One of the first choruses I learned after coming to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ was one that put Micah 6:8 to music [sing]:

He has shown thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee? But to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.[1]

These are words to live by for anyone who professes to follow God. And the protagonist of the book of Job was just such a faithful follower. Right in the opening verse we’re told how “This man was blameless and upright;[2] he feared God and shunned evil.[3]”—an assessment that the LORD himself will assert and confirm.[4] Now I think a common mistake we can make is to assume that because Job did what the Lord required of him, God rewarded him with the riches listed in verses 2–3, namely, “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” This is how we like to think the world functions, that in some karmic way if we do what is right, we receive what is good; conversely, if we do what is wrong, we receive what is evil. During a recent Alpha discussion one person shared how as a child a nun who had taught her used to reward her and the other children with candy for properly memorizing their prayers. I think that on a grander scale we can sometimes view God in a similar manner: as someone who, on a day-to-day basis, gives us the things that we want when we’re good and conversely hurts and inflicts us with pain and suffering when we’re bad. But this isn’t a biblical understanding of God. Scripturally God is always the source of good even though, as we noted last week, he doesn’t allow us to escape the effects of the Fall nor the results of our sometimes foolish or selfish decisions. In fact knowing that apart from him we’re incapable of loving him and each other as he intended, he provided an answer to that suffering by sending Christ, his Son, to ultimately end the problem of evil by taking upon himself the effects of all evil, to the point of death, and then destroying evil by rising from death and thereby demonstrating that evil’s stranglehold had been broken once and for all and would one day be completely and utterly annihilated.

But though God allows us to suffer the sometimes painful and alienating effects of a fallen world, Satan is ever portrayed in Scripture as the source of all evil. This was the case from the beginning of creation when, after God created the cosmos and declared it to be “very good” in Genesis 1,[5] we are soon presented with a member of that creation in the Garden of Eden, Satan in the form of a serpent,[6] who succeeded in luring Eve and Adam from obeying God and thereby damaged the good creation he had given them.[7] And this ancient serpent, this adversary—which is what Satan means—this enemy of God makes another appearance in the first chapter of the book of Job. After identifying “blameless and upright” Job who “feared God and shunned evil” in verse 1, we find a parallel to what was read for us earlier from the opening of chapter 2. Starting with verse 6 of chapter 1 we read:

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 throughout the earth, going back and forth on 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.”

Now in both accounts we’re presented with a picture of God’s angels coming before him, along with Satan, to present themselves to him. And whereas the LORD doesn’t ask his angels where they’ve been—perhaps because as his messengers God’s angels ever do his bidding—he does initiate a conversation with Satan by asking him where he’s come from. God being God he knew, of course, where Satan had been as well, but he engaged him all the same. And both times Satan answered him, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”[8] This language used by Satan in his response is reminiscent of what Peter wrote in one of his letters when he warned followers of Christ, “8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”[9] Again, Scripture ever portrays Satan, that ancient serpent, as the author of evil. From time immemorial he has sought to wreak chaos and havoc on earth. And since he can’t destroy God himself—though he did attempt to destroy the eternal God come to earth in the Person of Jesus[10]—he will do all in his power to destroy the good creation God made especially the human portion that God made in his very own image. Satan ever seeks to devour God’s followers, his family of believers, throughout the world.

Now the key difference between the accounts of Satan coming before the LORD along with the angels in the first two chapters of Job is that chapter 2 adds the following sentence at the end of verse 3 as God said to Satan, “And [Job] still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” The reason for this addition is due to the horrific things Satan had done to Job in the interim. The first time Satan appeared before the LORD, when asked by him if he had considered his servant Job, he noted how “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (verse 8). And Satan had replied, “Does Job fear God for nothing?….10 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. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” And to this devilish accusation the LORD said, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (verse 12). Therefore Satan, God’s adversary, went on a destructive rampage as he:

Took away Job’s oxen and donkeys and killed the servants caring for them;[11]

Killed Job’s sheep and the servants caring for them;[12]

Took away Job’s camels and killed the servants caring for them;[13]

And, most horrific of all, Satan killed Job’s sons and daughters.[14]

What would you have done if this had been you? How would you have responded upon losing all of your children, servants, and material possessions? When we read how Job responded, we begin to appreciate why he is described as one who “is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” by both God and the narrator.[15] For what did Job do? What did he say? In the closing verses of chapter 1 we read how upon receiving this wave upon wave of devastating news, “20…Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 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.’ 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” This is what a providential understanding of life looks like. Though we may assume that Job had riches and comfort because he had somehow deserved or earned them, this wasn’t Job’s perspective. No, Job understood that first, the very possibility of life itself comes from God—”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” Second, that God being God he is at liberty to give and take away by his will and for his reasons—“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;” And perhaps most important and astonishing of all, that in all circumstances, God is worthy of worship; God is worthy of praise—”may the name of the Lord be praised.” This is what “blameless and upright” look like in action.

