STUDY THREE: ENTER THE ENEMY

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

Other relevant studies on this site:
Extended studies on Satan.
Satan’s direct involvement in human suffering see Study 10 in Suffering Revisited.

 

In the prologue (Job 1 & 2) we, the readers, are given significant information that Job himself was never told:

On two separate occasions, when the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, Satan also came with them (1:6; 2:1).

On both occasions God asked him ‘Where have you come from?’ (1:7; 2:2)

On both occasions Satan answered ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it’ (1:7; 2:2).

On both occasions God responded: ‘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’ (1:8; 2:3). [On the second occasion God referred to Satan’s unsuccessful first attempt to expose Job’s faith as false (2:3).]

On both occasions Satan made the accusation that Job’s faith was fake, a hypocritical front by which to gain and maintain the life of prosperity, prestige and health that God had given him. He alleged that the removal of this blessedness would prove that Job’s faith lacked integrity (1:9 - 11; 2:4 – 5).

On both occasions God gave Satan permission to remove the physical blessedness, but within limits defined by God (1:12; 2:6).

On both occasions Satan inflicted suffering on Job within the limits set by God (1:12b – 19; 2:7).

These few verses provide us with ‘inside information’ that helps us to assess the validity of the opinions expressed by Eliphas, Bildad and Zophar. They tell us that what we see here on earth is not all that there is. They teach us that there is an enemy, whose intentions are deceptive and destructive. Indeed, his very nature is deceptive and destructive.

They also reveal that this enemy dares to challenge God’s affirmation of Job as a person of genuine faith. In this the enemy exposes his ignorance of God, God’s power and God’s mercy.

 

A. WHO IS THIS?

At this point we will move away from Job to Romans 8. From verse 17 onwards Paul’s theme is suffering, and it is very helpful for us to look carefully at what he says.

Read Romans 8:17 – 39. What does he teach about suffering in the verses listed below?
8:17

8:18

8:19 – 22

8:23

8:26

8:28

8:25 – 39

 

 

Now read 8:31-35 again. What does it say to anyone who challenges the secure relationship that exists between God and believers?
8:31: God, the Almighty Creator, is for us, so ….

8:33: God, the just Judge, has chosen and justified us, so

8:34, 35: Christ, who died and was raised to life, is interceding for us, so

 

From these verses, and from other parts of the Bible we learn:

No one has any legal ground for laying a charge against those who believe in Christ.

No one has any legal ground for condemning those who believe in Christ.

No one has any authority or power to reverse or remove the love of God that is given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing that happens – no hardship, no calamity, no suffering, nothing at all that happens in life or in death – indicates that God has stopped loving the person of faith. Nothing that happens to the person of faith can be interpreted as a removal of forgiveness, a removal of justification, a removal of God’s love. No suffering experienced by people of faith is ever again to be understood in such a way.

God has chosen. God has justified (declared ‘not guilty’), because Christ is both our substitute and our mediator. God loves, and nothing and no one can undo that love.

So Paul says:

Who is this who accuses and condemns? Just who does he think he is that by his words he can overturn both the word of God and the action of God?

Who is this who suggests that suffering is an indication that God has stopped loving us?

And as we read Job chapters 1 and 2, it seems that Paul, reading over our shoulders, is asking the same question: who is this who has the boldness and audacity to bring this charge against Job, a man affirmed by God to be a person of genuine faith? Who does Satan think that he himself is?

Does he think he knows Job better than God knows Job?

Does he think that he himself is more righteous than God?

Does he think that he, a mere creature, can by his accusations, undo the saving, justifying work of the Creator, who is both the Redeemer and the ultimate Judge?

 

B. SATAN – THE ADVERSARY

The name ‘Satan’ means ‘the adversary’, that is, the legal adversary – the one who stands up in court and makes accusations, lays charges. And that is what he is doing here against Job.

As the adversary, Satan operates on two levels: Level one, Satan is God’s adversary, God’s enemy. Level two, Satan is therefore the adversary of everything that belongs to God and is approved by God. Anything that is precious to God is automatically the target for the opposition and attacks of this enemy.

