A Lesson in Sovereignty

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In addition to learning a lesson in grace, Job also learned a lesson in the sovereignty of God. Like Job, we too must learn to submit to God as One who has supreme, unlimited rights and power in all that He does. “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rom. 9:2020Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:20)).
This morning I planned to paint the deck, but it is raining. So I wake up thinking, It’s too bad it’s raining today, for now I cannot do as I planned. To think “it’s too bad” is my judgment, and if traced to its root, I am speaking in my heart against the sovereign right of God to make the day as He chooses, the knowledge of God to make the “right” choice, and the righteousness of God in doing something I think is “too bad.” I need to learn Job’s lesson.
A brief review of Elihu’s and the Lord’s speeches teaches us the lesson Job learned. It resulted in self-judgment and blessing. May we, too, learn the lesson well, for God’s glory and our blessing.
Elihu Speaks for the Lord
As a young man, Elihu remained silent until Job and his friends end their speeches. Then he spoke. He was angry with them on two grounds: Job “justified himself rather than God,” and the three friends “found no answer, and yet condemned Job” (ch. 32:23). Elihu, like his master, was swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Four times Elihu repeats back to Job the words that he had spoken and then tells him why he was wrong in what he had said. Each time he showed how Job was speaking against the sovereignty of God.
Job’s First Claim and Sovereignty
Job said, “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, He findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for His enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, He marketh all my paths” (ch. 33:9-11). Job claims God is not being fair, for he has judged himself to be innocent, yet God has treated him as an enemy and using His superior power has stepped upon him and his family.
Elihu responds, “Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against Him? for He giveth not account of any of His matters.” Elihu upholds the sovereign rights of God.
As sovereign, God doesn’t owe us any explanations for anything that He does. In the greatness of His heart He gives many explanations for many things that He does. But the moment I feel that He owes me an explanation for anything, I’m out of my place as a created being, and I’m on the ground of my own self-sufficiency. “Why dost thou strive against Him?” Graciously, He gives us many answers, and He wants us to come and seek answers from Him for the whys and wherefores of life. But we cross over onto the wrong side of the question when our hearts demand them and we think we have the right to them.
“If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness” (ch. 33:23). In the Darby translation there is a footnote concerning the expression “his uprightness.” It says, “His uprightness in judging himself.” Oh for that one among a thousand who will help the saints of God by bringing them into the presence of the Lord so that they judge themselves, so that they see themselves in the light of God. Elihu is such a one. The result is of remarkable benefit to Job, because Elihu brings him into the presence of the Lord, and there he judges himself and receives the benefit.
Job’s Second Claim and Righteousness
Job said, “I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment. Should I lie against my right?” (ch. 34:56). Job claims the right to make his own judgment in a matter between himself and God. This is wrong. Job is claiming that God is unrighteous, because he is righteous and yet God is not treating him any differently than He is treating the wicked.
Elihu responds, “What man is like Job, who  .  .  . walketh with wicked men. For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God. Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity. For the work of a man shall He render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways. Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.” Again Elihu upholds the sovereign rights of God. God is righteous. (God being righteous and sovereign is the foundation of all morality.) God is sovereign, and so we are never to stand in judgment about anything He does. God judges us; we are never to judge Him.
While man has no right to set his own judgment against God’s, Elihu upholds the truth concerning God. God never does wickedness; the Almighty never perverts judgment. He in whose hands the whole earth is held is the “all-just” one. His eyes are upon man, seeing all that he does. And when He chooses to act, He does not hold court, but acts according to His sovereign rights and power. He hears the cries of the afflicted, and He acts upon their behalf in judgment of the wicked.
Job’s Third Claim and Rebellion
Job said, “I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: that which I see not teach Thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (ch. 34:31-32).
Elihu responds, “Should it be according to thy mind? He will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose; and not I: therefore speak what thou knowest.  .  .  .  Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom. My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end because of his answers for wicked men. For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God.”
The more Job argued and multiplied his words, the more he sinned. Elihu correctly charges Job with refusing the judgment of God in His ways with Job. Should God be bound by Job’s judgment of the matter?
At this point Elihu introduces another important thought into the conversation that the Lord adds to later and which is crucial to knowing and accepting the judgments of God. He says that Job has been speaking without knowledge and without intelligence (vs. 35 JND). God alone, as sovereign, is all knowing. All judgments He makes are based upon His perfect and complete knowledge of everything. Man never knows everything. Consequently, man has no right to question any judgment of God’s. Correct judgments depend upon correct knowledge.
