The Book of Job: The Significant Insignificance of Satan

The Book of Job: The Significant Insignificance of Satan

Oct 13, 2016, 1:04:29 PM Religion

Recently, someone asked a question about the role of satan in suffering. She mentioned a friend that pointed to the beginning of the story of Job as proof that satan is the cause of our suffering. This post will hopefully dispel this notion.

1) Satan had to ask for permission

When we look at the story of Job, what we find is that satan could not harm Job without God’s explicit permission. (Job 1:12, 2:6) Even though this lends itself to further questions of WHY God allowed satan to harm Job, which is a whole other post (or series of posts), what we can say is that satan didn’t have the authority to do what he pleased.

*side note: This situation also brings up another interesting point.People falsely believe that God can’t stand to have anything impure before him, that He recoils at what is unholy… yet here he is tolerating the presence of satan. Maybe what we can say is that God has no problem embracing us even when we sin… much like the father embraced the Prodigal Son while he was still filthy.

This is contrary to the somewhat popular strain of thought that satan is a powerful free agent, doing whatever he pleases. If we were to base our theology solely on these two chapters, our conclusion would have to be that he has power and influence, but is bound and unable to do whatever he pleases.

2) Satan is not mentioned outside these 2 chapters

More important than the first point is this: satan is never mentioned outside of chapters one and two. He appears as an instigator, but neither Job, his friends, or God mentions satan. Job doesn’t blame satan for his misfortunes, but rightly acknowledges that God is in control.

If satan was the driving force of the story, he would have been mentioned throughout or at the very least at the end. Yet, there is no battle of good versus evil. There is no deliverance or banishment of satan.

What we can say about this is that according to the book of Job, satan seems to be a minor bit player in the grand scheme of our lives. He is not worth mentioning or bothering with. In the end, he is irrelevant to the conversation.

This concept is connected with Acts 16. Paul and Silas were in Philippi spreading the gospel. A demon possessed girl was causing a disturbance the whole time. This lasted for a few days. In verse 18, it says that Paul eventually became annoyed and drove the demon out.

Even though there was clear demonic activity in this passage, Paul didn’t focus on it. It was just a distraction. When the distraction became too much, he dealt with it. That is the significance Paul and the book of Job places on satan and his activity.

3) The book of Job is not about suffering

Yes, I know that this is a controversial statement. I’m not saying that there’s no suffering. As I’ve been studying this book for a few years (after having preached through it), I began to see a different meta-story in the book.

Rather than being a contemplation on suffering, I believe that Job is a wrestling on the sovereignty of God spurred on through the human experience of suffering. As Job and his friends discuss his predicament, the conversation revolves around the heart of God, his power and control, and how the world works in accordance to this.

Job’s friends contend that God operates according to the formula: if good things happen to you it’s because you are righteous and if bad things happen to you it’s because you are unrepentant of your sin. Job’s contention is that he’s done everything right (which is true because God calls Job righteous and without fault). Job feels like God is absent in his suffering though. If God was there, he would see that he made a mistake by causing Job harm.

In the end of the story, God shows up and speaks. He begins a poetic discourse of the implications of his sovereignty. He says paints a picture of his power, authority, and presence. What God reveals through his manifestation and explanation is that He is closer to us than we can realize. Job, in his suffering, was not outside the presence of the all powerful God.

Job, taken as a whole, is God’s explanation of His sovereignty. Suffering is just the context of this discussion. What this affirms for us is that satan is not a part of the discussion. Our sufferings, our pains, our disappointments re not a result of the work of the enemy. All the enemy does is lie, distract, and tempts us to turn our gaze away from the one who loves us.

When we look at the story of Job, we rightfully discover that satan is significantly insignificant. What is of highest importance is the awareness of God’s nearness. He will never leave us or forsake us, even if life looks grim at times. This is our encouragement because, as the end of Job reveals, God’s heart is restoration and blessing.

I know that there are a lot of implications in what I’ve written that I haven’t unpacked. Those implications go beyond the scope of this blog post. I might write a longer piece of Job and the sovereignty of God in the future, but for now, I hope this was an encouragement.

Published by Young Song

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