Job and Satan…
Jesus and the Devil…
To suffer trials in this life is one thing, but the idea that God gave Satan extreme powers to inflict these intense ordeals on Job, was hard for me to come to grips with. Perhaps it has been difficult for you as well.
Years ago, the book of Job was the theme of a weekend campout at Los Osos campground near Moro Bay, north of Santa Barbara, California. It was at this conference, in the course of considering the Book of Job in depth, that I realized I had been glossing over something in chapter one that seemed to me to be a very important point being overlooked in the weekend’s study.
CHAPTER ONE SETS THE STAGE
We are all familiar with the story of Job and the example Job sets for us to follow. He was a man who remained faithful in the face of extreme adversity. James, our Lord’s brother and the leader of the ecclesia in Jerusalem, cites Job’s story in making this very point:
The Book of Job from chapter 3 to chapter 32, the lion’s share of the book, relates the misguided attempts by Job’s three friends to help and comfort him and Job’s protestations of his innocence. These conversations become the trees that make up the forest of the Book of Job.
Job was a man who remained faithful in the face of extreme adversity.
When we are surrounded by many trees, we can lose sight of the forest. When we come to the end of Job’s trial, while we are very happy God rewards Job bountifully for his faithfulness, some of us may have a nagging concern about the extremity of Job’s trials. They seem disproportionate.
That is not an unreasonable reaction considering that in the first chapter in verse one, Job is described as,
For my part, the classes I had heard over the years sought to resolve this concern by emphasizing some of the wrong statements Job made later on when he was in the depths of despair. Though not without some merit, these explanations did not seem adequate.
WHO STARTS THE ARGUMENT?
Who was Satan in the Book of Job? No matter who we think he was, he was bad. We do not share the belief that Satan is a supernatural evil being. It is an interesting aside to read Scofield’s comment at the end of Job in the Scofield Study Bible. Fitting the erroneous belief of a supernatural devil into Job’s experiences generated the following comment:
“Such experiences [Job’s] as interpreted here by divine revelation, reveal the ultimate triumph of a wise and loving God in His unseen contest with Satan over the souls of men.”
Why Satan wants men’s souls and what he does with them is nowhere explained. It is easy to assume that Satan is the root cause of Job’s trials. As we shall see, he is, but not in the way we may think. The Satan in the Book of Job is not someone who we have any reason to believe hated Job. In fact, when we first meet him, he is one of a number of the “sons of God” who had come in a religious observance to “present themselves before the LORD.” (Job 2:1).
God wants us to learn that His ways are better than our ways
He is not recorded as having spoken until he was challenged by the “LORD,” no doubt an angel sent by God. The Bible records many examples of God’s angels appearing and conversing with people. The LORD challenges this man who is averse to His ways by pointing out to him Job’s good character.
Job comes through the first trial with unwavering faith:
When the sons of God met again, God confronts the adversary again with Job’s exemplary conduct:
God is setting Job forth as an example for this man to consider. God knows our hearts and He knew this man. This man was an adversary to God’s ways. This challenge triggers all that follows. This man was meeting with the sons of God. He had come to present himself before the LORD.
No doubt to all outward appearances he was a righteous man but evidently God knew that his heart was not aligned with God. He needed to change his ways. He was not living the way Job was living. And why did God challenge him? Why does He challenge us? Clearly, it is because God wants us to learn that His ways are better than our ways and that bringing our thinking and our ways into harmony with His principles and the Scriptural examples of godly lives of those who have gone before will save us. God wants to save us. He wanted to save Satan.
SO IT BEGINS
Over time, things were put into a better context for me with the realization that all the horrors about to befall Job were for a far higher purpose than just chastising Job for the wrong things he said in the depths of his trial. We know all men fall short of the glory of God.
To suffer trials in this life is one thing, but the idea that God gave Satan extreme powers to inflict these intense ordeals on Job, was hard for me to come to grips with. Perhaps it has been difficult for you as well. Thinking of Job’s trials as being primarily to save someone else was a better context in which to view their severity. Our stubborn insistence in rebellion has brought many disasters upon us all.
