I’ve been reflecting lately on the surreal first two chapters of the book of Job. I approached the book with the expectation that I’d be thinking and processing a lot about human suffering and God’s sovereignty. And while I’ll be wresting with those topics for sure as I make my way through the book, I can’t help but pause on these unbelievable scenes in the heavenly realm. The spiritual realm is a reality in which we vaguely believe and rarely acknowledge. That puts us at an extreme disadvantage as we are, then, generally unaware of the strategies the enemy is using against us.
From the first two chapters of Job, we can learn at least four strategies that Satan will use against us:
- He may afflict us. Have you considered God’s servant Job, who seemed to be minding his own business when GOD suggested to Satan that he might test his faith? It was all, basically, God’s idea. Satan simply seized on the opportunity to do some harm to a child of God in an attempt to draw him away from his Maker. Have you ever wondered if Satan is behind the afflictions you face in your life? We can never really know for sure. But if you have wondered that, or if you’re wondering now, rest assured that every bit of it falls under God’s sovereign and good providence. Job seems to know this well: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
- He will tempt us. This is a tricky one, because there are typically three active agents in our temptation: the world, our flesh, and the devil. So often I have heard people blame on Satan that which is the result of their own sinful natures. They want to sin; nobody forced them to do it. But from this and other passages in Scripture, we see that Satan loves to give us a nudge in the direction of sin, to which we were already inclined. In this case, Satan whispers to Job through his wife: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die.” Although we are inclined to agree with Satan and follow our sinful instincts, it is possible for us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to resist these temptations. To his wife, Job said “You speak as of one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Side note: See how Job was delicate there with his wife? He could have said “get behind me Satan!”, but he didn’t. “And in all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
- He will trick us. Satan has been using this old strategy ever since the garden. He loves to take a truth from Scripture and twist it and distort it for his own purposes. In the garden, he challenged Adam’s and Eve’s knowledge of Scripture: “did God actually say?”. In the book of Job, he speaks a half-truth. After God declared Job to be a righteous man, “blameless and upright”, Satan suggests that it’s not a fair fight. He asks God “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?”. On the one hand, he is right. God HAS put a hedge around Job, ultimately protecting his soul from falling away. But Satan was wrong about God protecting Job from physical harm. We’re back to the point above, where we are reminded that this whole scene, including Job’s many afflictions, was God’s idea in the first place. The same threat exists today: Satan will try to trick us, likely using the Word of God in a twisted way for the purpose of luring us away from God. And the same remedy still holds today: God will put a hedge of protection around us. That hedge of protection will likely come in the form of a hunger to dig into God’s Word, and take it to heart, so that we might then discern when it’s being twisted for a demonic purpose.
- He will accuse us. This whole scene from the opening chapters of Job reads like a courtroom proceeding. God is the defense attorney (and the judge), and Satan is the prosecuting attorney. He’s the accuser; that’s what his name means. And because we are the bride of Jesus, he is also our adversary. Back in the garden, Satan was told that his head was going to get crushed by the “seed of the woman”… that’s Jesus! Although he’s not powerful enough to stop it, Satan is doing everything he can, planning and scheming, to thwart the redemptive work of Jesus. He tried and failed in the wilderness to tempt Jesus from going through with his plan to be our substitute in order to pay for our sin. He tried and failed to convince Jesus to set aside his humanity. He tried and failed to persuade Jesus off the cross by calling in a legion of angels. And since he missed his “opportune moment” with Jesus, he’s coming after us. So, what does he want to say to us? What will he whisper to us? He’s going to tell us that we’re guilty; that our sins are not forgiven, and that we are not children of God. He is going to keep trying to convince us to attempt to earn our righteousness with our good works rather than receiving it from Jesus. He can’t stop the atonement from happening (too late), but he’s hoping that he can snatch us away so that it might not apply to us. Jesus reminds us that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” But this, too, will fail. For Jesus also said about us that “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Rest assured, Christian, that Satan’s accusation against you will not hold up to scrutiny in the supreme courtroom. By the blood of Jesus, God has rendered on you the verdict of “not guilty”!