God: Incomparably Powerful
Passage: Job 12:7–12:25
God: Incomparably Powerful
September 30th, 2007
Way of Grace Church
I. Is Anyone Flying the Plane?
If you or I were on a transcontinental flight and opened up the cockpit door to find no one at the controls, we would be alarmed to say the least.
But what would we see if we were to open the door, figuratively, to the cockpit of the universe?
If we were to put that question to the well-known Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, he would say, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."
So, is that our pilot: "blind pitiless indifference"? Or isn't Dawkins really telling us that no one is flying the plane.
Some would take issue with this and say that there is some kind of being or force that got the universe started and now, there are simply laws governing how the universe is unfolding. Cause and effect. Like a watchmaker, this being put the pieces into place and started things up, but has receded into the background to let things play out.
In terms of a pilot, this might be something like a cosmic cruise control system set to take us in a straight line...that is, until the fuel runs out.
Whether we're talking about no pilot, or cruise control, either way, the passengers on that plane should be concerned if there is not somebody at the wheel.
This morning, we need to go back to Scripture and consider what it tells us about this very question, "Is anyone the flying the plane?"
Turn with me to Job 12:7-25. (Page 424 in the blue Bibles).
II. The Passage: With Him are Strength and Sound Wisdom (12:7-25)
Before we look at this passage, let me mention something about the book of Job.
Job is the kind of book that requires precision if we are looking to learn about God. I say that because there are characters in Job that do not present an accurate view of God.
God himself confirms this at the end of the book when he says to Job's three friends, "For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (42:8)
But...what we also see confirmed here is that, Job himself does provide us with an accurate view of God. Job has spoken of God what is right.
So it is to Job's words that we turn in chapter 12.
Now before I read, we need to know that Job is engaged in a dialogue with three of his friends. They have heard about his incredible loss and pain and suffering, and they are coming to convince him that he needs to turn from whatever sins God is so obviously judging.
But Job has a clear conscience and thus rejects their premise that his suffering stems from his sin. In this passage, he wants to challenge their simplistic view that God only acts according to the kind of formula that says, "we suffer because God is punishing us".
So look at how he begins in verses 7-12.
"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 11 Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? 12 Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
Do you see what Job is affirming here? He is reemphasizing what he expressed in verse 3: "Who does not know such things as these?"
Or as He puts it in verses 7-9, every creature, even the fish of the sea, can testify to the fact that the "hand of the LORD has done this" Done what? Brought about Job's suffering and loss.
Now, wait a minute, that's a pretty serious assertion, isn't it? This fact that Job claims is so obvious is that it was God who brought about the tragic events we see in chapters 1 and 2: the loss of Job's possessions, the death of his servants, the death of his ten children, the loss of his wife, and his own physical suffering.
But, can that be right? There are many people who would find that suggestion, that God is behind our suffering, they would find that unacceptable. Stuff happens in this life. All of us have our share of bad luck. God has nothing to do with it. He's there to bring us comfort, not ordain misery.
But remember what God said about Job at the end of this book: "For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (42:8)
And did you see in verse 10 why Job can make such a bold assertion about the "hand of the LORD". Do you see why every creature can confirm this truth? Because in the "hand of the LORD" is "the life every living thing and the breath of all mankind." All life is in God's hand.
Even now, as your lungs expand and contract, as your heart pumps blood throughout your body, the hand of God makes all of it possible. Anything that affects life in this universe has to ultimately go back to the hand in which life is held.
Remember, ‘hand' is simply a Semitic way of talking about power.
Job understands that God is behind his suffering. Verses 11 and 12 emphasize that Job has learned and accepted this wisdom over the course of his life.
Now at this point, some may say. "Wait a minute. Just because my breath and the breath of all mankind is in God's hand, that doesn't mean God is behind my suffering. That just means he sustains life. He doesn't maim life."
But look at how Job goes on, beginning in verse 13, to emphasize the hand of God at work in the affairs of human beings...
13 "With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. 14 If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. 15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. 16 With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17 He leads counselors away stripped, and judges he makes fools. 18 He looses the bonds of kings and binds a waistcloth on their hips. 19 He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the mighty. 20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders. 21 He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong.
22 He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. 23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. 24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a pathless waste. 25 They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.
Job's point is clear, isn't it? How many ways can he express the same truth, that God is the one who is flying the plane, both hands on the controls.
And notice this is not simply describing God as judge. God's ‘tearing down' and ‘destroying' is not described here as the just punishment for this or that sin. No, look at verse 16 again: "the deceived and the deceiver are his."
This is exactly the issue on which Job wants to challenge his three friends. Yes, God ordains suffering, but no, it is not always a direct response to a particular sin or sins.
Counselors, kings, priests, elders, and princes all stand or fall according to God's purposes. It not ultimately the industriousness or military might of a country that makes it great, or its lack of leadership or poverty that ruins a nation. No, verse 23, "HE makes nations great, and he destroys them".
Human will is impotent in the face of God's will: if he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open.
What we're talking about here is rooted in that attribute of God we call his omnipotence. From the Latin: omni= "all", potence="power". God is all-powerful. God is incomparably powerful.
III. Living Truth from Power
But very often, when we think about or hear about the fact that God is all-powerful, we are first pointed to a few different aspects of this truth.
First, we may think about God's power made clear in his role as Creator.
Second, we may think about God's power at work in His role as Savior or Redeemer.