Now you would think that seeing Job’s response upon having everything that was most near and dear to him ripped away, and yet praising his LORD and Maker nonetheless, would convince anyone that this was indeed an indication of his being a “blameless and upright man” who “feared God and shunned evil” (1:1). And though Satan was mistaken and Job did not curse God as he said he would, Satan, God’s adversary and ours wasn’t satisfied. He wasn’t content with the suffering he had exacted upon Job. He wasn’t content to have destroyed his children and servants and taken away his livestock. So he again presented himself before the LORD along with his angels. And so the LORD, as stated in verse 3 of chapter 2, initiated a conversation with Satan a second time during which he again said, “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.” Again both times it’s the LORD who initiated this exchange. Both times he singled out Job for testing. And both times the LORD commended Job, his blameless servant, before the Devil, the accuser, referring to Job as “my servant” for as God’s servant, Job had a special relationship with him.[16]

And this second time, given all that had transpired, the LORD added to his commendation, “And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” God is, in part, throwing Satan’s original words back at him. Whereas in the first encounter Satan noted that Job followed God without reason when he asked, “Does Job fear God for nothing?,” here God pointed out how Job had withstood his initial unprovoked and unwarranted onslaught upon him by pointing out, again how “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Despite all of the meaningless suffering Satan had inflicted upon Job, Job fell down and worshipped and praised the LORD his God and Maker.

Yet Satan the destroyer wasn’t satisfied so he responded as recorded in verses 4 and 5: “Skin for skin!… A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” It should cause us no surprise to see that this adversary accused the man God had commended for Satan and God are so categorically and qualitatively different from one another so as to hold nothing in common, God being all good; Satan being all evil. Yet God agreed to allow Satan to be proved wrong a second time though he again placed a limit on the evil Satan would be allowed to inflict, verse 6: “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So as occurred the first time Satan, the author of all evil, came before the LORD, God placed constraints on the damage Satan could wreak upon Job. The first time the “LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger’” (1:12) so though Satan destroyed everything Job prized and loved, he was unable to touch his life. Similarly this second time the “Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life’” and Satan again did his level best to bring such misery upon Job that he came to wish he were dead[17] and even came to curse the day of his birth.[18] Now I realize that it may seem a small or no comfort at all to point out that Satan could do no harm beyond what God permitted him to inflict, especially when Job’s life had been so horrifically destroyed. But if God is not sovereign, then all hope is lost and we have no assurance that God will win in the end. And I think that at least part of the reason why Job was commended for being blameless before God was because he embraced God’s sovereignty and didn’t blame him for the evil he had undergone.

And Job’s perspective turned out to be correct for we find beginning in verse 7, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.” This is such a horrific picture of misery. Job was covered with painful sores from top to bottom. His only and no doubt meager relief was to scrape himself with a piece of broken pottery “as he sat among the ashes” of his life.  Job’s wife in verse 9 perhaps said what we ourselves may be thinking, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Why not? What else did Job have to lose? He had lost his children; he had lost his wealth—and therefore she, too, had lost her children and wealth. And now Job had lost his health. What point could there possibly be in continuing to live? Why would one who found himself in such a state bother living a blameless life? How could one still worship God having been stripped of any pleasure in life?

Yet Job, even in the depths of his misery, remained blameless. Job, even in the depths of his misery, refrained from blaming God. As recorded in verse 10, he responded to his wife, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Now some of your translations may note, as mine does, that the word translated “foolish” here denotes a moral deficiency. As one commentator notes, “The Hebrew word for ‘foolish’ or ‘fool’ has to do with faithlessness and religious apostasy… It is more of an ethical judgment than an intellectual one.”[19] Job’s wife was morally deficient because she seemed to believe that the only reason to believe in God was so that we might have lives of ease. But Job understood that the reason we believe and follow and praise and glorify God is because he is worthy of all honor and praise and glory. As Job cut to the quick in responding, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” And despite of all his trials, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

So I have to ask the central question the LORD poses in these opening chapters: Have you considered my servant Job?