Read these pairs of verses to see this in operation:

Genesis 1:31 / 3:1 – 4

Matthew 3:17 / Matthew 4:4

Matthew 16:16, 17 / Matthew 16:22, 23

In Genesis 1:31 God announced that everything was ‘very good’; then in Genesis 3:1-4 Satan came in to corrupt that perfection. In Matthew 3:17 God affirms his pleasure in his Son, then in Matthew 4:4 Satan came in to try to turn Jesus away from the God appointed path. In Matthew 16:16 & 17 Jesus receives another affirmation from his Father, then in Matthew 16:22-23 Satan, through Peter’s words, again tried to turn Jesus away from the cross.

The person on whom God’s blessing rests (and it rests on all who believe in Jesus Christ) automatically has Satan as an enemy, and is automatically involved in this great cosmic opposition of Satan to God and all that is God’s.

Whatever and whoever is precious to God is obnoxious to Satan. Inevitably he hates those whom God loves.

And so he accuses.

And that is what the word ‘Satan’ means - ‘the accuser’, the legal adversary. (Note also that the Greek diabolos (devil) means ‘slanderer’, and relates to defamation, libel and misrepresentation). In Revelation he is called the accuser of our brothers (12:10). It is in that role that he operates in the prologue to Job. He makes the accusation that Job’s faith is not genuine, that it is focused not in God himself, but in the physical health and prosperity with which God has blessed Job. He attacks the integrity of Job’s faith and relationship with God, saying that it is all a sham covering up Job’s materialistic design, that it is not God that Job loves, but God’s gifts.

 

C. WHO IS IN CHARGE?

It is very clear in Job 1 & 2 that God, not Satan, is in the position of authority.

Answer/discuss the following questions:
Which verses reveal that:
Satan is accountable and answerable to God -

Satan cannot act without God’s permission -

Satan is limited by God. He cannot go beyond the boundaries defined by God -

How do Satan’s words in 1:11 and 2:5 express his awareness that it is ultimately God who is responsible?

 

How do God’s words in 2:3 – ‘you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason’ – affirm the same truth, that God holds himself to be ultimately responsible for what happened to Job?

 

 

Although Satan is a rebel and an enemy he knew that he did not have the authority or the power to inflict Job with suffering.

He did not say ‘I am going to go out and do this and that to Job.’ Rather he suggested, on both occasions, that God makes Job suffer.

On both occasions God gave Satan permission to inflict suffering on Job, but he also limited the kind of suffering Satan was permitted to cause.

He could do nothing without God’s permission, and he could do nothing outside the boundary set by God.

In further affirmation that it is God who is in charge, not Satan, is the statement God made in 2:3 ‘you incited me to ruin him without any reason’. This is a disturbing statement. We do not want to think that God did all these things to Job; we would much rather hold Satan accountable. After all, it is he who is our enemy, not God. It is he who seeks our destruction, not God. God, we argue, would not do those things to Job.

But God knows that it is he who gave Satan the permission, even defining the limits. Without God’s permission, Satan could not have done it. Ultimately, God is saying, the responsibility rest with him.

And we do not really like that. But think again…

Read these verses. How do they affirm that it is actually a good thing that God is ultimately responsible for the suffering we experience?
Genesis 45:5 – 8

Genesis 50:19 – 20

Acts 2:22, 23

Romans 8:28

1Corinthians 10:13

 

Now think about these questions:
Which is better … that Satan, the enemy, has authority over our suffering? Or that God, our Creator and Redeemer, has authority over our suffering?

By whose power would you rather your suffering was permitted and limited?

Which of these – Satan or God – do you trust to bring you safely through the suffering?

Would you rather Satan had total freedom to do whatever he pleased to you? Or would you rather his attacks are only what God has permitted?

This is a perspective which we need to constantly keep in mind. Satan is not autonomous. Satan is not on the same level of authority as God. He wants to be. He often acts as though he is. But he is not. He is a created being who is in a state of constant rebellion against his Creator, constantly trying to undermine and usurp his authority, but he is, and he knows he is, actually under the authority of God. He cannot touch Job or Job’s possessions and family, unless God allows it. He can only go as far as God permits him to.

We also need to remember that Satan, although he is a terrible enemy, is not nearly as important as he believes himself to be.

As we study the Book of Job we will discover that Job, his three friends and Elihu appear to have absolutely no awareness that Satan exists. All they know is that God is Sovereign, and because God is Sovereign all that has happened to Job is God’s doing. Regardless of their differing explanations of the reason for Job’s suffering, they have this basic belief in common: God has done it. God, when he speaks, does not say anything to expose this concept as wrong.

