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Don Smith :: Chapter 2: The Supremacy of God (Job 1:6-22)

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Chapter 2: The Supremacy of God (Job 1:6-22)

In God's good providence, all created things serve His purposes; yes-all things! His supremacy is not just outside of time, but inside it as well. God was pleased to create time and all things in it to accomplish His Holy purposes. He has appointed a time and purpose for everything under heaven. There is an appointed time to be born and to die, as well as to laugh and to mourn (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). His reasons and works are beyond our full comprehension even if He told us why. All we know for sure is that God is holy and sovereign. Whatever He appoints to enter our lives serves His holy purposes and our ultimate good. In our times of hurt, heartache, and grief, however, these purposes seem obscure. Our confidence must be in His capacity to make everything beautiful in His time. This truth is the difference between pessimism and hope, doubt and faith.

Where our comprehension of God's way becomes even more obscure and dubious is in His use of rebellious creatures (both angelic and human) to fulfill His divine will. His curse in Eden, for example, was the appointment of the Serpent's enmity against the Lord and His chosen seed to accomplish the salvation He ordained before the foundation of the world. When we come to discussing how evil serves God's ultimate good, we have entered a realm of mystery far beyond what human wisdom can figure out. We must return again to what we know to be true about God; He is holy and sovereign.

That is why the story of Job is so powerful. It gives us insight into the ways and purposes of God that elude our attention in the midst of this complex world. The author is not interested in hypothetical or theological musings; instead, he explores hard-hitting realities, deep-felt feelings, and unforeseen events that enter the lives of the righteous. It grants the reader the invaluable perspective of the temporal and the eternal, as well as the earthly and the heavenly. Like us, Job could only see the visible, but he had faith in the invisible things of God. When everything in his life came crashing down around him, Job stood naked before the Lord and the watching world. This is the loneliest time and place for a man, alone with his grief and faith.

The opening scene of Job sets the stage for all that is to follow. Job was described as a "blameless, upright, God-fearing man who shunned evil" (Job 1:8). In other words, he was a wise and righteous man, deeply committed to the Lord. God's blessing was obviously upon him. His reputation was unrivaled as the "greatest of all men in the East" (Job 1:3). He enjoyed unparalleled prosperity with multitudes of camels, sheep, donkeys, and oxen to keep his business enterprise thriving.

Job was not only a godly man in public, but also in his private family life. He believed His God was holy. Therefore, he was a priest who interceded for each of his ten children. He appointed each child's birthday to be a day of celebration as well as worship. Job sent for each child to come home to be with him. He prepared them to worship with him through ceremonial washings as a symbolic gesture of their need to be forgiven and cleansed of their sins. Then he offered burnt sacrifices to demonstrate their need for atonement from sin. Job did this regularly, amidst his very busy schedule and lifestyle. As the curtain closes on act one, Job is the model of piety. God smiled upon this man. Job had been appointed to live an incredible season of prosperity. It was a time to be joyful, but his joy was about to turn to sorrow.

The Devil Is God's Devil

As the poetic drapery rises for act two, the scene has changed from earth to heaven. And there, in the middle of the stage, is a cast of curious celestial characters lined up before the glorious throne of God. These spiritual beings reflect God's unique, creative touch like a cast from Star Wars with a variety of wings, multitudes of eyes, and rings of fire. Unexpectedly standing in the midst of this angelic host is none other than the very epitome of evil, once known as Lucifer, now named Satan. As the action begins, we are mindful that all things (yes everything, even Satan) serve God's holy purposes. We must not only have an adequate theology of God, but also of Satan, when we are suffering. We are to avoid the two extremes: overestimating Satan's power and therefore being intimidated by him, or underestimating his power and becoming vulnerable to his schemes. That is why we must see Satan as Martin Luther saw him-"the Devil is God's devil". Perhaps more accurately we should say with Martin Luther, "Lucifer is God's Satan" (cf. Job 6-12).

