Fear God For Nothing

(This is the second part of a study in Job. The first part is available here.)

Introduction

Socrates once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We do a lot of things without seriously considering the reasons why we do them. If we gave what we did some thought, we might not do some of the things we do… or we might do them with greater passion.

You and I worship God. But have you ever asked yourself why? Why do I worship God?

“I worship God because He gives me everything I need for life: my food, my clothing, a place to live, my health, my family, my friends, my freedom, …”

These are very good reasons to praise God and thank Him. But are they the only reasons to worship?

What if you got sick and ended up in pain and bedridden for the rest of your life? Christiana Tsai was a Chinese Christian, saved out of Buddhism. While serving Jesus, she contracted a severe form of malaria that left her extremely and painfully sensitive to light. She spent the rest of her life, 53 more years, in dark rooms, much of that bedridden and in extreme pain. Could you still worship God if this happened to you? Christiana did, and continued to serve Him. How can a sick, bedridden woman serve God? In many ways. For example, she had an interesting form of evangelism. She would tie tracts to her cat’s collar. The cat would go out into the neighborhood, and when it came back, the tracts would be gone. People would remove the tracts and read them.

Why do you worship God?

“He saved me from my sins and an eternity spent in hell! I have heaven to look forward to, and unimaginable blessings awaiting me there!”

Again, these are good reasons to worship God. But are they the only reasons?

The things you say you worship God for, whatever they are… if He took them all away, would you still consider Him worthy of your worship? I’m speaking hypothetically, for the most part. If God has saved you, then you’re saved. He’s not going to take away His salvation because He promised never to leave you or forsake you 1. But just suppose He did – would you still consider God worthy of your worship, or is your worship of God dependent upon receiving benefits from Him?

Thankfully, most of us will probably never have to suffer the loss of most or all of life’s “essentials”. But many Christians have suffered the loss of things we think make life worth living, and some have suffered the loss of all.

Life is not a bed of roses. We all go through times of intense discomfort, confusion, anguish, depression, and perhaps even despair. None of us are immune. The righteous as well as the wicked suffer. It’s part of being human. It’s part of living in a fallen world.

Unjust suffering seems to create many more questions in our minds than anything else. Atheists use suffering as an argument against God. You’ve heard it before: “Either God is not all powerful or He is not good, otherwise why does He allow evil to exist?” And while there are good answers to this question, they’re not always emotionally satisfying.

In the book of Job we’re given a rare and privileged look behind the scenes at the reasons for one man’s horrifying and undeserved afflictions. Job suffered more than most people suffer. And we know this because the part of the book we’re about to look at is the part we’re most familiar with: it describes the beginnings of his ordeal.

We had previously looked at the character of Job and how it reflected God’s character. We know from the first five verses and elsewhere that Job was a man unique in his devotion to God. He was blameless, he was upright, he feared God and he turned away from evil. Job wasn’t perfect, but he was holy in ways that God intended. He wasn’t holy like the Pharisees who observed religious traditions or superstitions, nor did he have a “holier than thou” attitude. Job was holy in that he lived to please God simply by helping the needy, loving them, and humbly serving them. He avoided all appearance of evil in his own life, and he sought to keep the relationship between his family and God on a right standing. His was a humble and practical holiness.

But while Job appears to be the primary figure in this book, it’s not really about Job. Like every other book in the Bible, this book is about God – His character and nature, and we need to study it in this light. So as you read Job, ask yourself “What does this book tell me about who God is and what He is like? And in what ways does He not fit my idea of God?”

And guess what? If we seriously consider the passage we’re about the read, these questions will probably scare us. They certainly scared Job as you’ll see if you read further into the book. But never allow fear to keep you from studying difficult Bible passages – from knowing more about the God we worship, because there’s great reward for those who perservere to the end (Hebrews 11:6).

The First Trial

We’ll begin our reading at verse 6 of the first chapter. The first five verses of Job describe his life on earth – what would be obvious to anyone who knew him. Now the scene changes, and for just this one time in human history we’re given a glimpse into the cause of a man’s suffering.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

– Job 1:6 (ESV)

The scene is heaven – God’s throne room where He rules the universe and directs the courses of the lives of men.

