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A. Job is one of the heaviest books in the Bible, comparable to Lamentations and Revelation. And this may just be the heaviest sermon series I’ve ever preached.
1. We’re not dealing with trifles here, my dear friends in Christ.
2. But in this day when much preaching is more like candy than meat, there has never been a better time to stop and listen to God’s word in the book of Job.
B. Job: righteous and rich
C. Job 1:6–12 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 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.” 8 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?” 9 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.
1. Catastrophe falls upon Job in one day. In separate incidents, his animals are all killed or stolen, and the house collapses, killing all his children. Job 1:13-19
2. Job fell on the ground and worshiped, “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.” (1:20-21)
D. Job 2:1–7 Again 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.
II. So today we focus on the role of Satan in the story, and the role of God. And there are many important lessons for us to learn in this aspect of the story of Job:
A. We see that business is being carried out in heaven. God has purposes, things He’s doing. And it includes storms, some of which even involve Satan. And people on earth know nothing of it.
1. Job was on the precipice of a catastrophe worse than could be imagined. Many others are too.
2. How easy it is to be fooled by how things look, to be lulled into a false sense of security.
3. We see in the story of Job that God still gives Satan permission to wreak havoc on people. And that’s sobering, isn’t it? Sometimes God might give Satan permission to afflict us.
4. And you and I might not have a moment of anticipation or explanation.
5. God is not the only one we can’t see. Even before the havoc he wreaks, it is significant that Satan is prowling around like a lion, looking for whom he may devour (1Pet.5:8).
6. So, what should we do? There are a number of passages in the Bible which give us specific instructions about being in this situation: e.g. 1Pet.5:6-11; Eph.6:10-18.
7. And Jesus tells us what to do in Matthew 7:24-27. The wise man will build his house upon the rock before the storm comes, so his house will withstand the storm, because if we build our homes on the sand, when the rain falls, and the floods came, and the winds blow and beat against that house, it will fall, and great will be the fall of it.
8. We often here reports of those who didn’t take danger seriously and ended up regretting their lack of preparation, but it’s too late.
B. But what if you are being attacked right now? What if the storm is already here?
1. Well, Job didn’t have the book of Job, but we do! And what great help and hope it gives!
2. It teaches us that our troubles are all in God’s hands.
3. It teaches us that God knows what we can endure and exactly what we need.
4. It teaches us that God can snap His fingers and take away our troubles in a second.
5. It teaches us that we’ll be better off because of the hardship.
6. It teaches us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves – even though it doesn’t look like it or feel like it. He only gives us what is good for us, according to His perfect wisdom/knowledge.
7. It teaches us that it won’t last one minute longer than He knows is best.
8. Do not despair! Run to Christ, and cling to Him! And be patient in hope.
9. It is God’s grace which is sustaining you.
C. We would be wise to think about Satan’s claim: “Job has been living the dream – that’s why He worships You. Let him live a nightmare and he’ll curse You.”
1. It wasn’t true of Job, but it is true of many others.
2. And therefore it’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves: Do we worship the Lord because we’re living the dream? If everything is taken away, will we stand firm on the Rock?
3. So many people – when they tell their stories, you find out that they used to be Christians, but then something really hard happened to them (a church experience, the death of a loved one, etc.) and they turned away from it. Sadly, even some people from our church have that in their story.
4. Just because you’re here doesn’t mean that you’ll always be among God’s people. David knew he would dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life (Ps.23:6) because he really knew the Lord. But there are others who dwell in the house of the Lord only temporarily.
5. 1John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they’re not of us.
6. Eventually, like Judas, they leave. Eventually they go back to who they really are.
7. 2Pet.2:22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
8. No matter how much a pig is washed, it’s still a pig. It’s not a sheep. May God make us all sheep.
D. But there is a disadvantage being a sheep. Satan’s wrath is stirred up against those who are sheep.
1. Satan wants to run a monopoly. And he gets very angry when one of his pigs gets turned into a sheep. The strong man hates it when the much stronger man ties him up and plunders his house (Matt.12:29), which is exactly what Christ has done and is doing.
2. You can tell that Satan was really bothered by Job. Satan is crafty, and I think it was about more than just Job.
3. Satan knew that by bringing Job down, he would be bringing many others down as well.
4. We saw last week that people looked up to Job, they derived strength from Job. His life pointed them to God.
5. It is not an accident that this is a story about Satan’s attempt to bring down such a righteous man as Job. He loves to bring down those who are looked up to as spiritual examples.
6. We see it all the time. Every time it happens, it has a ripple effect.
E. But what a great impact is had when a person suffers but clings to God and does not turn away!
1. Our suffering can have an enormous effect on others if we continue to look to God and trust Him.
2. As Jesus was being crucified, He did not grow embittered, He did not fight back. He accepted the affliction with love, with grace. And what was the result?
a. The centurion who was overseeing the crucifixion – and others with him – came to believe: Mark 15:39, Matt.27:54. Cf. Luke 23:48.
b. They didn’t witness a miraculous intervention. They just witnessed a man dying in agony. But the way that man faced His agony convinced them of the truth.
3. At the very end of Job’s story, in Job 42:11, we are told that “all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house, came and showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.”
a. It’s hard to imagine that the whole thing didn’t have a profound impact on many others, to say nothing of those who have read the book of Job down through the ages.
III. But there is a theological difficulty here as well. For some, there is a troubling aspect of this scene.
A. First, it may seem strange to find Satan invited into this gathering of heavenly beings around the Lord: “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.”