Interestingly, the last we read about Satan is in 2:7: Satan, having both God’s permission and limitation, went out and afflicted Job with painful sores.

The rest of the book ignores him totally. His involvement, though significant, is not the focus of the book. It is merely an instrument taken up by God to demonstrate to all who read this story that true faith endures – regardless of the suffering.

 

D. SATAN – BENT ON DESTRUCTION

Satan is bent on destruction, particularly the destruction of whoever has the approval of God

Read these verses. How does Peter explain Satan’s purpose in roaming through the earth?
Job 1:7

Job 2:2

1Peter 5:8

In Revelation 9:11 Satan is called Appolyon - which means the one who exterminates or destroys. As Peter affirms: he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. This is what he had been doing before the two occasions reported in Job when he appeared in God’s presence with the angels.

Related to this identification of Satan as the Destroyer is his association with murder and death.

What do these verses teach?
John 8:44

Hebrews 2:14

1 John 3:11, 12

Here in Job 1 and 2 Satan’s purpose is destruction: the destruction of Job’s relationship with God:

His plan is to expose Job’s faith as fake, and so destroy the God-Job relationship.
His plan is to provoke Job to curse God, and so destroy both Job’s reputation and God’s.
His plan is thus to destroy Job’s testimony and by doing so diminish God’s glory in the eyes of the watching world.

 

E. SATAN IS A LIAR, DECEIVER AND TEMPTER (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:3 – 11; 1Corinthians 7:5; 2Corinthians 11:14).

Jesus said of Satan: ‘He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).

When Satan speaks, we know that we cannot and must not believe what he says. There is no truth in him. Even when he quotes the word of God, as he did in Genesis 3 and Matthew 4, it is a misquote, a misinterpretation or a misapplication. Or all three.

Read again Job 1:6 – 11 and 2:1 – 5. In what ways is Satan:
Telling lies to God?

Telling lies about Job?

Giving false witness in the presence of the angels?

Deceiving even himself?

 

Here in Job Satan has the audacity to lie to even God. In this he displays the poverty of his ignorance and unbelief:

He does not understand or believe that God is omniscient (knows everything).
He does not understand or believe God’s mercy.
He does not understand or believe that God justifies the sinner who believes in him.
He does not understand or believe the nature or the dynamics of genuine faith.

And this brings us to another aspect of Satan’s hatred and attacks: he is the tempter. That is, he is the one who put pressure on Job, and who puts pressure on us, to give up on God and on faith, and give in to his lies and deceptions about God and about our relationship with God.

In the garden, Satan put pressure on Eve to disobey God, by deceiving her about God and his word.

In the wilderness, Satan put pressure on Jesus to sidestep the cross, by quoting, misrepresenting and misapplying the word of God.

Here, in this ancient world of Job, Satan put pressure on Job, through his suffering, and through the wife’s words, to give in to Satan’s destructive deceptions, and give up his faith in God.

 

APPLICATION

All of this activity of Satan is ranged against God, and against his servant Job, the man of faith. It is also ranged against us as believers in Jesus Christ, both individually, and corporately as the church. We see evidence of it when:

[a] individual believers are plagued by doubts, by guilt, by self-condemnation, by lack of assurance of salvation.

[b] individual believers experience abnormal suffering - either in quantity, or in duration.

[c] individual believers suffer persecution because of their allegiance to Christ.

[d] the church or individual believers are deceived by false teaching - either overt or subtle.

[e] the church or individual believers believe lies, for instance, about the origin of the world or the nature of the Bible.

[f] the church or individual believers feel pressure to give in and give up on their faith

[g] the church experiences any of [a], [b] or [c].

None of this ought to surprise us. The New Testament warns us to expect it and to be prepared for it.

Satan is opposed to all that is God’s. He is consumed with hatred for and opposition to God. He so hates God that he wants to corrupt and destroy all that is precious to God. For someone to appear to love God as Job did is to Satan like a red rag to a bull. He so hates God that he cannot bring himself to believe that anyone could possibly love God with a pure love. He so hates God that he hates to see any one obeying and submitting to God and giving glory to God. He so hates God that he hates to see the kingdom of God advancing in the hearts of human beings and spreading throughout the world. He so hates God, and the thought of anyone loving God, that he opposes anything that will undo the effects of sin and reconcile man to God.