It happened one day all of the sons of God came to present themselves before Him. These beings are what we would call angels 2. They served God, and would periodically appear before Him to report on what they were doing. And Satan (literally the Accuser or Adversary) was also there.

It might surprise you to read that Satan could be in heaven, but he’s a created being just like the other angels, and is subject to the authority and power of God. Satan is not a free agent, and I believe he had to report also.

The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

– Job 1:7 (ESV)

When God asked Satan what he’d been up to, Satan responded he’d been observing what was happening here on earth, 3 no doubt seeing what kind of trouble he could cause. In 1 Peter 5:8 we’re told that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I believe Satan and his demons are afflicted with a restless, unsatisfiable hunger, which they try to appease by interfering with God’s creation 4.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

– Job 1:8 (ESV)

Notice God didn’t approve of Job for superficial reasons. He didn’t say “Have you considered my servant Job, a rich, successful, well-liked man who has become the greatest of the children of the east.” No, He mentioned things that are dear to God’s heart, qualities that reflect His own character. Job was blameless, upright, he feared God and he avoided evil – the exact same description given in verse 1, except God prefixes it with “there is none like him on the earth” 5. Job was the best example of mankind so far. He wasn’t perfect, but he was God’s pride and joy as it were, and Satan knew it 6.

Of course, God knew Satan had his eyes on Job 7. When He asked “Have you considered my servant Job…”, it was like when He asked Adam, “Have you eaten of the fruit that I commanded you not to eat?” 8 Satan had been giving much thought to Job lately. Now it was like God egging Satan on: “Notice how Job rightly respects me, and rightly avoids you!” (I sure wish God could always say this about me!)

Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear 9 God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

– Job 1:9-10 (ESV)

Satan was frustrated because he couldn’t find a weak point in God’s hedge 10. “Of course Job fears You! You pay Job to be good. You keep bribing him to fear you, and in exchange you protect him and all he has! You’re not playing fair!”

But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”

– Job 1:11 (ESV)

In other words, “I know what would happen if you remove those blessings and protection: Job will openly curse you to your face just like the rest of humanity! Come on, God! Prove me wrong, I dare you!” The Accuser made a bet against God’s omniscience. And God felt no need to say “You’re wrong Satan”.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand 11. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

– Job 1:12 (ESV)

…and, I might add, eager to prove himself right.

Let’s continue with verse 13:

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

– Job 1:13-15 (ESV)

It started out like any other day. Job, his family and servants woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and went about their usual activities with no indication that life was about to suddenly change for the worse.

But then a servant came to Job with very bad news. The Sabeans, a merchant people of southern Arabia, had run off with all 500 of Job’s oxen and all 500 of his donkeys, and killed all the servants that maintained them with the exception of himself. Oxen and donkeys were working animals. The oxen would plow fields and grind grain, and the donkeys would carry the grain or other loads elsewhere. The donkeys would also be used as riding animals. So Job lost a significant part of his livelihood which he used to feed not only his family, but the hungry, the widows, and the orphans.

This was a great shock, but Job was not given time to think about it.

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

– Job 1:16 (ESV)

This servant came with news that all of Job’s sheep and their shepherds had died by “the fire of God”, and he alone had escaped. Now Job no longer had any sacrificial animals to keep his family on a right standing before God. If he had time, he may have realized already that these two disasters could not be a coincidence. 12 Perhaps God was very angry with him and killed all 7000 sheep like a giant burnt offering… and yet it wasn’t enough!

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups 13 and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

– Job 1:17 (ESV)

This servant came with news that all 3000 camels were taken and their servants killed. Camels are riding animals and beasts of burden. To the Arab the camel was the most useful animal. It could be riden, carry heavy loads of over half a ton, travel for long distances without water and in the harshest deserts, have water bottles, sacks, sandles, ropes and thongs made out of its skin, use it’s dung for fuel, and survive almost exclusively off it’s milk if need be. So with Job’s camels, the last of his livestock, captured, and almost all of his servants killed, Job was reduced to great poverty.