1. How could God tolerate Satan in His presence? Why didn’t He just strike him dead?
B. Secondly, it seems like God is negotiating with Satan, even giving him privileges which he asks for.
1. It almost makes it seem like God and Satan are on the same team.
C. How can we explain these things to ourselves, and to those who are looking for ammunition to use against the Bible and its God? As always, the way to understand the Bible is by the Bible. God had given us a whole book, not just individual pieces of it. When one piece of it doesn’t make sense to us, we look for help from other places in order to guide us into proper interpretation/understanding.
D. So, the first thing to say is that Job is not the only place in the Bible where we find the court/throne room of God, where God is on His throne, surrounded by heavenly beings. Besides Job we find it in Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1-3; Daniel 7; Zechariah 3; and virtually the whole book of Revelation.
1. It’s the concept of a king’s court, where he surrounds himself with his advisors and officials.
2. In the US, our government is self-consciously not monarchical. We don’t have a king, and we don’t want a king. Our president is first among equals, not the one who makes the laws or the one who judges the cases. So, grasping the concept of a royal court isn’t as easy for us as some others.
3. But even though our politics are not monarchical, our theology is monarchical. God is our king. He is high and exalted, sitting on His throne. He’s the One who rules over all; He’s the One who gives the orders; He’s the One renders judgments.
4. God’s holy court is the control room of the universe. It’s where orders and judgments are handed down.
E. Now in a number of these scenes we find evil characters right there in the presence of God:
1. Revelation is full of them.
2. Daniel 7 has four evil beasts.
3. Zec.3 actually has Satan himself standing in God’s court with the two interacting with each other.
F. But the courtroom vision which has most similarities with the one we see here in Job is the vision of Micaiah the prophet in 1Kings 22:19-23.
1. Here, like in the book of Job, we have an evil spirit not only in the circle of God’s presence, not only interacting with God, but making plans and arrangements together, almost as if they’re on the same team.
2. People may be more familiar with the story of Job, but the fact is, what we find here in Job is not unique in Scripture. Now let’s try to figure it out and explain it to ourselves.
G. So, this is something the Bible is not embarrassed about. It puts it out there again and again. This part of Job doesn’t say something to be ashamed of. It says something to celebrate; it says something glorious; it says something reassuring; ultimately it says something triumphant.
1. Yes, we have an enemy; yes, he is powerful, much more powerful than we are, much more intelligent, much more clever; yes, he is vicious, the epitome of evil, who wants to consume us.
2. But this devil is still restrained by the Lord.
3. Satan can’t just do whatever he wants to do. He has to ask God’s permission.
a. Satan wants to do evil, but there is a restraint before which he must bow.
b. Later in Job, God told Job that in the beginning, when He was creating the sea, He prescribed limits for it saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.” (Job 38:8-11). And so it is that God prescribed limits for Satan as well, saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.”
c. He is a vicious beast, but God has him on a leash!
4. Now why would God ever give Satan permission to do something?
a. Well, there are things God wants to happen which He will never do Himself, like His Son being tempted to sin so that His perfect righteousness can be proven, or like His Son being crucified for the salvation of the world, or like Job being tested in order to prove that his allegiance to the Lord was not just a result of his rich and prosperous life.
b. Demons desire to do evil and therefore they are the ones God has do the dirty work which sometimes needs to be done.
5. You see, just as Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Gen.50:20) The brothers were trying to do something evil, but God allowed them to do it because He had a good purpose for their evil action. In the same way, there are things Satan means for evil which God means for good.
6. This means that, although they don’t desire it or intend it, the demons, in an ultimate sense, are serving God. The devil, Martin Luther said, is God’s devil.
H. So, the devil’s work in the life of Job was from the Lord.
1. Job himself knew this. After Satan devastated his life, Job said to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10
I. If God didn’t want Satan around, Satan wouldn’t be around. Satan exists because God holds him in existence, just like you and me. It’s not like He would have trouble overcoming Satan if he wanted to destroy him. And one day He will. But right now He is keeping Satan around to do some things which He wants done, and to display His glory in the end by casting him into the lake of fire.
J. This is so encouraging!
1. Even though our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe, even though his craft and power are great, even though he’s armed with cruel hate, even though on earth is not his equal, yet a mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
2. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Do you ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He! Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.
3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim: we tremble not for him! His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.
4. That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth...His kingdom is forever! (Martin Luther)
5. This is the wonder of weaklings like me and you, protected and preserved, though we are no match for our adversary.
a. It’s what happened to Peter, who Satan wanted to sift life wheat.
b. It’s what happened to Jerusalem in the days of Sennacherib’s attacks.
c. It happened in Rev.12 when Satan went after the woman’s offspring.
d. It happened to the prophet Elisha when the Syrians surrounded the city where he stayed.
6. Just like Peter, Satan wants to sift us like wheat (Luke 22:31). But, if we love God and are called according to His purposes, God will not let this happen.
a. We can always know that He will only let Satan go so far, only so far as his work will ultimately do us good, as we see in the story of Job.
K. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t need to be alert and on guard against his attacks!
1. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one!” – Matt.6:13
2. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to flee to God for refuge.
3. How can you live a Christian life if you live as though there is no devil?
4. This story is a good reminder that “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
5. We need to live by what we know, not by what we see.
6. We see in the story of Job that God sometimes allows Satan to bring tragedy and suffering into our lives.
7. And this knowledge can be a tremendous blessing to us – not to cause us to worry (for if God is for us, who can be against us?), but to drive us to the Lord.