The sovereignty of God is a hard thing to understand. How can we know the supremacy of God’s control unless the Lord show us how little control we have? The same is true of God’s mercy. How can we know the true nature of God’s mercy unless He first reveals the extent of our pity and guilt? The point is that, there are certain things about God that can only be learned certain ways. God is supremely in charge of all things, but for us to learn this important lesson, we need to realize the limitations of our control. This means that God will often teach about His sovereignty and transcendent control by taking control away from us. He will put us in situations that absolutely cripple our understanding and ability to progress on our own. This may seem like a harsh lesson, but it is a necessary lesson. How can we submit to God’s authority if we don’t understand the extent of it? How can we receive God’s blessings to be exalted if we don’t first humble ourselves in submission? Likewise, how can we value the merciful nature of God if we don’t see the truth of our pity? The manner in which we learn these things about God is difficult, but these things are the very means by which we receive the goodness of God too. This is what the Bible teaches, and this is what we have to trust of Him.
The magnitude of difficulty concerning these types of life-lessons is put on clear display through the testimony of Job. In Job 3:1-26 the Bible documents the words of Job when he finally had it within himself to verbally respond to the things that were happening in his life. The Bible testifies that Job’s sons and daughters were all killed by a “natural disaster” on the same day that all of Job’s riches were taken and destroyed by marauders. Shortly after, Job’s body was covered in boils so that he could not really stand and was nearly unrecognizable. All of this happened by the hand of the devil, but was ultimately provoked by God Himself. Job didn’t know any of this. To Job, life suddenly took a sharp turn for the absolute worse. Suddenly, all of the things that were good in his life seemed so distant because of the pain that he was suffering in the moment, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Job had no idea that God sent the devil to test him. Job had no idea that God had a purpose for all of the suffering he was experiencing. Job had no understanding of what God was doing or why. Job had no clue as to what God was going to do to produce something good in the end. Job just had to deal with things as they were, and Job 3:1-26 provides his candid response to God’s work.
The scriptures begin by stating that Job cursed his own life and existence. Though the devil wanted Job to curse God, he didn’t. Instead, he cursed himself. The way Job refers to his own life and preparedness for death makes it seem as if Job was suicidal. This is not true. Instead, Job’s intense sorrow and depression actually show Job’s understanding about the truth of this life. There are many things that Job stated in Job 3:1-26 about the vanity of this life in his suffering that are parallel to some of the things that Solomon said about this life when he was abounding in wealth and prosperity. The pain Job experienced might have provoked him to say some depressing and morbid things, but that is only because the true value of life in this world is depressing and morbid without understanding the purpose and promise of the Lord God Almighty. Job felt his life was a disgrace. He said that he wished he had never been born. He said that he wished that he was a stillborn baby. He said that it would have been better for him to have not grown into the man that suffered as he did in the moment. Here, it is important to recognize the truth of human nature. When life brings difficulties and tragedies, it is easy and natural for the human psyche to question existence and purpose. It becomes easy to forget about all of the good things that God has done. As people, we often let the difficulties of this life outweigh the value of good things God has done previously. It becomes too easy to focus on the pain of the moment rather than the joy God previously provided, which should stimulate the hope of our restoration in Him.
Job, like any other human being, suffered from this issue. Job allowed the depth of his suffering, which was unusually great, to consume his mind and emotional capacity. As people, we need to understand that this is just the way things are. Job’s response wasn’t the right response or the wrong response. It was just the normal human response. The one who is not suffering can’t look at Job to criticize his pain and the way he felt about it. The one who is suffering can’t help but focus on the weight of the suffering because it’s the weight that has to be carried in the moment. The testimony of Job 3:1-26 explains that Job felt that all of his worst nightmares had come true. The things that he greatly feared had come upon him. The things that he felt were a threat at any time, had become the reality of his life all at once. Job admitted that he was not at ease. His heart was not quiet. He did not have rest in his mind or his soul. Job was troubled and rightly so. Those who experience hardships without understanding the work of the Lord and His purposes are expected to feel this way. It is the knowledge of who God is and His purposes that provides some sort of solace or silver lining to life’s darkest moments. As people, we can’t expect the pain, uneasiness, or unrest to just go away. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, we need to remember the truth.
Though Job’s venting and emotional outburst was intense, it was seasoned with his understanding of the truth. While Job was expressing his desire to have not been born, he explained why he felt that way. Job knew that in death, there is rest. Job admitted that the wicked cease to inflict the righteous in death. The weary are put to rest in death. The harsh criticisms of others are silenced in death. The prisoners are set free in death. Both the small and great experience the same benefits in death. Again, Job didn’t say these things to express his desire to die. Job’s point was that, in death, there is benefit. His gripe was that he was not dead. He longed for rest, for peace, for silence, and for the benefits that death brings which would deliver him from the suffering of this life. Here, it is critical to remember the full context of this book. Remember that Job was considered a blameless and upright man. He was a man that had faith in the Lord. He was a man whose life was dedicated to the spiritual increase of others. Job spent his time and money seeking the spiritual well-being of his kids, offering sacrifices for their sins. Job knew God. Job knew the righteousness, holiness, and transcendence of God. Job also understood sin and the effects of it. Job knew that sin needed to be dealt with. Knowing these things about Job, it is clear to see that Job’s perspective in Job 3:1-26 could more simply be explained by the words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 1:21:
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
There, the Apostle Paul spoke about the reality of this life and the difficulties of it. Writing from prison, Paul understood that life for the Christian in this world is predicated on suffering to some degree like Jesus did. Jesus died to His flesh unto the point of physical death. Every breath that Jesus took was for the purpose of providing spiritual profit for someone else, and Jesus suffered greatly in that purpose. Jesus’ suffering led Him to be wrongly accused, unjustly tried and convicted, tortured, mocked, and then cursed by being hung on a tree in the crucifixion. That was the purpose and plan of the Father for Jesus, and the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah showing that those were always the Father’s plans and purposes. That is the reality of this life. For the Christian, life on this planet is still about death – death to self. We are called to die to the flesh and wrestle with the internal desires we have to rebel against God’s spiritual and eternal purposes for us. Our existence is not predicated on the circumstances of life on this planet. God’s purpose for us transcends this life and is satisfied in eternal life, which requires death. The Spirit of God in us knows this, but the flesh of our minds rejects this. The flesh of our minds denies this and fights to stay connected to this place in spite of God’s eternal promises.
This is why death brings gain to those who trust in the Lord. Death provides rest from the wrestling within ourselves to do the will of God in spite of our personal ambitions. Death provides release from the wicked influences of sin. Death provides the fulfillment of our true purpose in the presence of the Lord. While Job didn’t understand how God would fulfill His eternal promises, Job had a basic understanding of God’s eternal goodness. In other words, the suffering that Job experienced caused him to intensely desire his release from the miserable and morbid things of this life, knowing that true blessings are in the presence of God.
Job asked some serious questions that can be summarized in this way: Why does God have me in this place right now?
