Job 1:7-8

Sermon preached on June 21, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Have you ever had a boss that you didn't like, that you didn't see eye to eye with? I hope you haven't, but I know that it's a common occurrence. When I worked as a longshoreman I worked under a lot of foremen. Some of them were really good to work for and others were not. But one of the things about them was that they all knew their stuff. Just about all of them had come up through the ranks, they had worked as longshoremen themselves before they were promoted to be foremen. So they all knew what needed to be done and how it should be done. They knew all about how to operate the equipment, about safety and the right procedures. They knew the job and if you didn't know how to do it they would tell you. So basically they were always right.

But they had problems with some of the workers. The big problem was that some workers didn't want to work at all or do the least amount of work possible. There were various reasons for that. Some were lazy. Others would come to work intoxicated and not be able to work. Some others just wanted to goof off. I remember once our gang was working in the hold of a ship, we were way down near the bottom of the boat and a couple of guys, who should have been working, got some buckets of water and they were way up top and the started pouring water over us. Not only were they not working, but they were slowing us down in our work.

As unbelievable as it sounds, it wasn't easy to fire the guys who didn't want to work. When the foremen were around, these guys had to toe the line. The foreman made them work. He assigned them tasks and even though the workers didn't want to do what he said—they had to. If someone was too drunk to work he would be send home. If they were lazy he would assign them specific tasks and come back and check on them. The really good foremen kept a tight reign on them. They made the workers do the work even though they didn't want to do it.

This morning we're going to consider God's conversation with Satan in verses 7 and 8. The conversation is incredible. God asks Satan where he has been and Satan gives a vague account of what he has been doing. God then asks whether he had considered Job and his integrity.

This conversation and the subsequent events are very enlightening. It gives us insight into some important theological points such as Satan's role in the world. What is Satan's job? Can he do anything he wants? Is he independent of God? How subservient is this rebel to God?

This morning we're going to look at one of these things. These first two chapters of Job teach us that

although Satan hates God and his will, God uses Satan to carry out His purposes.

What happened in heaven as a result of Satan's attack on Job? We're not told directly, but it is certain that when Job, in his tremendous grief, fell down on the ground to worship God, and said, (Job 1:21)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord
has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised."

— that the holy heavenly host erupted in celebration and praised and honored God. They honored God for His great grace to Job. You can be sure that demons themselves had to acknowledge that Satan was wrong. They had to acknowledge that God's grace to Job was amazing. This was also true after Satan's second attack on Job. When Job's wife told him to curse God and die, Job told her she was talking foolishness. He did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. God received glory and honor through Job. Satan and his evil ones were shamed and had to acknowledge the integrity of Job.

Let's look at some of the details of this.

First, note that

Satan gave an account of his activities to God.

God asked him where he has come from. Satan gave a vague answer. It's like he didn't want to divulge his activities. Christopher Ash writes (Job, p. 42)

"Satan replies, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it' (v. 7). This may be evasive, like the teenager who, asked by Mom or Dad what he's been doing all day, grunts, 'Oh, just stuff' (subtext: 'it's none of your business'). And yet the expression 'going to and fro' suggests going about with a specific purpose. What that purpose is will become apparent. The Satan has a job to do, and he has been doing it, even if he is reluctant to divulge his findings."

Satan, despite his hatred for God and His will—despite the evil in his heart—answers God. And of course God, who knows everything, knew all about Satan's activities. John Calvin writes,

"Satan… is the Adversary, for even though he appears before God and is obliged to give a report, he does not yield willingly, for he is not asking to be subject to God. Rather, he rises up against him. He is inflamed with such a monstrous rage that he would have destroyed God's power if he could have. Consequently, he retains his corrupt nature of always being his enemy and is forced to come pay homage to the one who has all sovereign authority over his creatures. Now Satan is also subject to God. We must not imagine that Satan has any authority except what is given to him by God."

Satan's job is going to and fro on the earth and reporting back to God shows that He is, in a paradoxical way, subservient to God. Christopher Ash writes,

"This implies that the Satan's job, as God's submissive opposition, is to search men and women to see if there is anyone who is genuinely godly and pious. God claims that there is one and echoes point for point the storyteller's description of Job in the very first verse of the book. We might paraphrase it like this: 'I wonder if, in your travels looking for genuine piety, you have noticed my servant Job.' The expression 'my servant' conveys Job's honor and dignity; he is God's covenant partner. It is a title used forty times of Moses, as a general title for the prophets (e.g., 1 Kings 14:18), and of the patriarchs (e.g., Genesis 24:14; 26:24; Psalm 105:6; Exodus 32:13). Job is loyal to the Lord, and the Lord will be loyal to him: 'He is a real believer, with integrity and consistency. It is impossible to find in the whole world such a conspicuously pious and consistent believer.' "

One of Satan's jobs, according to Ash, is to test men and women to see if they are genuinely devoted to God.

