When you were learning how to swim, do you remember how scary the deep end looked? Growing up I had a friend named David that had a swimming pool. I remember learning to swim at the David’s pool and we would hang out in the shallow end. One day we got the nerve to go into the deep end, but we didn’t go into the deep end; we only grabbed a hold of the edges of the pool and pulled ourselves around until we got to the deep end, and then we just held on for life because the deep end was scary! I didn’t want to drown. I knew I couldn’t swim, and I knew if I got in too deep, then I would go right under to the drain.
In our story about Job in the Old Testament we are embarking on a journey into the deep end of life, the deep end of believing in God and the deep end of theology. The book of Job is not easy material. There is hope, but initially it’s scary. We are looking at the death of loved ones, suffering and loss. We are left to hold on with white knuckles as we wonder if life and circumstances will take us under or will we learn to overcome? The book of Job addresses some of the deepest questions in life: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Men and women from all cultures and all languages have been asking that question for centuries, and that’s one of the questions we will examine today.
We also want to know “Why am I suffering? Why am I experiencing the pain I am experiencing right now? Why do I have to deal with a great economic challenge right now? Why did I get laid off right now? Why did I grow up in a home that was so dysfunctional I didn’t know whether I was going to be hugged or hit! Why me? What am I going to do about my suffering?”
The Bible and the book of Job deal very realistically with pain, suffering, evil and loss. It doesn’t sugar-coat it and put a nice little yellow smiley face on it. It deals with the raw, rugged reality of loss, catastrophic loss and suffering.
Job is included in the Poetry books of the bible with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. We will be looking at three overlapping mysteries: A Good Man, An Evil Enemy and a Sovereign God. I wish we could solve all the mysteries of why do good people suffer, why is the enemy allowed to wreak havoc on our world and why would an all-powerful God let that happen? The best case scenario is to shine some light on these mysteries and understand them better than we did.
Some consider Job the oldest book in the Bible. Job lived during the time of the patriarch Abraham.
Job 1:1-5: “In the land of Uz, there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons, and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”
Job had it all! He had the big four F’s: Faith, Family, Fortune, and Fame. What does that mean today? Job was a combination of Billy Graham and Bill Gates. He was a great man! He was a righteous guy; a family guy, je was a business man and he was respected! He was the greatest man in the East. Today he would be on the front cover of Fortune, and Money, and Time! Job was a Good Man. But what happened to Job? Verse 6 introduces an Evil Enemy:
Job 1: 6-11 “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’s 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!’
Some truths about the Evil Enemy emerge. The word “Satan” means “adversary, one who opposes.” This is a courtroom scene, and God and Satan each deliver different verdicts about Job. As we study this book, keep in mind that God said “Not guilty!” As a believer in Christ, He says that about you!!
Satan’s accusation against Job was really an attack on God. We might paraphrase it like this: “The only reason Job fears You is because You pay him to do it! You are not a God worthy of worship! You have to pay people to honor You.”
A second truth—and it may surprise you—is that Satan has access to God’s throne in heaven. Thanks to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, many people have the mistaken idea that Satan is ruling this world from hell (“Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav’n”). But Satan will not be cast into the lake of fire until before the final judgment (Rev. 20:10ff). Today, he is free to go about on the earth (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8) and can even go into God’s presence in heaven.
Other truths about the Evil Enemy: Satan can be at only one place at a time. His demons aid him in his work; but as a created being, he is limited. Satan cannot see into our minds or foretell the future. If he could, he would have known that Job would not break under pressure. Because Satan can do nothing without God’s permission God’s people can overcome his attacks through God’s power. God puts limitations on what Satan can do. Satan’s response to the Lord’s question tells us that Satan is real and active on earth. Knowing this about Satan should cause us to remain close to the one who is greater than Satan—God himself.
Satan accurately analyzed why many people trust God. They are fair-weather believers, following God only when everything is going well or for what they can get. Adversity destroys this superficial faith. But adversity strengthens real faith by causing believers to dig their roots deeper into God in order to withstand the storms. How deep does our faith go? Let’s put the roots of our faith down deep into God so that we can withstand any storm we may face.
This conversation between God and Satan teaches us an important fact about God—he is fully aware of every attempt by Satan to bring suffering and difficulty upon us. While God may allow us to suffer for a reason beyond our understanding, he is never caught by surprise by our troubles and is always compassionate and as we will see in this story, He is always there. We may not get the answers we are looking for but we do have God’s presence.
We will examine God’s response to Satan, God’s sovereignty as well as God’s response to our suffering in the next post.