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Hold Fast to Your Faith

May 3, 2020 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Job

Topic: Expository Passage: Job 2:1-10

 (The audio is not edited at this time. will republish when edited version is available)  

Introduction

As I said last Sunday, the story of Job 1–2 is one of the most iconic stories in human history. For one, God’s conversations with Satan give us a unique window into the mind of God and wickedness of Satan. As well, Job’s responses to tragedy are incredibly heroic, inspiring, and challenging. But at the center of it all is the gut-wrenching pain that Job endured. It’s a tragedy of epic proportion. It’s compelling and powerful.

Last week, we studied Job 1:6–22, where Job endures the first stage of loss. We listened with Job as he heard 3 reports in matter of moments informing him that he had lost all the wealth that he had worked to build. And then we listened with Job as he learned that all 10 of his children had died. We can only imagine the rush of grief he felt as he heard this chilling announcement.

And remember that God allowed Job to suffer like this in order to address 2 very important questions. First, Is God worthy of love apart from his gifts? Satan saw God as nothing more than a glorified vending machine; therefore, God is only lovely for the things he gives. Second, Is it possible for men to love God sincerely apart from selfish interest? Satan believed that people are utterly selfish; therefore, they will always abandon God when he removes his blessing.

Therefore, the tension slowly builds toward Job’s response. Will he continue to love and trust the Lord, or will he curse God to his face. The climax of the chapter is Job’s response in 1:20–22. Job declares the glory and goodness of God even when he doesn’t enjoy God’s blessing. What a testimony! But Satan had to furious. Not only did Job not curse God, he worshipped him. Just imagine Satan’s fit. But he doesn’t give up easily. In Job 2:1–10, Satan requests another crack at Job (read).

I.  Satan’s Challenge (vv. 1–6)

This story follows the same 3-stage formula as the first challenge. Both stories begin with a conversation between God and Satan. They then move to Job’s affliction, and end with Job’s testimony of faith and trust.

Therefore, 2:1–6 is very similar to 1:6–12. In fact, vv. 1–3 repeat almost exactly 1:6–8. The narrator wants to emphasize that Satan is determined to give this one more try. Therefore, chapter 2 begins with the “sons of God” and Satan “present(ing) themselves before the Lord” again. The text doesn’t tell us how much time has elapsed; however, it couldn’t have been long, because Job is still reeling over the loss of his children, when Satan attacks again. Satan is ruthless and pure evil. He delights in destruction.

God’s patrolling angels come before God to report on what they have found, and again, Satan pushes himself into the meeting in order to accuse and slander God’s people. The only subtle difference from Job 1 is that the verb “present” is repeated for Satan. This is probably because Satan is there with a specific mission of getting one more crack at Job.

Then v. 2 repeats 1:7. God asks Satan what he’s been up to, and Satan replies that he has been walking the earth, watching mankind.

And v. 3 begins by repeating much of 1:8. God again, brings up Job’s testimony, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, God repeats the exact same commendation that he gave before Job’s trial. Considering all that Job had endured it’s pretty remarkable that God can still say, “There is none like him on the earth…”

Satan had failed to crack Job. Instead, God adds, “Still he holds fast to his integrity.” That word for integrity comes from the same root as blameless. Job’s testimony was as rock-solid as ever. Praise God.

But it’s also interesting that God again brings up Job when he knows that he is again putting Job in Satan’s crosshairs. Now, I’m sure Satan was already planning to ask for another shot at Job, but God doesn’t wait around. God’s purpose is not complete. He is ready to allow Job to suffer more.

But what is particularly striking about v. 3 is God’s commentary on chapter 1, “You (Satan) incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Destroy is pretty blunt. God acknowledges that Job had endured great loss.

Then he adds “without cause.” God does not mean that there was no purpose to Job’s suffering. God always has a purpose in everything he does. Rather, God explicitly states that Job did not deserve this trial. He had done nothing worthy of this kind of pain.

There’s a certain weightiness in the fact that God says it so bluntly. God tells us up front that he doesn’t always bless the righteous with prosperity or curse the unrighteous with suffering, contrary to what Job’s friends believe.

