Does Job Fear God for Nothing?
Topic: Expository Passage: Job 1:6-22
Last Sunday, I introduced a new series on the book of Job. If you missed it, I hope you will go back and listen to it, not because we covered a lot of very important foundational material that is very important for understanding some of the more confusing aspects of the book. Context is always important for interpreting Scripture but especially in Job.
By way of review, remember that at the beginning of the story, Job’s life is about as perfect as it can be. Job is so wealthy that v. 3 describes him as “the greatest of all the men of the east.” And Job’s family is the stuff of a Hallmark movie. This isn’t that infamous rich family with an absent dad and snotty, spoiled kids. No, Job loves his children, he’s invested in them, and they love him and love each other. It all seems almost too good to be true.
But it was true, and the foundation of it all was Job’s sincere godliness. Verse 1 describes Job as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Job loved the Lord, and his devotion to the Lord inspired a blameless life of integrity, honesty, and love. Therefore, vv. 1–5 describe a utopia of godliness and blessing.
However, Job’s dream life is about to be transformed into the worst nightmare a parent can imagine. The story of Job 1:6–22 is tragic and powerful; therefore, it is one of the most iconic stories in human history. Through it God calls all of to consider why do I worship God? Do I love God for who he is or for what he gives? The story begins in vv. 6–12, where the scene shifts from Job’s home to God’s throne room.
I. Satan’s Challenge (vv. 6–12)
Satan’s Appearance (read v. 6): The story begins with the “sons of God” appearing before the Lord. These angels are responsible to supervise or patrol the earth. For example, in Zechariah 1, Zechariah has a vision of an angel, and vv. 10–11 state, “And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said,‘These are the ones whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’So they answered the Angel of the Lord, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly.’”
And Job 1:6 states that these patrolling angels appeared before the Lord to report on what they have found. But there is an unwelcome guest among them. “Satan also came among them.” Interestingly, preposition translated among often refers to an intruder, so Satan is not among God’s sons.
As well, the Hebrew name that is used, hassa¯ta¯n, means “to accuse” or “to be an adversary.” That’s certainly his purpose here. He has roamed the earth with the intent of finding accusations against God’s people. That’s an eerie thought. Satan is always walking the earth, watching the church and watching us with evil intent. And based on the fact that his name means “the accuser” and the accusation Satan will make against Job, we can assume that Satan is constantly making accusations and slandering us to our Lord and arguing that we are worthless and fake. This is certainly his purpose here.
You may wonder why is Satan able to appear before God alongside the angels after he rebelled against God? The Bible doesn’t fully answer that question, but it does consistently teach that Satan has limited access to God.
And notice what Revelation 12:7–9 say will happen at the midpoint of the Tribulation. “And war broke out in heaven:Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” Until that day, Satan will have limited access to God, where he is constantly working to accuse the saints.
God’s Instigation: So, Satan appears before God, and God asks him what he’s been up to. He says that he’s been prowling around watching mankind.
Then God responds in v. 8, by mentioning Job. That’s quite the statement. Imagine Holy God saying of you, “There is none like him on the earth.” What a compliment. Then he repeats the 4 descriptions of Job’s character from v. 1. Job is “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.” God himself holds up Job as a model of godliness.
That’s an incredible compliment, but we all know where the story is going. Specifically, Job’s superior testimony and God’s praise elevates Job into the crosshairs of Satan. Suddenly, mediocrity looks pretty attractive doesn’t it? Who wants to stand out, if it means enduring the brutal attack Job will face?
There’s an important lesson here, because we all like to think that if I live a really godly life and I am responsible and generous, I can shield myself and God will shield me from hardship. And it is true that wise living generally makes life go better. But Job reminds us that the opposite is often true as well. Specifically, godliness often makes you a target of Satan. He takes great joy in attacking God’s choice servants.
And God often allows his best saints to endure deep pain, because he knows they can take it, manifest his grace in the process, and minister to weaker saints. Therefore, great loss is oftentimes not a sign of God’s disapproval but of his confidence that we can endure and glorify him in the darkest night. And I’m sure that we’ve all known godly people who had a profound ministry, because of the grace they manifested in suffering.