The point of Job’s testimony is to answer that question. Job asked a legitimate question and God was prepared to provide a substantial and detailed answer. However, because God is sovereign and wise, He is not bound to answer Job’s question on Job’s terms, nor in Job’s time. God would provide a suitable and profitable answer in His time. The point is, Job knew God, but not fully. God was teaching Job about Himself while also exalting His own name through the manner of teaching. Job didn’t understand the extent of God’s sovereign control and transcendency. Knowing that life on this earth was futile, Job couldn’t understand how God’s glory could transcend the difficulties of this life to provide eternal value, even from this place! There was only one way Job could learn about God’s control, and that was by having God strip him of control to show how God’s hand directs to better places than Job could have himself. There was only one way Job could have learned about God’s mercy, and that was by recognizing how pitiful he really was, absent all of the coverings of his previous circumstances. There was only one way Job could understand the faithfulness of God, and that was by experiencing the time that God takes to do that which He promises despite the appearance of circumstances or our attitudes towards those circumstances.
Why did God have Job suffer the way that he did? God was going to teach Job things about Himself, which according to John 17:3, is the essence of eternal life; and God is smart enough to know that these are the only ways we can learn these powerful truths about the Creator of all things. It would take time, but Job would learn these things to be true.
The concept of compassion can be a confusing subject. The Biblical descriptions of compassion are usually far more involved and dramatic. For example, in Matthew Chapter 9, Jesus looked at the people that were brought to Him and the scriptures testify that He was “moved with compassion.” The word in the original language that describes compassion means, “to be moved unto one’s bowels.” In other words, Jesus saw the multitudes and was sick to His stomach. He got queasy. The reason that Jesus felt this way was because He saw the people as “scattered abroad, like sheep without a shepherd.” The people had no spiritual direction. The people were engaging with the One True Living God in the flesh and couldn’t recognize Him. The depravity of the people had caused them to be so spiritually blind that they were wandering about with no purpose, direction, or hope. This made Jesus’ stomach turn. This was not His intention for His people, yet the sins of the people caused these ill-effects. Still, compassion in the Bible doesn’t just refer to the sick feeling that Jesus had. The contextual usage of the word shows that Jesus was compelled to respond to that uneasiness. Jesus saw pain and distress within the people, but true Biblical compassion is coupled with the desire to alleviate the distress.
In Romans 12:15-16 the Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” The idea here communicates that God’s people are supposed to be selfless; looking for opportunities to serve the spiritual needs of others. We are to look at others and consider ways we can help. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote that this sort of service is the means by which we are to express our thanks to God for the mercy we’ve received in salvation! In order to thank God, we are to “weep with those who weep” and “be of the same mind toward one another.” We aren’t supposed to see others in distress and just brush it off. We aren’t supposed to consider our personal circumstances so important that we leave others in distress in order to handle our own business at all times. Our own business should be based on the privilege we have to serve the needs of one another. This is why Paul later wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
The distress of others should pluck the cords of our own hearts. The spiritual anguish of others was the reason that Jesus did the things that He did many times. For example, in John Chapter 11, the scriptures testify that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead four days! This is a tremendous miracle! Yet, before Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb, He examined the circumstances of the people weeping at the tomb and He wept with them. Again, the context of the scriptures reveal that Jesus wept because He was sick to His stomach regarding what sin had done to His people. Jesus had just explained that He is the resurrection, but the people felt death was final. The people didn’t understand or believe in the eternal power of the Almighty God. The people were without hope seeing that Lazarus was dead as if death had superior authority over Jesus. Jesus wept for the lack of faith and absence of hope that His people had. The spiritual depravity of the people and the absence of hope the people had caused Jesus to be moved so that He responded with one of the greatest miracles in the entire Bible.
This same principle is illustrated in the testimony of Job. The bulk of the Book of Job is the documentation of several dialogues between Job and his friends as they try to understand the reason for Job’s dramatic change in circumstances. Though those conversations were not always helpful, Job’s friends were good friends that had good intentions. They were men provoked by the same sort of compassion as Jesus; the same sort of compassion as commanded by Paul in the Book of Romans and Galatians. In Job 2:11-13 the Bible explains that Job had three friends that heard about the tragedies in Job’s life and made immediate efforts to offer up any sort of comfort they could. It is important to consider the subtle details of their response to Job’s circumstances. First, the scriptures state that each one came from their own place in order to visit Job. Though it is not exactly clear where each of Job’s friends were from, it is likely that these men traveled great distances. Eliphaz is called a Temanite. It is believed that this region was located north of Job’s town (the land of Uz, which is in the region of Edom) near Damascus. Bildad is called a Shuhite, which scholars believe was a region close to the land of Uz. However, Zophar is called a Naamathite, which is believed to be in Saudi Arabia heading south towards Yemen. Eliphaz and Zophar would have had to travel a great and dangerous distance to be with their friend in his time of need.
After receiving word of Job’s illness somehow, the men endeavored to be with their friend. They didn’t make excuses because of the distances. They didn’t consider their personal schedules and affairs to be more important than the needs of their friend. They embraced the inconvenience required to travel and sought to comfort their friend in a time of need. The Bible states that Job’s three friends ultimately stayed for seven days and seven nights showing the extent of sacrifice they were willing to undertake on their own. Their compassion was not passive. Their compassion was not offered through the filter of their own convenience. These men took time out of their own work and personal ambitions and requirements to pour into a man who had greater needs than their own. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had the hearts to offer comfort and mourn with their “brother” in his greatest time of need.
The comfort that the men provided was as genuine as can be. The Bible states that when the men approached Job, they couldn’t really recognize him because of how the boils had consumed his body. Job’s friends were not grossed out and turned away by Job’s illness. They were not ashamed of Job, but instead embraced the suffering of Job by undertaking the traditional practices of mourning. They tore their clothes, spread ashes on themselves, and prayed to God in heaven. Their emotional response was an indication that Job’s suffering caused them to grieve too. They weren’t indifferent to Job’s pain. While they could not physically identify with Job’s pain and could not understand the extent of his suffering, nor the cause, they wept with Job, being broken by Job’s brokenness.
Lastly, the Bible says that the comfort Job’s friends offered at first was simple, but profound. Not knowing what to say, they didn’t seek to be heroes to offer the words to change Job’s life. They didn’t immediately offer advice. They didn’t immediately interject their thoughts or opinions about what Job was going through. The Bible testifies that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar just sat with Job. They traveled the distance that they did to just sit quietly with Job for a week. The scriptures are specific to state that they didn’t speak a word to Job seeing that his suffering was so great. Job’s friends didn’t show up and display arrogance by speaking things they thought would change everything, telling Job that everything was going to be okay. Clearly Job’s circumstances were confusing to all of them. They didn’t know what was happening or why. The men just knew that Job’s issues were terrible and they didn’t have words for him. They didn’t need to have words for Job. The Bible suggests that Job just needed people to be around him for quiet encouragement. The words that were spoken to Job were from his wife, telling Job to curse God and die. It was likely a relief to have three men offer company out of compassion and just quietly encourage the distress with their silent presence where compassion could be felt, not necessarily heard. This is what it is to bear one another’s burdens. This is the heart condition that resembles that of Jesus. Though these friends didn’t physically or verbally offer anything to Job, their compassion was sufficient to provoke Job to speak later, going through the steps he needed to go through to deal with his pain.