But what is particular striking is that God says, “You incited Me.” This statement raises 2 important questions that deserve more attention. First…

Can God be influenced by sinful, petty temptations? That’s certainly what it sounds like. It sounds like God is saying that Satan’s had manipulated him into rashly deciding to let Satan do something unfair.

But the Bible is clear that this cannot be what God means. James 1:13 states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” God is clear that evil has no appeal to the divine nature.

This is because God is pure holiness. Habakkuk 1:13 states, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” And Psalm 11:4, 7 say, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; for the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.” Scripture is clear that God is entirely separate from sin. And Job 2 itself is clear that God did not act rashly, because if God is lamenting a rash decision to let Satan afflict Job, he wouldn’t turn around and let him do it again just moments later.

Rather, this statement is what we call an anthropomorphism, meaning that it is an attempt to help our finite minds understand an infinite God by describing him in human terms. In other words, we can relate to being incited or tempted into an action. It brings the story to life. But we must filter any anthropomorphism through the clear statements of Scripture regarding God’s nature like James 1:13. And we must humbly admit that we will never fully grasp God’s mind. A 2nd very important question is…

Did God or Satan cause Job’s suffering? This is a very relevant and practical question, because we often wonder why a good and sovereign God allows evil and suffering. This question is also very important to understanding Job. Christopher Ash does an excellent job of summarizing two faulty directions we may go in trying to resolve this question.

He states, “On the one hand, we may neglect Satan altogether and just assume that God rules the world in a simple and direct way. This is, I am told, close to the view of Islam. Some Christians tacitly assume this, but it is not the teaching of the Bible. On the other hand, we may think of Satan as a second, independent, autonomous power of evil, in which case the universe become a terrifyingly uncertain place, since we may never be sure whether God or Satan will win any particular round of their contest” (“Who Causes Your Suffering? The Sovereignty of God and Reality of Evil,” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/who-causes-your-suffering).

The first view is simple, but the Bible clearly teaches that there a legitimate war taking place between good and evil (Gal 5:17). And this view also compromises the goodness of God by making him the author of evil.

The second view may seem to absolve God from evil, but it leaves him weak and less than sovereignty. He isn’t truly in control. And it is contrary to Scripture. Isaiah 46:10 states, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” God will accomplish his sovereign will.

And the Bible is clear that God’s purpose includes evil. Amos 3:6 states, “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” The Bible is clear that God’s sovereign will encompasses all things, whether it be COVID-19, cancer, or any other calamity.

But God also hates evil and suffering. Jesus wept over human suffering (John 11:35) and over human rebellion (Matt 23:37). As well, God is never the direct cause of evil or temptation even though they often serve his purpose.

A great example of this is the crucifixion of Christ. Peter says to the Jews, “Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23). Peter is clear that the Jews sinned when they crucified Jesus, but they did so because God decreed it in his sovereign will.

Now, we will never fully comprehend how those truths fit together in the infinite mind of God, but we must not reject either one. We must believe that God is sovereign and that he is always good, and that somehow in the infinite mind of God, evil and suffering play a necessary role in what is ultimately best and good. We have to trust God.

And this tension plays a vital role in the story of Job. Specifically, the narrator tells us that Satan was the direct cause of Job’s suffering and the temptation to curse God (1:12; 2:7). The text is clear.

But text is also clear that Satan could only act with God’s permission. And when he acted, he fulfilled God’s will. Martin Luther was right when he said that Satan is ultimately “God’s Satan.” And Job understood that God was sovereign over his suffering (1:21; 2:10). And the narrator states this explicitly in the conclusion of the book (42:11). God doesn’t pass the buck. He is clear that he ordained Job’s suffering.

It’s worth emphasizing that Job didn’t find comfort in separating God from his suffering; instead, he finds comfort in remembering that God is in control (1:21; 2:10). And we need to do the same. We must recognize the genuine conflict between good and evil. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). But we must ultimately learn to rest in the good purposes of God. So, fight sin, grieve over suffering, and trust God.

Returning to the text, the primary point of v. 3 is to celebrate Job’s victory, but Satan isn’t going down without a fight (v. 4–5). “Skin for skin” is probably some kind of proverbial statement, and Satan explains what he means in the rest of the verse.

