Life is full of mysteries. One of the most perplexing is an understanding of God’s complete rule and authority over everything that exists; especially when considering the elements of evil and suffering. On August 25th, the Old Testament reading from the devotional Bible reveals a strange connection of these two elements (God’s sovereignty and the existence of evil) from the mouth of the evil one himself.
“But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:11-12, NASB)
These verses are incredibly instructive. They record a dialogue between God and one of his creatures (Make no mistake, Lucifer was created by God and is by no means even closely on par with His status, power, and position). The creature in the spotlight is Satan, the accuser. This begs the question, “Did God create evil?” To point of fact, God created Lucifer; Lucifer “created” Satan as pride entered his heart and he attempted to elevate himself above the throne of God (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-17). The intention of his heart was displayed through the action of his life. Some may think I’m “splitting hairs” in this distinction; yet to make it is very important. Satan is responsible for his behavior, as are a third of the angels that joined in his hellish rebellion. He and his minions will ultimately be held accountable in the judgment; actually, they have already been held accountable by the cross of Christ and the power of His resurrection! This truth will be revealed at the judgment. Nevertheless, it must be surmised that somehow, within the wisdom of God, He allowed evil for a greater purpose. In this is mystery but not contradiction. While we may not have the ability to discern God’s purpose in the immediate, the verses in question today give us a foundation of hope that He controls evil for a greater good (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28).
Notice that Satan acknowledges God’s control over Job (and himself) with the reference to the “putting forth of Your hand” in order to bring calamity upon Job’s life. He wrongly assumes Job will curse God when God “puts forth His hand”. This is a bad gamble on Satan’s part as the end of the book reveals a Job who is much closer in relationship to his Creator and has a much deeper understanding and confidence in the ways of God forged in the fires of trial; a Job who has reflected the glories of God to suffering saints throughout the generations.
How does God “put forth His hand”? By allowing the evil intention of Satan’s heart to manifest itself through the action of “Satan’s hand” upon Job; with restrictions, of course! Satan is responsible, God is vindicated, and Job is drawn closer to his Redeemer through the ordeal; amazing correlation uncovering a greater mystery. This far exceeds the “fleshly” religious concept of a simple explanation for suffering; do good and one is blessed, do bad and one will suffer. In their condemnation of Job, his friends stand condemned being a tool of Satan to use religion to prod Job to reveal his hidden sinful actions. In this, Job did not conform to a false man-made interpretation of God’s dealings with His creatures. Job’s understanding of his sin was exponentially illuminated by the much brighter light of God’s character rather than a dimly lit interpretation of God’s code.
Could the universe in which we live, with evil and suffering, be the means whereby we arrive at the best possible ultimate existence in eternity? One thing I do know. When faced with pain, we can either run away from God in anger and disillusionment or run to Him as there is nowhere else to go. You must decide.