And then the final blow came with the news from the fourth servant.

While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

– Job 1:18-19 (ESV)

I had said this day started out like any other day. Well, not quite. It says in verse 13 that all of Job’s children were feasting together in the eldest son’s house. Verse 4 tells us that they would do this “each one on his day”. In other words, whichever son had a birthday would invite the rest of his siblings over to his house for a party. This time, it was the eldest son’s birthday – Job’s firstborn. And on this day, a great wind came 14 and collapsed the house on top of them, killing all 7 sons, all 3 daughters, and probably additional guests and servants. What was previously a day of joyful remembrance for Job and his wife would now be forever darkened. 15

So Job lost everything in an instant. Virtually all of his possessions, servants, and family (except his wife and a few servants) were taken or killed in one day. He lost all of the animals which were used to work his fields and to atone for sin. He had nothing left with which to feed himself, his wife, and the needy. With no sons, his name would be cut off from the earth. He lost his sense of purpose…. all his reasons for living.

This was Job’s first trial. But while he was broken, Job endured:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

– Job 1:20-22 (ESV)

What a response Job gave in such a difficult situation! “Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” Perhaps the most difficult words for a man to utter under the circumstances.

But Job worshiped God! He recognized even before this that God had blessed him materially… had graciously given him all he owned. If God wanted to take it all away 16, He had the perfect right to do so.

There’s a phrase commonly used in the church today that bothers me. It’s the phrase “worship experience”. It bothers me because it seems to make worship about us and our experience. “Come to our church and experience worship with us.” It’s like saying we worship God for the emotional or spiritual high that we get from Him.

But worship is not about ourselves. It is about expressing how much we value God for who He is, regardless of whether we get anything from Him or not. Worship is exclusively for Him.

Look at Job’s worship experience. After everything was taken away, he still worshipped God. Was Job happy? Did he retain his joy? Of course not. He tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground. But instead of cursing God, Job said “Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” In other words “God has merely taken away what was His anyway. May He do whatever makes Him happy, even if it hurts me or makes me unhappy. I will do nothing to dishonor God’s name: may He remain honored among all men!”

The Bible says Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Satan’s accusation was proven wrong. He had lost his bet. But Job’s trials were far from over.

The Second Trial

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

– Job 2:1-2 (ESV)

In chapter two, we return to the heavenly throne room and the scene repeats itself. The angels report to God, and Satan also comes with them. God asks Satan what he’s been up to, and Satan says: “Well, I just got back from testing Job, and guess what? You were right! He really does fear you for your own sake! I’m sorry for implying otherwise.”

No! He didn’t say that! He merely said the same thing that he said in chapter 1: “From going to and fro on the earth and walking up and down on it.” Perhaps after his failure to get Job to curse God, he tried to avoid the embarrassing subject. But that didn’t stop God from bringing it up 17.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? …”

Exactly the same words as before. Satan had done everything he could to turn Job’s world upside-down, but God did not have to modify a single word of anything He said about Job! It was all still true. In fact, He adds to it.

… He still holds fast his integrity 18, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason. 19

– Job 2:3 (ESV)

… Not “he still remains happy and content” but “he still remains firm in his integrity”. In other words, “Job still refuses to say anything bad about Me.” God didn’t outright say “you’re wrong, Satan!”, but I’m sure Satan was still smarting from God’s response 20.

Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”

– Job 2:4-5 (ESV)

In chapter one, the Accuser charged Job with acting out of selfness: “Job only respects You because you bless him.” Now he makes his accusation on the same basis of selfishness: “Job only fears you because he loves his life. 21 I’ve seen it over and over with these humans. Make him suffer and bring him close to death and see what happens.” Satan tried to go 2 out of 3; He made another bet.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” 22

– Job 2:6 (ESV)

Very scary words! God basically said “Ok. You’re on. Do your worst. Only don’t kill Job.” I wouldn’t want to eavesdrop on heaven and hear that spoken about me!