To paraphrase, “Sure Job didn’t curse you for taking his wealth and family, but the only thing that people really value is themselves. They will give anything to save their own skin. So, if you really hit Job where it hurts, in his own body, he will certainly give up his integrity.” Satan has a very cynical view of human nature. He believes selfishness always rules our decisions. He doesn’t comprehend the power of regeneration and sincere affection.

And God apparently agrees that to fully answer the 2 questions that drive Job 1–2, it’s necessary to let Satan have what he wants. Therefore, God gives Satan permission to afflict Job’s body. The only thing Satan cannot take from Job is his life. That’s quite a leash. And Satan is going to use all of it.

II.  Job’s Affliction (vv. 7–8)

We don’t know for certain what kind of illness Satan used, but we know that Satan is ruthless; therefore, he afflicted Job with whatever he believed would bring maximum pain and maximum temptation. And at the heart of this illness is the fact that Job’s body is covered “from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” with “painful boils.”

We’re not talking about pimples. Tremper Longman states, “The word ‘boil’ indicates a localized inflammation of the skin. Its center is hard and contains pus. It is, generally speaking, a skin infection and is the subject of ‘skin laws’ in the purity code of Leviticus.” This same word is used in 2 Kings 20:7 of a boil that King Hezekiah had that would have been fatal apart from God’s intervention. So, these boils are pretty severe.

So, put yourself in Job’s shoes. Just a few days earlier, he had lost all his wealth and all his children. But he’s hanging in there, when suddenly these boils begin popping up and covering his entire body. He’s miserable, and he probably thinks he’s going to die.

Therefore, v. 8 says that he goes to sit among the ashes. This is significant, first because pouring ashes over your head was a sign of grief. But as well it almost certainly indicates that Job left his home to go sit at the town trash heap where people dumped the ashes from their ovens. It may indicate that Job was quarantined from the community and sent to the place where the beggars, lepers, and outcasts lived.

And v. 8 adds that Job sought relief by scraping the boils with a piece of broken pottery. That doesn’t sound pleasant, but apparently it relieved either the itching or the pain. Job is miserable.

And Job goes on to tell us more about his misery. Verse 12 says that Job’s body was so mutilated that his friends didn’t recognize him. His illness destroyed his appetite (3:24). And notice what Job says in 7:5. The maggots were feasting on his sores. 9:18 says that he had difficulty breathing, and 16:16 says that his eyelids were darkened. 19:20 says that he endured severe weight loss, and 30:17 says that he was in constant, excruciating pain, and 30:30–31 say that his skin turned black, and he probably had a high fever. And all of this went on for months (7:3).

Satan’s attack was ruthless. It was severe. It was seemingly unending, and from Job’s perspective, it was without cause.

But Satan isn’t done. Verse 9 says that Satan enlisted Job’s wife, his only remaining family member, his life partner, and his closest confidant, to up the ante. Verses 7–8 say that Job is in a routine of grieving and scraping his boils; therefore, he has been suffering for at least a few days when she comes out to see him.

And she becomes the mouthpiece of Satan, when she declares, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” It’s noteworthy that the person who knows Job better than anyone else assumes Job’s innocence, unlike his friends. She knows Job is innocent.

But she doesn’t think it’s worth it. She speaks with two imperatives. She commands Job to “curse God” and “die.” She urges Him to give up, the one thing he had left, his integrity, and curse or blaspheme God. In so doing he would be essentially committing suicide. She figured God would respond in wrath and kill Job.

Now, there are differing opinions, going back to the ancient Hebrews on how to view Job’s wife. The sympathetic view is that she is grieving her own loss, and she feels bad for Job. She just wants him to be done with his misery.

Regardless, she gives terrible advice. Since this is the only time she appears in the book, it’s evident that she’s only mentioned as a foil or a contrast to Job’s faith. She speaks with the foolishness of men, not the wisdom of God. She has an earthly, sinful perspective, not the perspective of faith.

Her values sound a lot like people in our day. For one, Job’s wife doesn’t value Job’s integrity. She says, “Job, you’re miserable. Your integrity isn’t doing you any good, so give it up and get relief from your misery. Doesn’t that sound like people in our day. “If it makes you happy, do it. If telling a lie fixes your problems, why would you tell the truth? Who cares what is right!”

