The Story of Job
The book of Job records the exchanges between God and Satan on Job, who was put to the most stringent of tests on a chosen one, and was kept from knowing the true reasons for his heart-breaking sufferings. The heavenly agreement permits one wave of attack after another, to strip off not only all his physical possessions that he firmly believed he had received from God, but also to torment him emotionally and spiritually to the very core of his existence and beliefs.
The most puzzling aspect of the book perhaps is not whether God should have permitted a calamitous disaster of this scale to occur in the life of a God-fearing person. Rather the purpose for such an event has become a mind-absorbing subject to many. Many believe, in view of the savaging scale of the suffering, the story is not factual and has been modified to drive home the absolute obedience needed on the part of God’s chosen to the sovereign will. Some uncompromisingly hold on to the traditional view: God intended to refine Job, to make him free from being self-righteous. This view is founded on Job posing challenges to God’s deeds (19:6; 23:3-4, 16; 24:25; 32:1). In search of understanding, a relatively new view has been proposed. It stems from Satan not being under the control of God. This view holds that the story is a design of God to defeat Satan through the righteousness of His servant, Job.
The last view is acutely against the traditional belief. Its reasoning is that it is wrong to brand Job as being self-righteous, for he has been declared thrice that he was blameless and upright (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), and his righteousness is on par with that of other ancient saints such as Noah and Daniel (Ezek 14:14, 20). Though it may sound convincing at the first mention of the Biblical support, it does not take into consideration the whole life of Job, and especially, when these statements were made.
The Righteousness of Job
Since everyone is in sin at birth, Job is without exception. His righteousness thus is relative and not absolute. In comparing him to the world then, in God’s eyes, he was righteous (1:8; 2:5). So, he must have pursued a life without blame, of uprightness and of fearing God. If he were sin-free at birth or perfectly righteous, then there is no need for animal sacrifice, let alone the coming of Christ to die for the world. The offering of blood sacrifice in atoning sins was needed in the OT, which would eventually result in a retroactive cleansing by Christ’s blood (Heb 9:12-15) for the ancient saints, who steadfastly held their faith in the Lord to the end.
Like his OT contemporary Abraham, Job must have been reckoned righteous for his belief in God’s promise (Gen 15:6). It goes without saying, though his religious background has not been documented in great details, he knew how to atone for sins, as evident in his constant practice for his children (Job 1:5). Besides, he must have been a word-abiding person, to be reckoned as righteous continuously. This is based on the teachings in Romans and James, that Abraham remained as righteous on the ground of his obedience to God.
1. Abraham believed in the word of God (Gen 15:6). For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Rm 4:3).
2. He obeyed God by performing the first ever circumcision in the history of humanity on his household (Gen 17). Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. (Rm 4:9f).
3. He obeyed and trusted in the promise of God (Heb 11:11f). He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Rm 4:20ff).
4. He obeyed and offered up his son (Gen 22). Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. (Js 2:21ff).
Job was righteous for he distinguished himself from others, which is to shun evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3); and feared God (meaning he followed God’s instruction – cf Gen 22:12). His righteousness in chapter one was before he was put to the test. The best creation of God, i.e., man, is to face Him in righteousness. To be righteous at the point when the heavenly exchanges took place does not guarantee him to be righteous continuously, unless he saw fit to obey his Maker, even in time of indescribable adversity or being provoked and misjudged beyond tolerance.
Had Job sinned?
From the first two and the last chapters, it seems obvious that Job was a sinless person, since God claimed him to be so. However, there are phases in a person’s life that we need to look into, to understand how he responds to the saving grace of God, to become righteous. The life of Job is without exception. The change that was wrought in his life reflects also how much we needed God and His mercy to live a life pleasing to Him.
1. There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (1:1, 8). This is stated when things went well with him, and in particular when he received great blessings from God (cf 1:9), who protected him well in all aspects.
2. Then 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, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause (2:3). This is stated after the first manifold attacks inflicted upon Job. He remained faithful to God, and did not sin with his words, maintaining his righteousness.
