And through this part of the story God teaches us the importance of trusting in His absolute wisdom and plan.
There are two reasons given for why we need to trust God’s wisdom even during severe suffering.
We looked at the first reason last week: We need to trust the absolute wisdom and plan of God because
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 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? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Notice even from the beginning of the encounter Satan is subtlety antagonistic toward God.
God asks, “Where did you come from?”
Satan replies, (with a ring of sarcasm) “from going to and fro in the earth.” He avoids answering God directly and his report provides no real information at all.
He is like the smart aleck teenager who when asked by his parents where he has been says, “around” or “nowhere.” What do they real mean? I have been around- I have existed someplace on planet earth. Really? If you existed at all you have existed around planet earth! Or nowhere, i.e. nowhere that I want to tell you.
This is Satan’s first attempt at thwarting God.
Satan moves on from being subtle to openly contradicting God.
In v. 8 God puts Job forward as the prime example of a faithful servant.
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?
By the way- I find this statement by God about Job astonishing. Not because God calls Job blameless and upright, but because God uses the life of Job on the grandest stage in the cosmos to bring glory to Himself.
God is holding His kingly court in the grandest throne room possible! God is seated in heaven surrounded by the sons of God and the glories of heaven. And the accuser is there as well, and what does God choose to bring glory to Himself? The life of a small insignificant man- Job. What does that say about the importance of being faithful in our every day lives? Could God use your life in His throne room some day to bring glory to Himself?
Satan, however, is not going to let a statement like that go unchallenged. So, Satan openly disagrees with the Lord
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
(1) Because the Lord “hedged” Job on every side. i.e. “Job was successful according to every possible measurement of success.”
(2) Because the Lord increased Job’s possessions in the land greatly. Job did not attain this level of wealth by being frugal, God caused Job to be prosperous in every area of life.
(3) This level of prosperity is unusual in human experience.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
(1) He arrogantly contradicts the pronouncement of Yahweh
(a) By giving a virtual command to Yahweh.
“Put forth your hand, curse all that he has”
(b) By the underlying assumption was that Yahweh was wrong about Job.
“He will curse you to your face”
What was God’s estimation of Job? He fears the Lord and turns from evil.
But Satan contradicts God and says, “he will curse you to your face”
(2) He confidently contradicts the pronouncement of Yahweh
In the Hebrew Satan uses a conjunction that is most likely interrogative, and so assertative because the question is rhetorical: ‘Won’t he curse you?’ That is, ‘He is sure to curse you.’ This conjunction is also used to state the condition of a vow with an oath, which becomes an auto-imprecation. [if he doesn’t curse you, may I be judged would be the idea]” (Andersen, 85).
(3) He boldly challenges the pronouncement of Yahweh
(1) “Whereas Job continually feared that one of his children might have cursed God in his heart, the Satan projected that Job would become so angry he would curse God to his face.” (Hartley, 73)
(2) In other words, according to Job’s own previously stated definition of righteousness (Job believed that it would be sin to contemplate cursing God in one’s heart even if one did not verbalize the curse), he would go well beyond and do the worst possible thing: curse God defiantly.
SUMMARY OF SATAN’S CHALLENGE:
“That Satan believes nothing to be genuinely good – neither Job in his disinterested piety nor God in His disinterested generosity. ... His argument is clever. Job’s godliness is artificial. It has never been proved by testing. And God is no better. He has made it easy for Job to be good. He has secured Job’s devotion by bribery, and shielded him from harm.” (Andersen, 84).
