One of my favorite books in scripture is the book of Job (pronounced with a long O like toad). It is thought to be the oldest book of the Bible written somewhere between 2000-1800 B.C. – roughly 4,000 years ago. It deals with man’s greatest question in the world – human suffering. I think I like this book so much because I’ve personally experienced both the emotional and physical pain Job suffers in the book, and I’ve had the same kinds of questions Job has for God as he goes through his experiences. Job is a book that is very real in its portrayal of the human condition.
But there is a lot more to Job than meets the eye – the kind of stuff you catch once you’ve read it a dozen or so times and have read other people’s reviews of it. There’s a whole lot going on in the Book of Job that is incredibly instructive about what is going on in our lives today when it comes to the pain we may be experiencing in our lives.
We learn in the very first verses that Job is a man who is blameless and upright who fears God and shuns evil. In other words, Job’s a good guy and it’s clear he is blessed by God with wealth and family for his righteousness. Yay Job. Then we get to verse six and things get weird.
“One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’”
Last I read Satan and a third of the rebellious angels were cast out of heaven. What’s he doing back there before the Lord? And why is God about to have the following conversation with him?
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face.’”
Perhaps you have heard Satan called the accuser but here is a great case study how he does it. God lovingly points out Job, proud of how Job has responded to God in all things. Satan does some very tricky things here, including:
- Questions Job’s motive, saying the only reason Job is blameless is due to his material blessings
- Implies that God has bought Job’s love through these blessings and that Job really doesn’t love God
- Challenges God to strike down his own creation, which Satan hates
Here is God’s response:
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well then, everything he has is in your hands, but the man himself do not lay a finger.’”
Something very important just happened. God chooses Job to be his champion but at great cost to Job. God just gave Satan permission – authority Satan does not have on his own – to attack Job. God himself will not attack Job but Satan may but not Job himself. So Satan uses man to take away Job’s flocks, his camels, his servants, and then Satan uses the wind to collapse a building, killing all of Job’s children. Job is told of all these calamities in immediate succession. Here is Job’s response:
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”
Scripture says in all of this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
How about us? What if we actually are part of some supernatural even we don’t know about and couldn’t even understand if we did know about it? What if Satan accused us before God and questioned our motives regarding our faith and the Father chose us as His champion and allowed Satan to test our faith? Would we charge God with wrongdoing if things went terribly wrong in our life? Have we charged God with abandoning us, not loving us, harming us in the past when things didn’t work out our way?
Things got worse for Job.
Like with us, Satan didn’t give up on Job. He went back to God and said, “’Skin for skin…A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bone and he will surely curse you to your face.’” God trusts Job and allows Satan to harm Job’s flesh but not kill him.
Again, Satan is tricky. It’s one thing to lose your possessions – even your children – but physical suffering to the point of wanting to die but yet you live is another thing altogether. Satan attacks Job with absolute misery and then the book recounts how his wife and all his friends turn on him, saying that he must have sinned in some way which is causing all his suffering so he should repent before God. Job has lost all his wealth, his children, his health, his friends support, and his wife’s support. His response is exactly what ours would be.
First he defends himself against his critics declaring his innocence. Then he is despondent cursing the day he was born he is so miserable. But then he demands an audience with God who he feels is treating him so unjustly. From Job’s perspective God is the cause of all this and in his extremely limited understanding Job wants a face-to-face with God about this whole thing. There must be some misunderstanding and Job wants it cleared up.
Which one of us hasn’t been Job in our lives? Who hasn’t wanted God to explain to us just what the heck is going on in our lives and in the world? And how did God respond to Job? He hammered him for even presuming to question God about such things! Not quite what I expected when I came to chapter 38 that is titled God Answers Job. I was hoping God would say something like, “Job, I know you don’t understand all this and you don’t need to but you did great and I’m proud of you.” Nope, that’s not what we get. God responds by asking Job where he was when God laid the foundations of the world, and if Job ever gave orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place. Ouch! Don’t question the big guy!
But Job gets it. The key line is “Surely I spoke of things I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
See our lives are not just lived here on this earth. We are part of a supernatural battle as well. I don’t claim to understand it – I really don’t get it. But from the glimpses I read about in the Book of Job and other places in scripture I know these things:
- Satan accuses us before God night and day
- God apparently gives Satan authority to do certain things on this earth that we would consider bad
- God expects us to be His champions and keep the faith no matter what Satan does
- We are not to question God because His ways are not our ways (this is REALLY difficult as Job shows us)
- Jesus has already defeated Satan so in the end it really doesn’t matter what Satan does to us – we’re already winners!
- Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father and every time Satan accuses us Jesus tells the Father, no, that one’s mine.
- There will be times that suck. It may be because we are under attack or it may be life just sucks. Either way we are to trust in God and be upright and blameless like Job.