The grace of God is a big deal. Many people consider the favor that God provides as something that we as people are entitled to. Often times we as people can become so accustomed to God’s favor that we take simple things for granted. For example, the Bible teaches that the very breath we take and the means by which our heart beats is by God’s own ability. He gives us life daily. The scriptures also teach that this is the day that the Lord has made. In other words, each day belongs to the Lord. They are His that He gives for His purposes. Any day that we are able to live, we get such a privilege to go about our business because God permits it. Then, when you consider all that God provides within the scope of a single day – food, clothing, shelter, employment, family, friends, and opportunity – it is important to remember that it all comes from God! The Apostle Paul simply wrote:
“For who makes you differ [from another]? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive [it], why do you boast as if you had not received [it]?”
The point is, whether we believe or don’t believe in God and His Word, everything belongs to God because He is the means by which all things happen. Everything we receive is God’s and we are merely stewarding His possessions. He can give according to His pleasure. He can take away according to His purposes. If God gives, it is by His grace since no one can please God by their own ability. We get life, not because we deserve it, but because God is gracious. We possess that which we have in our lives, not because we’ve earned it, but because God is good that way. Therefore, should God elect to take certain things away – even life itself – God is right to do so since that which He gave to begin with was contrary to that which we actually deserved. Our sinful nature proves that we deserve God’s judgment so that our possession of any good thing from God is reflective of God showing us favor well beyond what we have earned.
This is an important principle to consider, especially when undergoing trials. When life gets hard, there can be a tendency to despise our circumstances, and sometimes criticize God. The Bible teaches that this is an inappropriate response. The scriptures also show that this sort of response is the way that the devil wants people to respond. When we complain about the difficulties of life to the point where we disagree with God’s work and purposes, the devil is proud. We should never respond in ways that are offensive to God and exciting to the devil. When life gets hard, it is critical that we remember who God is, the extent of favor that He’s given us so far (especially in salvation), and how our physical circumstances have no effect on our relationship with God Himself. These are the things that give us hope and endurance through the trials of life.
This principle is explained through the testimony of Job. In Job 2:1-10 the Bible shows that God enabled Satan to levy a second attack against Job. This can be unsettling to people. It can be unnerving to see that God not only suggested Job as Satan’s target the first time, but then offered Job up to Satan a second time. Here, it is important to remember God’s original purpose. God was using Job as His instrument of righteousness to prove several things about Himself. God was seeking to use Job to show His superiority against Satan. God was seeking to use Job to show His sovereign control over darkness. God was using Job to show His transcendence over life’s difficulties. God was using Job to show His restorative and redemptive power. God was using Job to show His faithfulness to provide grace in spite of weakness. God was showing that He is God and there is no other, and that those who believe upon Him will receive the benefits of His goodness, no matter what!
The testimony of Job 2:1-10 explains that the angels and demons of heaven were again reporting to God. We see that God’s control over the spiritual matters that affect the physical world is continuous. There is never a moment where God is not engaged and aware. There is never an instance where God loses control. When the devil approached God, the scriptures again state that the devil responded to God in shame. He confessed that he was simply “walking back and forth” on the earth. The language here suggests that the devil was walking aimlessly in discontentment. His efforts to find satisfaction through his objective to rebel against God provided no success or joy. This shows that those who seek to live contrary to God have no hope. There is no success. There is no satisfaction for those who seek to go their own way. They are like the devil, aimlessly wandering about with no fulfillment and purpose. Seeing this, the Lord sought to make a further example of the devil and offered Job up to the devil again.
When God offered Job up to the devil the second time, it is important to recognize how God referred to Job. It is important to notice that God described Job in the exact same manner as He did the first time. Again, God referred to Job as blameless and upright. Again, God explained to the devil that Job was a man that feared God and shunned evil. Again, God reminded the devil that there was not another man like Job in the world. This means that, though the devil threw everything he had at Job the first time (under the parameters that God gave), the devil’s attack had no effect on Job’s spiritual well-being. Though the devil absolutely obliterated Job’s riches and family, Job’s spiritual integrity remained intact. It didn’t matter to God whether Job was rich or poor. It didn’t matter to God whether Job had a large family or none. The Bible teaches throughout the scriptures that, “the just shall live by faith.” In other words, Job’s physical circumstances played no role in whether he was accepted by God or not. God would accept Job based on the faith Job possessed. Job’s possession of faith was dependent on God’s provision of faith. Thus, no matter how violent or destructive the attack of the enemy seemed, it was not effective to sway God from providing Job salvation in an eternal sense. This is what matters most to God!
When God described Job to Satan again, He was sure to remind the devil that his attacks had no effect. God was sure to explain that Job “still held fast to his integrity.” In other words, the devil figured that he could get Job to curse God and depart from the Lord. The Lord proved that there isn’t anything the devil can do to cause God to give up those who are called to be His. Though the devil accused Job of being weak in faith, God held tight to Job. Though the devil tried to destroy Job by destroying his family and wealth, God held tight to Job. Job was still God’s possession and instrument of righteousness. God’s power and faithfulness to His people is so great, that not even such an attack from the devil himself is able to sway God, weaken His grip on His people, and turn the hearts of God’s people into condemnation. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The testimony of Job 2:1-10 provides historical documentation that Paul was absolutely right!
Still, the devil was not satisfied. He proposed to God that Job would relent in his faith and curse God if God were to allow him to cause physical harm to Job. Satan argued that if Job’s health were afflicted, he would do anything to have full health, including curse God. The Lord was confident in His provision of enduring faith and so He let the devil take another shot. Once again, God was not seeking to cause harm to Job just for the sake of it. God was not using Job as a pawn piece in a chess game against the devil. God was using Job as an instrument of righteousness to prove His faithfulness to His people is sufficient to preserve the spiritual integrity of those called to be His. God’s aim was to prove that His eternally superior power transcends our physical circumstances. God was seeking to teach that our physical circumstances do not affect His consideration of us. God is not concerned with our wealth, our family condition, or our physical well-being when it comes to making the determination of who inherits eternal life and His kingdom. None of that stuff impresses God. Thus, whether we abound in these areas or are abased in these areas, God is not captivated. Whether we live in a pitiful condition or an envious position, God is not impressed. Our approval with God is based on how we deal with our sinful nature. Will we confess our sin, acknowledge God’s greatness and glory, repent, and trust in His provision for righteousness? Job was rich and had an envious position in life before and was considered blameless by God. When Job was poor, destitute, and ill, He was STILL considered blameless by God. The devil’s manipulation of physical circumstances had no effect on those God called to be His from before the foundations of the world.
