By Charles Wesley Ewing, D.D.
Question: In your position on the causative and permissive will of God, you take the position that God does not cause evil but only permits it. How can you reconcile this with the plain statements of Job that the Lord Himself brought evil upon him, such as: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, Job 1:21; and What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10. There are many other verses also in Job that declare that the Lord Himself brought evil upon Job and not merely permitted it.
Answer: We can read passages in the book of Job to our own detriment if we do not recognize and constantly keep in mind certain facts.
The writer of the book of Job was divinely inspired to write the book. It is an inspired book which gives an account of the trials and triumphs of Job. But while it is an inspired book, not all that is said in the book is inspired or true. God inspired the author to write what each man said, but not every statement made by every man is inspired or true.
This book contains the words of twelve different persons – the word of Satan, of the four messengers who reported the calamities to Job, the words of Job’s wife, of his four friends, of Job himself, and also the words of God. All that God says in the book is true, but not all that Job and the other characters said was true. God inspired the writer to give an accurate account of what took place, but not everything that is said by the different characters was true. (A court reporter will make an accurate transcription of what each witness says – but this doesn’t mean each witness is telling the truth)
Job said after the loss of his family and possessions, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away/ blessed be the name of the Lord, Job 1:21. That is what Job said, but that is not the truth of the matter, The Lord did not do this evil to Job.
Job’s afflictions were from Satan and not from God. This is shown clearly in the conversation the Lord had with Satan. Satan said, But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, Job 1:11, 12. Here Satan challenged God to touch all that he hath and do evil to Job, but God refused to do it. The 12th verse shows this very clearly.
The Lord said, “No, I’ll not do this to my servant, but I’ll permit you to test him, however in testing him you are not to put your hand on Job himself.” This is the import of the words, Behold, all that he hand is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. Since the Lord told Satan that he was not to touch Job himself, it clearly shows that Satan was the one who was going to ring the calamities on him.
Now it is true that the servant came and said in verse 16, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While it is true that the servant said this, yet what the servant said was not true. Satan did it.
In the second chapter it clearly states that the sickness that came upon Job was from Satan. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown, Job 2:7. Satan did this only after God had permitted him with another restriction which also shows that it was Satan and not God who was about to bring this evil on Job. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. God refused to bring this sickness upon Job because God is not the author of sickness, but He did permit Satan to do it.
This is one thing that Job did not seem to understand, and all through the book he falsely accuses God of being the author of his calamities. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit; the terror of God do set themselves in array against me, Job 6:4. For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause. He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness, Job 9:17, 18. Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me, Job 19:21. Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me. Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living, Job 30:21-23.
It is true that Job made all these statements and many more, but these statements are not true. The Lord finally rebuked Job for these very words. Then the lord answered job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Chapter 38:1?. “Job, you are darkening counsel. You don’t know what you are talking about. You are speaking words without knowledge.” This is the rebuke the Lord gave to Job for falsely accusing God of being the author of his calamities.
Job accepted the rebuke and confessed that he had been hasty and wrong in his words. Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yea, twice; but I will proceed no further, chapter 40:4,5. Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not… Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes, chapter 42:1-3, 6. Job actually repented for falsely accusing God of bringing his calamities upon him.
But didn’t the Lord Himself tell Satan that He had brought Job’s losses upon him when He answered Satan in Job2:3, And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. In the light of all the other statementsd in the book which definitely show that Satan was the one who brought these calamities upon Job, this verse must be interpreted in the light of God being moved against Job to bring these things upon him only in the sense that He permitted Satan to do it.
There is a great difference between God causing something to be done and permitting it to be done. Many things God permits to take place by holding back his hand of intervention, but the fact that he did not prevent such things from taking place does not mean that He caused them.
The Lord could have prevented Satan from afflicting Job, but the fact that He did not does not make Him the author of Job’s trials. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown. God permitted, but Satan did it. Job did not understand this and falsely accused God of doing it and later had to repent of this very thing.