Lesson 1: Job 1-2Related Media
Let’s begin by addressing the title I have chosen for this brief, three-lesson, series on the Book of Job. Is it too much of a stretch to try and link the message of the Book of Job to our current pandemic? I think not. The current pandemic gives us a bit of a handle, a connection if you would, with Job and this book. After all, Job was likely written early in Old Testament history. It was a different time, a different place, something long ago and far away. Living in the 21st century we may have difficulty fixing our minds on the setting and the message of such an ancient text.
The Covid-19 pandemic can serve as a kind of lens, through which we can view the Book of Job. I believe we will see that Job’s circumstances way back in time and our experience with the Corona Virus have a number of similarities, which will help us identify with Job and with his suffering. Because of the current pandemic many people have lost their jobs, and find themselves economically devastated. Job unexpectedly lost all of his wealth in a very short period of time. He, too, was broke. This Corona Virus has taken the lives of friends, neighbors, and relatives, and so there is much grieving going on, around the world. Job lost all of his children in a moment of time. He, too, had much to grieve over. And finally, many of those who are currently infected with the Corona virus are suffering greatly. So, too, with Job, whose suffering took him to the very edge of death. I don’t believe many today could claim that they are suffering as much as Job did, centuries ago, but many are suffering the physical effects of this virus.
The long and the short of all of this is that the adversity Job experienced on an individual level is similar to that which we are now experiencing globally. It was the apostle Paul who wrote these words about comfort and hope:
For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope (Romans 15:4, NET1).
3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Simply put, Job’s comfort is meant to comfort us in our time of adversity, and to promote our hope and endurance. As God gives us comfort, He expects us to share this with others who are also suffering. So let us listen well to the message which God has for us in the Book of Job.
My Approach In This Brief Series
I do not intend to conduct an in-depth, verse-by-verse exposition of this book. Rather than to dwell on the “gnats” (the minute details) of this book, I intend to focus on the “camels” – the main points of emphasis – of Job (see Matthew 23:23-24). I will seek to summarize the message of Job in three lessons. This first lesson will deal with the first two chapters of Job. The second lesson will be much more challenging, because we will deal with chapters 3-37. And the third lesson will conclude this study by concentrating on chapters 38-42. I believe that this study will be helpful for those who are dealing with suffering. It will also lay a foundation for a more extensive study of this great book.
An Overview Of The Book Of Job
Chapters 1 and 2 set the stage for the rest of the book. The reader is taken up into the heavens to witness a meeting God has with the “sons of God,” the angelic host,2 and particularly Satan. Bear in mind that the details of what we read here are not known to Job at the time of his suffering. We are provided with information that was not given to Job,3 making the testing of his faith an even more difficult experience.
In His conversation with Satan, God calls attention to Job and his righteousness. Satan scoffs at this, contending that anyone would worship and serve God if divine blessings, like those Job experienced, were showered on them. Satan then set forth a challenge: Let God take away all of Job’s material blessings, which included his children, as well as his worldly wealth, to see if Job will continue to worship the Lord. Job’s faith held firm, as described in chapter 1. Satan then proposed an even greater test: attack Job directly with great physical affliction. God granted Satan’s request, but with certain limits prescribed. His power to inflict Job with physical suffering could not bring about Job’s death.4 Once again Job responds in faith (chapter 2). It is only when Job’s suffering appears to be endless that Job begins to complain and to question God’s purposes. His protests and complaints commence in chapter 3, and continue through chapter 31.
Job then begins to protest and to complain due to his intense and extended suffering. He sees death as preferable to life and wishes that he had never been born, or at least that God would take his life. This opens the door for Job’s three friends to intervene with their “words of wisdom.” From chapters 4 through 31, Job’s friends take turns accusing Job of sin, and urging him to repent, while Job defends himself by maintaining his righteousness. When Job’s three friends give up their accusations, the mysterious Elihu steps in for the next 6 chapters (32-37), rebuking not only Job, but also his three friends.
Finally, beginning in chapter 38 God speaks, for the first time in the book. His focus is primarily on Job, and His lessons come from creation and from nature. By this God humbles Job, till he comes to the realization that he is neither all-wise nor all-powerful, and thus he has no right to speak to God as he has. Job’s final words in 42:1-6 are a humble expression of his repentance. After this, God focuses on Job’s friends, contrasting what they have wrongly spoken of Him, with those things Job has rightly said of Him. Job becomes a mediator for his three friends, so that their sins are forgiven (42:7-9). Finally, God multiplies Job’s material and physical blessings (42:10-17).