Satan took his best shot. He covered Job with boils from head to toe so that Job had to spend his time scraping the goo from his body. The devil even worked through those close to Job to instigate complaints, negativity, and bitterness. Job’s wife took sharp jabs at Job, pointing out his physical condition. She tried to make it seem as if Job had lost favor with God and that he should just curse God and die. Notice that the devil will often influence those closest to us to stray in our faith. It is often those who are closest to us, who know us best, that know how to push our buttons, and get the worse out of us. The faithful grace of God enabled Job to persevere. His response to his wife, and even to the devil himself was profound. Job replied, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
It is easy for people to receive things from God that we consider “good.” Yet, if God is good by nature, isn’t everything that comes from Him good too? If we really believe that “all things” work together for good, is it right to despise the adversity He administrates? Clearly Job was not being punished for a particular act or sinful attitude. Clearly Job had not lost favor with God. The Lord enabled the devil to produce adversity in Job’s life to accentuate the true goodness of God – His gracious faithfulness. Jesus once said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” This is how God thinks. He is eternal in nature. He is spiritual in nature. He sees the depravity of mankind and knows that we cannot please Him by our own merits. He knows that our nature disqualifies us from being with Him. Thus, God took the form of flesh to deal with the issues to keep us separated from Him because He desires to be one with those called to be His. Job was one of those people called to be one with God. It was painful for Job to live in the manner that he did, but it was a minor issue for God since God was able to preserve the spiritual integrity of Job unto eternal life.
Job knew God and so he understood these things about God. Job continued to profess the goodness and grace of God because he understood that the good things he had before were on account of God’s grace. Job didn’t earn favor from God to have wealth and a large family. God is holy and righteous. We can’t please God by the efforts of our own hands. Job knew that his position in life prior to Satan’s attacks was undeserved, so why should he spite God because of the loss of stuff? Job knew the circumstances of his life were never his to possess as his own. If God decided to take back that which was His, why should Job contend with God? Job knew the sovereignty of God, the transcendence of God, the eternal nature of God, the spiritual nature of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, and the goodness and glory of God. It was this understanding of God that enabled Job to persevere through his trials in a way that glorified the God who would soon bless Him again.
No matter what people know of God or think of Him, He is who He is. Our opinions or understanding of God doesn’t affect who God is and His purposes in any sort of way. Just because people don’t like how God works or believe He’s real doesn’t mean that God ceases to be the One True Living God who created the heavens and the earth. God is not like a fairy that requires the faith of people in order to exist. Like God told Moses when Moses asked what God should be called – “I AM that I AM.” In other words, God is who He is regardless of what He’s called or how He is treated. God is the unchanging eternally self-existing and self-sustaining Lord God Almighty whose mercy endures forever as the supremely righteous Judge. As a result, God is blessed and holy and glorious no matter what happens to His people. The suffering and difficulties of God’s people doesn’t indicate in any way that God is weak, negligent, or indifferent. Therefore, it is important for God’s people to recognize that when our circumstances change, God’s character and nature doesn’t. He still is who He was, and always will be.
Our responses towards the ups and downs of life should reflect this understanding and trust in God. The changes in our lives don’t mean God has changed one way or another. The changes in our lives, for the better or the worse, simply mean that God is still working with us to produce the same result He was working towards before things changed. He’s simply working in a different way to prove the same points and teach the same things of Himself that’s He’s revealed since the beginning. This sort of response is revered in the testimony of Job. In Job 1:13-22 the Bible documents the first major assault that the devil waged against Job. As soon as the devil gained permission and parameters to attack Job, he maximized his opportunity and went right to work. This goes to show that the devil is opportunistic in his approach. Given the chance, he will take advantage of the full extent of permissions that God grants. He will attack without mercy and will seek to destroy his targets without restraint. This is why the people of God must trust in God for protection, provision, and wisdom. Against someone like the devil, we have no chance!
The scriptures reveal a startling truth about the attacks of the devil. He doesn’t play fair. Since God prohibited Satan from harming Job directly, Satan attacked everything around Job. However, it is the manner in which Satan attacked that makes things scary. The Bible explains that Satan attacked that which Job highly valued in life – that which defined his riches and circumstantial blessings. In the days of Job, people were considered rich based on the sizes of their families and their flocks. The larger the families – especially of boys – the more help a person had in their agricultural endeavors. Since precious metals were not yet a major form of currency, great agricultural increase and the possession of helpful tools to produce such, were considered highly valuable. Job had both. The Lord had given Job seven sons and three daughters. Job had a lot of help to manage the abundance of cattle that he possessed as well. Job was considered blessed and rich because of his possession of these things. These were the things Satan immediately attacked. Satan sought to strip that which the world normally trusts in. Satan wanted to make Job poor and did so in a manner that made it look like it was God’s fault.
The testimony of Job 1:13-22 explains that the devil levied his attack all in one day, in the time span of just a few hours. First, a servant hurried to Job to inform Job that his oxen had been raided, stolen, and the servants in charge of them were killed. While that servant was explaining the situation, another servant came to inform Job that the “fire of God” came “down from heaven” and destroyed all of Job’s sheep and the servants who keep watch over them. While that servant was explaining the situation, another servant came in and explained that the Chaldeans raided Job’s camels and took them and slaughtered all of the servants that were supposed to watch over them. Then finally, while that third servant was speaking, a fourth came in to explain that all of Job’s kids were gathered together in the home of his oldest son when a great wind came and knocked the house down, killing all of his children at once. In the timespan of a few moments, Job had lost “everything.” That which made him great and rich in this life was suddenly gone.
Here, it is important to recognize how the devil did his work. Notice that there were two primary things that the devil did. First, the devil showed that he has influence over evil and violent men. The devil stirred up the Sabeans and Chaldeans to attack Job though they were not provoked by Job. The Sabeans and Chaldeans were traditionally aggressive people, showing that the devil is able to easily sway those who already live in the destructive manner that the devil loves. Those who live by the sword for joy only need a place to swing it. The devil simply pointed to Job as a place to swing the swords as evil men already intended. The devil will use people who are accustomed to darkness, evil, corruption, and destruction to do his bidding, seeing that they are already well accustomed to his work. This is part of the reason that the Lord commands His people to flee from darkness and be ignorant of things that are wicked and corrupt as sin, lest we become damaging tools of the devil too.
Next, the scriptures show that the devil had charge over the natural elements of the world. The devil destroyed sheep and Job’s children with “fire from heaven” and “a great wind.” The Apostle Paul wrote that the devil can disguise himself as “an angel of light.” In this case, the devil was able to exercise power from the spiritual plane of reality to make himself look like THE Angel of the LORD, the LIGHT of the world, God Himself. When the servant informed Job of the way that his sheep were killed, he described the fire as “the fire of God.” However the devil was able to manifest fire made an eyewitness believe that God was the author. God was not the author of this destruction but the servant of Job believed that was the case. Likewise, the servant that informed Job of the death of Job’s children explained that the house fell by “a great wind.” The scriptures explain that the winds respond to the commands of God, yet the devil was able to make it seem like God was using the wind to target Job and destroy him.
