Job … the ultimate case study in longsuffering and patience, a story most of us know. It reveals the tender mercy of God in suffering (Ja 5:11), yet perhaps we’ve missed something else that’s precious here, a key to understanding God, Man and Satan.
The action begins with a provocation; God challenges Satan with an anomaly: in a world of ungodly men, there’s a uniquely righteous one. (Job 1:8) Satan retorts that it’s not righteousness at all, just selfishness getting what it wants. (Job 1:9-11) Game on. (Job 1:12)
But why such a challenge, when God Himself says there are no righteous men, that no one seeks Him? (Ps 14:2-3) And why is Satan agreeing with God’s claim that all men are depraved, rather than inferring God’s unique claim to holiness is illegitimate? (Mk 10:18)
In other words, if this is a merely test of Job’s character, as it’s so commonly understood, aren’t God and Satan each arguing what the other should be? Based on the relentless nature of fallen Man, shouldn’t God expect Job to fail in his own strength? (Jn 15:5) Yet He bets the farm on the outcome, and gives Satan free reign to do whatever he likes to Job. If Job does happen to pass the test, how does this glorify God? Wouldn’t it simply exalt Job? What’s the value in that? Why would God initiate such a thing, and be so interested in it?
It’s as if God’s pointing out an ongoing miracle in Job that’s not so easily observed, that He’s doing something in Job that’s impossible for fallen Man on his own (Php 2:13), even when everything’s going his way. (Mt 19:24-26) And it’s as if Satan can’t even begin to bear the thought of it, the very idea that God moves in the hearts of fallen, depraved Man as He pleases. (Pr 21:1)
And if God works in Man as He sees fit, doing according to His own will on Earth as well as in Heaven (Da 4:35), could it be that He also controls fallen angels (1Ti 5:21), even Satan himself? (Ep 1:11) How can darkness tolerate being the unwitting servant of Light? Wouldn’t Satan be driven to prove that God isn’t in control of Job, or anyone else? “I’ll show the universe: he’ll curse you!”
Maybe this isn’t merely an arbitrary trial for Job; perhaps it’s a challenge of God, a throw down before the heavenly hosts, an ultimate test of Jehovah’s sovereignty, which He Himself invites. Perhaps this explains why God publicly initiates it, and why Satan accepts, and is given all the ammo he wants. Yet there’s no chance of failure, not the slightest, no matter what Satan throws at Job, because this doesn’t depend on Job’s holiness, or on Satan’s power, if the absolute sovereignty of God is on display, and determines the outcome.
When understood like this, I think the narrative magnifies God immensely, and comforts us exceedingly. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31) The good work He’s begun in us, He’ll continue to perform in us, no matter what lies ahead. (Php 1:6) We’ll have trouble in this world, but He’s overcome the world, and He’ll overcome it again in us. (Jn 16:33) We’re His workmanship, not our own, created in Christ unto good works, which God has preordained for us to walk in. (Ep 2:10) Every difficulty that lies ahead is more precious than gold; in the end, it will all glorify Him, in and through us. (1Pe 1:7)