Satan does this as a rebel. He does this hating God and His will. He does this trying to thwart God, trying to prove that there's no one who is genuinely devoted to God. Yet, all the while, he is subservient to God. God overrules his evil activities to bring his righteous purposes to pass. Perhaps the closest analogy is when Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph said to his brothers about it, (Genesis 50:20)

"You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives."

What we see in Job 1 is Satan giving an account to God. For all his hatred, for all his evil, he is subservient to God. He has to give an account.

We know that on the Day of Judgment Satan and the fallen angels are going to have to give an account of their actions to God. They are going to be judged. We are going to have a part in that. In 1 Corinthians 6:3 the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians,

"Do you not know that
we will judge angels?"

We know with humans there is often an accountability before the Day of Judgment. For example, God called King Ahab to account during his lifetime and sent the prophet Elijah to him tell him that. (1 Kings 21:17f) He was so bad, selling himself to do evil that God called him to account long before the Day of Judgment.

Our text suggests that he does this with Satan too. It's obvious that God called him to account about his sin. Revelation 12 speaks of him being cast out of heaven. In our text we have another example of Satan being accountable for his actions.

But what is interesting about Job 1 and 2 is that they possibly suggest that Satan has to come to God at regular times and give an account of his actions—that God demands regular reports from Satan. It's like a president calling his cabinet together to report to him about past work and giving them additional tasks to perform.

The Bible presents the work of Satan from different perspectives.

Sometimes the Bible presents Satan's work as if it were entirely at cross purposes with God's purposes. In those places we might get the impression that Satan acts on his own, totally against the purposes of God. Satan hates God, hates His rule and does everything he can to thwart God's plans, especially God's plan to save human beings. In the Garden of Eden he tempted Adam and Eve. He endeavored to get them to sin against God and to ruin God's plans for creation and mankind created in His image. Satan aimed to destroy God's work.

We see this perspective also in 1 Peter 5:8. Peter wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour."

Satan is pictured as a destroyer, seeking to take people away from God, seeking to destroy mankind.

We see this as well in 1 Thessalonians 2:18. The apostle Paul spoke about his endeavors to return to Thessalonica to see how the church there was doing. He was concerned that these new converts might not have stayed the course in the face of persecution. He said to them,

"For we wanted to come to you—
certainly I, Paul, did,
again and again—
but Satan stopped us."

And in Zechariah 3:1 Satan is pictured next to Joshua the high priest, ready to accuse him. We read,

"Then he showed me Joshua
the high priest standing
before the angel of the LORD,
and Satan standing at his right side
to accuse him."

Revelation 12:3–4 also pictures things this way. We read,

"Then another sign appeared in heaven:
an enormous red dragon with seven heads
and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.
His tail swept a third of the stars
out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
The dragon stood in front of the woman
who was about to give birth,
so that he might devour her child
the moment it was born."

Herod's killing the baby boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem was part of the dragon's activity in trying to kill Jesus. The dragon is presented as totally opposed to God and His purposes.

But in other places in Scripture certain parts of Satan's work are placed under the umbrella of God's purposes. There are some passages that shows us that God uses Satan to accomplish His purposes.

For example, in Mark 1:12–13 we read that Jesus went into the wilderness under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We read,

"At once the Spirit sent him
out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days,
being tempted by Satan."

The Spirit sent Jesus there to do battle with Satan and defeat him. Jesus was tempted by Satan and emerged victorious. That was part of God's plan in our salvation.

Another passage where we see God using Satan for His purposes is in 2 Corinthians 12:7. The apostle Paul wrote,

"To keep me from becoming conceited
because of these
surpassingly great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan,
to torment me."

God didn't want Paul to become conceited, so he gave Paul a thorn in the flesh. Paul Barnett writes, (2 Corinthians, NICNT)

"This verse expresses a supreme paradox. A painful [thorn] whatever it actually was was 'given' to Paul, and that by God! This is expanded upon as 'a messenger of [or from] Satan.' The juxtaposition of 'was given [by God]' and 'messenger of Satan' recalls the early chapters of Job, where God allows Satan to afflict Job's household (Job 1:12), then his person (Job 2:6–7). This language suggests (1) that Satan was the immediate cause of Paul's difficulty symbolized by the word [thorn]; (2) that, because the [thorn] was given by God, Satan is subject to God, not his equal (as in dualism); and (3) that in a profoundly mysterious way God was the ultimate source of that [thorn]. Paradoxically, God is the invisible source of this suffering in the life of Paul, his child and minister."

This messenger of Satan was given to Paul for his good and the good of the church—to keep Paul from becoming conceited.

But an even greater paradox relates to the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus.

In John 13 Jesus spoke about how one of His disciples was going to betray Him. They wanted to know which one it was. Jesus told them it was the one to whom He gave the bread. Then He gave it to Judas. We read, (verse 27)

"As soon as Judas took the bread,
Satan entered into him.
'What you are about to do,
do quickly,'
Jesus told him."

Satan entered Judas so that he incite him to betray Jesus. Then Jesus gave Satan and order—He told him to do it quickly. In entering into Judas, Satan was accomplishing God's purposes.