It is clear to see that the devil wanted to make God look like the bad guy – and God let him. The devil wanted his own destructive work to look like God was judging Job so as to cause Job to grow bitter and resent God. The devil wanted Job to curse God and so he not only took away that which the world defined as “riches,” but did so in a manner that made it seem as if God was stripping these things away for no reason. The devil is called the father of lies, and the testimony of his work in Job 1:13-22 shows that his lies are EXCEPTIONALLY sophisticated! Often times, the enemy will make their work of destruction look like God so that God gets the blame, people turn bitter towards Him, deny Him, rebel against Him, and ultimately curse Him. The testimony of Job shows that God allowed and even enabled Satan to attack Job this way. This is because God was proving just how weak and pitiful the devil is against those who are called to be God’s children.
The Bible testifies that upon learning of this great loss, Job was immediately affected emotionally as one might imagine. However, he was not spiritually swayed. Though he fell to the ground and tore his robe in an expression of intense grief, he actually praised God! The Bible testifies that Job said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord Gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The devil tried to get Job to curse God, but instead Job confessed God’s sovereignty and goodness. The devil tried to get Job to despise God, but instead Job acknowledged the immutable goodness of God. Job simply confessed the truth. Though there was a time where Job had riches in this life, he did not come into the world with those riches. Job recognized that, at some point, God was determined to increase him, and since that increase and the amount of it was previously determined by God according to grace, Job could not contend with God’s decision to take that increase away. The increase was God’s to begin with as evidenced by the way Job came into the world. How then can we be mad when God takes back that which was always His? How can we lose something that was never ours to begin with? The Apostle Paul taught that there is nothing we have that didn’t come from God. It’s all His! If God decides that He doesn’t want us to have it anymore, who are we to contend with God and criticize how He administrates His own possessions? The scriptures teach that we are mere stewards of that which belongs to the Lord. When our stewardship of a possession or a person comes to an end, it is because the Master of the universe has decided so.
Still, God is not just supremely powerful and in charge of all things. He is also supremely good and right. Thus, when God gives OR takes away, it is still good and right. Job understood this truth, which is why he finished his praise by acknowledging that the Lord is blessed. The Lord is blessed whether we are rich or poor. The Lord is blessed whether we experience increase or decrease. The Lord is blessed whether the devil attacks or we are preserved from that attack. The Lord is blessed no matter how things look to us. Though Job had experienced significant incomparable loss, he knew that his loss did not change who God was. It is Job’s proclamation about God and his praise of God that proves why God allowed these things to happen. Satan wanted Job to curse God, accusing Job’s faith of being weak and brittle and God’s power over the heart of Job to be weak. He was wrong. Job didn’t sin against God or curse Him in his heart. Job didn’t despise God because of his loss. Job didn’t sway from trusting in God just because he didn’t like how things were going. The devil was wrong, and God was proved right, and it was Job’s unwavering faith in this regard that allowed him to receive the benefits of God’s goodness later in his life in a different way.
One of the number one questions that people have about God is this: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? The Bible actually presents some questions of its own:
“Also Your righteousness, O God, [is] very high, You who have done great things; O God, who [is] like You? – Psalm 71:19
“O LORD God of hosts, who [is] mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. – Psalm 89:8
“Who [is] like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high?” – Psalm 113:5
The scriptures ask these rhetorical questions, and many others like them to explain a fundamentally critical point about God. There is no one like Him! Since God is holy, righteous, and supreme in control and power, no one can match or contend with Him. Since God is the source and standard of goodness and blessing, no one can do good or be blessed apart from Him. Therefore, who is “good” that they should be disqualified from “bad” things?
The next question that must be asked is this: Does God simply let “bad” things happen to people, or is He actually the cause of those “bad” things?
Once again, the scriptures candidly address these sorts of issues, and since human beings are severely limited in wisdom, knowledge, and perspective, we must rely on God’s wisdom, knowledge and perspective through the truthful revelation of His Word to know how to address these weighty issues. According to the Bible, God works “all things” together for “good” for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. This would include events like persecution, trials, and even death. Human perspective makes these sorts of things seem bad because they cause pain, but are we qualified to make that sort of assessment? It is true that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was painful, but can it be called “bad” if the results of Jesus’ death produced forgiveness of sins and eternal life according to Jesus’ resurrection?
The Book of James teaches that God does not tempt people, nor is He tempted to do evil. In other words, God is supreme in His control of all things and is the cause of all things, but we are unqualified to know what is truly “good” or “bad” unless we look through the filter of scripture from God’s perspective. The work that God does will produce difficulty and suffering for both believers and non-believers alike, but His work is never intended to bait people into sin and evil. Thus, God calls for His people to refrain from jumping to conclusions and making definitive judgments about circumstances so as to ensure we don’t assume one thing while God is working towards something else from a different plane of reality.
These concepts are critical to understand when dealing with portions of scripture such as the testimony of Job 1:6-12. This portion of scripture has presented a number of issues and questions for people because it shows that God sent Satan to torment Job. This makes people very uneasy. This sort of testimony makes God’s identity as LOVE seem hypocritical. Why would God send the devil to inflict pain in the life of one of His own servants? In order to deal with this testimony according to the manner in which God intended, it is important to remember who God is and what He’s all about.
The testimony of Job 1:6-12 begins by stating that “the sons of God” presented themselves to the Lord God in heaven, and Satan was among them. This is a critical detail to understand. First, notice that there are both angels and demons in “heaven.” This shows that the “heaven” being referred to here deals with a spiritual plane of reality where a number of things are going on. The Bible shows that “heaven” is not simply a place where good people hang out leisurely for eternity. Heaven is an eternal plane of reality where God’s work originates from. That which God administrates in “the heavens” effects all of the workings and circumstantial events in the universe as we know it. Secondly, it is important to notice that, while there are angels and demons in the same plane of reality, they all report to God! He is in charge. He is the God Most High. His sovereignty refers to His supreme control of all things, whether in earth or in heaven. While the devil and his demons do oppose God, it is only based on the quality and extent of opposition that God permits.
Understanding this dynamic shows that God is the ultimate source of all things. He is not just the King of kings and Lord of lords in heaven and earth, but He is the means by which all things live – including those things that oppose Him. So, the obvious question is, why does God allow those who oppose Him to live? Why does God let demons live if they’re so prone to rebel against God? Before accusing God of His purposes, it is important to remember that no one is righteous, no, not one. Recall that Jesus called the Jewish religious leaders, children of the devil simply because they were self-righteous. If we don’t agree with God that He permits demons to live for a certain time, then we’d have to consider what our own result would be then if God were swift in His right to judge and destroy! This issue is more complicated than it first seems. Again, to understand as best we can, we need to digest the full counsel of wisdom that God provides.
