Chapter 1:6-12 (ESV) - Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “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? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Question to consider: What argument does Satan give for Job’s loyalty to God?
The word “satan” means accuser or adversary. In today’s passage, the word is capitalized, not because Satan is a formal name, but because the reference is to the “accuser of accusers” or “adversary of adversaries”. This was the leader of the angelic rebellion, Lucifer, who was cast out of heaven by the arch-angel, Michael. We also refer to him as “the Devil” which refers to his nature as a demonic or malevolent spirit. So Satan and Devil are names describing the character and nature of the one who acts in opposition to God.
The phrase translated “sons of God” is bene elohim in Hebrew. If you went through my study of Genesis, I argued that Moses used the term to describe the warring princes descended from Cain who thought themselves to be sons of God (or sons of “the gods” in the pagan sense of the word). I think Moses demonstrated his skepticism of their claim because he pointed out that as god-like as these men professed to be, they ultimately ended up being attracted to mortal women. However, the sense in which the phrase is used in today's passage is rather mysterious because the bene elohim present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was among them.
This idea of a divine counsel was also presented by Asaph in Psalm 82:1, “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” I don’t want to get off on a tangent here, but there definitely seemed to be an understanding in scripture that there was a relationship between the rulers of this world and those associated with them in the angelic realm. We don’t have to entirely understand this to get the idea that the affliction that was about to come upon Job’s family was instigated by Satan and sanctioned by God.
We know from the apostle Peter that the going forth of Satan to and fro on the earth is not for our good, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Satan entirely hates us and is only interested in our demise. God asked him to consider his actions in light of Job, a truly blameless man when compared with other people.
Satan’s accusation was against God. He questioned whether Job’s love was genuine given that God had blessed him with a comfortable life. If I were God, I would have squashed the Devil immediately for his insolence, but God endured the accusation and granted Satan permission to destroy the man’s life as long as he didn’t harm the man himself.
Inwardly, our own sense of justice wonders why God would allow such a thing since He wasn’t going to change Satan’s mind, but God’s ways are multi-faceted and are made in light of the ages and according to His overall plan for defeating sin and reconciling a people to Himself. So we are better off trusting in God’s goodness over our own and realizing that He is not beholden to us. More than anything, we can glean from this passage that although Satan is evil, he is still a created being who cannot act outside of God’s rule. This is far different than the world’s view that there are forces of good and evil equally and eternally opposed to one another. If evil is the corruption of good, we can pray for its redemption and actively call people to repent and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for seeking the redemption of the world. Help us to trust that You are actively using us as Your instruments of reconciliation and stir up in us a desire to bring glory to Christ in our attitudes and actions. Amen.