3. After the second heavenly exchange, Job lost practically everything, with painful boils growing all over his body. Coupled with such a plight is the damaging word from his wife to furiously coerce him to curse God and die (2:9). Again, he did not sin in his words (2:10), and he maintained his integrity before Him.
4. In protesting his innocence in the face of his friends, Job recalled the sins that he committed as a youth. In his suffering, his past sins were brought back to memory. ‘For You write bitter things against me, and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth’ (13:26). Clearly, he was not a sinless person at birth. In his youthful days, he made mistakes too. Perhaps, his constant sacrifices made on behalf of his children reflect his awareness of youthful passion at work leading to transgression, and of the need to be sanctified. He begged God not to account for his sins, which the Lord had sealed up and covered long ago (14:16f).
5. In the presence of his friends and their accusations, Job lost control of himself in his words. He realised that his own word would prove enough to condemn him before God (9:20). Understandably, he vented his wrath on them for being unreasonable, misjudging him on a wrong premise and even condemning him (Job 32:3). He branded them troublesome (16:2). Most seriously, in his desperate desire to reason with God, he committed sins against Him:
- He vowed not to restrain his word to speak in the anguish of his spirit and complain in the bitterness of his soul (7:11). He mistakenly judged God to have turned a deaf ear to his pleading (9:16).
- He cursed the day of his birth and blamed God for bringing him forth in existence (3:1ff; 10:18-19).
- He did not want to have anything to do with God and asked to be left alone (10:20f).
- He sought for chances to reason his situation out with God (13:3).
- He charged God for tearing him in pieces, hating and destroying him (16:9f).
- He accused God of delivering him to the ungodly, with the intention of destroying him (16:11-14).
- He heaped a charge on God for wronging him, and for considering him as His enemy (19:6, 11), as well as persecuting him (19:22)
In the light of Job’s words, especially in the introduction given prior to Elihu’s speech, it is clear that Job was being self-righteous, as he did whatever he could to justify himself (32:1). In his plight, he was in no way attempting to justify God; rather he went on a spree of verbal aggression and challenge against Him (9:14-20; 10:18; 13:3, 20-15), his Maker whom he had revered with great dignity before.
This trial has revealed the imperfection of Job. Being not able to fully submit in heart made him speak out uncontrollably against his own will. He indeed had failed in upholding his integrity, not to charge God with wrong (cf 1:5, 22; 2:10), as seen in those discourses between him and his friends. This is reflected in the reply of God to him as well ‘Shall the one who contends with the almighty correct Him?’ To God, Job was guilty of rebuking His Maker (40:2). In fact, it went beyond just that, Job had been in grave violation of condemning God, in venting out his grievances (40:8).
He teetered on the very test that Satan had put forth before God: ‘He would curse You to your face…’ (1:11, 22, 2:5). This was the very thing that he was so constantly afraid of his children violating (1:5), which his wife had failed as well (2:9). The original meaning of curse here is literally ‘be blessed, but in an evil intent’. On one occasion he would just blast out at God (7:11; 10:1-3, 20; 13:5; 16:9, 11; 19:6, 11; 23:3-4). On another, he would speak correctly about Him (23:13-14; 28:28). He had a very mixed emotion, alternating between upholding his Lord and accusing Him with wrongs.
If he had been righteous throughout his trial, apart from only some few careless words, which amount to no serious implication, then it would not have been necessary for him to degrade himself as being vile (40:4), after the Lord had reproached him. If he had been upright throughout, there would not have been any reason for him to abhor himself (42:6). To abhor is to despise, to be deeply grieved over what had been said and done. This is the strongest possible word used to describe how wrong he was in his word. For that reason, he repented in dust and ashes (42:6). Furthermore, can it be right for the created to speak against the Creator: Does not the potter have the power over the clay (Rm 9:21)? Does it make Job a sinless person, with those damning words?
