1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And 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.” 3 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? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job 2:1-10 ESV
Satan was not satisfied. Despite Job’s surprising response to the last round of devastating calamities, Satan refused to believe that Job would not eventually break. This man had lost everything but had maintained his hope and faith in Yahweh.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21 ESV
So, on the next occasion that Satan found himself in the presence of God Almighty, he once again questioned the sincerity of Job’s professed allegiance and vehemently objected to God’s glowing assessment of His suffering servant.
“Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.” – Job 2:3 NLT
Satan simply wrote off Job’s display of “integrity” as nothing more than a case of self-preservation. As far as Satan could see, Job was content because he had remained physically unscathed. He had lost his fortune and his family but he was still alive and well. From Satan’s pride-filled perspective, it appeared as if Job was giving God praise because he was glad to be alive. But if God would remove the protective clauses from His previous command, Satan knew he could get Job to cave.
“Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” – Job 2:4-5 NLT
In the earlier test that Satan proposed, God had prohibited any direct assault on Job’s physical well-being.
“Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” – Job 1:12 NLT
This led Satan to conjecture that the real key to destroying Job’s faithfulness to God would be a frontal assault on his personal comfort. The rather enigmatic phrase, “skin for skin” has been much debated over the centuries and we will have no way of knowing exactly what it means. But from the context, it would appear that Satan is demanding that God give him permission to get under Job’s skin – literally.
While Job had lost a lot in the first test, he still had his health. He and his wife could have more children and, in time, he could rebuild his lost fortune. But Satan believed that Job would crumple like a cheap suit if the gloves came off and the pain became physical rather than emotional in nature.
For Satan, the goal remained the same. He was out to get Job to curse God.
“…stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:11 ESV
“…stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 2:5 ESV
Satan was convinced that he knew the secret to Job’s faithfulness and would be able to expose the self-centered nature of Job’s apparent “blamelessness.” But God knew better. He knew Job well and was not afraid to see His servant face another test of his integrity. Yet, once again, God added a prohibition.
“Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” – Job 2:6 ESV
Satan, though powerful, was prevented from doing outside the prescribed will of God. He could test Job but would be unable to kill Job. Whatever physical attack Satan conjured up in his mind could not lead to Job’s death. He could make Job wish for death but he was prohibited from taking Job’s life.
Satan wasted no time. The text states that he “struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot” (Job 2:7 NLT). No timeline is given but Job’s period of mourning after the loss of his ten children was followed by a sudden bout with a crippling skin disease. Job is described as sitting among the ashes, where he “scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery” (Job 2:8 NLT). This once prominent patron of his community is pictured sitting in the midst of the town dump where the refuse was burned. His diseased condition has left him a social pariah with no friends or family members willing to provide him with comfort or care. In fact, even his wife encourages him to throw in the towel and end it all.
“Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” – Job 2:9 NLT
She was essentially telling Job to give up the charade. From her vantage point, she viewed Job’s stubborn attempt to keep a stiff upper lip as a waste of time. She believed Job to be under a curse from God and the sooner her husband admitted it, the sooner his suffering would stop.
Yet, even when he found himself covered with sores from head to foot, Job responded, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT). Through it all, Job held on to his integrity and His God. He understood something about the character of Yahweh. He knew that God was good and that there was a purpose behind all that had happened. It didn’t make it any less painful or any easier to accept, but it provided Job with a sense of peace and a semblance of sanity in the midst of all the suffering.
But that did not mean that Job was out of the woods. All the events that had taken place would provide him with ample opportunity to wrestle with his concept of God, and he would receive unsolicited help from his well-meaning friends. Job’s suffering was going to reveal a lot about himself and a lot about his God. He would wrestle with concepts regarding God’s sovereignty and His love. He would have to come to grips with whether God could be trusted.
As his suffering continues, Job will go from resting in God to blaming God. He will even accuse God of wronging him (Job 19:6-7). But God never blasts him for his doubt or punishes him for his hasty words. Instead, He comforts Job and eventually restores him.
All throughout this story, we see a picture of a faithful, loving God who is active behind the scenes. He is aware of our suffering and has a plan for them. He is not caught off guard or found asleep at His post. He is fully aware and He cares. Suffering is a part of life lived in a fallen world. Will we allow it to change our perception about God, or learn to see Him in the midst of it? “We take the good days from God–why not also the bad days?” (Job 2:10 MSG).
Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt
Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified
Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
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.