As the curtain rises for the second act, the scene is now in heaven. There, seated on His celestial throne, is the Eternal, Omniscient Lord (cf. Psalms 93:1-5; Isaiah 6:1; Revelation 4:2-6). He is clothed with indescribable power and majesty. He established the world so that it cannot be moved. From everlasting to everlasting, He rules over all things. We are informed by the author that, "There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan came also among them" (Job 1:6). It is another way of saying, "there was a set and appointed day" when the angels came regularly to report of their works and to be commissioned for new jobs.

Notice the similarity of the angels being appointed days to come before the Lord and Job's sons and daughters who came before Him to offer their sacrifices on their appointed birthdays. These angelic creatures are ministering spirits, messengers of flaming fire, who have come out of duty and respect to render their created capacities for God's glory. We would expect to see the holy angels offering praise and worship before the throne, but to our surprise there is Satan in their midst, like Judas around the Lord's table. He has come because he too, must answer for his deeds and service even though he is the enemy of God and man (cf. Job 38:7; 1 Timothy 5:21; Hebrews 1:4, 6, 14; Luke 4:34; 8:28; John 12:31; 16:11). He and his fallen demonic counterparts are apparently still required to appear before the Lord on appointed days to give an account of their works. They are condemned and judged, yet their eternal banishment and punishment still await them.

Before Satan's rebellion against God he was known as "Lucifer," or "the Shining One." He was one of the anointed premier cherubs appointed to cover God's throne. He was perfect in beauty, full of wisdom, and had the voice of a mighty pipe organ designed for God's worship. He used to walk to and fro throughout the heavens with great authority. There came a day, however, when he foolishly attempted to rob God of His eternal glory. He led a rebellion of one third of the angels, creatures that sinned against their Creator. Their wills were forever enslaved to their evil passions and they were consumed with enmity against God and his image-bearers (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17). Even though they all know they are doomed to eternal damnation in the Pit, they still have no desire to repent or admit they are but creatures and God is their sovereign Creator. Sound a bit familiar? Condemned to the Pit, they seek to wreak havoc until they are thrown into the fire.

Satan is the same as the Serpent of old (Genesis 3:1-15; Revelation 20:2). He was the "Shinning Light" that appeared to Eve, and he is the one who will be bound and cast into everlasting darkness and separation from God. His name, "Satan," means "the accuser"-accuser of both God and His saints (Zechariah 3:1-2; Revelation 12:9). He is also called, "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 11:4). He is the one described in Zechariah 3:1-2, who stood by the throne of the Angel of the Lord accusing Joshua, the high priest, of having a filthy robe. The Lord rebuked Satan and called him "a firebrand plucked from the fire."

In Revelation 12:9 it says a day is coming when Satan will be cast out of heaven, implying that he still has access to Christ's throne to accuse God and the righteous. The sting of his slander against the righteous usually follows sin and failure. He relentlessly reminds us of our failures and suggests that we are useless to God and everyone else in the world. He does this in an attempt to deceive us into thinking we are of no worth or value to God. Nothing pleases him more than to pin a saint to the mat and have him surrender to sin. God has ordained the wicked one with restricted authority over the whole earth. He is the one who now works in the sons of disobedience to corrupt their minds and to prompt them to curse God for their earthly plight.

The Lord Questions Satan

Without any hint of surprise, the Lord questioned Satan's walk when he asked, "From where do you come?" (Job 1:7). There is no question about God's supremacy or omniscience in His asking this question. Even as the holy angels had to give an account of their walk, so Satan was required to declare his intentions and ways. Satan replied with a self-righteous smirk on his face, "Going to and fro on the earth..." (Zechariah 1:10; 4:10; Luke 22:3; 1 Peter 5:8). He uses the language of God whose eyes go back and forth throughout the whole world watching over the righteous. He also uses this phrase describing the holy angels who go to and fro throughout the earth with authority to administrate God's rule over the universe.