Here, we can draw a sub-conclusion to this issue based on the chart below. Job was not perfect throughout his life. Especially during his youthful days, he had sinned against God (13:26; 14:16f). His shunning away from evil ignited a remarkable turn-around from evil to fear the Lord, as God Himself has testified to it (1:1, 8; 2:3). This surely was coupled with the sacrificial atonement he practised so much on behalf of his children (1:5). Before he gave in to the relentless afflictions, God deemed him righteous. His verbal flaw had caused him to fall. However, at his unreserved repentance, the merciful God restored him to where he once belonged, with blessings in double proportions.
The Life of Job at a Glance
1. Youthful days (13:26; 14:16-17)
2. Fearing God, having shunned from evil (1:1, 8; 2:3)
3. Remained righteous, after the first two rounds of attack (1:22; 2:10)
4. A curse from the wife and the quiet sit-out for 7 days with his three friends (2:9)
5. Spoke against God and his friends (3-32)
6. Elihu’s advice (33-37)
7. God’s speech to unfold His wrongs (38-41)
8. He was righteous again after his awakening from his challenge of God. This happened when he heeded the command of God to pray for his friends (42:10, 12; Ezek 14:14, 20)
The wrongs of Job’s three friends
Here, we begin to discuss the implication that God considered what Job had said was superior to his three friends (cf. 42:7, 8). Obviously, the assumption goes: if Job spoke better than them, then how could he have sinned with his word?
First note that the reprimand was directed to his three friends, rather than Job himself. The comments God gave were concerned with their words spoken about Him: ‘You have not spoken of Me what is right’ (42:7f). Would these comments justify every word Job uttered?
Job’s friend, Eliphaz, was ignorant of God’s supreme authority over man. He attributed Job’s suffering to only one reason, i.e., he had sinned against God as he believed no one had ever perished from being innocent (4:7). He looked at God in a fixed manner. He based his understanding on his personal experiences, to judge the situation in which Job was (4:12-21). His dealing with a specific account also came into play in measuring the suffering of Job (5:3, 27). To him, there can be no two similar accounts in life, which play out differently when the principles of God remain the same.
He misjudged the work of God on Job. He insistently condemned him by saying that no one was pure (15:14), ignoring the work of offering sacrifices for atonement. On top of that he wrongfully accused him of acting wickedly in life. Examples include taking pledges from his brother for no reason, not giving water to those who were thirsty, withholding bread from the hungry and sending widows away empty (22:7-9). The wrong that he said about God was ‘Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous? Or is it gain to Him that you make your ways blameless (22:3)? Obviously, a person’s righteousness brings glory to Him. God wants His chosen to shine forth in righteousness in demonstration of His attributes. That is why the righteousness of Noah, Job and Daniel was stated as a glorious example for all to follow (Ezek 14: 14, 20).
Bildad, Job’s second friend, was guilty of making the same mistake as Eliphaz did. He gave a full and lengthy account of the end of the wicked in two separate discourses, consigning Job to a situation in which he had never been (18: 5ff), and condemning him as being wicked. His word of admonition was inaccurate of Job’s plight. He concluded that the collapse of his dwelling was the result of his own wickedness (18:21). He was also full of assumptions, thinking that he knew precisely what had caused Job to suffer such a horrendous disaster (8:5f, 18). From his words, he thought Job must have forgotten about God, which led to his breaking the covenant God had with him (cf Ps 78:10f). He accused him of having belittled and despised the power of God’s salvation (Ps 78:42) that lent him in such a pitiful state (8:13ff).
The greatest error made in Bildad’s advice was perhaps his misconception and ignorance of God’s divine effort to justify His people. To him, no matter how hard a person strived to be righteous, he could never attain to the level of righteousness God desires. He had overlooked the power of God’s atonement through sacrifices. ‘How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman’ (25:4)? This was in direct contradiction to the declaration God made on Job in the first two chapters of the book, though the righteousness might have been made in contrast to the people of the world. Nevertheless it was accepted by God.
Zophar, the third friend, was less wordy in his advice. In comparison, he had a much shorter discourse with Job. In total there are only two (11, 20). However, being as impulsive as the others, he undiscernibly based his own advice on his own understanding of God. In making his argument sound convincing, he daringly magnified His mercy at the expense of His righteousness, and in fact, it was on a wrong premise. ‘That He would show you the secrets of wisdom! For they would double your prudence. Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquities deserve’ (11:6).
