous with prosperity and health and curses the wicked with affliction and death. To the people around him, although Job appeared as a righteous man, they questioned his character and private life. His tragedy frightened them. If such calamity could befall a righteous man like Job, then it could happen to anyone. They could not accept this. Therefore, they chose to condemn Job and maintain their beliefs. This, of course only added to Job’s misery.
But the worst component of Job’s suffering was not the parental loss, the material loss, or the social loss. The greatest source of Job’s vexation came from challenges to Job’s faith in God. How can the Almighty God, who is just and righteous, punish a righteous man and allow the wicked to prosper? It overturned everything he believed. Even worse, how could God—whom he loved, served, and considered his friend—turn on him so fiercely and become his adversary. Job needed God now more than ever. Yet he believed God had become his enemy.
God Is in Control
Now, God’s sovereignty is a huge theme in the book of Job. The Hebrew name for God, El Shaddai, “the Almighty,” occurs 31 times in Job. That’s more than two thirds of its 45 occurrences in the entire Old Testament. In other words, God is in control of everything.
God’s sovereignty can be a source of comfort to the Believer. God’s sovereignty reminds us that nothing is out of God’s control. Satan is not “on the loose” and having a field day, ruining the earth. God allows Satan a certain amount of latitude but only permits him to do what will ultimately serve God’s purposes. Even the beginning of Job reminds us of this. Satan could not afflict Job without God’s permission (Job 1–2). And in the New Testament, remember that a legion of demons could not enter a herd of swine without Jesus’ permission (Matt. 8:28–34).
Yet God’s sovereignty can also be a source of distress. For, one could say that, if God is omnipotent then He must ultimately be responsible for all things—even responsible for the evil in our world. This is the sentiment that Job expresses in chapter nine. God allows the wicked to take over the land and consequently blinds the eyes of its judges. The result is, in Job’s thinking, God perverts justice. “If not He, then who?” Job asks.
What Does the Bible Say?
Is Job’s assessment accurate? Or is it a false conclusion based on his limited view of what is going on? For elsewhere in this chapter Job accuses God of mocking the despair of the innocent (v. 23), of God abusing His irresistible power in the court of heaven (vv. 14–20), and of God not restraining His anger (v. 13).
Yet we know from other places in the Bible that God most certainly restrains His anger (Rom. 9:22–23). We know that God’s love directs His power—especially in redemption (John 3:16–17). And we know that God is near to the brokenhearted and comforts those who are “crushed in spirit” (Isa. 57:15). Obviously, Job’s words—although they occur in Scripture—do not accurately reflect God’s sovereignty. Job’s despair darkens his interpretation of the circumstances and his view of God.
Job’s view of God’s sovereignty is pushed to the extreme.
It’s as if humanity is nothing more than a bunch of marionettes which God manipulates. Humanity is only a glove which the hand of God animates.
The truth must be that God delegates a measure of His authority and volition to mankind. God makes each of us a self—as God is a self—so that each of us may exercise their own will.
In Part 2, we continue this article as we look at what it means for God to give humanity the ability to make choices.
Dear heavenly Father, please empower me to respond to Your love. Cause me to flee, O God, into Your divine embrace. Though I be presented with a million different temptations, help me to choose obedience to You. Though I may falter, please let You Holy Spirit be the prevailing force in my life, always bending me back into Your arms. Amen.