The Focus Of This Message
In this message I have purposed to focus on four main subjects: Job, Satan, the angelic host, and the “mystery” of what God is doing in Job’s life.
Job: The Man
Spiritually, God Himself presents Job as the godliest man of that day:
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. And that man was pure and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1).
So the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8).
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. And he still holds firmly to his integrity, so that you stirred me up to destroy him without reason” (Job 2:3).
As if this were not enough, listen to these additional commendations of Job elsewhere in Scripture:
Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would save only their own lives by their righteousness, declares the sovereign LORD (Ezekiel 14:14).
Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11).
In Ezekiel, Job is named as one of the three greatest men in all of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, James tells us that Job is known for his endurance (steadfastness is the main theme of the Book of James). Obviously, Job is viewed as one of the greatest saints in the Bible, which is what God had called to Satan’s attention.
One evidence of Job’s godliness is to be seen in his role as a father. (You and I know that many of the great men of the Old Testament were far from model fathers.)
4 Now his sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one in turn, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. 5 When the days of their feasting were finished, Job would send for them and sanctify them; he would get up early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job thought, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s customary practice (Job 1:4-5).
It would seem that Job’s children enjoyed the benefits of having a wealthy and influential father. One of the ways they spent their time was having family banquets. One of the sons would host the event, and the other siblings would attend, apparently on a fairly regular basis. It does not appear that Job necessarily attended all of these banquets, but he was well aware of them. Job seems to have sensed that in such a setting it was possible that one or more of his children might have sinned. So, after each banquet, Job would send for his children and “sanctify” them. This involved the offering of a burnt offering for each child. Job believed that these sacrifices would atone for any misconduct which might have taken place. As a father, Job is more than passively concerned about the spiritual well-being of his children.
The reader is also given an accounting of Job’s prosperity, assessed in terms of how wealth was appraised in those days. He had 7,000 sheep. That, my friends, is whole lot of wool (or lamb chops). Then we are told that he possessed 3,000 camels. Wow! So, what use made camels valuable in those days? I think of them in terms of the way they provided transportation. One example would be their use in caravans that transported goods for trade. For example, Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Midianite traders whose camel caravan was on its way to Egypt (Genesis 37:25-28). In today’s terminology, I think of camels as the “long haulers” of ancient times. That’s a whole lot of trucks!
We are also informed that Job possessed 500 yoke of oxen (2 oxen per yoke?). Think of these oxen as the tractors of that day. 500 tractors could do a great deal of farming. Next Job owned 500 female donkeys. I look at these as the “short haulers,” the FedEx vehicles of a delivery business. You could deliver a lot of packages with 500 donkeys.
Finally, we are told that Job had “many servants.” We don’t really know the number of servants, but if you think of their number in terms of the animals which would require care and handling, this would be a very large number. (Perhaps it was such a large number that no precise accounting could be made.)
The sum of this is that Job was not only a very godly man, and a godly father; he was also a very wealthy man. Beyond this (or perhaps because of this) he had great status and influence in the community. He was, indeed, the “greatest of all men in the East” (Job 1:3).
Satan: The Adversary
7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” And Satan answered the LORD, “From roving about on the earth, and from walking back and forth across it.” 8 So the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? 10 Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land. 11 But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!” (Job 1:7-11)
3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. And he still holds firmly to his integrity, so that you stirred me up to destroy him without reason.” 4 But Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! Indeed, a man will give up all that he has to save his life! 5 But extend your hand and strike his bone and his flesh, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!” (Job 2:3-5)
Satan is no stranger to anyone who is familiar with the Bible. His origins are described in Isaiah chapter 14 and Ezekiel chapter 28. We are first introduced to him in Genesis chapter 3, where he deceives Eve, resulting in the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. It would seem that some of Satan’s fallen colleagues are involved in the corruption of the human race as described in Genesis chapter 6. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan prompts David to number the Israelites. And in Zechariah chapter 3 he makes accusations against Joshua the high priest.
In the New Testament we find Satan at the temptation of our Lord (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). In John 13:25-27 Satan entered into Judas, prompting him to betray the Lord Jesus. In Acts 5:1-11 Satan corrupts the hearts of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, so that they lie about the amount of their contribution to the church. In 2 Corinthians we read of Satan’s schemes (2:11) and later in the book we are told how Satan works through others, and also disguises himself as an angel of light (11:3-15). In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul writes that Satan hindered his attempts to visit the Thessalonian saints. Peter likens Satan to a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Finally, in the Book of Revelation Satan appears as God’s adversary at the end of this age. At last, Satan is defeated and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10).
