Receiving Good And Evil From The Hand Of God
July 19, 1998 / No. 2898
Read Job 2:1-10.
We focus especially on verse 10: “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
Arthur W. Pink begins the introduction in his excellent book on the sovereignty of God with this question: “Who is regulating affairs on earth today-God, or the Devil? That God reigns supreme in Heaven, is generally conceded; that He does so over this world, is almost universally denied-if not directly, then indirectly.”
There is a denial that God created all things; a denial that God continues to regulate all the works of His hands, all the works of nature, all of the storms, all of the wind; a denial that the Creator continues to function within His creation. As we look around us we might be inclined to wonder, is God regulating the affairs of this world? Sin and lawlessness abound. What a scene of confusion we see around us. Is God sovereign? Is He overseeing all of the sin and lawlessness? Does not our own experience show that the devil is controlling things far more than God?
The question therefore remains: Who is regulating the affairs on earth today, God or the devil? The answer to this question depends on whether we are walking by faith or by sight. If we are walking by sight, then we would conclude: the devil. But if our thoughts concerning God and the world are based on what we have read in the Bible and what we know the Bible teaches, and if we face this question seriously and honestly from the point of view of the Bible, then we conclude without question that God indeed is in control. God is regulating the events and things of this life. Then there is no room for uncertainty. Again and again the Bible affirms that all things are being directed by the counsel of God’s will. There are, really, only two possibilities. Either God rules and reigns, or God is ruled and reigned over. Either God is God, or God is one who is subservient to another.
Our concern today is, what do the Scriptures say? And the incident of Job here speaks to this question. The sovereignty of God, the assaults of Satan, and the suffering of Job teach us the answers that we need to learn. They teach us that God is the One who gives good and evil. They teach us that God is the One who still lives and rules over all things. And as we live and walk in the midst of this earth, we receive good and evil from the hand of God.
What is the hand of God? The Scriptures use that terminology to teach God’s sovereign dominion and power over all things. God’s hand is His strength. I Chronicles 29:11 testifies that that strength of God, God’s hand, is exalted over all and is powerful over all things. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.” To assert that God is sovereign is to assert that God is God! He is King, He is the Most High. And He performs all His will through the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. God possesses all power in heaven and on earth so that none can defeat His counsel, His might, or His purpose, as Psalm 115:3 states. How different this God is from the God whom much of the world worships. The conception of God that is so prevalent is that of a helpless God who demands the respect of men, one who is no longer sovereign or powerful, but one who is subject to the devil and to men, making man and the devil almighty and bringing God down below men.
God’s sovereign exercise of His grace is shown on virtually every page of Scripture. It was shown throughout the old dispensation. The Gentiles were left to go their own way while God brought the Jews to salvation, while God preserved one small nation. Abel was loved by God, while Cain was the enemy of God. Jacob was the recipient of God’s grace and love, while Esau was not. The Pharisees and Saducees were sent their own way, while the publicans and sinners were drawn to Christ. Divine truth was revealed to babes, but hid from the wise and prudent. God gave to Methuselah a vitality which allowed him to outlive all of his contemporaries. God gave Samson a physical strength that no man had ever possessed. God gives to men wealth. We read in Deuteronomy 8:18, “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.” God gave Job everything that he had according to His sovereign pleasure.
And because God is sovereign, He does according to His own good pleasure. He gives to the devil a degree of power in order that God’s purpose and counsel might be accomplished also by the devil. He gives to men a certain power in order that through them He might accomplish His purpose. But God is the primary cause behind everything. Nothing is by chance or by fate. Everything is perfectly governed by God. And God does so perfectly, maintaining His holiness and righteousness, so He cannot be accused to be the author of evil.
That sovereignty of God is clearly taught in God’s Word, and here in the book of Job. Job confesses that God is the One who gives all things-good and evil. God was not finished with Job. Job had endured one test by the power of God’s grace. God had taken from Job all of his possessions, and He had taken from him his children. And Job had demonstrated the depth and sincerity of the faith which was given him by God. But the devil was not satisfied. The devil came again to God desiring something more severe. Job must suffer more intensely in order that his faith be more severely tried. And God, not the devil, determined the suffering that Job would endure. God gave to the devil all power except to take Job’s life.
