The Book of Job is one of the most amazing stories in the Bible, but we read it wrong two ways. First, we elevate Job into some kind of faith hero. Second, we think the devil is a sheepdog sent by the Lord to do his dirty work. This crazy notion is based on the following passage:
Then the Lord said to 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.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)
The traditional interpretation is that the Lord set Job up for disaster by dangling him in front of the devil like a marshal might dangle a convict’s shirt in front of a bloodhound.
“You smell Job, boy? You smell his good works and how much he hates evil?”
“Get him, boy! Go! Rip his life apart!”
What a terrible portrayal of our heavenly Father!
According to the traditional view there is no difference between God and Satan. The devil did the deed, but God was a collaborator. God permitted it. He “allowed” it to happen.
Thankfully, this is one of those times where something is lost in translation. Let’s read those verses again in a word-for-word translation such as Green’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV):
And Jehovah said to Satan, Have you set your heart on My servant Job because there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil? (Job 1:8, LITV)
In other words, “Satan, why are you gunning for Job? Is it because he’s a good guy? Is it because he won’t fall for your evil schemes?”
Do you see? God isn’t setting Job up at all. He’s letting Satan know that he’s onto him. “I’m watching you, Satan.” The Lord is not unaware of the devil’s schemes.
The fact is, Satan was gunning for Job. Not only did Satan want to hurt Job, he wanted the Lord to do it! Look at what Satan says:
Stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. (Job 1:11)
The audacity of this schemer! How brazen! First the accuser tries to manipulate God: “Job only fears you because you’ve put a hedge about him and blessed him” (verses 9-10). Then he dares the Lord to strike this good man Job! Of course, the Lord isn’t about to fall for Satan’s tricks, yet verse 12 seems to suggest he does.
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power…” (Job 1:12)
At first glance it seems that God has just been conned by the devil into giving him permission to go after Job. Really? And we fall for that? Or worse, we think the Lord would fall for it?! Let’s read that verse in a literal translation:
And Jehovah said to Satan, Behold, all that is his is in your hand! Only, do not lay your hand on him. And Satan went out from the face of Jehovah. (Job 1:12, LITV)
The Lord is not giving Satan permission; he’s stating a fact. Job was already under Satan’s thumb. Why does the Lord say that? Because of this:
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
As Tom Tompkins explains in his book, Understanding the Book of Job, God gave control of the earth to man…
The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind. (Psa 115:16)
…but in the Garden of Eden man handed control to Satan. So when the Lord says “all that is his is in your hand!” he is stating a painful fact that will ultimately cost Jesus his life.
To sum up, here are four lies that we get from misreading Job 1:
Lie #1: Satan needs God’s permission to attack us
Satan didn’t ask for permission to go after Job because he didn’t need permission. In the Garden of Eden we opened the door to sin and have been reaping the consequences ever since.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. By the grace of God the devil flees when we resist him (James 4:7). Don’t be like Job and let the thief plunder your house. Be like David who encouraged himself in the Lord and fought back (1 Sam 30:6).
Lie #2: God uses Satan as a sheepdog to keep the sheep in line
Woof! What nonsense. What fellowship does light have with darkness (2 Cor 6:14)?
Lie #3: God gives us sickness and suffering to teach us character
Satan’s aim was to trick God into harming Job, something that God would never do. Although Job thought God was responsible for his loss, God sent Elihu to set him straight. Elihu is a picture of Jesus who went around “healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Jesus doesn’t give sickness; he takes it from us.
Lie #4: God “allows” sickness and suffering to afflict us
God does not work for the devil. If God gave the thief permission to rob you, he wouldn’t be a thief.
First Adam lost control of the planet, but last Adam took back what the devil stole. In Christ you are destined to reign like a king (Rom 5:17). But you won’t reign if you heed the lies above and follow Job instead of Jesus.
Grace and peace to you.