Job 1-5: God is Great; God is Good; God is Sovereign; There is Sin; and I am Suffering by Joseph Franks

Where is God while Satan runs loose and ruins lives? Where is God while wicked men sin grieviously against others? Where is God while we sin? Is God distant and uninvolved? Is God dispassionate or unconcerned? Is God devilish; does he delight in sin and suffering? Is God doing the best he can? Do we, according to Rabbi Harold Kushner, need to forgive God for not being able to do a better job. Has God sovereignly decided to set his sovereignty aside, and now we are suffering the consequences of his divine gamble? How do we consolidate a great God, a good God, and the existence of evil in the universe?

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.

Like Noah, Job is not sinless. He is not inherently righteous, but he is declared such by God, and he is making progress in becoming holy. Job is a sincerely good worshiper, and he is driven to see his children follow in the same path. Before one reads of Job’s suffering, one needs to understand he is not being punished for his willful sin and rebellion. Job is blameless, upright; he fears God and turns away from evil. (1:1)  May the same be said of us this year.

However, despite his holiness, Job is about to experience a full dose of suffering, and his plaguing begins in heaven. Job’s inspired biographer is granted classified glance into the throne room of God. There, God is calling created beings before him and interrogating them. Satan is one such underling. (1:6-7; 2:1)  Satan and God are not equals. No, God is the Sovereign, and Satan is his subject. Wherever Satan roams, and whatever Satan does, he is under the watchful governance of God and is limited by God’s sovereign wisdom and power. (1:12; 2:6)  Clearly, Satan only exists and influences this world because God allows him such liberty. Satan is God’s little devil, and when God is weary of his wickedness, God is going to banish him to the Lake of Fire.

Shockingly, during Satan’s review, God is the one who brings Job to the forefront. (1:8; 2:3)  Ultimately, Job’s suffering is a result of the Satan that God created, and the heavenly conversation between God and Satan. One might say that God wills Satan’s buffeting of Job. One might say that God wills Job’s earthly torment. One might say that God is using Job as bait to humiliate Satan once more, and Satan takes the challenge.

Through all this, Satan is not a robot. Satan is using his free will; he is doing what he most desires; with wicked passion he seeks to harm God’s reputation and God’s servants. (1:9-11; 2:5)  Satan is a responsible individual, making horrible decisions, according to the plan and providence of God.

Through all this, sinful men are not robots. They have free wills; they are free to act according to their nature and do what their depraved hearts tell them. Therefore, they willingly reject God’s Law and seek to profit and pleasure themselves at the expense of their neighbor. (1:15,17)  These ancient thugs are responsible individuals, making real bad decisions, under the sovereign control of God.

Job is buffeted, not only by Satan and sinners, but by God’s creation. God allows Satan to use storms to harm Job; strong winds and natural disasters tear apart this righteous family. (1:16, 18-19)

At this point in the story, Job is not sure why God is harming him. We know it is not due to his sin. We know it is part of a divine contest over the glory of God. We are privilege to see behind the heavenly curtain, but Job has no access. Job is not sure why God is harming him, but Job is sure that God is harming him. We only have to read of Job’s righteous response. He places the responsibility for Satan, sinners, storms and suffering at the feet of God, and he is not chastised for doing so:

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 3:23     Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
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.  

Job speaks of Satan’s work. His woes concern that which is being done to him by sinful tyrants. Mother nature has not been the friend of his family. But Job understands that behind it all, there is a God who ordains whatsoever comes to pass, and can rescue him at any time. Job is the story of a God who uses Satan, sinners, storms and suffering to serve his noble purpose, and sometime that includes the harming of Adam’s sinful race.


Below are some verses and theological statements that confirm my interpretation of Job. When you have more time, you may wish to walk through the following material.


God plans everything:

  • Proverbs 16:4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends– even the wicked for a day of disaster.
  • Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
  • Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
  • Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose ….
  • Ephesians 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will …

God changes not his plan:

  • Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
  • 1 Samuel 15:29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”
  • Malachi 3:6 I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
  • Isaiah 14:24 The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.
  • Psalm 33:10-11 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
  • Psalm 33:11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
  • Hebrews 6:16-17 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.
  • James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … who does not change like shifting shadows.

God’s plan includes the disastrous:

  • Lamentations 3:37-38 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
  • Isaiah 37:26-27 Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up.
  • Ruth 1:21 … I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
  • Isaiah 45:6b-7 … I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things …
  • Isaiah 50:2 … Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water, And die of thirst.
  • Amos 3:6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?
  • 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

God’s plan includes the devilish:

  • Genesis 45:7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.     
  • Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
  • Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. [God predicts what God will do.]     
  • Matthew 4:1 Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.
  • Luke 22:22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.”
  • Acts 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
  • Acts 4:27-28 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
  • Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

God’s plan includes the free will decisions of men and angels:

  • Joshua 11:19-20 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Oppression by Israel’s enemies)
  • Judges 14:2-4 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)     
  • Psalm 33:10-11 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.     
  • Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.     
  • Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?
  • Lamentations 3:37-38 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
  • Isaiah 46:9-11 … I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
  • Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
  • Acts 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
  • Ephesians 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 [God] … who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done [including placing faith and trust in Jesus Christ] – but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
  • 1 Peter 2:8 “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message– which is also what they were destined for.

From the Westminster Confession of Faith:

  • WCF 2.2     God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
  • WCF 3.1     God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
  • WCF 3.2     Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions.
  • 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.
  • WCF 5:2     Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
  • WCF 5:3     God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.
  • WCF 5:4     The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
  • WCF 9:1     God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

What if you still don’t get it? What if you still cannot figure out how our free will interacts with God’s free will? Well, welcome to the club. I do not understand the Trinity. I do not understand the Hypostatic Union of Jesus Christ, and I do not fully understand the divine-human relationship. But this I know. Satan has a free will and he makes decisions everyday based upon that which he desires. Sinners have free will and they make damnable decisions everyday based upon what they prefer. I have a free will, and for many years I made decisions based upon my depraved nature. But then one day I freely chose Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Lord after he freely chose me first and regenerated me. So while I understand the concept of free will, I am most thankful for God who has the most free will.

  • Psalm 115:3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
  • Psalm 135:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.Daniel 4:35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
  • 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—

God is sovereign over Satan. God is sovereign over sinners. God is sovereign over storms. God is sovereign over suffering. God is sovereign over salvation. He does not ask the Christian to be his defense attorney. He sovereignly commands him to trust in him, suffer righteously, encourage others to call upon him and be saved, and then die and enjoy eternal glory.

Joseph A. Franks, IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog.


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