We see the same thing in Matthew 26:49–50 when Judas with the group to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Judas greeted Jesus and kissed him, Jesus replied,

"Friend, do what you came for."

Andreas J. Köstenberger writes, (John, BECNT)

"This shows that Jesus is in charge rather than being a mere victim of events beyond his control…"

Jesus hour had come and He knew that events needed to move rapidly to their inevitable conclusion—so He orders (the imperative is used) Judas to get on with it.

The point is that God used Satan's and men's hatred of Jesus to fulfill His purposes. As Peter said in Acts 2:22–23 on the day of Pentecost,

"Men of Israel, listen to this:
Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited
by God to you by miracles,
wonders and signs,
which God did among you through him,
as you yourselves know.
This man was handed over to you
by God's set purpose and foreknowledge;
and you,
with the help of wicked men,
put him to death
by nailing him to the cross."

Jesus was betrayed according to God's predetermined plan. He used evil men and Satan (who was behind some of their actions) to accomplish His purpose.

The second thing we see in our text that points to God's complete control of the situation is that God is the one who brings up Job in the conversation.

God brings Job up to spite Satan.

God asks Satan,

"Have you considered my servant Job?
There is no one on earth like him;
he is blameless and upright,
a man who fears God and shuns evil."

John Calvin says,

"God spites Satan in those to whom he has granted the grace to walk according to his will. We see in that the reason God places us in the world, which is so that we will be here like reflections of his virtue. When he gives us the grace to govern ourselves by his Holy Spirit, he places us on a platform, so to speak, so that his goodness and mercy may be recognized in us, thus, thereby glorifying himself in our persons to Satan's detriment."

God boasts about Job and spites Satan. God used Job for His glory.

This is incredible and shows us one of our roles here on earth. We are here to serve God and bring Him glory in any situation he places us in. We are to cooperate with the grace that God gives us to be more and more conformed to the image of Jesus that God can use us to spite Satan.

What honors Job was given. Were there ever words like this about a mortal man?

"Have you considered my servant Job?"

Job's name was on God's lips before Satan and the heavenly host. God declaring His grace and His strength in Job. Have you considered my servant Job? How honored Job was.

So I ask you,

does God boast about you to the heavenly host?

Can He do that about you? John Calvin writes,

"God grants us an inestimable honor when he chooses us poor worms of the earth to be glorified in us at Satan's expense and achieves his victories through us."

Is that what you aim for in your life? Are you working so that will be the case? You are to be a shining example of God's grace is whatever situation God places you. What a glorious task God has given us. John Calvin says,

"But God, after choosing us, sheds his Holy Spirit upon us and pours out upon us his many blessings, and then he is willing to be glorified in our persons and achieve his victories over his enemies."

So I ask you—

how strong is God's grace in you?

Have you cooperated with God's grace as you should have? Have you said no to sin and temptation like you should have? Is your great goal in life to say like Paul in Philippians 1:20,

"I eagerly expect and hope
that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death."

Are you prepared to endure hardship and difficulties?

John Calvin writes,

"we are admonished not to find it strange that God is pleased to put us to the test in many combats, trials, and temptations. But when we hear that God is putting us to the test, the fruit which results from our struggles ought to satisfy us deeply, for God is glorified, his power is known, and Satan remains confounded in all his attacks."

In 1 Peter 1:5–7 the Holy Spirit tells us to expect grief in all kinds of trials. He doesn't tell us to expect health, wealth and success. Peter wrote,

"who through faith are shielded
by God's power until the coming
of the salvation that is
ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief
in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith—of
greater worth than gold, which perishes
even though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine
and may result in praise,
glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Calvin writes,

"Now the main thing is that we relate everything to God, knowing that we belong to him and that it is only right that we offer our lives and our deaths to him in sacrifice, that we worship him, that we give thanks for all that he has placed within our hands, that we declare his absolute superiority over us, and that, by our prayers and petitions, we confess we are obligated to him for all things. That, then, is the testimony that must grow from the integrity which is hidden within our hearts, as from a root hidden under the ground.""That, then, is the advice we have from this passage: to commend ourselves to God, asking him to strengthen us against Satan's trials and temptations so that we will never be conquered by them when the Lord brings us into conformity by the unconquerable power of his Holy Spirit."

Lastly, for unbelievers,

if you don't go to Jesus you're going to be destroyed by Satan.

He goes around like a roaring lion looking for people to devour. He seeks to destroy people and have them cast into hell. And with everyone who is not in Jesus—he takes them in his teeth, plays with them for awhile, and then tears them to pieces.

But with those who believe in Jesus, something much different happens. This ferocious beast comes, roars at them, attacks them, seeks to tear them to pieces—and he can't. These insignificant, in themselves powerless creatures—stand! At the end of the battle, they may be bruised, they may be bleeding—but Satan is whimpering at their feet. As Paul said to the Roman Christians in Romans 16:20,

"The God of peace will soon crush
Satan under your feet."

So I ask you who do not believe in Jesus—which group do you want to be in?