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

– Job 2:7-8 (ESV)

The level of Job’s sufferings only increased. Job was already miserable. But Satan is not one to show pity or mercy. The first time Satan went out eager to prove himself right. Now I believe he went out determined to save face, and in anger and great wrath he attacked Job with painful, burning sores over his whole body.

What the disease was is up for debate. Some scholars think it was smallpox, but most say it was likely a form of elephantiasis (also known as black leprosy or ‘elephant’s man disease’). Whatever it was, it marred his appearance to the point where his friends did not recognize him (verse 12).

And his sufferings only got worse as the weeks and possibly months went on. Job lost a lot of weight (19:20, and possibly 16:8). Worms infested his ulcers which would not heal (7:5). He had great pain in his bones (30:17) and his breath stank (19:17). His skin turned black (30:28, 30). He was tormented with nightmares (7:14). And nobody helped. Everyone was repulsed by his appearance and smell (19:18-19). He was continually scorned, spat at, and treated as an outcast by his relatives, remaining servants and friends (19:19). Even the outcasts of society mocked him and went out of their way to hurt him (30:1-10). 23

If that were not enough, his wife tried to help:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 24

– Job 2:9 (ESV)

Here was Job’s helpmate acting more like the Devil’s advocate. She tried to help Satan win his bet 25. But even though this was a great sin, let us, who haven’t walked in her shoes, not judge her too harshly. She went through much of the same trial that her husband went through. She also lost all of the children she loved. She was also flung into poverty.

However, Job’s wife failed in a trial not aimed at her, in the very area that Satan tried to get Job to fail. Perhaps Job’s servants also cursed God since they also lost family members. We don’t know.

But Job endured.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

– Job 2:10 (ESV)

Notice how diplomatically Job spoke to his wife. He stopped just short of calling her a fool – he only said she spoke like a fool!

Then he countered, “God has already graciously given us undeserved good. We should also be willing to accept undeserved adversity from him.” Ouch! How many of us have this attitude? We’re willing to accept pleasant things from God, but we tend to complain when handed the short end of the stick. We get angry with God over much more minor stuff.

Not Job. The Bible tells us he still did not sin. He still acknowledged God’s sovereignty over himself. God can do whatever He wants. Just as He can do good to us, He can also do apparent evil to us, and still be in the right! This can be hard to understand, and it probably conflicts with our idea of God. But, like Job, we do not see the whole picture. We don’t know the real reasons for our trials, or the specific goals God has in mind when they happen to us. We may never know in this life. But it is enough to know that God’s purpose is not to destroy us or cause us pain but to cause all things to ultimately work and abound for our good and His glory.

Summary

In these two chapters we’ve seen a man attacked by Satan in ways that most of us cannot imagine. It was a supernatural battle where Satan brought destruction and sorrow on Job from multiple directions at once. First he took away all of the good things that Job had: his livestock, his servants, and the children he loved. Then, in exchange for the good, he gave bad things to him: disease, pain, and complete lack of support from one who should have been his closest companion.

Satan did all he could to get Job to curse God, but he just couldn’t do it. Job really did ‘fear God for nothing’ (Job 1:9).

Satan doesn’t directly appear any more in this story. It looks like he gave up after losing his bet a second time. But Job’s trials were far from over as we’ll see when we move into the main part of the book.

Application

Remember that question I asked at the beginning: Why do I worship God? I wonder what kind of answer Job’s wife would have given before all this bad stuff happened…

“I worship God because He’s blessed us in so many ways. We have a good home with many servants. We’re extremely wealthy and have more sheep, cattle, camels and donkeys than anyone else I can think of. Our neighbors and even those far off hold us in the highest regard, and we live at peace with them. We’ve been blessed with ten beautiful children, seven of them sons. And I have the most wonderful husband who loves me more than I can tell. Of course I worship God! He has been so good to us!”