Third, and maybe most prevalent, we may think about God's power in terms of the reality that nothing is impossible when it comes to God working in our life.
God's power is very often highlighted or discussed in those situations when we are looking for power to overcome this or that obstacle.
But even though all of these things are true, at its very core, the reality of God's omnipotence, God's all-‘powerful-ness', means that God is able to fully accomplish and will fully accomplish, not what we think we need him to do, but His perfect plan for all things according to his perfect wisdom.
God is flying the plane and it will arrive at the destination of his choice at exactly the time he has decreed.
Listen, the inexhaustible wisdom of God that we talked about last week means nothing if God is not powerful enough to carry out his wise purposes. That was kind of a given for us last week when we talked about God knowing best and God accomplishing his agenda, even through out struggles.
Did you notice how that last section began in verse 13? Before talking about God's power at work in ‘tearing down' and ‘shutting in', Job declares, "With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. He reemphasizes this fact in the first half of verse 16: With him are strength and sound wisdom.
God is not sadistic. He does not tear down and shut in because he has a short fuse or is mentally unstable. No, what Job is making clear here is that God has a reason for doing what he does.
The whole premise behind the book of Job is that Job does not understand God's reasoning. He cannot understand the wisdom behind what God is doing. And neither he nor the reader ever finds out the reason for Job's suffering. But Job speaks of God what is right. He does not deny that God is in charge.
God's power is incomparable because God's power is the power of THE king who reigns over all things.
Sometimes this idea is described as God's providence. Sometimes this talked about in terms of God's sovereignty. But all of it is rooted in God's incomparable power.
Now, the obvious question that arises when we talk about these things is, "How can God be good if he brings about such suffering?"
Well, if we were to read the book from start to finish, we would know that it is in fact Satan who torments Job. But as we've read in chapter 12, Job rightly asserts that the "hand of the LORD has done this". Is Job mistaken? No, according to God himself, Job has spoken what is right. And this would certainly be something to correct if he were wrong.
No, what we read is that God has permitted Satan to attack Job. As we see here with Job, Satan's destructive work in this world is actually part of God's plan. Foreign bandits may have stolen Job's camels because they were cruel and greedy, Satan might have orchestrated this event to squash Job's faith, but God has permitted it and thus "the hand of the LORD has done this".
And, we know that those bandits will be judged. And we know that Satan will be judged. They are all fully responsible, and yet God is in complete control according to his incomparable power.
Do you understand this? There are accidents every day, but there really are no accidents.
God is not surprised by us or anything we do. God is not frantically reacting to our decisions. His agenda is not beholden to billions of human agendas. Though we can talk legitimately about the laws of probability, you know, the chances of this or that happening, really, there is no such thing as chance.
Do you see, there is a tension here that we cannot explain, a tension between the responsibility of the creatures and the perfect plan of the Creator. All we can say for sure is that God is in control. In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
Therefore brothers and sisters, don't ever say "Good Luck!" or "I guess I was just lucky." Don't listen to a horoscope that places your fate in the hands of the stars.
No, your life is in the hand of God. It has nothing to do with luck or chance or some kind of cosmic convergence.
Do you believe that God is in control? Even when the world seems to be teetering on the brink of chaos? Even when you are surrounded by suffering? Even when you are struggling personally? Is God in control?
It's one thing to admit that God is all-wise and all-powerful, but it is another to trust that our journey is in perfectly capable hands, that it's precisely on course and on time, especially when the skies outside our window are filled with dark clouds and lightning, especially when turbulence is tossing us around the cabin.
How big is your God?
If he is incomparably powerful, he must be in control, because there is no other power that can take control from him.
But what does all of this mean for us? What does it matter that God is in control? Is the point here that all of us of should rest in the fact that we are just pieces in divine chess game that God is superintending? God might be flying the plane, but where is the plane going?
IV. Power Toward Us
We need to see that there is something so precious and encouraging about the reality of God's incomparable power. Listen to how Paul explains it in a passage we looked at last week, Ephesians 1:
We read that God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
God has a plan, according to his will, according to what he desires, and he has a timetable, and all of it revolves around Jesus Christ. For the last four weeks we have been talking about the bigness of God. But every week we have come back to the incredible truth that the greatness of God has been revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ.
Let's keep reading in Ephesians 1:
11 In him [Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
Did you see that? Not only does God have a plan and a timetable, but he also has the power to perfectly carrying out that plan so that everything will conform with the purpose of his will. And it will all lead to the "praise of his glory".
Of course Paul can say that believers have been chosen by God. God is in charge. He has a plan. He is incomparably powerful.
So if you have placed your trust fully in Jesus Christ, you can be assured that God is powerful enough to fulfill all his promises, to work in all things for your eternal good and his infinite glory.
Paul goes on to reaffirm this in Ephesians 1. Only a few lines later Paul tells his readers that he is praying for them. He tells them, "I am praying...
...that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Can you believe this? The power that brought all things into existence, the power that sustains everything in this universe, the power that guides history toward its scripted conclusion, the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is "toward us who believe".
You and I typically find our security in the assurance of power. The power of a lawyer. The power of money. The power of our military.
But I pray that our security, our hope, our encouragement to live fully for God comes from our assurance that God is incomparably powerful.
In the midst of the chaos outside the plane, in the midst of the chaos inside the cabin, how should our lives be different if we believe the pilot is perfectly in control and will bring us safely to his intended destination, right on time.
The plan is His. The passengers are His. The turbulence is His. The glory is His.