He basically claimed that God had ignored some of Job’s iniquities. He meted out lesser retribution than what Job should have received with the sins he had committed. If this had been the case, God would have been unfair in his judgement and was a liar. As the Law of Moses states that He would by no mean clear the guilty, indicating he would not let any sinner go unpunished (Exod 34:6; Num 14:18; Deut 5:9-10; Nah 1:3).
The outrageous thing Zophar did came from a man of assumption and hypothesis. His answer given was out of anxiety and suspicion (20:2f). He conjured up a scenario and assumed how God would react to it (21:15, 23), at the same time trying to frame it on Job. Such assumptive advice coined Job as being an oppressor and a violent person (20:18f). Outwardly, it seemed he was a man of principles who knew the word of God. In reality, he misjudged and condemned Job, making him a sinner although he had not committed any of those said sins.
Was Elihu good?
If God unreservedly damned Job’s three friends, then what about Elihu? To answer this question, we have to begin with Elihu and his words. He came from the family of Ram, and the son of Barachel (32:2). He was a normal human being with a genealogical record stated. When he spoke out, he directed to both Job and his friends (32:2f). But, his focus was on Job’s words against God rather than the situation that he was in. The introductory message given prior to Elihu’s speaking is that Job was righteous in his own eyes (32:1). This was a fair account of what had become of Job at the verbal abuse of his friends.
It is on this line of perception of Job that Elihu spoke in reminder against him of his careless and damaging words: ‘… he justified himself rather than God’ (32:2). He basically laid bare the faults of Job. Here are some examples:
1. "Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words, saying, 'I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me. Yet He finds occasions against me, He counts me as His enemy; He puts my feet in the stocks, He watches all my paths.' (33:8ff; 10:3ff).
2. For Job has said, 'I am righteous, But God has taken away my justice; should I lie concerning my right? My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.' (34:5f; 13:18; 27:2ff).
3. Job speaks without knowledge, His words are without wisdom.' Oh, that Job was tried to the utmost, because his answers are like those of wicked men! For he adds rebellion to his sin; He claps his hands among us, and multiplies his words against God." (34:35ff; 35:16; 7:11; 10:1).
Aside, Elihu magnified God’s justice and righteousness. He spoke on His behalf, righting the wrong conceptions that Job had generated in the time of trial (34:10ff, 31ff). Most importantly, his speech prepared Job to face up to the consequences of his words, and to help him change his heart by listening first what he (Elihu) had to say (33:1, 33; 37:14). He was a truthful person in the light that he ushered Job into a frame of mind ready to listen to what God had to say later. After his speech, Job stayed completely silent. Immediately after which, the longest ever recorded conversation between God and His chosen began. There are a few biblical reasons pointing to the integrity of Elihu:
1. It is clear that Job did not in any way try to argue what Elihu had said about his intemperate speech against God.
2. His advice to listen had prepared Job to listen to the grand finale of the whole episode of his suffering. Job was dumbfounded upon hearing the words of the Lord (40:5; 42:3f).
3. God did not rebuke him for what he said, like He did to the other three friends of Job at the conclusion of the event (42:7f).
4. God practically agreed with what Elihu had said about Job. The message of his words coincides wonderfully well with those of God. For example, he pleaded with Job to consider the works of God (37:14). True enough, when God spoke to Job, He devoted much time and magnitude to outline the works in His creation (chapters 38 to 41).
Why was Job accepted, if he had sinned in the trial?
To God, Job was guilty of being self-righteous and proud before his confession. His address to Job posed a condition for him to fulfil if he were to be deemed capable of redeeming himself (40:14, 12ff). If Job was capable of humbling the proud and treading down the wicked, then God would reckon him as being able to save himself. In His eyes, he had been self-righteous, and had forcefully tried to explain away his predicament without knowing exactly how he could come out from it.