When the Lord called to the devil, the Bible says that he was “going to and fro on the earth, walking back and forth on it.” Recall that the scriptures compare the devil to a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The devil is proactive in his pursuit, but also strategic. Notice that he was not roaming without purpose. Jesus said that the devil seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. Thus, his roaming about the earth is to find targets that he can bring to ruin. The movement of the devil shows that he is not omnipresent like God. While many people think that the devil is the cause of all evil in the world, this is only partially true. The devil was the catalyst of the first manifestation of sin in the world, but he cannot be everywhere at once to cause all sin. Satan may have started the machine that causes sin, but humanity has kept the machine that produces sin running smoothly all on our own. Satan has helped in some ways, but remember that he was still reporting to God. While Satan roams the world, his roaming is governed by the same God who created him. He can’t go where God doesn’t permit. He can’t do what God doesn’t approve.
As Satan reported to God, the devil expressed a certain amount of frustration. While he is able to steal, kill, and destroy, the devil’s response to God shows that he is discontented with his effectiveness so that God actually provides a suggestion to him. God offers up His servant Job. The Lord explains that there was no one like Job. Job was an exceptional man because God created him that way. Recall that Job was first called a blameless and upright man that feared God. The Bible teaches that Job’s character is a result of the faith that God produced within him. Job’s faith was a bi-product of the fear he had for the Lord because of the revelation God graciously provided to Job. In other words, Job’s character and position was all because God made things that way according to His supreme control. The Bible shows that the devil even confessed this truth. When God offered up Job to Satan, the devil responded with an objection. The devil stated that the only reason Job was blameless and upright was because of the way that God blessed him. Even the devil understood that the character of God’s people is based on the work of God Himself. Satan understands God’s sovereignty. Satan understands that God is the Provider. Satan understands God’s providential control. Satan also understands that He cannot contend with the good things that God does for His people and through His people.
God’s response to Satan can be startling. God commanded Satan to go and attack Job. Satan made the accusation against Job that, if God were to relent in the circumstantial blessings that He had provided, Job would be quick to curse God to His face. In other words, Satan claimed that the only reason Job seemed like an exceptional believer was because God made it easy for him. Satan felt that if life got hard for Job, his flesh would cause the soul of Job to despise God. Here, it is important to recognize the chief objective of Satan. Understanding Satan’s primary goal is helpful to understanding why God lets the devil do what he does. Satan only had one goal: To cause Job to curse God and despise Him. However, Satan’s objective to do so wasn’t necessarily aimed at Job. Satan’s attack on Job was centered at God. Satan wanted to prove God wrong by proving His blessings to be weak. Satan believes that God’s strength is not so great that He can keep the weak faithful. Thus, God’s allowance of Satan to torment Job was directed at proving Satan wrong.
The is foundational to many issues in life. Notice that, though God agreed that Job was an exceptional faithful man, He commanded Satan to attack, giving him permission to destroy all of Job’s circumstantial relationships. Satan was only restricted from laying hands on Job himself. God gave Satan permission to affect all of the other circumstances that God had caused to be good. Job was not at fault. God’s allowance to Satan was not reflective of any particular wrongdoing of Job. God was simply exercising His eternally supreme control to prove that He is right and worthy of glory, praise, and worship. The devil felt that Job’s faith was weak and based on circumstantial things God was doing in favor of Job. God was going to prove that wrong, allowing the devil to change all of the circumstances of Job, but using His supreme control, power, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and love to show that His people will remain His, no matter what.
Job’s life would change dramatically so that he would experience dramatic suffering caused by the devil himself, by the command of God. God was the cause. Yet, can Job’s circumstances be considered “bad.” They might be painful, but since God had good intentions in the conclusion of His work, the suffering of Job must be defined as “good.” God will prove that, no matter how much pain Satan inflicts, he cannot sway God’s people to curse Him unto condemnation, proving that it is impossible to strip God’s children from His hand. God will prove that His people are His always, no matter how painful things might seem. God will prove that He never leaves, nor forsakes His people though life is painful. God will prove that all suffering has purpose. God will prove that Job’s suffering proved Him to be right, true, and glorious. God will prove that the suffering of His people isn’t in vain, and that He is able to restore and bless again at any time He wants – even above and beyond what we might imagine. God will prove that He is truly good. His use of the devil as seen in the testimony of Job 1:6-12 simply shows the extent of God’s goodness. Who else but God can produce such a good and glorious effect using a tool as corrupt as the devil himself? Who but God produce light from darkness, joy from pain, glory from corruption, and life from death? Truly there is no one like God!
Job would not have learned these truths about God living a life of pure simplicity. Likewise, we would not have the benefit of learning these things of God if not for the testimony of Job that we can read today. There are some things about who God is that require pain and suffering to understand. This is just the way things are, and we are called to trust in the supreme control and goodness of God when He decides that He wants to cause pain in our lives. The testimony of Job and God’s dealing with Satan teaches that, no matter the extent of difficulty, God’s faithfulness to His people and His ability to restore and bless is never compromised. His promises of blessing and reward are NEVER affected by the pain that the devil and sin cause because God is supremely in charge of it all.
The Book of Job is an exceptionally difficult book to understand. This book provides a historical account of a man’s intense and extreme suffering, but shows that God’s sovereign hand is the cause of it. Many people look to this book to find comfort in a time of suffering. Many people look to this book to try and understand why God allows pain and suffering. The truth is, this is not God’s ultimate purpose for this book. This is not to say that the Book of Job doesn’t offer comfort and answers, but God’s purpose for any portion of scripture is to teach us who He is. One of the common misconceptions is that sometimes bad things happen to “good people.” The point of the Bible is that there is no such thing as a “good person.” The Book of Job explains that there are people who have faith, and there are those who don’t. That is how God sees things. The Bible shows that no one is good. In that case, everyone is qualified to have something bad happen, and God is fair to cause those things to take place according to His sovereign control. The miracle is that anything good happens to anyone at all, seeing that all people are bad in the eyes of God.
These are truths that are taught throughout the Bible can cannot be dismissed when reading the Book of Job. The focus of Job is not the extent of suffering that Job experienced. The focus of Job is not about the way he was treated by his friends when he was suffering. The focus of Job is not that he was a victim and was deserving of restoration. The testimony of Job must fit within the context of the Bible’s universal message. Thus, the Book of Job shows how God treats all people the same way, but those who have faith in the Lord respond differently according to their knowledge of God and relationship with Him. In other words, everyone suffers in life, and because we all fall short of the glory of God, we deserve it. Still, those who have faith respond to the struggles in life in a way that glorifies God: confessing His sovereignty, submitting to His purposes in spite of the difficulty, and trusting that God will somehow produce good from our lives so that we don’t sway in our affection towards Him.