Now I don’t know if Job’s wife would have said something like this, or what her view of God was before everything was taken away. All we know is what she thought of God after the first tests, and it wasn’t good.

Job’s wife sinned greatly in what she said, and we must not minimize the seriousness of it. But I think we condemn her too easily, because we have not been in her situation. Jesus said:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

– Matthew 7:1-2 (ESV)

We must not make light of her sin, but we also must not fall into the trap of thinking that we would have done better in her situation. Maybe we would, and maybe we wouldn’t.

I know God is worthy of my worship, regardless of any good I receive from Him. And I’d like to think that if I ever go through Job-like trials, I would respond like Job. But what if I’ve been fooling myself, treating all of the good that God has given me as a bribe to worship Him? What if I haven’t been worshipping God just for who He is?

It’s sobering to think that we worship the same God who allowed Satan to do all these things to Job. What if He allows Satan to test me the same way, or you? This is why it’s so important for us to examine ourselves and the reasons why we worship. Are we like Job or are we like his wife?

When going through a very difficult situation, we may think “It could be worse”. When someone goes through tough times, we might thoughtlessly say “Be thankful. Your situation is not as bad as so-and-so’s.” But suppose your situation really is the worst – worse than Job’s, worse than anyone else’s. Of all the people going through difficulties in this world, there has to be one person who’s at the bottom of the heap. Does this person have the right to dishonor God or to withhold worship from Him? Of course not! Any good we receive is a gift from God. He gives to each of us freely, but it’s all by His grace. We don’t deserve any of it.

Job recognized this. As each servant brought bad news to Job, he may have thought, “Thank God, my children were not there when the Sabeans attacked…”… “Thank God, my children were not there where the fire from heaven fell…” … “Thank God my children were not there when the Chaldeans attacked…” And yet, after finding the worst of his fears come true, and all of his children dead, Job continued to worship God, because he knew God was worthy of worship regardless.

Why is God worthy? I can think of many psalms that give good reasons. Most of them recall what God has done for us, such as Psalm 103. But He is also worthy of worship just for who He is and what He has done outside of our experience.

In Psalm 99:5 God is worshiped for His holiness. In Psalm 29 He is worshiped for His power. In Revelation 4:11 He is worshiped because He created all things for Himself. Even the song sung in worship of the Lamb in Revelation 5 is not about what Jesus did for us, but what He did for His Father…

And they sang a new song, saying,
    “Worthy are you to take the scroll
        and to open its seals,
    for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
        from every tribe and language and people and nation,
    and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
        and they shall reign on the earth.” …

– Revelation 5:9-14 (ESV)

God is always worthy of our worship. But when we’re in a bad place, it’s hard to see this. When we’re weak, and the pain and sorrow are too present, God can appear evil and unjust. You may be in such a situation right now. You may be having doubts about God – what He is like, or even that He exists. It’s in times like these that we must exercise faith that God is still righteous and good, knowing that we do not see the whole picture. God is good, all the time, whether we see it or not. That is what faith is about.

So, how do we stand firm when life falls apart in spite of our best efforts to keep it all together? Here are some principles to take to heart:

1. Expect trials.

Jesus told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). It’s guaranteed. It’s part of the normal Christian life. So when bad things happen, don’t be shocked. Peter wrote:

…do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

– 1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)

We have lots of guarantees in eternity. After this life of ‘light momentary affliction’, we have an incomparible ‘eternal weight of glory’ awaiting us (2 Corinthians 4:17). There’s a crown of righteousness waiting for those who patiently endure trials (James 1:12). All the blessings of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) will be realized in heaven. But we haven’t yet reached eternity where God will wipe away the tears.

While we’re waiting for heaven, we need to prepare ourselves for the trials that are sure to come to us here on earth, before they happen. Then we’ll be able to handle them better.

The first step of preparation is to expect trials. The second step is to…

2. Realize God allows us to go through trials for our good in the long run.

God is not a sadist. Whenever undeserved bad things happen to us, He has an end result in mind of good that transcends whatever it takes to get there. Our trials are discipline from God, not punishment or random happenstance. That includes everything God allows Satan to do to us.