Satan went out from the presence of God and chose one of the most terrible diseases possible in an attempt to shatter the faith of Job. It is almost generally agreed that the boils which Job experienced were a form of what is known as elephantiasis. It is also known as black leprosy, called so because those afflicted by it resemble the color and limbs of an elephant, so puffed up and so swollen their limbs become. And this is characterized by sore boils and enflamed sores which cover one from head to foot.
Covered thus from head to foot, Job scraped with a potsherd at the sores which broke out over his body. There would be crusts of skin, at one time stiff and hard, at another time cracked and filled with fluid, as Job 7:5 points out. And many were the side effects of this disease: bad breath, lack of sleep, generally a weakening of the body, constant ulcers, and even weakness of the mind. Job was afflicted severely. And as the book of Job progresses, we find more and more how seriously this disease affected every aspect of his life.
Finally, we hear of Job’s wife. We are overjoyed to hear of her for the first time, thankful that she was spared, hopeful that she might be used to comfort and console Job in his suffering. But instead we find her being used by the devil to be the sharpest arrow against her husband. The losses which Job had experienced were also her losses. And she fell prey more fully to the devil. Her heart rose in wrath against God from whose hand this stroke had seemed to come. She therefore says to Job: “Curse God and die.” What a blow to Job. His own wife, his own helpmeet, becomes his enemy, so that Job is alone.
Not alone. He has God. And he continues to confess that God is God. By sight, we would easily conclude that Job and his wife ought to curse God. We so easily would be led to question God’s goodness, to say that God is not loving, to say that God is allowing the devil to overthrow us, and to say that the devil is sovereign. Such was the declaration of his wife. But Job rests in faith, not in sight. And faith clings to the sovereignty and power of God as its only comfort. The God who loves me and saves me from the power of sin is Lord. The God who is my Father is governing all the affairs of my life, including this my sorrow. God is leading all things for the good of His children and for His own glory and honor.
Who is regulating the affairs of the world? God is in control of everything. That Job was brought to confess and to believe. Yet, the devil was given a role. God gave the devil a central role in advancing His counsel.
Who is the devil? The devil, according to Scripture, is a murderer from the beginning. He is a fallen angel created, not eternal. God has put enmity between believers and the devil. The devil goes about as a roaring lion and uses every imaginable device and act of violence to harm and, if it were possible, even to kill God’s people. God has given the devil the right to assault God’s children. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed,” we read in Genesis 3:15. God has given him names which reveal his work. We read that he is an “enemy,” in Matthew 13:39; that he is a “tempter,” in Matthew 4:3; that he is the “wicked one,” in Matthew 13:19; that he is the “adversary,” in I Peter 5:8.
The primary aim of the devil is to undermine faith. He attempted to stir up Job so fully that Job would curse God. Job knew how he had lived before in prosperity. And the devil would tempt him to believe that the godly are prosperous. But now the life that Job was living was far from that of the godly. He would tempt Job to believe that he had deceived himself, that he was not a true believer but a hypocrite, that he had sinned and, therefore, was the object of God’s wrath. He would tempt Job to say that God was no longer faithful. And the devil would use means. He uses the means here of Job’s wife. “Curse God and die, and that way all your problems will be over.” That lie is brought to Job. That lie would solve nothing. But the devil’s major objective was to bring about the commission of sin, starting with sinful thoughts, trying to stir up Job to deny God and to acknowledge instead the devil as the sovereign lord.
And Satan, no doubt, thought he could get Job to curse God to His face. His own selfish, proud, and vengeful spirit motivated him to think so, to show that he held a higher and a holier principle than God. But God allows the devil to touch everything except the life of Job to show that there was a higher principle than the devil, to show that the power of God’s grace was stronger than anything the devil would be able to cast at Job, and to show God’s children that they are safe, they are preserved over against the face of the temptations that the devil would send to them. Those who are in the palm of God’s hand can never be moved.