The account of Job confronts us with the question: Do we only follow God, do we only believe, love, and praise him, when our lives are going as we would like to them to go? Or would we follow him, would we believe, love, and praise him should everything we prize most dearly were taken away from us—our family, our possessions, our health?

The account of Job confronts us with the disturbing possibility that it’s possible to do what the Lord requires of us—to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God—and still not be spared horrific suffering this side of heaven.

The account of Job confronts us with the prospect that we can be blameless and upright; we can fear God and shun evil yet not be spared from undergoing the effects of evil ourselves.

The account of Job also reminds us that suffering and chaos and destruction in this life originate with the devil, the accuser. Evil originates with Satan, God’s adversary and ours. Spiritual warfare isn’t a mythological invention but is real for Satan is alive and well and nothing would please him more than to destroy us. But if he’s unable to destroy us, he’ll do his level best to get us to turn away from and curse the God who loves us and made us for himself.

And what may perhaps be the most difficult yet most important for us to accept and embrace is that the account of Job reminds us that because God is sovereign and all suffering must pass through his permissive hands, our suffering may present us with an opportunity to proclaim that ultimately we follow God; ultimately we believe in God; ultimately we love God; ultimately we praise God because he is worthy of our love and worship and praise.

For Job reminds us that naked we come from our mother’s womb and naked we will depart—our lives have been made possible only by the LORD and Giver of life;

Job reminds us that it is the LORD who gives and it is the LORD who takes away. Our family, our friends, our possessions are possible only because of him.

Job reminds us that if we are willing to accept good from God, we should be willing to accept trouble. Therefore when trouble comes—and trouble inevitably will touch all of our lives—instead of saying, “Why me?” we should be just as willing to say, “Why not me?” For as God’s servants and, as Jesus declared, as God’s friends we are entrusted with a rich and eternal relationship with the God who made us and we’re called to love him that we might bear fruit that will last as we obey his command to love him and each other.[20] So even if God should turn to Satan and ask, “Have you considered my servant ‘your name here,’” we can trust and rest and be confident that no matter what we may be called to endure throughout our earthly lives, his love will never let us go, he will never leave us forsake us, and one day he will wipe every tear from our eyes as he welcomes and embraces us into his eternal home.

Our closing hymn this morning was written by William Cowper, a man who struggled with depression throughout his life. Yet despite his depression, as is evident in the words he penned, Cowper understood that our earthly lives are provisional, not the final answer. He understood, as Paul stated, that now we see in a mirror dimly but one day we will see face to face; that now we know in part but one day we will know fully even as we have been fully known.[21] Cowper understood that God does indeed move in a mysterious way his wonders to perform yet Cowper exhorts us not to judge the Lord by feeble sense but to trust him for his grace for behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face. This is also part of the message of Job. Though we may not now see that smiling face, one day we will for, as Cowper ends in his hymn, “God is His own interpreter, And he will make it plain.”

Let us pray.

[1] NIV translates as: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

[2] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Job 1:1 notes that this phrase is also applied to Noah (Genesis 6:9: This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.) and Abraham (Genesis 17:1: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.)

[3] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Job 1:1 notes how this description of Job echoes the characteristics of the “wise” in Proverbs, e.g. Proverb 3:7: Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.; Proverb 14:16: The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.; Proverb 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!

[4] Job 1:8: 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.”; Job 2:3: 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. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

[5] Genesis 1:31: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

[6] Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.; Revelation 20:2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.; 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

[7] Genesis 3:1: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

[8] Job 1:7b, 2:2b.

[9] 1 Peter 5:8–9.

[10] See the accounts of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–13.

[11] Job 1:13–15: 13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

[12] Job 1:16: 16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

[13] Job 1:17: 17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

[14] Job 1:18–19: 18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

[15] In Job 1:8 the LORD says this about Job. In Job 1:1b, the narrator does: “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

[16] For other examples of noteworthy servants referred to as “my servants” by the LORD, see Numbers 12:6–8: he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”; 2 Samuel 7:5a:“Go and tell my servant David,…” The following are references to the Suffering Servant of the LORD fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus: Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. Isaiah 52:13: See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Isaiah 53:11: After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

 

[17] Job 6:7–8: “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life!”

[18] Job 3:1: After this, Job  opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

[19] Reformed ESV Study Bible note on Job 2:10. It also provides the example of Psalm 14:1: The fool[one who is morally deficient] says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

[20] John 15:15-17: 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.