Listen what the writer of Hebrews said to those suffering satanic persecution:

Consider him {Jesus} who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

– Hebrews 12:3-11 (ESV)

We don’t normally think of the curveballs that Satan throws at us as something God allows for our good, but they are. Paul put it this way:

ALL things work together for good to those who love God…

– Romans 8:28 26.

Just because we quote this verse a lot doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with believing it in the dark times. It takes discipline and time to unlearn those fleshly habits of mind: worry, unbelief, hopelessness, etc., and to learn to look forward to the good that God intends for us when we endure suffering. M. H. Finley wrote “It is natural to ask ‘When shall I get out of this trial?’ … we should rather ask ‘What shall I get out of it?'” 27

3. Learn to look to God to sustain you through the trials.

Even when God appears far away, He isn’t. Trust Him even when it seems He’s forgotten you. Trust Him to hold on to you and sustain you even when you fail. Jesus told Peter before he denied Him:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. …”

– Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)

Satan wanted to test Peter like he tested Job, but Peter was not on his own. Jesus was for him. Even though Peter denied his Master, his Master didn’t abandon him.

Jesus is for us also. Like Job, we have a hedge of protection around us. Sometimes God permits that hedge to be let down a little to test us, but He never lets it down fully. One verse that is a great source of hope to me when I go through trials is 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

This is a verse you and I have to take on faith. God promises to provide the way to endure. When tempted we need to believe Him and not give in or give up. But know that even when we do fail, God never lets go of us.

When you go through tough times, continue to trust in God. Expect His help. Look for the way out that He promises to provide. Look forward to the good outcome that He intends for you, even if you don’t see it. He will bring it to pass.

4. Recognize your enemy’s tactics.

While God’s goal through trials is your betterment, Satan’s goal is to take you down. Satan’s attacks are primarily focused on your love and fear of God and your faith in God. He will do everything in his power to make you believe God isn’t worthy of your worship, that He doesn’t love you, doesn’t care for you, has abandoned you, likes to make you suffer, whatever.

Don’t listen to him! Don’t let Satan have the victory. Recognize what he’s doing and resist him!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

– James 4:7 (ESV)

Put on your spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). Spend lots of time in prayer. Hide God’s word in your heart. Trust and obey. And Satan will run away from you!

Expect trials, realize God allows them for your good, trust in Him to sustain you whatever happens, and recognize your enemy’s tactics. These are four things you can do to stand firm whatever storms may come.

Final Thoughts

We tend to look at the trials of Job and wonder how we would do in Job’s situation. The way I usually think of it is, “I wonder if I would be strong enough to hold up if I lost my wife, my possessions, my health, my job, etc”, or more often “I know I would not be able to hold up!”

The problem is that it’s not a matter of how strong we are.

By our standards, there would be no way to be prepared for a tragedy such as Job suffered – not physically, emotionally, or mentally. But God knew that Job was prepared – that Job would endure spiritually (Psalm 15). Otherwise He would not have permitted this to happen (and prove Satan right). Job endured in a different way – in a way that God knew he would: his faith in God endured (Job 1:20-21, 13:15-16, 19:25-27), his loyalty and respect for God endured (Job 1:21), and his integrity endured (Job 27:5, 31:1ff). All the characteristics mentioned in Job 1:1 endured.

We may say we cannot be prepared for Job-style epic calamities in our lives. But we’re only thinking of emotional, physical or mental endurance.

God knows exactly how much we can take in our times of testing, and He custom tailors these times for each one of us. And sometimes, as in the case of Job, God tests us beyond what we can take (by our standards).

The purpose of these times is to weed out of your life all things that you consider “strong”, things that you trust in, except for God Himself. It may be confidence in your ability to withstand the test. It may be confidence in your understanding of who God is. It may even be confidence in your own faith (as opposed to the God of your faith). God can bring you to the point where your misplaced faith crumbles. These tests are to lead you to trust in God regardless of what your mind or heart says.