JESUS AND THE DEVIL
Much later on, I was struck by the similarity between Job’s confrontation with Satan and our Savior’s confrontation with the devil in the wilderness. We have all heard at least two possible explanations of this critically important event. One was that the devil was a man, perhaps the High Priest, and the other that he was not an actual person, but that this is the record of what was going on in Jesus’ mind.
Let me stipulate here that regardless of the source of the temptation, ultimately the contest is played out in Jesus’ mind, where his decisions, like our own, have to be taken. The possibility that the devil could not have been a man like the rest of us has been dismissed by many brethren because he took Jesus to a high mountain where he could see all the kingdoms of this world. However, in light of all that Satan was empowered by God to do in the Book of Job, a literal understanding shouldn’t be too readily dismissed.
JOB AND JESUS
The similarity between Job’s trials and our Lord’s is really striking. Consistent with our Christadelphian understanding, Jesus was a man, with the same nature that we share, along with Job. In both cases, we see extreme trial and suffering permitted by God because of His love for men who are, from time to time, very averse to His ways.
Both Job and Jesus learned from their sufferings. Job, at the end of his trials when confronted by God, said,
And of Jesus it is said,
They are both examples of godly men whose lives were used by God as teaching examples for us. What we see through this lens helps us understand why God permitted Job’s extreme trials and why God allowed the only sinless man who ever lived, His Son, Jesus, to suffer and die.
GOD DID IT FOR US
In a very real sense, the Satan in Job and the devil who tempted Jesus embodied and manifested words and actions that are the same as the natural product of our own adverse natures when we act in ways opposed to God. All of us, including Job, but with the one exception in Jesus, have manifested this Satan characteristic in our words and deeds in the course of our lives.
Many of us had thought it was Satan all along. We thought it was someone who really hated Job. We may be right that Satan was the cause, but it may be we were right for the wrong reasons. We never thought of ourselves as “Satan” in Job or as the devil on the mountain with Jesus.
My sinfulness, our sinfulness, necessitated Jesus’ whole ordeal
Had that man in Job, and we in our generation, not been so extremely averse to God’s instructions, it is reasonable to conclude that Job’s and Jesus’ suffering would have been much less. This is so evident in Job 2 where God confronts Satan with the evidence of Job’s continued faithfulness, even after that first horrible round of sufferings wherein Job is financially wiped out and his children are crushed when their house is blown down upon them.
Satan dismisses Job’s trial as unconvincing which results in another round of trials and Job’s health being ruined. And still Job is faithful. Satan, like us, is very hard to reach. A few years ago, I heard “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” sung by the Statler Brothers.
It is odd how some things, at given times, will resonate with you so powerfully. There is nothing profound in the words, but for some reason it hit me that, in a very meaningful way, I was there when they crucified my Lord. Not just me of course, it was all of us. But lest I overlook my main point, it is good for me to remind myself that I am a very real part of the problem.
My sinfulness, our sinfulness, necessitated Jesus’ whole ordeal. We were the raison d’etre for his whole mission. God was reaching out to me even as he was trying to reach the Satan in Job. How I stood in Satan’s place in Job and in the devil’s place in Jesus’ temptations came into focus, and I doubt I’ll be able to read those two accounts again and not see myself in representation. As Isaiah said:
The Book of Job has many more lessons for us we have not considered here. We are encouraged to be faithful no matter what happens in our lives. We learn what not to say to our loved ones in trial. It is so important not to ascribe reasons and motives to our brother or sister’s experiences and actions. We can have an opinion about actions but speculation about the “why” and the “motive” is just that, speculation.
God is working in this world and in our lives in miraculous ways. Job did not know about God’s workings with Satan. We learn from this a very important and practical lesson for our own lives when trials occur. It is important to examine ourselves, as Job considered whether or not he had done something that merited severe chastisement.
We are encouraged to be faithful no matter what happens in our lives.
Often times we cause our own problems and that becomes very evident in the light of trial. But sometimes it is not clear. Job went a bit too far when he began to question God’s fairness, God’s righteousness. Perhaps we can see in the Book of Job some of the answers to the age-old question that weighs on so many serious minds: why is someone we know and love, or ourselves perhaps, going through so much trial? The answer may be that this trial, as was the trial of Job, is an outworking of the invisible hand of God—and God loves us very much.
With that assurance, we can leave off potentially unprofitable speculation. God truly loves us.
Simi Hills, CA