Again, that doesn’t mean that you strive for mediocrity, so that God doesn’t pick you to be that example; rather, it means that by the grace of God, you strive to build strength to endure. And if God calls you to suffer for his glory, rejoice that you “were counted worthy to suffer shame forHis name.” Embrace the ministry that God will surely give. And then trust that in eternity God will more than compensate for whatever loss you endure in this world.
Satan’s Challenge (vv. 9–11): Returning to the text, God gives his glowing review of Job’s character in v. 8, but you can almost hear Satan’s sneer in vv. 9–11. Notice that Satan doesn’t disagree with God’s assessment. He just dismisses Job’s life as insincere and worthless. He says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, God. Job doesn’t really love you. He just loves all the stuff you give him. You’ve bought Job’s love like any rich man buys friends. But if you take all of that stuff away, you’ll see what Job is really like. He will be so mad that he will “curse You to Your face.”
Satan knows how to get under someone’s skin doesn’t he? But he does raise 2 very important questions. The first one has to do with the nature of God. Is God worthy of love apart from his gifts? In other words, does God deserve our love and worship simply for who he is, or is he only worthy of our devotion when he gives us the things we want? This is a very practical question that all of us have to answer.
The 2nd question has to do with the nature of man. Is it possible for men to love God sincerely apart from selfish interest? Satan believed that the answer is no, that the only reason anyone serves God is for what they will get in return. He wants to see what is truly in Job’s heart.
To be fair, Satan is right about a lot of people, maybe most people. Selfishness drives much of religion. People go through religious rituals and obey religious commands, because they want something from God. They want to go to heaven, they want to feel good about themselves, they want a peaceful home, and they want friends.
And churches and ministries have learned how to cater to that selfishness. They sell people on a great experience and on answers to felt or pressing desires. Of course, the prosperity preachers are the most obvious offenders, but even conservative churches like ours can easily fall into the same trap.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to many Christians and churches as the culture becomes more hostile toward biblical Christianity. It’s going to become more and more clear who truly loves the Lord and who merely loves the temporal benefits of the church.
Now, I do want to note that God’s gifts play a role in the answer to both of these questions. Part of what makes God worthy of love is his good and gracious character. His gifts are an expression of his nature. That’s very different from politicians buying votes through government handouts.
And Scripture often motivates us based on the rewards of obedience. So, please don’t respond to what I’m saying by primarily looking inward and beating yourself up over your own selfishness, though you may need to wrestle with some of your motives. A heart check is never a bad thing.
But primarily, Satan’s challenge should cause us to look past the gifts God bestows to the God who gives them! See that God is worthy of our love because he is infinitely awesome and good. And then by his grace build a strong relationship to God that is rooted in a sincere faith and love. This is what God desires, and this is the only kind of faith that will endure no matter what life may bring.
God’s Permission (v. 12): Returning to the story, Satan does not tempt God into a petty gamble. We know that, because God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13). Rather, we can assume that God sees in Satan’s challenge an opportunity to glorify himself and to explore some vital lessons that every generation needs to consider. Therefore, God permits Satan to take all of Job’s blessings as long as he does not touch Job himself. With this ominous note, the scene shifts in v. 13 from God’s council room to Job’s home.
II. Job’s Loss (vv. 13–19)
This is a terrible story, and the text highlights the fact that Satan doesn’t merely take Job’s things; rather, he does so in such a way as to inflict maximum pain and maximum temptation to curse the Lord. First…
Satan surprised Job. Verse 13 states that Job’s day began like any other day. Job is blessed of the Lord, and the narrator highlights the fact Job’s oldest son is hosting his party. If this was his oldest son’s birthday, that would mean that Satan took everything on the day when God had blessed Job with his first son. It’s also possible that Job’s 7 sons hosted daily feasts on a weekly cycle. If this is the case, then the cycle had just ended and Job had just gathered the family to sacrifice a burnt offering in worship to the Lord.
