Twice in the first two chapters of the book of Job Satan comes before God and challenges the Creator. What he says to the Maker of All Things reveals one of his most vicious tactics. We may hear him say similar things when we’re in the middle of trying circumstances, so we would do well to listen in on this dialogue. If we pay attention, we will learn how to fight off the enemy when he attacks. Remember God’s word to us: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV)
Job 1 is where we’re headed first. The first five verses of this chapter introduce Job and his family. Job is described as “blameless and upright.” He “feared God and shunned evil.” He had “seven sons and three daughters” and vast herds. His kids were given to feasting in each other’s homes. When each round of feasting was done, their father would “send and have them purified.” He offered sacrifices for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”
After this brief into, in verse six, the narrative leaves the man and his family and enters Heaven’s courts.
“One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’
“Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’
“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.’
“‘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 stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’
“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’
“Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.” (Job 1:6-12, NIV)
At first blush, this conversation seems to have little to do with what we might be hearing from Satan. This is a case where we see how our enemy and our Maker interact. The words that spill from the deceiver’s heart are spoken to God, not to us. How can they be relevant?
But think more carefully about what he says. He admits that God is good. He says it plain as day. “You’ve made this guy rich. His life is cushy. You protect him. I can’t get at him.”
Those aren’t his exact words, but they’re the gist of what he says. Then he suggests that if God would take away Job’s stuff and his family that the man would not be so blameless and upright. In fact he says the man will curse God to his face. “He’ll hate you.”
God knows this is not true. He knows Job’s heart. He knows Job will remain faithful no matter what. So he allows the test.
It’s important to remember here that God has promised not to let us be tempted – another word for that is tested – beyond what we can bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV)
If we forget this, we begin to ask, “Why?” We do what Satan said Job would do. We curse God. And that is exactly what Satan wants.
Walk with me through this scenario. Something bad happens to someone you love – maybe several bad things to several someones at once. Your husband loses his job. Your mom totals her car. Your friend gets into a fight with her spouse. Your son fails a test. Your dad suffers a heart attack. Your daughter is injured severely in a soccer game. Your wife’s reputation is ruined by malicious gossip.
What kinds of thoughts pop into your head when things like this happen to family and friends? You question God’s goodness, don’t you? Where is God? Does God care? Why doesn’t he fix this? Does he not hear our cries for help? Is God really good?
Satan knows God’s goodness. He admits it before Heaven’s throne, but when he’s allowed to wreck havoc in our loved ones’ lives, he causes us to doubt the goodness of God that he knows exists. He blinds us to the good. He gets our focus on the evil God has allowed. He does everything he can to stir up anger. He wants us to lose faith in his enemy, our Savior.
Some people succumb to the pressure. They give up on God. They walk away from his church and miss the blessing of comfort and companionship through the mess of life.
I have a personal friend, a person I care about deeply, who has rejected God and his church because they thought he should have helped differently than he did; because he shouldn’t have allowed so many tragedies to come into their loved ones’ lives at once. Overwhelmed by sadness and disappointment and perhaps a little anger, they said goodbye to the One best able to bring them through their difficulties.
You know people who have made similar choices, don’t you? You hurt for them. You long for them to believe that God has never left their side. He hasn’t! But they are blinded by Satan’s lies and believe nothing but evil of the One they blame for their loved ones’ troubles.
I think a brief look at Job’s reaction to all the evil that befell him and his loved ones could be instructive.
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’
“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:20-22, NIV)
Bereft of his children, flat broke, grieving deeply, overwhelmed, Job worships God. Rather than abandon faith, this blameless and upright man draws closer to his Lord. He is not willing to go it alone in a sin-damaged, hostile, unruly world.
I am not either. I am going to cling to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and to my Father through thick and thin. My God has brought me through terribly difficult situations in the past. I trust him to continue to be my helper, my comfort, my shelter in days to come.
Paul at the end of his life had the same attitude. In prison, knowing that he might soon die, he wrote these words to his dear son in the faith, Timothy. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV)
What are you going to do when disaster, death or disease come into the lives of your loved ones? I hope you will, with the thousands of believers who are living and have lived in triumph, praise God rather than curse him. Trusting God in difficult circumstances is the better way.
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