Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Sovereignty and Freedom (Job 1:17)

"While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:17)

The Bible clearly teaches that God sovereignly brings to pass everything that happens. But the Bible also clearly teaches that man, the image of God, has true freedom and responsibility for his own actions. This looks like a contradiction, but in fact it is a mystery. Exactly what “personality” is, and exactly what “freedom” is, are mysterious. Man, being the image of God, is a mysterious being, and his freedom is something of a mystery. Being a mystery, the relationship between God’s predestination and our freedom is something we will never fully understand in this life, but we can understand it to some extent.

Consider, for instance, Job chapter 1. There we read that Satan challenged God for the soul of Job. Satan said that if God stopped protecting Job, Job would curse Him. So, God allowed Satan to attack Job, within limits. The next thing we read is that the Sabeans came and stole all of Job’s cattle, and the Chaldeans came and stole all of his camels.

It is clear that Satan put the Chaldeans up to their crime. Are we to believe that the Chaldeans are innocent? Were they a peace-loving people, friends of Job, who suddenly were demon-possessed and began to do evil things against their own wills? Hardly. The Sabeans and Chaldeans were cattle rustlers by nature. They are guilty, but so is Satan. The two acted in cooperation, and both are guilty.

Is God guilty? By no means. God’s purpose was good. He was going to test Job, refine and purify Job, and increase his capacity to the point where Job would be able to handle twice as much prosperity as before. Also, Job would be a spokesman for God in the midst of pain. God superintended over the actions of Satan and the Chaldeans, working with a different purpose in mind.

God predestined all these events, including Satan’s challenge and the Sabeans’ attack upon Job’s cattle. But God’s sovereign predestination is designed to bring good, not evil. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. As Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Can you think of an instance when you or one close to you bore the brunt of someone’s evil intent, an instance which, in time, God turned to His good purpose? The next time this happens, remind yourself that God is sovereign even over such ungodly acts.