Since the words of both God and Elihu had condemned Job, then why is it that his words appeared better than those of his friends? This is a touchy question. God had said twice ‘you have not spoken of Me what is right, like my servant Job’ (42:7f). The words here cannot be all those spoken against God before His appearance. They are those spoken concerning God (23, 26, 28) and after Job realised (42:1-6) how vile he was (40:4). ‘Vile’ is a very strong condemning word, he used on himself. He practically despised himself in great anguish. At the end of the second phase of God’s speech, he indicated how wrong he had been to utter words that he should not have in the first place and in desperation of mending his ways (42:3b). These express how much he had grown in his understanding of the Lord’s ways.
At his repenting, God worked to save Job from his failings. The NKJV has given a clear and indisputable fact with regard to his situation and relationship with God. He would be accepted (42:8), if he was willing to submit to God in praying for his friends, who had added much sorrow to the sorrow he had already sustained and suffered, and indeed were the cause of his downfall. When God first spoke to his three friends, Job remained unacceptable before Him. That is why ‘I will accept him’ is stated. The divine acceptance of him is conditioned upon his willingness to accept His instruction after his repentance. In other words, the friends’ sacrifice will not be acceptable but Job’s sacrifice (not Job himself) would be acceptable. Of course, Job has to be acceptable to God first by having repented in dust and ashes.
When Job’s three friends did what the Lord had said to them, it is stated that He had accepted Job (42:9), meaning he must have been wholly accepted to be able to intercede for them. He did it before God restored his losses and blessed him more than his beginning. This was a submission of the highest level that God desires His chosen to have in their journey of faith. In fact, this has been the intent of God since the beginning of His creation of humankind.
The purposes of the story of Job
This leaves us with another question to answer. What has God achieved in allowing Job to suffer? Or what object lessons does He have for us? We note that the Scriptures are written for our learning, that through their patience and comfort we might have hope (Rm 15:4). Apart from the book of Job itself, there are not many biblical passages focussing on Job as a person. Though the accounts given may be few, they can provide the necessary pointers for studying the book, thereby enabling us to know exactly the intent and purpose of the story of Job.
1. God’s word to Ezekiel
Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness," says the Lord GOD. If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, even though these three men were in it, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate." Or if I bring a sword on that land, and say, 'Sword, go through the land,' and I cut off man and beast from it, even though these three men were in it, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but only they themselves would be delivered. "Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out My fury on it in blood, and cut off from it man and beast, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness." (14:14-20).
Three saintly characters are mentioned here, all of which were great men of prayers, who knew how to intercede for others in spite of great difficulties in which they found themselves. Job is amongst them. There are two accounts in the entire story, which state that Job prayed for others. The first is his incessant atoning prayers for his children before the test (Job 1:5). The other is his intercession offered at the instruction of the Lord to pray for his troublesome friends, who had not in anyway aided him to ease his extreme and unbearable plight but rather sunk him deeper into the very quagmire out from which he wished so much to extricate himself (Job 42:8, 10).
From God’s word to Ezekiel, Job, like the other two, was a man of righteousness. The pointer given here is that a person’s righteousness could not have an effect and impact on impenitent sinners. More importantly, he himself must become an upright man. The righteousness here surely is one about Job’s willingness to pray for his friends. Precisely for this reason, he was featured as one of the three great men of prayer. However, we are well aware that he first became penitent over his wrongs (42:6). Otherwise, he would not have agreed to the command to pray for them, let alone carrying it out, in view of the animosity he held against them. Job was able to move from making atoning prayer for his children to interceding gladly for those whom he hated before.
2. The encouragements of James
‘Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.’ (Jas 5:7-11).
There are two parts to the pointer as James has indicated. The first is about the part we have to play in fostering an unbreakable bond amongst believers, or even workers. The above message given is that there must be no grumbling against one another. The discourses in Job unravel just how damaging words can become. Job failed miserably simply because the accusations against him were just too much to bear (Job 16:1-3; 19:1-3, 22). He erred in the process. The moral lesson for modern day believers is that to ignore such a warning is to risk being condemned. To stay afloat in such a situation requires great endurance throughout.