7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” And Satan answered the LORD, “From roving about on the earth, and from walking back and forth across it” (Job 1:7).
And the LORD said to Satan, “Where do you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roving about on the earth, and from walking back and forth across it” (Job 2:2).
Satan’s travels must be important if they are mentioned twice in these first two chapters of the book. They are also important because some translations don’t necessarily convey the full meaning of the term employed here. Consider, for example, the rendering of the New American Standard Version:
The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7, NAU).
While not frequently used today, the expression, “cruising,” would capture the sense that we take away from “roaming about.” It refers to a kind of non-strategic wandering about that has little or no purpose – hanging out. But that is not the way this word is frequently used in the Old Testament.
I prefer the rendering of the New Living Translation:
“Where have you come from?” the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on” (Job 1:7, NLT).
Consider these Old Testament instances where the same word speaks of a much more deliberate and strategic, kind of traveling.
The king told Joab, the general in command of his army, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba and muster the army, so I may know the size of the army” (2 Samuel 24:2).
“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NAU).
Neither the process of numbering the Israelite warriors (something like a census), nor the penetrating scanning of the earth by the searching eyes of God are presented as casual or thoughtless deeds. They are deliberate and focused. This helps us to see Satan’s “travels” in Job as much more purposeful, and thus more in line with Peter’s description of him:
Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
I believe that Satan travels about the earth, with the goal of identifying the most vulnerable targets for his opposition to God by deceiving the nations and attacking the saints. I would therefore expect that Satan had already obtained a considerable amount of “intelligence” about Job, because he would likely be one of his primary targets.
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? 10 Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land. 11 But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9-11)
4 But Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! Indeed, a man will give up all that he has to save his life! 5 But extend your hand and strike his bone and his flesh, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!” (Job 2:2-5)
From Satan’s perspective, Job’s commitment to trust and obey God was easily explained on a human level. Who would not serve God if this was rewarded by good health and wealth? (Prosperity gospeleers, beware!) And so Satan challenged: “Let Job’s prosperity and easy life be taken away, and then see how faithful he is.” Satan was convinced that Job would curse God when his enjoyment of the good life was taken away.
When the first test (taking away all of Job’s wealth and children) failed to prove Satan right, he is not dissuaded. No, Satan maintains that God has not yet directly harmed Job enough. Let Job’s health be taken away and then, Satan contends, Job will curse God.
It should not be overlooked that Mrs. Job served as Job’s “Eve.” She urged her husband to do exactly what Satan expected. It would seem that she embraced Satan’s perspective as to why people worship God. Job’s wife, urged Job to renounce his relationship to God and die.
I am reminded of our Lord’s response to Peter, when he adamantly opposed Jesus’ suffering and death at Calvary:
21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s” (Matthew 16:21-23, emphasis mine).
In the final chapter of this book, God will indict Job’s friends for not speaking rightly about Himself (Job 42:7-8). Satan, too, is guilty of speaking wrongly of God. Think about what his declaration implies about God. In effect, Satan is saying, “God, the only way you can attract and keep a following is to bribe people with prosperity and ease.” What kind of a God has to buy His friends?
The saints should worship and serve God because of who He is. Satan insists that men worship God only because of what He gives. When the saints worship God, what do they worship Him for? Let’s take a look:
1 Come! Let’s sing for joy to the LORD!
Let’s shout out praises to our protector who delivers us!
2 Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving!
Let’s shout out to him in celebration!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
a great king who is superior to all gods.
4 The depths of the earth are in his hand,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come! Let’s bow down and worship!
Let’s kneel before the LORD, our creator!
7 For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture,
the sheep he owns. Today, if only you would obey him! (Psalm 95:1-7)
6 The LORD does what is fair,
and executes justice for all the oppressed.
7 The LORD revealed his faithful acts to Moses,
his deeds to the Israelites.
8 The LORD is compassionate and merciful;
he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
9 He does not always accuse,
and does not stay angry.
10 He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
11 For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
12 As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on his faithful followers (Psalm 103:6-13).
God is to be worshipped for who He is, for His character, His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness. And when God takes the physical blessings away, it even more dramatically shows His goodness and greatness when men continue to worship and praise Him.