Satan, however, answered the Lord with these words as if he were the conqueror claiming his territory. His agenda, which is to slander God and Job, was not hidden to the Lord. It is a prelude to understanding Christ's comments when Peter sought to persuade Jesus to not go to the cross; "Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat" (Luke 22:31). Jesus recognized this as Satan's ploy to tempt Him through his influence in Peter. However, Satan's ploy did not work with Job or with Peter. But he has not ceased from troubling the children of God. That is why 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." Here is the hard-hitting reality we must all face; not only do we struggle in this life with the desires of our sinful flesh, but also with an adversary who is determined to seek us ill. Fortunately for us and Job, God is sovereign!

The Lord tightened up the ratchet of Satan's accountability by asking, "Have you set your heart on My servant Job? There is none like him" (Job 1:8). The answer was known to God before He asked. Satan also knew perfectly well that God is omniscient. He was vainly baiting a trap for God and Job. Satan's answer was nothing but slander of God's delight in righteous Job. He asked two slanderous questions of God; "Does Job fear You for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him...and all he has?" and, "You have blessed the work of his hands" (Job 1:9-10). In essence, he accused God of buying off human worshippers for His glory by putting a hedge or barbed wire fence of protection around the likes of Job. His insinuating comments still admit that God ordained the boundaries He has put on him.

This should bring hope and comfort to every child of God. Everything that enters our life, even Satan's deceitful whiles, must first be appointed and approved by God before they can even touch us. He makes no promise to inform us of why Satan is allowed inside our hedge; all we can be assured of is that Satan only enters upon God's permission for good purposes only known to God Himself. Until then, the Lord vigilantly watches over His people to hedge them in and protect them from the fiery darts and deadly arrows of the evil one. The hedge of His sovereign love surrounds every child of God.

Without blushing, Satan challenged God's delight in Job and Job's delight in God. He wagered, "Stretch out Your hand on all he has then he will curse You to Your face" (Job 1:11). Satan was mocking God and Job. He argued that God had to keep blessing the righteous with prosperity in order to keep their worship and love. He argued that if the faith of the righteous is pushed far enough it will crumble. The righteous will become disappointed and bitter. They will retaliate by cursing God.

However, the Lord agreed to the test but limited Satan's power over Job. He gave Satan temporary permission to enter His hedge of protection around Job. While inside the hedge, Satan could unleash his awesome power, but was specifically prohibited from touching Job. God's sovereign power permits or prohibits Satan's evil work in the world. Satan delights in striking the righteous whenever he has the opportunity. The Lord, by the agency of evil angels or men, can turn their affliction (which is intended to hurt and destroy the righteous) instead to heal and bless us. That is the message of both the Old and New Testaments. Hebrews 12:6 quotes from Proverbs to alert us to the trials God allows to enter our lives. We are told as God's sons and daughters to "not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."

Now hear this-it will blow all your preconceived theological categories-even when God allows Satan to break through His hedge around us, it is one of the ways we are lovingly chastened by God. Our chastening is always out of God's love and for a greater good for us. Often the greatest lessons of faith and obedience are only learned through His chastening. As much as we regret that these things are true, they are hard-hitting realities of what it means for the just to live by faith. Even as God placed limits on what Satan could do to Job, so he restrains Satan from his attacks on us. Listen to our hope in God's sovereign power in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." With permission to strike Job, Satan rushed from God's presence with a consuming passion to inflict his fury on the one God loved. The curtain closes on the second act with God still seated on the throne. The curtain of the third act will quickly open on the earth and as it does, Satan unleashes his fury with a rapid succession of destructive acts.

Satan's Enmity and God's Purposes

Remember that Satan's enmity against us accomplishes God's holy purposes (Job 1:13-22). Notice the poetic parallelism between the appointed days of Job's children's birthdays and Satan's appointed day to answer to the Lord before the throne (Job 1:13-19). Satan waited to strike on one of the most significant days of Job's life, the birthday of his oldest son (Job 1:4-5). It was a day Job set aside long ago for celebrating God's grace in giving him a son and offering the Lord sacrifices consistent with reverent worship.