The endurance here is not a mere suppression of the outburst of wrath. Faith (the heart being established) is the product in the course of being patient (Js 5:8). In other words, having passed through a trying moment, one should appear stronger in faith toward God than ever before. This establishing stabilises the heart when being assaulted with unrestrained verbal aggression (cf Js 4:1, 11-12; 5:9). How can one’s heart be established? In the case of Job, he emerged above his trial after having heard Elihu’s speech (Job 33:1, 31; 37:14), which prepared him to hear the voice of the Lord (Job 38-41). With the humility to listen to the words of advice and God, his heart was established to even follow the divine instruction given to him to pray for his enemies and more so his persecutors.
Most importantly, in perseverance, what one should perceive is not the weight of the trial, but rather the loving intents of God (Js 5:11). The story of Job furnishes us with quite a few such good counts. Job came to realise that he needed the Lord in all circumstances, and he should not have uttered what he did not understand against him (Job 42:3b). With His abidance, he could do all things. The burden of their words no longer posed a dampening threat to his faith in God nor an irreconcilable breach in his relationship with them.
Job was given the glorious chance to behold the divine forgiveness (Job 42:8, 10). The whole plan of God’s dealing with humanity is to bring individuals to Himself resulting in the mutual reconciliation of them to one another. Having understood the words of God, he unreservedly plucked himself out of the marsh of self-pity and self-righteousness. The power of God’s word dissolves all human ills, roots out recriminations and strengthens the heart to bear all things with great peace and calm assurance in the most difficult of circumstances.
The crunch time in Job’s suffering has been his inability to accept the accusations his friends had insinuated against him, leading him to challenge God. At this juncture, there is a point of clarification. Pointing out the wrongs of Job is never intended to belittle Job as a saint. Rather it is to paint a picture of how by God’s mercy and compassion, he managed to pull through such a fiery trial. To understand the extent of suffering, it is needful to string together incidents, which he had been through.
1. There was a four-fold disaster took place in the first round of attack: The first was that the Sabeans took the oxen and donkeys away by smiting his servants. The second was when heaven sent down fire and it consumed the sheep and the servants. The third was that the Chaldeans took the camels and killed his servants. The fourth was that the children perished in an unpredicted and sudden surge of gale force wind (1:13-19).
2. In the second round of attack, Satan inflicted him with loathsome boils from head to toe (2:7-8).
3. In the third round of attack, His wife could no longer bear the trial, bitterly bad-mouthing Job to forsake his God and perish. (2:9).
4. In the forth round, his three friends falsely accused him of sinning against God and based their judgment on premises of speculations, experiences and hypotheses.
5. In the course of his suffering, he became a byword of the people, and he had become one in whose face men spat. The emotional side of him began to crumble uncontrollably (17:6-7; 30:9-10).
6. Besides, he was deemed an outcast, who was despised by the least of his household, and all (30:1ff, 17-18). He became an alien in his own house (19:13-15). Everyone turned his or her back on him, leaving him desperately looking for someone to turn to (19:17-20). Above all else, God was silent towards him, making him feel extremely tormented in his soul (19:21-22; 30:16, 20-21).
This picture of suffering speaks of Job’s resilience and perseverance. Not knowing when his plight would come to an end, he was able to express his complete understanding of God’s infinity, in that He could do everything and that no purpose of His could be withheld from Him (Job 42:2). In fact, this has been the desire of God for His chosen to know that His ways are unlimited. The peak of man’s faith is the total submission to Him in all situations. Submission is the only way forward for Job to prosper in Him. Eventually, his submission shined through in adhering to carrying out the intercessory prayers for his friends. This is the mercy and compassion of God toward him.
On the part of God, He has never lost to anyone, in particular Satan, and never will. The victory is of the Lord. Job might have failed in the trial but he was restored to where he was. Satan, with all possible means, tried to destroy him. Nevertheless, the unfathomable wisdom of God prevailed in granting him the mind and heart to turn back to Him upon knowing His purpose He had for him: from merely having heard of Him in the past, he had grown to behold Him with his own eyes (42:5). This statement speaks volume of his character after the trying moment. His victory is deeply ingrained in the mercy and compassion of God, and not his own righteousness. We are victorious over sins, trials, and even Satan purely by the grace of God. In time of grief and failure, we can still emerge triumphant, if we turn back to Him for forgiveness. This is exactly what made Job what he was in the end.