Witnessing on State St in Madison just days after 9/11. Many were seeking God. We stood in a square and 50 college kids sang praises to God, and a large crowd gathered and listened and we were able to hand out tracts to all of them. Not everyone was that receptive. I remember witnessing to a man in a bus stop and handing him a tract about 9/11 and how God was loving and merciful through those events. He screamed in my face, “You people are sick, you disgust me” and he ran away. What happened? This man saw the suffering caused by 9/11 (and it was horrible), and what did he do? He blamed God. He in effect cursed God to His face. He could not bare the idea of believing in a God who would allow something so cruel. Now while God was in control and He did allow it to happen, He was not the cause. Satan and fallen mankind were the cause of that terrible event. Yet Satan uses suffering as a weapon against God to discredit Him, and cause us to curse Him to his face.
Now I do not want to give you the impression that if you put one toe out of line, if you mess up even one time in your life, that you are giving Satan the victory, or that God is somehow made out to be the looser. No that is not the case at all.
While Satan might be the accuser of the brethren, who accuses us day and night Revelations tells us, we also have and advocate Jesus Christ the righteous.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
We have a great high priest who ever lives to make intercession for us. So when Satan accuses us night and day, Jesus intercedes on our behalf with His blood. We benefit from the blood of Christ not just at the moment of our salvation, but every day when Satan would accuse us, Jesus answers- I have paid for them with my blood, they are covered in my righteousness.
Where Satan gets the victory is when we turn away from faithfully following God. When we curse God to His face. When we decide it is too hard to follow Christ and we go our own way.
You see Satan uses human suffering as a weapon in his war against God. He will do anything he is permitted to get you to curse God to His face. Satan is absolutely cruel in the suffering he causes in the lives of believers. That is why it is imperative that we trust the absolute wisdom and plan of God.
Does it seem like Satan is using suffering in your life as a weapon against God?
Are you being tempted to think that life is just too hard? That God is not being fair or just? Are you tempted to curse God?
Don’t let Satan win! Don’t stop faithfully following God even through the suffering. God is in control. He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, He will work together all things for your good. He must trust Him.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
No hint of the impending doom
a) The children were feasting as usual - It is another happy day in their lives.
b) The servants are going about their normal work.
When we lost Grandma Ruth to a heart attack, one of the things that made that difficult was its suddenness. One day she is making curtains at church, and baking cookies, and the next moment she is passed out on the chair. Then within a few short hours she was gone. That was hard.
Devastating in every way and from every direction. The goal is to overwhelm Job with a rapid-fire succession of losses
a) Loss of oxen and donkeys
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
(1) The Sabeans would have come from the south
(2) A complete loss (the servant literally says: “And I have escaped! Only me! I alone to tell you!” Very redundant statement emphasizing that everything else was lost.
b) Loss of sheep
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, 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.
(1) Fire came from above. Storms of this nature normally come from the west (Mediterranean). Andersen, 87, notes that this “is usually lightening (I Ki. 18:38; 2 Ki. 1:10-14; Jb. 20:26), unless it is volcanic fall-out (Gn. 19:24). Something unusual would be needed to consume 7,000 sheep.”
(2) The servant attributes this act to God.
(3) God himself appears to be opposing Job (though it is Satan).
(4) A complete loss (same words of the servant as in verse 15)
c) Loss of camels
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
(1) The Chaldeans came down across the fertile crescent from the north.
(2) A complete loss (same words of the servant as in verse 15)
d) Loss of children
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
(1) The wind would have come most likely from the east across the desert.
Again this would seem to be supernatural. A wind so strong and precise that it took out all four corners of the house at once so it fell and killed all who were inside save one lone servant.
(2) A complete loss (same words of the servant as in verse 15,16,17)
e) Summary of Job’s losses
(1) He has been attacked from every direction (NSEW and Above. The statement regarding the four corners of the house also indicates the encompassing nature of the disaster.
(2) He has been attacked by human and divine opponents (weather at control of God only).
(3) He has lost it all in one day and was informed of it all rapidly
(a) The string of verbs suggests a rapid series of events.