In chapter 28 Job gives an excellent and interesting treatise on wisdom, concluding with the statement, “And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” We might understand as Job did concerning wisdom and still have to learn the same lesson as Job. Wisely, Job did fear the Lord and in understanding he did depart from evil. God says so in the very first verse of the book. Yet Job wrongly condemned God. Why? Wisdom and understanding require knowledge. No man has full knowledge. A properly wise and understanding man is one who learns not to trust in his own knowledge, but who always depends upon God, who alone knows all. He is a man who trusts in the judgments of God and not in his own understanding or wisdom. Unlike Elihu, Job’s three friends got their knowledge from their own experiences rather than from God.
Job’s Fourth Claim and Arrogancy
The fourth time Elihu quotes Job, he says, “Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God’s? For thou hast asked of what profit it is unto thee: what do I gain more than if I had sinned?” (ch. 35:23 JND).
Job compared how he acted with how God acted and judged that his actions were more righteous than God’s. Having gone that far in his thinking, he questions the gain of being righteous, since, in his mind, God treated him no better than He did a sinful man.
In answering, Elihu first turns Job’s statements around so that they are viewed from God’s side of the question instead of Job’s—a very helpful principle to follow in seeking to understand spiritual things. Job had said, What profit is it to me to be righteous? Elihu responded, What profit is it to God if you are righteous? What does He gain? “If thou be righteous, what givest thou to Him?”
Job had admitted that he could not see God in the matter. He had searched for Him and could not find Him. Why wasn’t God coming out to deal with him face to face with someone to act as judge? To this Elihu answered, “Although thou sayest thou dost not see Him, judgment is before Him, therefore wait for Him. But now, because He hath not visited in His anger, doth not Job know his great arrogancy? For Job hath opened his mouth in vanity, and made words abundant without knowledge” (ch. 35:14-16 JND).
Elihu’s statement illustrates that God is not only sovereign in His ways but in His timing. When we do not see, then “wait for Him.” Elihu charges Job with arrogancy. While God is righteously angry with man, He is patient and long-suffering in His ways with him. Man uses that very time of patience to become bold and arrogant in his judgments and actions against God.
Upholding God’s Righteousness
After responding to Job’s specific statements, Elihu continues to speak in order to “ascribe righteousness to my Creator.” To summarize: “God is mighty.” “God is exalted in His power: who teacheth as He?” “God is great, and we comprehend Him not.” God is “doing great things which we do not comprehend.” In His ways with us He may use nature “as a rod, or for His land, or in mercy.” God is “perfect in knowledge.” What can we teach God? He concludes, “The Almighty, we cannot find Him out: He is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: He will not afflict. Men do therefore fear Him: He respecteth not any that are wise of heart.”
The Lord Demands of Job
Immediately the Lord begins to speak and challenges Job with the question, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” and He demands that Job must answer. He puts a series of questions before Job to bring before His conscience that, compared to God His creator, He knows nothing and has no right to criticize or judge. To do this, He uses the things of nature, raising such questions as, “Where wast thou when I founded the earth?” “Hast thou since thy days commanded the morning?” “Canst thou fasten the bands of the Pleiades, or loosen the cords of Orion?” “Doth the hawk fly by thine intelligence?” He concludes these remarks by asking, “Shall he that will contend with the Almighty instruct Him?”
Job responds, “I am nought: what shall I answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.” But God is not done. So He further asks, “Wilt thou also annul My judgment? wilt thou condemn Me, that thou mayest be righteous?”
Job’s Repentance
In the end, Job’s final response honors God, for he repents and condemns himself. To the Lord he says, “I know that Thou canst do everything, and that Thou canst be hindered in no thought of Thine” (ch. 42:2 JND). In this statement Job acknowledges and upholds the sovereignty of God in His power and right to do according to His own thoughts without reference to any creature of His creation.
The Lord began speaking to Job with the question, “Who is he that obscureth counsel without knowledge?” (vs. 3). Job repeats the question back to the Lord and answers, “Therefore have I uttered what I did not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” When the Lord is dealing with us, we must own that He, not Satan or man or nature, is the One speaking, acknowledge His rights, and submit to Him without qualification.
After repeating another statement that God had made to him, Job confessed, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” When God is speaking to us, we must acknowledge that what He is saying is true. We must change our thoughts to see the matter as He sees it, judge ourselves for what we are and have done, and take our proper place “in dust and ashes.” When we judge God, we charge Him, as Job did, with putting us there (ch. 30:19), but when we judge ourselves, we put ourselves there. Dust is as nothing in this world, and ashes is what you get when you put a fire to something and it doesn’t pass the test. I think Job knew he’d been through that fire, and that’s what he recognized in himself —nothing left but ashes.
Having taken his right place before a sovereign God of grace and mercy, then God acts for his enlarged blessing.
Having finished His lessons in grace and sovereignty, God removes His teaching hand and replaces it with His hand of blessing. Like Job, we are each individually tutored in the school of God. Like Job, the lessons in our lives are perfectly planned and presented with complete knowledge of subject and pupil. Every lesson, when completed, will bring glory to God and be for our personal growth. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:33Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:3)).