God sometimes allows our mis-focused faith to fail so that we learn not to trust in our faithfulness but His (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Enduring sufferings is not about retaining our joy, or not getting confused or frustrated with God, or maintaining our sanity – we may fail in all of these areas. We may come out emotionally scarred for the rest of our lives. (Wounds heal, but scars remain.) That’s ok. Enduring suffering is about trusting God regardless, even when it seems He cannot be trusted.

I may lose my grip mentally, like Nebuchadnessar did in Daniel 4:33. I may fall apart emotionally, or even spiritually (like the popular story of Robert Robinson, author of “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”). But there’s still no need to fear. God is righteous and good, and He will bring me through. He is always worthy of my worship!

Notes:

  1. John 10:28-29, Romans 8:31-39, 1 Peter 1:5
  2. Sometimes ‘sons of God’ refers to men, but in Job the phrase refers to creatures present at the creation of the earth, before God created man (38:7).
  3. There’s a similar phrase in Zechariah 1:8-16 that speaks of angelic beings (in the forms of horses) that God sent to go to and fro through the earth to observe what was going on there. They also reported back to the Angel of Yahweh and, unlike Satan, interceded on behalf of the Jews (Zechariah 1:12). (Perhaps they pleaded similarly for Job?) This gives insight into 2 Chronicles 16:9 where it says “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. …” While Satan and his demons continually try to get at us, remember that we also have a strong hedge of protection: “The Angel of the LORD encamps around them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7).
  4. Jesus said “…the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and doesn’t find it” (Matthew 12:43). I think the leaness of soul that God sends on the wicked (Psalm 106:15) is also true of the demons.
  5. Not just a few but none! Would that it could be said that Job were one of many, most or all!
  6. I’m sure Satan had already tempted Job many times in the past, just as he does all of us.
  7. Satan spoke in verses 9-12 as if he was familiar with Job (i.e. not “Job who?”).
  8. Genesis 3:11
  9. Notice Satan recognized why Job lived the way he did. It was Job’s fear of God.
  10. God had indeed put a hedge around Job that was very effective against Satan’s attacks. And that hedge also extended around his wife and children and servants and possessions… all because of Job’s righteousness. This is similar to Noah’s family being saved because of his righteousness, and us being blessed because of Jesus’ righteousness. (I find it interesting, however, that it was Job’s possessions that were first touched by Satan.) Others have also trusted in God’s “hedge” such as Abraham (Genesis 15:1), David (Psalm 3:3), and Agur (Proverbs 30:5). You can trust in His protection also.
  11. Satan said “stretch out your (i.e. God’s) hand”, but God said Job was in Satan’s hand (and again in 2:5-6). Perhaps this can be thought of this way: God gave permissive authority to Satan to act as God’s hand (see the last part of 2:3 and John 19:11). God gave him power to act against Job (compare 1:16 with Revelation 13:13-14, noting the word ‘given’). Satan thought this would enable him to dishonor God through Job. But God allowed it, knowing that it would only vindicate Job and bring glory to Himself in the end. M. H. Finley writes in The Arrows Of The Almighty: “God knew Job. Knowing that he could pass the test, the only way for God to vindicate His beloved servant was to remove the ‘hedge'”.
  12. All messengers in 1:15,16,17,19 end with saying the same thing: “…and I only am escaped alone to tell you.” It was 100% obvious that this was not a chance occurance.
  13. This indicates much planning, not only on the part of the Chaldeans, but also on Satan’s part to have all of this evil happen and the servants arrive at the same time.
  14. This could have been a very powerful khamsin (similar to a sirocoo) or simoom. A khamsin usually has winds of up to 87 mph. Note Satan’s influence over groups of people, nature, and health. He is the “prince of the power of the air.”
  15. Perhaps Job thought that his sons had cursed God (1:5, 8:4). M.H. Finley wrote: “As this crushing news was brought home to his dazed senses, it must have confirmed the thoughts aroused by the sudden loss of his flocks. What secret sins had been indulged in by his children that God should destroy them? Had all his prayers, the family worship, the constant sacrifices, and the patient instruction in the ways of God been in vain – futile to avert the judgment of God? Was it possible God has not accepted his offerings and had refused to pardon the young people? This must have broken Job’s heart. He had apparently failed so seriously in his duty as father and family priest that Jehovah had cut off his children!” (The Arrows of the Almighty – page 24)
