Monday, March 6, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 2, Satan Appears Before God

When Bad Things Happen To Good People:
A Study Of The Book Of Job
Day 2
Satan Appears Before God

"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil." (Job 1:1) The exact location of the land of Uz is not known but it is generally believed to have been south of Edom and Midian and was possibly located on the shores of the gulf of Aqaba in northwest Arabia.

The Bible tells us that Job was blameless and upright. This does not mean he was sinless, but that he lived by faith in the Lord. Faith is the only thing that makes any of us blameless and upright. Job had the right spirit in his soul and the right attitude in his heart. Because he maintained a reverent and holy fear of the Lord, he strove to do what honored the Lord.

"He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East." (Job 1:2-3) Job was a wealthy man, so wealthy that his name was well known by everyone around him. The significant thing about his vast wealth is that none of it was gained by wrongdoing. He didn't hook and crook his way through business deals. He didn't take advantage of anyone. He didn't invest his money in sinful enterprises. I believe Job amassed his fortune by getting up every morning and working hard all day while asking the Lord to bless the work of his hands. And because he was faithful to God, God was faithful to him. God caused Job to prosper.

"His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, 'Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' This was Job's regular custom." (Job 1:4-5) We find a clue in verse five that indicates how very ancient the book of Job is. He lived in a time before the priesthood was established, because we find him acting as high priest for his family. This pushes the lifetime of Job all the way back to the days of the patriarchs. He may have been a contemporary of Moses or even Abraham. In addition to the priestly duties we find Job performing on behalf of his children, this book contains several Aramaic words of such antiquity that their meaning can only be determined by studying them in the context of the words around them. Job also refers to the Lord mostly by the name of Shaddai (Almighty), whereas following the exodus it was more common for the people of Israel to refer to Him by His covenant name of Yahweh/Jehovah. Another clue as to the dating of the book of Job will be found in the last chapter, where we learn that Job enjoyed another 140 years on the earth following his troubles. Such a long lifespan points to the era of the patriarchs, leading many scholars to believe that Job is the Jobab, son of Joktan, who is found in Genesis 10. It's quite possible that Job was an Edomite or Midianite tribal chieftain in the days before the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt. He may even have known Moses during the forty years Moses dwelt in the land of Midian.

Now the book of Job takes a sudden shift, switching the scene from Job's prosperous pastoral life on earth to the very throne room of heaven. "One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them." (Job 1:6) In the original language the verse would read like this, "One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the adversary also came with them." The only other place in the Bible that we find the term "sons of God" is in Genesis 6 when we are told that the sons of God saw the that the daughters of men were beautiful, so they married them and had children with them. The offspring of these sons of God and the human women were giants and men of renown, leading to the theory that fallen angels may have interbred with humans, thus committing a sin so heinous in the eyes of God that these angels have been "kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day". (Jude 1:6) Jude so closely links these angels with a discourse on sexual sins that there appears to be some connection, leading to the possible conclusion that a small percentage of the angels who rebelled along with Satan interacted with humans in a way that was an abomination, causing God to seize these particular angels and imprison them until the judgment. 

In the book of Job we find that the angels are commanded to appear before God to give an accounting of their works and of the performance of their duties. Satan decides to show up for the meeting. We tend to think of the devil in hell, carrying a pitchfork and stoking up the fires of the furnace, when in actuality he is roaming the earth enticing mankind to sin and then going into the presence of God to accuse us before Him. We find in the Scriptures that it is not until Revelation 12 that Satan is cast out of heaven for good. Michael the archangel and his army prevail against Satan and his army, throwing them down to the earth and forever revoking their membership in heaven and their access to God. At that time a loud voice in heaven rejoices and says, "The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." (Revelation 12:10b)

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.'" (Job 1:7) The Lord knows exactly what Satan has been doing. The question is not for the purpose of gaining information but for the purpose of commanding Satan to give an accounting. We too know exactly what Satan has been doing, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

"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.'" (Job 1:8) The Bible doesn't tell us why the Lord brings up Job's name and praises his faithfulness before Satan. I suspect that Satan was standing there doing what he always does when he appears before God: he was accusing mankind of sins. He may have been in the midst of calling off a long list of names and sins when the Lord interrupted and said, "But what about Job? You've accused this person and that person of wrongdoing, and many of those have done wicked things, but I see you've skipped over the name of Job. Isn't this because you can find nothing to accuse him of?"

I don't know what Satan looks like, but at this point I can't help picturing him stomping his foot irritably like a petulant spoiled child. He knows he skipped over the name of Job and he was hoping God wouldn't notice. Job is a good man. Satan can't find anything to accuse him of because even though Job is not a sinless man, Job repents immediately when he realizes he has made a mistake. Job's entire life is centered around his relationship with God and everything he does reflects this. Because he can't find anything bad to say about Job, Satan decides to blame God for this man's faithfulness. "'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 now stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.'" (Job 1:9-11) Satan says, "No wonder Job is so faithful to You! He has no reason not to be. You've blessed everything he has. You've been good to him...too good to him. But take all these things away and see how faithful he is then! Job loves You only because You've blessed him. If You stop blessing him, he will stop loving You."

The Lord knows this isn't true. He knows the heart of Job. Job would have loved God just as much if God hadn't made him a rich man. If he were living in a cave somewhere with nothing but the clothes on his back, Job would still love the Lord. Some critics of the Bible have accused God of entering into a contest with Satan here in Chapter One. They say God lowers Himself to make a bet with the devil, either to prove to Satan that Job won't turn his back on the Lord or to prove to Himself that this servant will remain faithful. But I don't believe that's the case at all. God already knows how Job will handle his trial. In the back of his mind, Satan probably has an awful sneaking suspicion that Job will not fail; why else would God agree to the test? I tend to believe that the trial is intended to prove to Job that he will not fail. Job's faith is untested. He has everything he ever wanted. I wonder if he ever pondered whether he could remain faithful if tragedy came into his life. He must have heard of tragedies going on around him from time to time. Perhaps a neighbor's son was kicked by a donkey and died. Or maybe a friend's wife perished in childbirth. Or a hailstorm came and ruined someone's crops. Or someone's entire flock of sheep came down with a disease. Job had to have known that bad things happen in this world; it's just that they had never happened to him. I don't know whether Job ever wondered if his faith could stand in the face of tragedy, but by the end of the book he will have no doubt.

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.' Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." (Job 1:12) When trouble comes upon us as a result of sin, we know we've brought it on ourselves. We reap what we sow and there's no one else to blame. But when we're living close to the Lord, as Job was, our trouble is divinely appointed for a purpose. Satan can't do a thing to Job unless God allows it. God does allow it....with limits. God is not angry with Job, He is not punishing Job, and He has no ill intentions toward Job. Painful as it's going to be, Job is going to learn things about God that he never dreamed of before. He's going to learn things about himself that he was never certain of before. And though while in these mortal bodies we will never fully understand the entire purpose of Job's suffering (or our own) we must keep in mind that Job's troubles came from a loving hand. Somehow, Job's troubles come from a God who is for him, not against him. And Job's troubles make him more like Christ who, as we studied yesterday, learned through suffering.

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