Isn’t what Satan is saying to God in our text what he really believes? Compare his words in these first two chapters of Job to what he says when he seeks to tempt our Lord:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9 And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
In effect, Satan reveals his own limitations. How does he seek to get Jesus to follow him? Offer a bribe. In some ways, Satan took the same approach with Eve, and Adam in Genesis 3. God had given Adam and Eve complete freedom to partake of any plant in the garden, save one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From what God has forbidden, Satan implies that God is not good, because He has withheld something which Eve saw as good and desirable (Genesis 3:6). So, by following Satan Eve, and Adam, can have something they would not otherwise receive. In the Garden of Eden, Satan is followed because of what he offers, not because of who he is.
So, Satan proposes taking away all of Job’s prosperity, family, and health, expecting that this will terminate Job’s devotion to God. Job’s response reveals that Satan’s thinking is faulty.
In both tests, God allowed Satan a certain degree of freedom to carry out his request, but these came with limits. Satan was always “on a leash,” and God was holding that leash.
Satan’s Peers: The Angelic Host
Now the day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD– and Satan also arrived among them (Job 1:6).
Again the day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also arrived among them to present himself before the LORD (Job 2:1).
It is very easy to fix our attention on Satan, and forget the angelic host that has been summoned by God. It wasn’t just Satan who came to present himself to God – it was the angelic host, identified as the “sons of God.” The use of this expression, “sons of God,” in Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 38:7; and Luke 20:36 verifies that in Job, “sons of God” refers to angels, or the celestial host.
This gathering seems as though it were some kind of “inspection” or “scheduled review,” where the angels give account of their actions to God, or where God gives out their assignments. The reason why I am making a point of calling attention to the presence of many angelic beings is that we may mistakenly read chapters 1 and 2 as though God were having a private conversation with Satan. But this is surely not the case. We know that angels (fallen and unfallen) are very much interested and involved in the affairs of men.
In the Old Testament it appears to be fallen angels (“sons of God”) who intermarry with the “daughters of men” and produce a hybrid race that will need to be wiped out by the flood (Genesis 6:1-4). Then, we read of an angelic host (of unfallen angels) that is made visible to Elisha’s servant, so that he need not fear the vast army that has come to attack Elisha (see 2 Kings 6:8-23). In Daniel, chapters 9-12, we find that the affairs of men on earth are somehow related to angelic activity in heaven.
In the New Testament angelic activity is even more prevalent. The angels are greatly interested in what God is doing on earth, and so they eagerly watch, while God instructs them through His church:
7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me –less than the least of all the saints– this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about God’s secret plan– a secret that has been hidden for ages in God who has created all things. 10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness. 13 For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory (Ephesians 3:7-13, emphasis mine).
For this reason a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11:10, emphasis mine).
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. 11 They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory. 12 They were shown that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things now announced to you through those who proclaimed the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things angels long to catch a glimpse of (1 Peter 1:10-12).
We know from these Scriptures and others that the angels are eagerly “watching” what is happening on earth, and particularly in the church. We also know that the angels who did not stay within their proper domain are being kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up until the judgment of the great Day (Jude 1:6). From Luke 8:31, it would seem as though demons in Jesus’ day could be cast into the abyss. Also, when we take Revelation 12:4, 9 into account, there may still be a number of angels who will even yet choose to follow Satan, to their own destruction (Matthew 12:41).
From all that we know about angels, fallen and unfallen, it is not difficult to conclude that God has chosen to confront Satan in front of all of the assembled heavenly host, in order to instruct the angels for their own good. Does God anticipate teaching Satan anything at all? I think not. But by proving Satan a liar and a deceiver I believe God is teaching those angels who are able to grasp what He is doing:
Flog a scorner, and as a result the simpleton will learn prudence;
correct a discerning person, and as a result he will understand knowledge (Proverbs 19:25).
I was reminded of an incident that occurred in one of my theology classes at Dallas Seminary. The professor had asked his students a question, and a rather arrogant fellow spoke up to answer. But rather than speaking in a humble, student-like way, he chose to pontificate in a way that irritated not only the class, but the professor. The professor took the bait and proceeded to question this fellow in greater and greater detail. At every point, the student-scholar dug himself into an ever-deepening hole. I have to tell you that the other students were listening intently, and those as carnal as I were enjoying every moment of it. Finally, the professor “buried” the student, much to my delight. (The professor was more spiritual than I because the next day he apologized to the pompous student before the entire class.)