Either way, Satan picked his day very carefully. He picked a day when Job was basking comfortably in God’s blessing in order to inflict maximum pain and maximum temptation. 2nd…
Satan orchestrated 4 chilling announcements. Job is going about his normal routine, when one of his servants arrives exhausted, in a panic. Apparently, it was spring and many of Job’s servants were out plowing with the oxen. The donkeys, who had probably carried the equipment and seed were grazing nearby. Suddenly, Sabean raiders attacked. They slaughtered all of the servants and stole 1,000 oxen and 500 donkeys. Of course, that’s a massive financial loss. But even more importantly, many of Job’s servants had been murdered. I’m sure this hit a godly man like Job very hard.
And Job is just starting to get his bearings when Satan delivers another punch to the gut. Verse 16 states, “While he was still speaking, another also came…” You could make the argument that the first tragedy was a purely human work, but not this one.
The “fire of God” is mentioned a few times in Scripture, and is probably a massive lightning strike. In this instance, it burns 7,000 sheep and all but one servant, whom Satan left to deliver the terrible news at just the right time. That’s no natural occurrence. Something supernatural is clearly happening.
Again, without any time to recover, a 3rd servant arrives with even more bad news. A group of Chaldean raiders surrounded and attacked Job’s camel herd. They killed many more servants and stole all 3,000 camels.
So, in a matter of moments, Job hears that all of the wealth v. 3 mentioned is suddenly gone. Job goes from being “the greatest of all the men of the east” to a pauper. Satan is attacking Job very strategically. 3rd…
Satan saved his death blow for last. Job had to be emotionally compromised at this point. Satan has softened him up quite a bit. And then a 4th servant arrives with Satan’s strongest punch. The servant reports that Job’s children were enjoying their feast when a “great wind” caused all 4 walls of the house to collapse inward, killing all 10 of Job’s children. Can you imagine? It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. And again, this one is no accident. What kind of wind blows from 4 different directions, pushing every wall in? Tornados can do some funny things, but they don’t do that. Something supernatural is clearly happening.
So, Satan’s meticulous, evil strategy is complete. He has hit Job with 4 carefully orchestrated attacks. The hedge of protection that Job enjoyed is gone, and now Satan eagerly awaits the sinful response that he knows Job is about to utter. Verses 20–22 then describe Job’s climactic response.
III. Job’s Response (vv. 20–22)
Job grieved. Again, try to put yourself in Job’s position. All of God’s blessings have been suddenly taken and his children are dead. It’s just awful. In response, Job demonstrates his grief with 2 symbolic expressions.
First, he tears his robe, or his outer garment, symbolizing how his joy had been torn apart. Second, Job grabs a sharp blade and shaves his head. He disfigured his appearance to symbolized how his life had been disfigured.
Both of these actions were expressions of Job’s raw emotion and sorrow. They’re worth emphasizing, because Job is not some Stoic who has made himself immune to sorrow. Job is hurting like any normal person would be in his position. But then he does something very abnormal that had to drive Satan made. Job falls to the ground, but not to utter an angry curse. Instead…
Job worshipped. Considering the circumstances, v. 21 has to be one of the most remarkable, grace-filled testimonies in all of Scripture. Notice that Job makes 3 declarations in this short hymn.
“I am entitled to nothing.” Job says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” In others words, I didn’t bring anything into this world, so I am not entitled to anything. Rather, all that I have is gift of God’s grace that he has allowed me to enjoy temporarily. I’m not taking any of it with me. It’s all his.
I wonder how much of our pain and anxiety would be eliminated if we just clung to these truths. We think that our lives consist of material things and temporal pleasures. We have to have them. And I think that I have a right to enjoy them, because somehow I earned them or deserve them. Therefore, my world comes crashing down when I suffer loss.
Like Job, I need to learn to see that all of the stuff of this world is temporary. It’s not the end of the world. And I need to remember that I am entitled to nothing. All that I have, my family, my things, my reputation, and my relationships are gifts of God’s grace. Therefore, I humbly give thanks for God’s blessings and when he takes them away, I remember that they were his to begin with. Job’s humility before God is vital both in our approach to God and in our approach to this life. Job’s 2nd declaration is…
“God is sovereign over my life.” Of course, Satan was the immediate cause of Job’s pain, but Job look to Satan as the cause of his pain or even to the Sabeans and Chaldeans. No, Job understood that Satan is not truly God’s rival. And nothing else in life is either—your supervisor, your instructor, a virus, nor the government cannot rival the authority of God.