(b) (the Satan orchestrated the events so that the servants would reach Job at approximately the same time; the worst loss is reported last for effect)
One year during Christmas, my wife and one of her sisters were decorating our Christmas tree and the rest of the house. And one of their favorite things to do is to put on Christmas music while they do the work of decorating. This year was one of the first years that we had an apple computer and I also had an iPhone. One of the things you can do if you have the phone and the computer is you can download an app and turn you phone into a remote that controls your computer. I had just recently downloaded the app, so I decided to play a little prank on my wife and her sister. I logged into iTunes and changed the music they were listening to. One moment they were listing to silent night, and the next the chicken dance song was blaring from the speakers. I silently giggled to myself (I was downstairs, they were upstairs by the way). After about 30 secs of the chicken dance, they changed it back to Christmas music. And I can just imagine their thoughts, “hmm that was weird. Silly computers!” Then, I waited about 5 min and switched it back to the chicken dance. And the whole scenario repeated itself. Then I waited around 2 min, then 1 min, then I just started changing it to the chicken dance song every time they tried to switch it back to Christmas music. Finally, an exasperated wife appears in my office and says, “Honey, the silly computer is possessed! It keeps playing the chicken dance!” I lost it, and she proceeded to pummel me relentlessly.
What happened? I manipulated them into thinking that the ghost in the machine was changing the song on them for no reason. We often do this right? If the technology is not working the way we want it to, we do what? We blame the computer. Its the computers fault that its not working correctly. When 99% of the time who’s fault is it really? Operator error (or it might be you husband hiding in the basement playing a trick on you)
This is what Satan is doing in the life of Job. He is manipulating Job in the worst way possible. He orchestrated the most cruel suffering possible in the life of Job. It left him devastated, and crushed, and broken. And Satan orchestrated it in such a way as to make Job think it was who’s fault? God’s.
“The intense faith of Job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem.” (Anderson, 86)
“Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, and tragedy even, but not a problem. Suffering caused by human wickedness or by the forces of nature is ultimately a problem only for a believer in the one Creator within the Bible with its distinctive moral monotheism.” (Andersen, 86)
So often when we are going through a time of suffering we crushed, or devastated and we instantly see the hand of God in our suffering and we blame Him. God is the one who gets the blame for human suffering, when we should really be upset with Satan and ourselves. God becomes the victim of human suffering because we buy into Satan’s manipulation. We must remember that Satan is the one who is absolutely cruel in human suffering and he is also a master manipulator. And his goal is to discredit God, cause us to blame God for our suffering, to call into question God's goodness, and to ultimately cruse God to His face.
As one commentator noted, “Job’s faith does not relieve his agony; it causes it. Job loved the Lord, his Father and Friend, as no Greek could ever love even the best of his gods, as no Babylonian, Canaanite or Egyptian could love any of their numerous gods. Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. Because Job sees nothing but the Lord’s hand in everything, how can he escape the horrible thought that God has done something bad? He knows no cause for such a willful act.”
I want us to note Job’s initial response to Satan’s cruelty.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return thither: The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Here is a man who was willing to trust absolutely in the ultimate wisdom and plan of God. As hard as that must have been for Job, yet he still placed his faith in God.
This brings up one of the main issues in the book of Job:
What happens when a person’s faith no longer works, when he no longer gets from the Lord what he thinks he should get.
Retribution theology- God reward the righteous and punishes the wicked. Up until this point Job had lived his life with this kind of theology. Now, this theology no longer works. And Job is really going to struggle with this. Yet at least in the initial response Job places his faith solidly in God.
What about you? Are you going through some kind of trial or suffering right now? Are there things in your life, difficult things, that you are tempted to blame God for? Are you allowing yourself to be deceived by the master manipulator?
It is absolutely imperative that we continue to trust in God. In His sovereign plan and infinite wisdom. Why?
Because God is absolutely in control of the suffering He allows into my life.
Because Satan is absolutely cruel in the suffering he causes in my life.
God, in his wisdom and goodness deserves our faith. Even if we don’t understand, we must continue to place our faith in Him.