1 ¶ Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
It would be logical to assume that time works differently in the spiritual world, which is not confined by the processes and decay of the temporal, physical world. We don’t know when his meeting was held and in our sense of time it could have been soon after the first. His friends have not come to him yet or, having heard of his first great calamities, were just preparing to come to him. Job, who has suffered the very things he feared the most, now must deal with an attack on his person.
Notice here the interaction between Satan and God. God acknowledges that Job was attacked without a cause. There was no cause and effect reason for Job to suffer. You could not point to something he did that merited his great tragedy. Unlike human suffering that we see in our own lives at times and almost every day in the news we get to see here what is going on in the world of spiritual beings.
The meaning of any text we read has to be, first, what it literally says. Any other meaning may be its significance to your life, to prophecy, or some other consideration but, first and foremost, what is it saying and to whom specifically is it saying it. (8) Literally, its meaning is that God has been proving Job’s faithfulness to Satan and Job has done nothing on his own to deserve such treatment, whatever else you wish to read into it as being significant.
Every student of history has two tasks he or she is faced with when they read a text; one, “why was it written,” and, two, “why was it preserved?”(9) Clearly, the Holy Spirit had it written and preserved for our learning and understanding, as Paul said in Romans 15:4. We should get something out of this that supersedes our human-centered viewpoints on how much knowledge we can actually have regarding why people we think of as good suffer.
In Thornton Wilder’s famous book The Bridge of San Luis Rey a number of people die because a bridge collapses and there is an attempt to find a cosmic meaning tying all the unrelated people’s deaths together. It fails. No reason can be found. Although Calvinists would reject this conclusion the Bible warns us thousands of years ago that this may be so. Think of the harm done to well-intentioned Christians’ faith by our refusing to believe the Bible and reading back our own bigotry and self-righteousness into events. This will be an important theme later.
God has told Satan, in 1:8 and here in 2:3, that Job is a singular person, that there is none like him in the earth. Job is the ultimate example of a Godly man of his time. There is no one on earth like Job. Remember how Solomon was called the wisest of men?
1Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30 And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.
1Kings 10:23 So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.24 And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
And yet, for all of his wisdom he still did foolish things so he was not exempt from man’s fallen condition.
1Kings 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
Nehemiah 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
So it is that the greatest saint of the day during the time the Book of Job was set in suffered terrible tribulation and was not exempt from it by his righteousness, even though he did everything he could to prevent that trouble. Should not this be a lesson and a warning to the average Christian today? Has not God, from the beginning, alerted you as to the sometime mystery of suffering.
Most of the tragedy in my own life I caused by my sinful acts and attitudes. Others have suffered by the sin of others. Job is proof that we can suffer horrible things through no fault of our own, as well. Do you think you are exempt from suffering because you are a faithful Christian?
Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
2Timothy 2:12a If we suffer, we shall also reign with him
A brief study of the history of Christianity will show that many Godly, dedicated saints have met martyrdom in some of the most hideous ways for no other reason than their being faithful to Christ.
“he holdeth fast his integrity.” We are blessed today particularly, in this dispensation, that we can turn to Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to give us strength in time of trouble. We, unlike Job, who is dependent upon his own righteousness, have Christ’s righteousness imputed or credited to us by virtue of the faith God has given to us. If only Job could have had the Spirit of God residing in him, as we do, to comfort him as we do in our distresses.
(8) E.D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967).
(9) Stephen Todd, “The Use and Abuse of Attic Orators,” Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Oct., 1990), 164. (From a paper delivered at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1988.)