Satan whispers these thoughts in our ear all the time. “Take the easy route.” “You’ve earned it.” “No one will ever know.” “Integrity doesn’t matter.” They’re all ungodly, Satanic lies. Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). God values integrity, and your integrity is one of the most precious possessions you have. Like Job, do not sacrifice it no matter how high Satan turns up the heat.

As well, Job’s wife dismisses any thought of accountability beyond the grave. This is because suicide only brings relief if death is the end. Now, the Bible does not say that suicide automatically condemns to hell. If a true believer commits suicide, he will still be in heaven. But there’s no question that he will suffer loss. But Job’s wife isn’t concerned about the judgment, and Satan doesn’t want us to be either. When you are tempted to sacrifice your integrity, always remember that even if no one else sees, God does and hold fast to what is right.

Job has to be devastated. Men want their wives to be their greatest cheerleader; instead, she wife tells him, “Job, your integrity is worthless. Curse God and die.” Satan is ruthless. He is pressing down hard. So how will Job respond? Again, the climax of the story comes in Job’s response.

III.  Job’s Response (v. 10)

Job’s Testimony: Job begins by rebuking his wife. She has spoken “as one of the foolish women.” Job uses a particularly strong term. Walter Kaiser states this term, “carries with it overtones of being morally corrupt, dishonorable, insensitive, and irreverent.” Her advice is terribly wrong.

And then Job makes another remarkable confession. “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” It’s important to note that the verb translated accept speaks of a proactive receiving. Therefore, Job is not talking about resignation or apathy.

Rather, he says, “We gratefully receive ‘good from God.’” And we must learn to have the same response to adversity. We must receive, or embrace adversity the same way. We must accept it with thankfulness and faith.

You might think, “That’s crazy. How could anyone welcome the kind of suffering that Job endured? He should be angry. He should fight back.” The answer is submission and faith. First, “I don’t exist for my own comfort; I exist for the glory of God.” If God is most glorified through my pain, then bring it on.

Second, “I trust the Lord that his purpose for me is good, even if I can’t see it.” Therefore, I will embrace this hardship, because I know it comes from the good hand of God.” Francis Andersen states, “Such positive faith is the magic stone that transmutes all to gold; for when the bad as well as the good is received at the hand of God, every experience of life becomes an occasion of blessing.” That’s what Job did. He embraced his suffering by faith.

Job’s Victory: As a result, the narrator again closes the story by saying that Satan lost. Job did not sin with his lips, because his faith was sound. Amen!

IV.  What’s the Point?

Embrace good and adversity as gifts of a faithful God. Maybe you are really struggling today under the weight of adversity. God has taken your health, you finances, an important relationship, or something else that is precious. It’s hard. Next week, that we will see that Job endured terrible grief. But do not lose faith. Remember that you exist for God’s glory, not your own. And do not stop believing that God is good and wise and sovereign.

Hold fast to your integrity. When life is rough, we are often tempted to take shortcuts. We lash out at those who hurt us, or we cut corners to fix our problems. Don’t forget that your integrity is precious in God’s sight. Yes, aggressively solve your problems, but never at the expense of your integrity.

Appreciate the ruthless schemes of Satan. Please note that Satan never appears again in Job. He lost, and he runs away pouting. Therefore, God is the main actor, and he has a purpose far bigger than Satan. But Job 1–2 are clear that Satan is real, he is powerful, he knows how to attack, and he is ruthless. He was happy to destroy Job, if he could. It’s good for us to occasionally remember what he is doing. We need to be sober, and we need to run to Christ for the grace to endure his attacks.

View suffering with an eye toward eternity. 2 Corinthians 4:17 provides an essential anchor for all suffering, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding andeternal weight of glory.” Christian, God promises that he will more than make up for whatever suffering he sends our way. In comparison the “eternal weight of glory” he has ready for us, it is “light” and “momentary.”

So, Christian, keep your focus on his reward, trust gospel grace to get you there. He will carry you through. And if you don’t know the Lord, understand that there is no sure hope or purpose in suffering without a Sovereign Savior. I pray that you will receive him today, so that are ready to meet him and so that you can live with the patience and faith of Job.