  16. It is not “God gave and Satan took away”. Satan cannot take away without God’s permission.
  17. Notice that in both chapters God was the one who called attention to Job. I can picture Satan thinking to himself, “Please don’t bring up Job… Please don’t bring up Job…”, then cringing when God does.
  18. Perhaps Satan despised Job because Job succeeded where Satan failed when he fell.
  19. It is interesting to note that God said Satan “moved” or “incited” Him against Job “without cause”, i.e. without judicial reason for it. The Hebrew word for “without cause” – chinnam – is the exact same word Satan used to accuse Job in 1:9: “Does Job fear God for no reason“. The word is used again in Job 9:17 where Job said, “He… multiplies my wounds without cause“. However, it was still not without reason, for God’s purpose was to prove Job, and vindicate him of Satan’s accusations. God does not willingly afflict man on a whim. God allowed the test to be along the lines of suffering unjustly so as to vindicate Job from Satan’s accusation, and to bring glory to Himself.
  20. To me God’s “bragging” of Job recalls Matthew 10:32 (“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”) and Luke 12:8 (“Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.”)
  21. Job had both positive and negative motivations for fearing God: blessings and fear of punishment. But notice how how Job continues to fear God after the blessings are removed, and the apparent punishment begins. Job’s test was along the lines of one of his primary concerns: cursing God (1:5, 6:10). This is something we should fear to do! Isn’t this what our testing is also about? Anyway, Satan said what he said because he is also selfish. He would probably curse God if he were in Job’s place.
  22. Just as Job never knew about what went on in heaven between God and Satan, we don’t know either. I’m certain such a scene is not unique – that Satan asks to tempt us also, and God allows it – but always with some kind of limitation to what Satan’s allowed to do to us. I wonder if God and Satan had a similar conversation about Jesus before His 40-day temptation in the wilderness?
  23. Who did this to Job, Satan or God? I believe the answer is both (2:3, 2:7). Satan was the tool God used to test or prove Job. God used Satan elsewhere as a source of discipline and testing (just as He used wicked and pagan kings to bring judgment on Israel). For example, compare 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1. God was angry with Israel, so He used Satan to move David to number the people. Notice that the punishment for the sin was not against the individual David but against the people of Israel (2 Samuel 24:13). God uses Satan sometimes for our good. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a “messenger of Satan” that God used to keep Paul humble and dependent upon Himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Paul, recognizing that Satan was an unwitting tool in God’s hands, instructed the Corinthians to deliver an immoral believer over to Satan for the destruction of the fleshly nature (1 Corinthians 5:4-5. See also 1 Timothy 1:20). Satan has no power apart from what God has given him (John 19:11 applies to demons also). God has him “on a leash”.
  24. Job’s wife scorned him for the same thing God commended him for in verse 3. Then she said a very stupid thing: curse God, then go commit suicide so you can meet Him face to face. (Perhaps she did not really believe in an afterlife like Job did.) She had lost whatever faith in God she had. If you cannot trust God when times are bad, then you can’t trust God. Job’s wife’s response reminds me of Revelation 9:20-21 and 16:9 where mankind refuses to repent after God brings all kinds of evil on them.
  25. I believe Satan was working behind the scenes here and was speaking through her, just as he did with Peter in Matthew 16:22-23.
  26. See also Genesis 50:20, Proverbs 3:11-12, James 1:2-4,12, and 1 Peter 1:6-7. Job recognized he was being tested and expected good to come of it (John 23:10). The greatest benefit to come of enduring suffering is that it draws us closer to God . Zechariah 13:9 says “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.‘”
  27. The Arrows of the Almighty, M.H. Finley, page 62

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