Receiving Good and Evil from God’s Hand

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job 2:9-10

What evils had come upon Job! In one day he lost all his earthly riches and his ten children. All that was left to him were his wife and a few servants. Soon after this he was afflicted with a loathsome disease that left him covered with horrible sores.

In despair his wife suggested that perhaps the best thing for Job to do was to curse God and die. This is exactly what Satan wanted both of them to do.

Job’s response was exactly what his wife needed to hear. It is also what we need to hear whenever we become discouraged in time of trouble. “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

The Bible speaks quite frequently of the hand of God. It was the hand of God that brought the universe into being. “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands” (Ps. 102:25). Our food and drink come from God’s hand. “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24). Even the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, so that He controls the king’s decisions and actions (Prov. 21:1).

The hand of God is an anthropomorphism, a description of God in human terms. We are to understand the hand of God figuratively. The hand of God speaks of the power of God to create, preserve, and rule the universe. By His great power God brought the universe into existence out of nothing. By His power He continually upholds the universe, causing it to continue to exist. And by His power He rules the universe, energizing every creature and directing its course. This great power of God is called the hand of God.

Nothing takes place but by the hand of God.

In the framework of the error of evolution many imagine that most things in life simply happen by chance. There is no Creator God that brought the universe into existence. The universe came into being by some spontaneous development of matter that was a chance happening. In turn, the universe developed over billions of year from the less complex to the more complex by survival of the fittest and chance mutations. There is no God that directs and controls the events of the universe. Mankind controls as much as he can. The rest just happens by chance.

However, the Bible emphasizes that all things take place only by the sovereign hand of God. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without the will of God (Matt. 10:29). God has even numbered the very hairs on your head (Matt. 10:29). It is He that works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).

It is important to know exactly who this sovereign God is that rules all things by the power of His hand. He is Jehovah, the faithful covenant God, who establishes and maintains a beautiful covenant of friendship with His elect church in Jesus Christ. In that covenant, Jehovah shows Himself to be the friend of His people by saving them from all their sins, providing for all their needs, and causing all things to work to their advantage.

Job knew Jehovah as his God. When Job learned that all his riches and children had been taken from him, he responded, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The term “Lord” here is really the name “Jehovah.” When Job spoke of the name of Jehovah, he had in mind Jehovah as He reveals Himself by the works of His hand to be Jehovah, the faithful covenant God. In this time of great calamity Job recalled to mind all the saving works in which Jehovah had demonstrated His faithfulness to His people. To that name Job clung. That name Job blessed.

What a comfort to know that the sovereign God of heaven and earth, who controls all things by His hand, is Jehovah, our covenant God! All those who belong to Jesus Christ may know that and have that assurance.

From the hand of this sovereign, covenant God comes both good and evil.

This was Job’s testimony to his distraught wife. Great calamity had fallen upon Job and his wife. In one day they lost all their children and wealth. Soon after that, a terrible disease befell Job. In despair Job’s wife concluded that Job ought to curse God and die. Job rebuked his wife in response, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

What is this good and evil? Good refers to that which is pleasant and delightful. There are many good things in life—food and drink, clothing and shelter, health and riches. Evil refers to that which is unpleasant, in the sense of giving pain or causing unhappiness. There are many evils in life, such as drought, famine, poverty, sickness, loss of loved ones, war….

The hand of God brings both good and evil.

The hand of God certainly brought both to Job. God had given Job many good things. By the hand of God, Job had ten children, great riches, and health. But the hand of God also brought many evils to Job. God’s hand brought death to his children, loss of all his riches, and horrible sickness. It is true that Satan had his hand in this. But Job recognized that it was ultimately the hand of God that brought these evils.

The same hand of God brings both good and evil to all men. This includes not just His children, such as Job, but also those outside the household of faith.

How are we to explain this?

God sends both good and evil to the ungodly reprobate for their destruction. Some deny that this is so. They acknowledge that God does send evil upon the reprobate as judgment for their sin, and that, ultimately, God sends only evil on the reprobate when He casts them into hell. But they insist that the good things that God gives the reprobate wicked in this life He gives in His grace, as an undeserved favor. His intent, they say, is not to save them, but His gifts are a matter of grace. The Bible, however, gives a different explanation. The psalmist Asaph struggled for a while with the prosperity of the wicked. But in the sanctuary he learned that God gives good things to the wicked to set them on slippery places so that they will be destroyed (Ps. 73:18). The principle is that the more good things you give to the wicked, the more they have with which to sin and bring destruction upon themselves. And this is God’s purpose in opening His hand wide to the ungodly to give them good things.

God sends both good and evil also to His children. This was not only Job’s experience but it is also the experience of all God’s children. In the case of His children, God gives good and evil things in His grace. God’s grace is not common but particular. Grace is God’s undeserved favor, which He shows to His elect people in Jesus Christ and which always results in their salvation. It is God’s saving grace that leads Him to send His beloved children both good and evil. It is easy to see the grace of God when His hand sends us good things. But why would a gracious God send His people evil things? Asaph learned this also in the sanctuary of God. Through the evils that come from His hand, God was guiding him so that afterward he could receive him into glory (Ps. 73:24). God uses the evils of life to refine us as gold is refined by fire and to make us fit for our place in eternity.

Job indicated to his wife that we must receive not only good from the hand of God but also evil.

The word “receive” means to receive willingly. It is the opposite of rejecting something given or offered to you. For example, when someone gives us something good that provides joy and pleasure, we gladly and willingly receive it. But if someone will give something evil that will bring hurt and sorrow, we will not receive it. Someone may force it upon us, but we will not receive it.

We must receive from the hand of God both the good and the evil that He sends.

We must receive the good things that give us joy and pleasure in gratitude.

But we must also receive the evil that God sends. We must receive it in patience. Patience is the ability to endure the evil God sends and be content, be at peace and remain faithful.

Job’s wife had lost this patience. Her response to the terrible things that God’s hand had brought to them was, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” “Integrity” means completeness. It expresses completeness in faith, righteousness, and service of God. Job’s wife questioned why under these circumstances Job still retained his complete devotion to God in faith. She challenged him rather to curse God and die. She did not receive this evil from God’s hand.

But Job did receive this evil in patience, so that he sinned not with his lips. He was able to do this because he recognized the hand that brought these great evils upon him to be the hand of Jehovah, his ever faithful, covenant God. These evils therefore, painful as they were, were not for his destruction but for his salvation.

When the hand of God brings us suffering, we must cling to the same truth. The hand of God is the hand of Jehovah, our faithful covenant God. Whatever comes from His hand is our salvation!

What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?