But can’t you see how this conversation between God and Satan would rivet the attention of all of the angels, so that they were very much engaged in the discussion, and most interested to see the outcome? Hopefully, the angels were instructed, at Satan’s expense.
The Mystery: What Job Didn’t Know
Let us remember that Job handled adversity very well in these first two chapters, in spite of the fact that he had no knowledge, at the time, of what God was doing, or why. The author has clued the reader in, but as yet Job has not been informed of the celestial / angelic / satanic dimension of his adversity. Indeed, Job cannot know what is taking place in the heavens, because that would make his suffering easier to deal with, and thus would make the “test” Satan proposed much easier to handle.
How I’m tempted to wish that the book ended right here, but if that were so I would be tempted to conclude that Job was another one of those Old Testament superstars, who, unlike me, always seemed to do the right thing at the right time. I know better than this because there really are no Old Testament superstars. To conclude Job with a “happily ever after” ending just wouldn’t seem right. Rather than being an encouragement to me, so prone to wander and fail, it would discourage me.
I don’t think Satan wanted it to end here, either, though we do not hear from him again in the book, as we have in these first two chapters. Since the heavenly conversation ends in chapter two, one might conclude that it was not Satan who chose to prolong Job’s testing, but God. What if God wanted to increase the “level of difficulty” for Job in order to show the magnitude of Job’s endurance of faith? What if God did this, not only to amplify His own glory here, but also to increase Job’s faith and obedience? Perhaps the answer will become clear as we continue to study the rest of the book. But for now, let’s consider some applications from what we have learned thus far in Job.
What We Learn About Satan In Our Text
First, we learn that Satan is the great destroyer, who takes great pleasure in destroying all that is holy, pure, and right. He delights in the destruction of human life (John 8:44). He is also a liar, a deceiver (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 John 1:7; Revelation 12:9; 20:7-10), and an accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). I personally believe that Satan also deceives angels to become his followers. How else did angels become fallen angels?
Satan is no one’s friend. While he may present himself as our advocate, he is really our adversary. In the Garden of Eden Satan presented himself to Eve as one who was on her side, seeking to help her pursue what was in her best interest. He was “a friend,” seeking to help Eve achieve the good life, even if that meant disobeying God because He withheld something from her which seemed good (Genesis 3:6). We find the same approach when Satan tempted our Lord at the outset of His earthly ministry (Matthew 4; Luke 4). He was trying to get Jesus to help himself to food which was, for the moment, forbidden. He sought to tempt Jesus to achieve His kingdom the easy way, rather than God’s way. My friends, Satan is never our friend. He is never to be trusted. He is a liar and a deceiver, one who seeks only to destroy God’s work and God’s people. When we seek our own interest, we are actually living according to Satan’s schemes.
There is no greater advocate of “the prosperity gospel” than Satan, who seeks to convince us that God is not really good, especially when He withholds something we desire or delight in. When Satan (ultimately God)5 took away “the good life” from Job, with all of its material and physical blessings, he believed that Job would forsake his faith, and curse God. Satan could not comprehend why men and women would follow God, even when He brought them into great suffering and adversity. He could not grasp that God is worthy of our trust and obedience because of Who He is, rather than because of what He gives.
What We Learn About God In Our Text
One thing we learn about God is that, contrary to the thinking of Job’s friends (and many more today), God sometimes purposes for His saints to suffer because they are righteous. Job was the most righteous man on the face of the earth, and yet God brought great suffering into his life – because he was righteous. When you stop to think about it, it is not just Job’s faith that is being tested, but God’s faithfulness, and His commitment and ability to finish what He started:
For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence, 25 to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)
It is God’s faithfulness that serves as the basis of our faithful endurance in suffering:
So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good (1 Peter 4:19).
To do so is to imitate our Lord Jesus:
21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25).
Also, we learn that when God brings suffering and adversity into our lives, it is because He purposes good things to be the outcome.
5 The LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, say: ‘The exiles whom I sent away from here to the land of Babylon are like those good figs. I consider them to be good. 6 I will look after their welfare and will restore them to this land. There I will build them up and will not tear them down. I will plant them firmly in the land and will not uproot them” (Jeremiah 24:4-6).
1 Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him” (John 9:1-3).
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. 3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold– gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away– and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:3-7).
