Satan claims, “take away Job’s possessions and Job’s piety will vanish.” Satan’s aim is that God’s method of redeeming sinners will be proven to be an abject failure. Bribery may get superficial results. But divine bribery cannot ultimately redeem sinners. Therefore, we must not miss the fact that by afflicting Job, Satan is attacking the very foundation of the gospel–the justice and mercy of God.
Satan Summoned Before the Heavenly Court
As the story Job continues to unfold, the veil between the seen and the unseen is lifted. We discover that the heavenly court is in session. The Lord is on his throne and legions of angels are present. Summoned by God, Satan comes before the court as the accuser of God’s people. But this time it is the Lord who directs Satan’s attention to his righteous servant, Job. Seeing an opportunity to attack the foundation of the gospel, Satan takes the up the Lord’s challenge, calling into question Job’s righteousness. According to Satan the Accuser, Job is a hypocrite. Job is blameless and upright, fears God and shuns evil, only because God bribes him to do so by giving Job great wealth and personal comfort. Take all these things away–Satan argues–and Job’s supposed piety will be exposed for what it is–a falsehood. Once God’s challenge has been issued and accepted by Satan, the wisdom and goodness of God is at stake. Job must enter into a trial by ordeal, a trial he must endure and from which he must emerge victorious, so that God’s wisdom will be vindicated and that all his ways–mysterious as they may be–will be proven right.
In the next section of the Book of Job the mysterious purpose underlying Job’s horrific ordeal is revealed. The vindication of God’s wisdom in his dealing with all of his creatures, especially as it relates to the gospel and God’s redemption of sinners, becomes the main storyline. Job will lose everything he has except his life, his wife and three of his friends. As the scope of the disaster faced by Job becomes fully apparent, the reader begins to ask whether Job would be much better off without his wife and friends, since his wife behaves like Eve (unwittingly serving the purposes of the Devil) and since his friends only contribute to Job’s suffering through their seemingly wise, but utterly flawed theological counsel.
We Know What Job Does Not
Before we turn to the scene before the heavenly court and consider the results of the decision issued by the heavenly court, we need to keep in mind that the readers of this book know what Job does not. Job does not know about the courtroom scene, nor does he know about the challenge to the gospel raised by Satan. Job has no idea of what is about to befall him. Nor does Job know the reason why a series of horrible things will take place leaving him sick, heart-broken and with nothing. All Job knows after losing everything is that some how, and in some way, God will do what is right and vindicate Job in the end. In this, Job is an example to us.
Despite the temptation to dwell on the past and despite the counsel given him by his friends to look back at his life to find the reason why he lost everything–“what did you do that brought all of this to pass?”–instead, Job looks to the future. Job tells us, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). It is Job, while in the midst of pain and loss beyond our imagination, who points us to the coming redeemer. When his wife tells him to curse God and die, when his friends tell him that he is only getting what he deserved, it is Job, who refuses to blame God and instead praises his name. It is the suffering and miserable Job, who is both a type of Christ–the true man of sorrows–as well as a prophet who directs our gaze ahead to that final day when God will turn all our suffering to good.
In the Book of Job, Satan is identified as the “Accuser,” or more literally, “the Adversary.” He is summoned to appear before the court by God. Satan must obey. Satan cannot touch Job until given permission to do so. God’s sovereignty over all things is absolute, including the activities and operations of the Devil. As Luther once put it, “the Devil is God’s Devil.” Satan cannot do anything which God does not permit him to do. Satan is a creature, bound to submit to God, and not in any sense God’s equal.
We Are Not in Job’s Situation
Given the unique circumstances just described, every reader of Job must realize that our situation is completely different from Job’s.