So often, we get bent out of shape at these things and many others for how they inflict pain. How we need to remember that ultimately, it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes. I am enduring what I am enduring under his sovereign hand. If you discipline yourself to look at every hardship with an eye toward his sovereign control and then filter it through everything else you know to be true about God, it will transform your perspective on suffering and loss. God is sovereign over every detail of my life.
“God is always good and always worthy of worship and praise.” Job concludes this brief hymn by saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In other words, he praises and worships the Lord, even when the Lord had taken every earthly treasure Job enjoyed. Job declares that God is worthy of worship apart from his gifts. It is his nature, not his blessing that demands our praise. Then, the narrator ends the story by declaring that…
Job passed the test (v. 22). Job “did not sin.” He grieved, but he didn’t let his grief turn into anger and bitterness. And Job “did not charge God with wrong.” It’s important to emphasize that Job has no idea what God is doing. He doesn’t know about the conversation with Satan, and he doesn’t know what God’s purpose is. But he knows that his God is wise and always good. Therefore, he trusts God, even though he has no idea what God is doing. And he continues to love and worship God, even when God takes every gift.
Remember that Satan’s challenge raised 2 very important questions. First, “Is God worthy of love apart from his gifts?” Job has answered that he absolutely is. Second, “Is it possible for men to love God sincerely apart from selfish interest?” Again, Job has proven that it is possible, though the NT would add only by the regenerating work of the Spirit. God was right, and Satan was wrong. So, I’d like to pull all of this together with 4 applications. The first and central takeaway of this chapter is…
Worship the Lord for who he is, not for what he gives. This chapter challenges all of us to reflect on the motivation behind our religion. Do I go to church, read my Bible, and obey God’s Word, because I want something from God or because I want to know him and honor him? And if God took all of his blessings, what would be left of my love?
Job challenges us that true religion must go beyond my selfish interest. It’s like any other relationship. If you asked me if I loved Heidi, and I said, “Yes, she cooks my food, cleans my house, and looks pretty on my arm,” you’d assume that I don’t really love Heidi. I love Kit. How I pray that none of us will look at God so selfishly. Instead, we must love him for his true beauty.
Build a rich theology of God and walk with God. It’s so important that we realize that a crisis doesn’t make your theology; it reveals your theology. You can’t wait until tragedy strikes to learn who God is and how to trust him. The only reason Job responded as he did was because for years, he had been building a solid foundation that could stand in the worst of storms.
Of course, Job’s theology needed a lot more refinement as we are going to see. And God used this trial to do that work. But Job would have been lost before he started without a solid foundation. So, discipline yourself to godliness today. Live in the Word and in prayer. Walk in the grace of God today, so that when tragedy strikes, you are ready to stand.
Embrace every opportunity to glorify the Lord. So often when we face hardship, it consumes our attention. Maybe you’ve let that happen to you over the last 6 weeks. Like Job, we must intentionally turn our eyes heavenward for our own sanity but fundamentally because God is worthy of our worship.
Not only that, the greatest gift you can give in hard times is a sweet aroma of Christ that drives others to see God’s beauty and the power of gospel grace. So, rather than scrambling for relief; ask God to use you to declare his glory.
Stay anchored to Christ. Job faced the kind of severe loss that has destroyed many people’s faith. Anytime we endure this kind of trial, it is essential that we remember that Christ entered our suffering. He endured unimaginable pain and wrath when he died in our place.
This is incredibly important, because while God’s purpose often includes suffering, God has not excluded him from it. Rather, Christ suffered our punishment on the cross so that he could rescue us from ever facing the full suffering that we deserve in hell. If anyone is watching who has not received Christ, I pray that you will cry out to the Lord today, ask him to forgive you of your sin and to give you the salvation that Jesus offers. If you have questions, we want to speak with you.
And finally, the Christ is an important anchor for this story, because the only way anyone can have the faith and patience of Job is through divine grace. God doesn’t merely tell us to trust him in trials, he enables his children to do so. So if you want the faith and patience of Job, develop a rich theology and walk with God, beginning with a rich dependence on the gospel. And trust the Lord to sustain you no matter what may lie ahead.