12 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad (1 Peter 4:12-13).
God is glorified when we persevere in our faith and bless Him in the midst of suffering:
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. 16 But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name (1 Peter 4:14-16).
Job 1 and 2 teaches us that God is in complete control. While Satan may exercise authority and apparent control in certain areas, his power and authority is never outside God’s control. Even Satan’s opposition is used by God to achieve His purposes (such as Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and His subsequent arrest and crucifixion).
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
What We Learn From Job
If Job were to be graded on his perseverance at the end of chapter 2, he would be given an A+. He passed both of Satan’s tests with flying colors. He did not curse God; instead, he praised and worshipped God (see Job 1:20-22; 2:9-10).
Job believed in substitutionary atonement, that is he believed that God forgave sins on the basis of the offering of an innocent sacrifice. (He offered sacrifices for each of his children, in case they had sinned, and he believed his sacrifice would atone for their sin.)
Job knew that his suffering came from God’s hand (1:21), and thus he would not accuse Him of wrong doing.6 He also seemed to recognize that a saint may experience both prosperity and material blessings, as well as adversity and suffering: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Job recognized that God was worthy of praise, whether He brought material blessings or not. In other words, God is worthy of our praise, whether we are experiencing ease and prosperity, or adversity and suffering.
So, to recap the message of these two introductory chapters of the Book of Job, what do we learn from this introduction that sets the stage for what is to follow? Allow me to summarize:
- There is a real person, Satan, who actively opposes God and His saints.
- There are many (some might say countless) angelic beings with whom both God and Satan have contact. They are always observers, and sometimes participants in what God, or Satan are doing on earth.
- God is sovereign – in complete control. At no time is Satan free to act independently of God. He is always subject to the permissions and limitations God places on him.
- God does purpose to use suffering and adversity in the lives of righteous saints, for their good and for His glory.
- Job’s relationship with God is based on faith, and not his works. Job must trust in God because of who He is, rather than because of what He gives.
So why doesn’t the book end here? Job has remained faithful, in spite of the suffering God has allowed Satan to bring into his life. Satan is wrong; God is right. But 40 more chapters remain ahead of us. Let us continue our study, with the goal of learning what is still to be accomplished by Job’s prolonged suffering, some of which comes by means of his “friends” and their counsel.
What Do We Learn That Can Help Us During This Covid-19 Pandemic?
There is nothing here for Satan to learn, but there is much for the Old Testament saints to learn, and much for us that applies to the current pandemic. Let’s ponder a few points of application.
It should be obvious that Satan is intent on attacking the righteous, as he is here in Job, and elsewhere:
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1, NAU).
Next I saw Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him (Zechariah 3:1).
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from its stall, and lead it to water? (Lk. 13:15 NET) Then shouldn’t this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be released from this imprisonment on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16, emphasis mine)
The good news is that Satan can only harm the Christian within the boundaries God establishes. And even when he is allowed to afflict us, his attempts to destroy the believer will lead to our growth in Christ, and the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
8 Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. 10 And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:8-10).
31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
7 Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me– so that I would not become arrogant. 8 I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Satan almost certainly has his own plans to use the Corona virus for his own purposes. But this virus will only persist within the limits God sets for it (and for Satan). God’s purposes for this virus (and our suffering) will be accomplished, and we, like Job must confess, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
We should also be cautioned regarding the ever-so-popular “prosperity gospel,” which alleges that those who do good and trust God will not suffer, but will most certainly prosper. Job suffered because he was righteous, not because he had sinned. But Job’s suffering ultimately brought him closer to God, and his example has been recorded in Scripture to instruct us, as we deal with Covid-19, and with all the adversities that we will encounter in this life.
In the midst of our present trials and tribulations, let us never forget God’s promise:
31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all– how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
1 Unless otherwise indicated, all quoted Scripture will be from the NETBible.
2 In addition to Job 1:6 and 2:1, see Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 38:7.
3 At least they were not made known to Job until after his repentance and restoration.
4 Since Satan is a liar, a deceiver, and a murderer, this was a necessary prohibition (see John 8:44; Revelation 12:9).
5 So far as Job knew at the moment, it was God that took away his material blessings. And, in the final analysis, it is always God (see 1 Chronicles 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:1).
6 I’m not altogether satisfied with the rendering, “nor did he blame God” (see NAU, NAS, NLT). He did see his affliction as coming from the hand of God, but he found no fault in God for having done this.