As we (finally) wrap up the book of Job this week, I am left to wonder if there is a difference between sovereignty and control. Job 1.9 paints the picture of God handing Job over to Satan. “Have you considered my servant Job?” (New International Version). I always assumed that the book of Job is a historical narrative that illustrates a portrait of suffering against the backdrop of God’s sovereignty, but never stopped to really think about God relinquishing control and handing Job over to Satan. One could argue semantics and say that God never really relinquished any control, but I would maintain that if there is a difference between sovereignty and control, the narrative in Job is certainly more about sovereignty than control.
In Job 1.12, we read, “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.'” This would possibly indicate that power and sovereignty are not necessarily synonymous. A manager can trust a pitcher to make the final outs of the game, but ultimately can pull the pitcher and go to the bull pen if he sees fit. Perhaps sovereignty is more about knowing your power and trusting the people over which you reign? God seemed to have trusted that Job would not renounce his faith (1.9-12). A good manager can allow bad things to happen if it is for a greater good, and doesn’t necessarily need to exercise power to prove that it exists. And a good pitcher can disagree with a manager’s decision, but will understand that he can be pulled out of a game at anytime. In this baseball analogy, Satan is kind of like other players that think Job will buckle under pressure, urging the manager to pull Job from the game. God is the manager that trusts that Job will get the job done even if he gets banged around a little.
Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad, blame Job’s troubles on his sins and his perspective and even admonish him for his complaints. They basically neglect any notion that God might be testing Job. There is truth to God wanting to humble Job, or at least get his attention, but that is only half of the equation. God also wanted to test and prove Job’s faithfulness. In chapters 38 – 42, through a series of questions, God makes it clear that humans do not know everything, and perhaps that humans do not need to know, nor should they know everything. There is a restoration at the end of this historical narrative, and Job is even made more prominent and powerful than before the trials began. It is important to note that God might have relinquished some of his control over some of the objects of Job’s affection, but never actually relinquished control over Job himself. This is the difference between sovereignty and control, perhaps. God let bad things happen to Job, but never relinquished his right to protect Job. We read, “…but on the man himself, do not lay a finger” (Job 1.12). A manager does not have to necessarily manage what happens to a pitcher, but has to manage the pitcher himself. In this analogy, it is important to ask, Does a good manager manage the game, or manage the people playing the game? The difference might seem subtle, but I doubt it would seem subtle if you asked Job. God seemed to know Job well enough to know just how long to keep him in the game. In the end, Job gets the W, and maybe even a Cy Young award.