The testimony of Job shows that he was a man of faith. Thus, knowing that Job suffered greatly, the Bible is clear to teach that God’s people are not exempt from difficulty. Seeing later that God highly commends the faith and attitude of Job, it is clear to see that the quality of faith we have does not promise the absence of difficulty. In fact, the argument could be made that the greater the faith, the greater the trials. This teaches that life’s difficulties are not always caused by the consequences of specific sins. Our wicked conduct will produce difficulty by nature, but not all difficulty is caused by specific wicked conduct. The depravity of the soul and the attitudes that sin causes in our hearts is the cause of all difficulty, because depravity validates that God is right and we are wrong. It shows that we deserve what we get even though we might not have done something specifically wrong at that time. This was true of Job.
Knowing this, it is important to study the evidence of Job’s faith and the quality of it. In Job 1:1-5 the Bible gives a brief background about Job and his family. First, the scriptures testify that Job was a “blameless and upright” man. These words can be tricky to deal with. In the KJV of the Bible, the scriptures state that Job was “perfect and upright.” This phrasing doesn’t suggest that Job was “perfect” in the literal sense. In fact, this book is sufficient to point out the fact that, in spite of the favor God gave to Job, he truly had many flaws. The original word for “blameless” or “perfect” deals with completeness. The Bible is trying to describe that Job was a man that was sound and whole. This same word is used in Psalm 37:37 to teach that such a person’s life results in “peace,” referring to circumstances that parallel salvation. This helps explain that Job’s blamelessness and perfection referred to his faith. He was “whole” in the sense that he believed in God and who He is. Job was complete in that his life had purpose that was directed by the faith he had in God. The KJV of the Bible uses the word “perfect” to explain that Job was perfect in the eyes of God since the results of saving faith produce the peace of God and ultimately oneness with God in His eternal kingdom.
The term that describes Job’s “uprightness” speaks to a similar idea. The original Hebrew language often uses this word in the phrase, “right in the sight of the LORD.” It is often used to describe those who kept and followed the commands of God according to the Law of Moses. It is often used to describe those whose lives were lived according to the faith they had in God – the work of faith. This shows that Job’s life was centered on doing things that were right in God’s eyes. Job didn’t try to make up his own standards of living. Though the testimony of Job likely takes place before God gave the Law to Moses, Job sought the Lord by faith, doing things that were pleasing to God based on his personal relationship with him. This doesn’t suggest that Job made up his own worship system. This doesn’t suggest that Job made up his own standards of righteousness. In fact, the description of Job as “upright” shows that the faith Job possessed was not manufactured from within Job. Job’s faith was produced by God and given to Job so that his faith produced specific results that pleased God. So, when trying to examine the quality of faith that Job had, it is important to remember this truth. Job was upright, not because he naturally knew what was right by his own thinking, but because God showed him what righteousness was based on the faith God gave to Job according to His sovereign will.
The Bible states that Job was a man that feared God and shunned evil. These details add substance to the description of Job as “upright.” Job was upright because he did what was pleasing in God’s eyes. Job knew what was pleasing to God because of the faith he received from God. The faith that Job had in God produced fear of God, and scripture teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Since Job feared God’s identity and the consequences of offending such a powerful King, he submitted himself to the standards that God taught him were right. God revealed Himself, and by extension, His goodness and righteousness through the faith He gave to Job. That revelation gave Job the understanding of who God is, as well as what is truly right and wrong. In fear of offending the God Most High, Job abstained from that which was contrary to God and did what God revealed of Himself as good.
The scriptures go on to show how Job lived according to the fear of the Lord. Job 1:1-5 explains that Job had a large family and a considerable farm. He was rich in every sense because of the blessings he received with seven sons and three daughters, as well as the abundance of cattle. This subtle detail is helpful to date the testimony of Job. Living in the region of Ur (northern Arabia in the region of Edom), Job’s riches were measured by his possession of cattle, not precious metals like gold or silver. This economic valuing system is consistent with the valuing system at the time of Abraham. For this reason, many conservative scholars place the time of this book somewhere around the time of Genesis Chapters 11-12. The Bible explains that Job’s family was large and close. His children would often gather together for dinner and celebrate feast days. Also, the Bible states that sometimes those feast days would get out of hand causing his sons to be drunk. When this happened, Job would perform the duties of a priest. It was also common for the patriarch or father to act in this role during the time of Abraham. The scriptures plainly state that Job would sanctify his children by rising early in the morning and sacrificing burnt offerings on behalf of his children.
It is important to consider a few details here. First, if the testimony of Job took place before the time of Moses, it is clear to see that Job was practicing the righteous commands of the Law before God gave them to Moses on stone tablets. Job understood the concept of sanctification. Job understood the importance and spiritual value of blood sacrifice. The Bible specifically states that Job offered sacrifices on account of how the conduct of his sons was reflective of them cursing God in their hearts. Job understood the nature of sin was internal in the heart. Job understood that blood sacrifice appeased God, and was willing to perform the role of an intercessor (priest) to cleanse the hearts of his sons. These matters would later be described as the righteous works of faith in the sacrificial system in the Law. These matters would later be spiritually fulfilled by Jesus – the Great High Priest who was also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thus, the Bible shows the quality of wisdom that fearing the Lord produces when God’s people receive the faith that He provides.
Notice that Job is described as blameless/perfect, and upright in the eyes of God because of faith, but that his faith was primarily expressed in the ministry conducted towards his family. Job served the spiritual needs of his family before all other things. He recognized the flaws of the souls of his kids and addressed those things spiritually. He knew the holiness of God and knew the conduct of his family was imperfect and an offense to God. He put forth extra effort, as the focus and start of his day, to intercede on behalf of his family, seeking the Lord’s mercy. Job’s faith in God caused him to pursue God, not just for his own well-being, but also for the spiritual well-being of those around him. The faith that God gave to Job was made evident in the work that Job did to seek the spiritual health of his family above all other things. In conclusion, the reason that Job is described as “blameless and upright” is because his life paralleled the life of Jesus Christ Himself! Even before the proclamation of the Law, Job had faith in God that provoked conduct that matched the character of Jesus. Job wasn’t discontent to see the ministry of his family as too small or plain. He poured into the people that God put around him and was committed to ensuring their spiritual well-being. Based on the events that would take place shortly in Job’s life, his conduct proved to be wise and critical! Still, even those who live in such a manner can expect opposition and difficulty. Though Job had moments where his life was parallel to Jesus, his testimony will show that he was also a human being, prone to sin against God like anyone else, so that the “goodness” of Job was merely a reflection of God’s own goodness through him. Though faithful, Job was still a man. Praise God that faith is sufficient to please Him, enabling God’s mercy to forgive our nature that is contrary to Him!
When the Lord provides blessings, the Bible teaches that He has specific intentions in mind. God wants us to find joy and peace in the blessings He gives, but that joy and peace only comes when God’s blessing is used according to purpose. For example, if God were to provide a spouse as a “blessing,” the marriage relationship will only provide joy and peace if it is managed according to God’s purposes for a marriage relationship. Will the husband love his wife as Christ loved the church? Will the wife submit to her husband as the church is supposed to submit to Christ? If possible, are the husband and wife seeking to fulfill their duty to be fruitful and multiply by raising up godly children in some way? If a person receives a job promotion as a “blessing,” that promotion will only bring joy and peace if it is used according to God’s purposes. Does that person allow the job to become an idol, or do they serve in their job as unto the Lord? Is the influence that comes with the promotion used in some way to make disciples of all nations for the sake of the Gospel? Is the increase in pay tithed properly and honestly and given over to God’s purposes?