But Satan tried to bring about doubt in the mind of Job. And he still tries to bring about that doubt in the mind of God’s children. Where is God? If there was a God indeed, there would be justice, there would be mercy, there would be compassion. Where is God when my loved ones are taken from me? Where is God when a tremendous “accident” occurs so that much sorrow is brought to my family? Where is God when the forces of nature destroy my home?
Such is the temptation that the devil brings. The devil tries to tempt us that the best friend is death, that it would be better to die than to live like this. Job was brought the severe temptation. But in all of this, we read, he sinned not with his lips. In his mouth, upon his lips, there was no sin. But the real possibility of inner temptation’s beginning is here evident and will be manifest throughout the book. Job was not sinless. He was a man subject to like passions as we. And his weakness is shown as we proceed through the book of Job. He sinned, in thoughts and deeds, and, later on, with his lips. But at this time Job had not sinned with his lips, though perhaps now the devil was beginning to sow seeds of temptation within his mind.
But Job’s weakness is shown to encourage us to greater diligence so that we, with Job, would see the need for One who would be greater – One who would be sinless, One who would preserve us from the powers of the devil: Jesus Christ.
And the blessed reality is that God has determined to use these temptations and struggles as means to strengthen the faith of His children. Satan himself is absolutely under God’s control. When God cursed Satan in Eden, Satan listened to that awful sentence but did not speak a word in return. Now Satan could not touch Job until God gave him the power. The devil had to have the Lord’s consent before he could sift Peter. And when Christ commanded him to depart, “Get thee hence, Satan,” we read in Matthew 4:11 that the devil left Him. The Lord rules in all for His eternal glory and good pleasure. And the Lord has made all things for Himself, according to Proverbs 16:4. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” we read in Revelation 4:11. In the midst of all his trials and sorrows there was one comfort and consolation which Job had: God is good. God’s will is good. God loves His children. And God does that which He knows is for their good.
How blessed it is to know that our afflictions come not by chance, nor merely from the devil, but that they are ordained by God, as we read in I Thessalonians 3:3, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” God is not only infinite in power, but also infinite in wisdom and goodness. And God is too wise to err, too loving to cause His children to face needless sorrow. Job believed that God was perfect in wisdom and goodness. Everything is in His hands. “Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?” we read in Job 9:12. What a comfort to know that it is God and not the devil who is in control. It is God who takes our loved ones from us. It is God who causes us hardships. And God rejoices in heaven when He takes one of our own and one of His own to be with Him. What peace and comfort it is to know that the number of our days is with Him, as Job confessed in chapter 7:1 and 14:5. What a blessedness it is to know that disease and death are His messengers, always marching according to His orders.
The Lord it is who gives and takes away. Job humbled himself before the mighty hand of God. We humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. And God’s sovereignty is sure. The destruction of evil and the salvation of His people are certain. The seed of the woman will be victorious. The devil is a conquered enemy. The Lord Jesus Christ, as the Seed of the woman, has bruised his head, has destroyed him by His death. Jesus has spoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the power of the cross, as we read in Colossians 2:15.
Therefore we, with Job, must be valiant against him. It is God’s will that we battle against the devil. Not in our own strength, but by the grace and power of God, we resist the devil and he flees from us. Do not allow him to bring into question the goodness of God. Hold fast to your faith and be confident that God, by the power of His Spirit, preserves those who are His own. We do not trust in our own strength. But we stay close to our captain, Jesus Christ, taking refuge in Him through prayer without ceasing. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
And, in the midst of our struggles and adversities, in the midst of our pain, sorrows, and tears, we confess that God is good. He is sovereign. And all that which we experience is according to His promises. The more severe our trials, the greater will be the measure of comfort and peace and joy and strength that God will grant us. Therefore may we confess with the saints in Revelation 2:10: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” May we be confident of that blessing, of that promise of God.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee that Thou art indeed sovereign over all things. Thou dost order and rule everything according to Thy perfect plan. And may we experience a rich measure of Thy grace and strength that we might submit to Thy perfect way, that we might walk before Thee in obedience and love. Amen.