When Times Get Tough…

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. – Job 1:6-12 ESV

Having established Job’s spiritual credentials and material status, the author suddenly transfers the scene from Earth to heaven, where a divine council is taking place between the Lord (Jehovah) and the “sons of God.” This abrupt change in locations provides the reader with a stark reminder of the spiritual and supernatural scope of this entire story. In every man’s life, there is always far more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. As Job lives out his seemingly blessed but rather pedestrian life on Earth, there are events taking place in the heavenly realm to which he is completely oblivious. As Job offers his morning offerings to the Lord on behalf of his children, he has no idea that he is the topic of a discussion taking place in heaven.

The text states that “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord” (Job 1:6 ESV). The phrase “sons of God” has been much debated over the centuries, but is generally believed to be a reference to angels.

The “sons of God” in the OT is generally taken to refer to angels. They are not actually “sons” of Elohim; the idiom is a poetic way of describing their nature and relationship to God. The phrase indicates their supernatural nature, and their submission to God as the sovereign Lord. – NET Bible Study Notes

The fact that God has periodic meetings with His angels is not surprising, but what should catch our attention is the description of Satan being among them. His name in Hebrew is śāṭān, and it means “adversary” or “one who stands against.” Our concept of Satan usually associates him with the fallen angels who were cast out of heaven for their rebellion against God. The Book of Ezekiel provides what is believed to be a reference to Satan’s former beauty and vaunted position as one of God’s divinely created beings.

“You were the signet of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. – Ezekiel 28:12 ESV

Yet, this “anointed guardian cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14 ESV) grew discontented with his divinely ordained status as an angel and chose to lead a rebellion against God. Ezekiel goes on to describe what happened.

You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created,
    till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God – Ezekiel 28:15-16 ESV

The prophet Isaiah provides further insight into the downfall of this pride-filled “son of God.”

“How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’ – Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV

As a result of his attempted coup, Satan and all those who joined him in his failed rebellion were cast out of heaven.

“Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground…” – Ezekiel 28:17 ESV

But this doesn’t mean that Satan no longer had access to God. This passage in Job would indicate that Satan continues to have the freedom to enter into God’s presence. The Book of Revelation reveals that Satan’s permanent fall will not take place until the end times. The “accuser of the brethren” will not face his full and final punishment for his earlier crime until Jesus Christ returns in His glory.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” – Revelation 12:7-10 ESV

So, the arrival of Satan in the throne room of God should not surprise us. How else would the accuser of the brethren level his charges against God’s people? And, as Job 1:6-12 reveals, Satan used his access to the Almighty to accuse the seemingly faithful Job of duplicity and disingenuousness. According to Satan, Job was only in it for what he could get out of it. As long as God blessed him, Job was a happy camper. So Satan proposed a test of Job’s allegiance to God.

“Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” – Job 1:9-11 NLT

Satan can’t fathom any other reason to explain Job’s faithfulness to God. As far as he can tell, Job is nothing more than an opportunist who will quickly turn his back on God as soon as things take a turn for the worse.

But God knows the truth about Job. He can see into His servant’s heart and discern the true nature of Job’s obedience. So, God agrees to allow Satan to test the faithfulness of Job but He places limits on how far Satan can go.

“Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” – Job 1:12 NLT

This part of the story makes us uncomfortable. The idea that invisible, supernatural beings might be discussing our faithfulness and debating our allegiance is more than a bit disconcerting. While we go about our daily lives, could there be divine discussions taking place where our future well-being is at stake? But the real point of this story is not that God is having arbitrary conversations with angels regarding the faithfulness of His human followers, but that there is a spiritual battle taking place in the unseen realms. The apostle Paul reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).

Satan is real, and his hatred for mankind is great. He especially loathes all those who worship God and remain faithful to Him regardless of the circumstances of life. He cannot imagine how anyone would serve God in the face of difficulty. He has no concept of allegiance or faithfulness. He sees men as nothing more than groveling servants hoping for a handout from the Almighty but always ready to turn their backs on their Provider as soon as the pipeline of blessings dries up.

“Cynicism is the essence of the satanic. The Satan believes nothing to be genuinely good—neither Job in his disinterested piety nor God in His disinterested generosity.” – Lloyd Anderson, The Hidden Beauty of Hebrew Genealogies

Job was about to be tested. His season of unbridled success and problem-free existence was about to come to a screeching halt. And like Job, we’ve all faced seasons of pain and unexpected suffering in our lives. We’ve all experienced a time when we have had to encounter extreme disappointment or devastating loss. And in those times of trouble, we are always tempted to question God regarding His love, power, faithfulness, or at times, even His existence. So the story of Job is one with which we can relate. Here is a man who had it all: Wealth, material possessions, a lovely family, and a vibrant relationship with his God. Then tragedy strikes. How would he fare? What would he do? They say that when times get tough, the tough get going. But will that be true of Job? Only time will tell.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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