The helping hand of God to usher Job from despondence to total submission is evidently clear. In the process, the Lord corrected him in various aspects, which he had not realised in his life (38:2; 40:2, 7-8). Only when one is put to the test then the genuineness of faith can be seen, regardless of how tough the trial might appear to be. Job finally wriggled out from the situation triumphantly, receiving a better understanding of God surpassing his past knowledge.
What is the role of Satan in Job’s trial?
The last question necessitates an answer beyond mere speculation and hypothesis. Perhaps, first of all, who had inflicted Job? Some obviously believe it was the work of Satan. Others are inclined to perceive that God had permitted such a course of action to happen. However, there are clear verses in Job, which include both.
1. God struck up a conversation with Satan first; hinting a challenge on Job was imminent and asking Satan to have a good look at him, who was so blameless and righteous (1:6-8).
2. Again, God started up some exchanges with Satan on the second occasion. The incitement (2:3) is the result of Satan challenging God to stretch out His hand against Job in their first encounter (Job 1:11), which does not in any sense point to Satan being the initiator of the whole affair over Job nor indicate Satan can strike at will at God’s chosen.
3. The overlapping of God’s permission with the work of Satan to inflict Job is inseparable: But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD (1:10-11).
4. In the second round of attack, the scene takes on the same sequence: But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." (2:5-6).
5.‘So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (2:7)’. In this instant, clearly, it was Satan who smote Job with loathsome boils.
6. God has a full control over Satan. Otherwise the writer would not have said Job’s suffering originated from the Lord (42:11).
The temptation of Jesus resembles the incident of Job. Jesus was driven by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Lk 4:1-2). Surely, it is God who has permitted such a trial to befall the physical Jesus. God is in control of the situation. Since the Bible is coherent and consistent, the same goes with Job’s suffering. On both occasions a limit of harm is imposed on Satan (1:12; 2:6). If Satan is not under God’s control he could have played foul by touching the person of Job in the first instant.
On the second occasion, God restrained Satan from harming Job’s life. This is done so to be in line with the proposed wicked intent of Satan. In that man is selfish, he would give everything up including his faith in God just to safeguard his own life: ‘Skin for skin’ (2:4). In the mind of Satan, he thought that Job would turn his back on God, and curse Him to His face, when his life was under threat. The imposition here is to make sure there is an outcome to the challenge, to guard against any foul play on the part of Satan.
If assumed that God has no control over the movement of Satan, there would appear many contradictions in the line of Job’s story and indeed the entire Christian belief of the divine supreme power. First, why is it that the first part of the challenge is centred upon God hedging up around Job, making him an apple of His eyes, being free from the attack of Satan (1:9)? Second, in the discourse of reasoning, there has not been a single account on which God had made mention of Satan’s freewill to attack. It is wholly unacceptable for Him to cover up the power of Satan to strike at will at His saints. In fact, the promise of the Lord is that no evil shall come on one who fears God (Ps 91:10; 1 Jn 5:18), as long as one remains in the Lord. Surely, God has allowed such attack to come to pass in the life of Job. Third, if Satan is of equal power to God, there would not be any necessity for the pre-battle agreement, and being the most wicked, he could just do what he desired on Job.
Here, we can draw a firm conclusion: that God is infinitely mightier than Satan, and has complete control over him and his movements but it has never been the intention of God to make use of Satan to achieve His will. However, in time of temptation, which God permits (1 Cor 10:13), He will turn the situation to our advantage, and to triumph over Satan, revealing the higher purpose He has for His church and believers (please also read the article on Test and Temptation). The role of Satan is clearly one that tries to inflict maximum damage to the faith of the chosen, to cause them to stumble and to condemn them before God. In his pride, Satan overestimates himself and always thinks that he can get the better of God. Satan is utterly wicked and self-deceived. The first lie he told was to himself – that he was better than God: ‘You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own resources for he is a liar, and the father of it’ (Jn 8:44).