Unknown to Job, however, was the agreement made in heaven between God and Satan. On the very day Job performed his priestly duties to honor the Lord, one courier after another arrived with bad news to intensify Job's shock and broken heart. Twice Satan used evil men to rob Job of his possessions and kill his servants. The wicked still serve Satan's evil purposes as well as God's holy purposes. Two messengers also came together announcing destruction by the forces of nature. Satan not only used the wicked but he also used the forces of nature to work his evil. But again, be reminded these things came only after God permitted Satan to have this power.

What is described as "the fire of God" fell from heaven like lightening from the sky. It most likely ignited a prairie firestorm that consumed the sheep as well as his shepherds. But the most painful news was reserved for last. Job was told by the last messenger that a great windstorm had struck his firstborn's house where all his family was gathered in celebration on their appointed day. The house collapsed, killing all ten of his beloved children. One can only imagine the numbness and utter helplessness of hearing of this loss. We might have thought this would prove Satan's theory right-the righteous will curse God when they no longer enjoy prosperity but suffer loss.

The Trying and Proving of Faith

Through it all, Job's faith was tried and proven true (Job 1:20-21). The righteous' love and faith for the Lord does not have to be dependent upon God's blessing of things (cf. Psalms 49:17; I Timothy 6:7; Ecclesiastes 5:13-16). It can even thrive and flourish through tears and sorrow (cf. John 11:35-36). Job's adversity awakened within him an appreciation for all of God's blessings that had been previously enjoyed. He realized these blessings were no more deserved than the sufferings he endured. He looked back upon his life with gratitude and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return to the dust of the ground. The Lord gave and has taken away" (Job 1:21). We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out with us. There will be no moving vans or trailers following any man's funeral procession to the cemetery. The only things that survive are things eternal.

Job's love and faith in the Lord found expression in worship. Why we worship the Lord says as much about our love for Him as how we worship. Job tore his robe and shaved his head in overwhelming grief. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped in humble acceptance of God's providence, and offered praise... "Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21; cf. Psalms 34:1; Psalms 103:1; Psalms 103:19-22). It is one thing to bless the name of the Lord in prosperity but altogether another to bless Him after loosing all earthly treasures and loved ones. Job could not forget all the benefits of God's grace. He glorified the Lord, not knowing why he was going through this appointed time of suffering. James tells us Job's suffering revealed the mercy and compassion of God (James 5:11). That is the conclusion we are being taught. Job's story has many more chapters, but they all point to the unique and special place every child of God has in God's heart. We will discover that our place in God's heart is right alongside the Father's love for His eternal Son.

Concluding Thoughts

As the curtain of the third act closes on earth, Job is seen praising God on his knees in indescribable grief. The author's postscript tells us Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:22). It reminds us that our tears, sorrow, and grief are not necessarily to be equated with a lack of faith in the Lord. It is Christ-like to mourn the loss of loved ones. But before adversity hits us, we need to remember the admonition of God's Word that life is a gift from God; it is to be enjoyed and not to be squandered or bemoaned (see Psalms 31:23-24; Philippians 4:11-12). We are to learn contentment with whatever God appoints to enter our life. We can do this as we begin to rely on the truth that He is holy and sovereign.

In God's good providence, all created things serve His purposes; yes-all things! His supremacy is not just outside of time, but inside it as well. He can use the choices of evil angels and men to bring about His good purposes. May our faith resonate with Martin Luther's statement "the devil is God's devil". May we sing the words of Luther's great hymn with renewed confidence, "And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him" (Luther, 1529). That word is Christ!

Chapter 1: The God of Job (Job 1:1-5) ← Prior Section
Chapter 3: The Goodness of God (Job 2) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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