“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #4)
The method Satan used to get Job was sadistically lethal. It decimated Job’s wealth, his family, his health, his relationship with his wife, his relationship with his friends, and his reputation in the community. It took Job from being “the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3, N.K.J.V.) to being a sad, pitiable shell of a man.
Unbeknownst to Job, he became the test subject of a contest between God and Satan. When God held Job up to Satan as the earth’s best example of a servant of God, Satan’s comeback was, “Who wouldn’t serve you with a life like he has? You’ve given him a large family. You’ve blessed everything He’s ever tried in regards to work and business. You’ve increased his wealth and given Him great possessions. And you’ve kept it all safe by putting a spiritual hedge of protection around it all. Sure, it’s easy to serve You when life is perfect. But if You take all of that away from Job, he’ll stop serving you and curse you to your face.” God said, “Okay, as of right now everything he has is in your power. Do with him as you will, only don’t do anything to him physically.”
So Satan set aside one day to lay waste to Job’s wealth and family. First, he inspired the Sabeans to raid the site where Job’s hundreds of oxen and donkeys were, steal the animals, and kill the servants who were tending them. Second, he caused fire to fall from the sky and burn up not only Job’s thousands of sheep but also the servants who were tending them. Third, he inspired three bands of Chaldeans to raid the site where Job’s thousands of camels were, steal the animals, and kill the servants who were tending them. Fourth, he created a great windstorm that struck the house where Job’s seven sons and three daughters were eating, causing the house to fall in on itself, and in so doing kill all of Job’s children.
Incredibly, though, all of that didn’t create the response in Job that Satan had predicted. Rather than curse God, Job simply performed the customary ritual acts of mourning — he tore his garment and shaved his head — fell down to the ground, and worshiped God by saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Wow. Just wow.
But Satan wasn’t ready to admit defeat. So he went back to God with a new proposal. This time he said, “The reason Job stayed with you is because you didn’t let me ruin his health. But if you strike him physically, he will surely curse you to your face.” God said, “Alright, I now give you permission to strike him physically, only don’t go so far as to kill him.”
Very shortly afterward Satan struck Job with painful boils that ran from the top of Job’s head to the bottoms of his feet. Even today’s medical science wouldn’t provide an accurate diagnosis for Job’s disease. The affliction was supernatural. Job himself described its symptoms as: his flesh being caked with worms and dust (7:5), his skin cracking and breaking open (7:5), his body rotting (13:28), his bones piercing (30:17), his pain being a gnawing pain (30:17), his skin growing black and falling off (30:30), his bones burning with fever (30:30), and his flesh wasting away to the point where his bones were sticking out (33:21).
Being in such a condition Job had to move out of his home and take up residence at the local ash heap. That’s where the lepers lived. So there he sat, day after day, scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery to try and get a moment’s worth of relief. That’s where he was when his wife made her way out to him and said, “Are you still trying to maintain some integrity? What you need to do is just curse God and die.” And how did Job respond to that? He answered, “You talk like one of the foolish women. Are we going to be the type of people who accept good from God but can’t take adversity from Him?” Again, wow. Just wow.
It’s somewhere along about then that three of Job’s friends come out to sit with him. Give them credit for that. And they sit with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights with nobody saying a word. Finally at the end of those seven days Job breaks the silence and thus begins a running dialogue between the three that lasts for no less than 35 chapters. Each of the three friends takes his turn at trying to convince Job that Job must have committed some great sin or sins in the eyes of God for God to have done him this way, and each time Job responds with lengthy answers that defend his innocence.
It’s only after all of this that we get the book’s version of a happy ending. It begins with God speaking to Job out of a whirlwind. Curiously, though, God doesn’t even mention Satan or the contest. Instead, He basically just explains to Job that Job isn’t great enough or wise enough to question Him or accuse Him. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve always found God’s explanation to Job to be fairly cold, but God would probably give me the same answer He gave Job if I questioned Him on it.
Then God speaks to Job’s three friends and informs them that He hasn’t been pleased with their words of accusation toward Job. To make restitution they must bring seven bulls and seven rams to Job, allow him to offer the animals as sacrifices, and have Job pray for the men. If they don’t do all that, God will deal with them according to their folly.
Next, God restores Job’s health, after which Job’s brothers, sisters, and all his friends come to visit with him, console him, and comfort him. Each one gives Job a piece of silver and a ring of gold, and from that generous handout God begins the process of restoring Job’s wealth until Job has amassed twice as many sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys as he had owned before Satan took it all away.
Oh, and God also blesses Job with seven more sons and three more daughters. Commentator John Phillips says that God didn’t give Job twice the previous number of sons and daughters because Job hadn’t truly lost those first children. It’s just that they were now in the afterlife. That’s a nice way of looking at it.
Well, what a story, right? What a fascinating, amazing, profound story. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the world’s most famous. And there are a seemingly endless list of spiritual lessons and principles that we can glean from the story. I’ll just pick one, though, to close this post: Satan is a thief, a murderer, and a destroyer (John 10:10), and he will bring destruction into your life if he gets half a chance. He might do his damage personally; he might send some of his fellow fallen angels to do it; or he might accomplish it by working through others, but he will somehow get it done if he can. The only One preventing him from doing all he wants to do in your life is God. And so, Christian, you’d be wise to start devoting more of your prayer time to asking God to put a “Job like” spiritual hedge of protection around your life.