The reason that God provides increase and blessing is so that He can be glorified when His blessings and increase are used according to His purposes. When God’s resources and influence is used for His purpose, everyone wins. Though it may seem like a loss to take that which God gives and reapply it back to His purposes, the scriptures show the contrary. This is why the Bible teaches that it is better to give than to receive. God provides more substantial and meaningful satisfaction and joy when we do things the ways that He says. There is something about fulfilling our purpose in Him that makes us feel full and useful with a quality of joy that is often unexplainable. Perhaps more importantly, those who receive the benefits of our service are also blessed so that God’s blessing is not singular, but multiplied throughout, causing a rippling effect of joy in which God receives the glory and praise since He is the only One that can provide these kinds of results.
An example of this principle is documented in the testimony of Mordecai. In Esther 10:1-3 the Bible summarizes Mordecai’s service as the second-in-command to King Ahasuerus. The testimony begins by providing a detail about King Ahasuerus, intended to describe the extent of his influence and power as the ruler of the Medo-Persian empire. The Bible simply states that Ahasuerus imposed tributes on all his land and islands. This tribute is in addition to the other taxes he would have applied on his provinces. The scriptures are not specific to describe what this additional tribute was for, and doesn’t say whether it was just or unjust. The point of this detail is to show the extent of power and control that the king had. He, for whatever reason, imposed an additional tribute upon all of his people, because he had the authority to do so. The scriptures reference that this tribute went out through the land and islands, showing that the king’s reach of authority was not limited to the boarders around him defined by water. He was able to extend his reach and power past the bodies of water and impose his will upon those who were far distant from his capitol city.
It is important to recognize why this subtle detail is provided in scripture. This detail emphasizes the supreme power that Ahasuerus had over many people – likely millions of people. He was king of the most powerful empire during his time. In the eyes of many people, Ahasuerus was the king of the known world. Still, the entire testimony of Esther proves that God was in charge of him. He who governed over millions of people to impose his will was ultimately governed and controlled by God. The purposes of Ahasuerus were directed by God’s hand according to God’s own permission and providential care. Though Ahasuerus was in control of many people, God was in control of Ahasuerus. God’s sovereignty was proven true by the rapid ascension of Mordecai and Esther. Esther was merely an orphaned Jewish girl living in a foreign land because her people had been exiled from their homes. Mordecai was simply a close relative that pitied Esther to take care of her the best that he could under the circumstances. Yet, somehow, some way, Esther was able to become the queen of the Medo-Persian empire and Mordecai became the second in command! God exalted these two unlikely and unqualified people by His sovereign hand in order to execute His purposes to preserve His people. These two unlikely people were the chief tools that God used to save millions of Jews in spite of the power, authority, and influence of Ahasuerus. This is the power of the Lord God Almighty!
However, once Mordecai was made the second in command to the king, he didn’t do what history has shown to be common and typical. Often times, promotion causes people to indulge in self. The increase of wealth and influence can often provoke people to use that wealth and influence to further build up their own life and family circumstances. The testimony of Esther 10:1-3 shows that Mordecai did no such thing. Instead, Mordecai continued to submit to the purposes of God. First, the Bible refers to Mordecai as “Mordecai the Jew.” Though subtle, it is a powerful statement that Mordecai didn’t let his promotion change his identity. He was the second in command of the Medo-Persian empire, yet continued to be referred to by his Jewish heritage. He was not ashamed of his roots. He was not compelled to identify with the empire that made his name great. Mordecai continued to identify himself with the heirs of God’s eternally unconditional promises.
The Bible testifies that Mordecai was great among the people but also well received by them. History shows that great rulers were not often appreciated and embraced by the commoners. Often times, the promotion of one person leads to the jealousy of many others. This was not the case with Mordecai and his fellow Jews. The reason that Mordecai and the Jews continued to have a solid relationship was because Mordecai didn’t use his increase to increase himself. Mordecai used his increase to increase his people. The first declaration Mordecai authored empowered his people to protect themselves against enemies. The second declaration Mordecai authored empowered his people to celebrate the Lord their God and the victories that He provides, even though they were outcast and dwelling in foreign lands. Mordecai continued to leverage his influence and authority to take care of his people. The scriptures are specific to state that Mordecai sought the good of his people, proactively seeking ways for his people to live peacefully in the circumstances that God had them in. Though they were still captive as subjects of God’s discipline, Mordecai did what he could to make the captivity as peaceful and fruitful as possible. The people recognized Mordecai’s selfless efforts and embraced his leadership.
History shows that this doesn’t happen often. It is not often that people of such power, authority, and influence seek to use their ability for the increase of others. It is not often that people of any sort of stature exercise contentment with their own circumstances and use any excess to pour into the needs of others. Yet, the Bible shows that when God’s people do things according to God’s own temperament and with the same motives, the people live in peace. Mordecai didn’t have to sweat his own well-being because of his commitment to focus on others. God took care of him. The people didn’t have to sweat their own issues because the Persians were taking Jewish people away from their people. The people saw God using these things for good purposes that benefited everyone. The Lord is the sole source of goodness, and when His people live in the manner that He expresses His goodness, everyone benefits, regardless of the circumstances.
History shows that life is hard for all people in some way. The scriptures teach that God’s people are not immune to the normal difficulty of life. In fact, the scriptures show that as God’s people, we often suffer more from internal convictions and the separation that our faith causes from the world. However, God’s aim is not to allow suffering for the sake of suffering. God’s aim is not only to teach us about who He is through the course of our suffering, but produce blessings and goodness out of it. Part of the benefits that we receive as God’s children is the assurance of our hope, that is, the confident expectation we have that God will somehow transform our difficulties into reasons to rejoice and celebrate. How do we know God can do such a thing? The resurrection is the most compelling proof. It was horrific for Jesus’ disciples to see Him die, but is was marvelous and glorious to see Him come back to life three days later as He assured them! The resurrection of Jesus Christ isn’t the only time that God made something of disastrous circumstances. The scriptures are FILLED with instances in which God took the morbid and made it magnificent.
One of these instances stems from the Jewish holiday called Purim. Every year, the Jewish people celebrate a two-day celebration called Purim in order to commemorate the events that are documented in the Book of Esther. The testimony of Esther 9:17-32 documents the first ever Purim festival and explains the reasons that the Jews continue to practice this celebration every year. The Bible explains that Mordecai and Esther were exceptionally encouraged by the work that God did to save the children of Israel from the treachery of Haman. Haman was able to convince the king of Persia to authorize and order that called for the extermination of all Jewish people in one hundred twenty-seven provinces in the Medo-Persian empire. Haman selected a day in which the edict was to be executed, and distributed funds to the people in charge of the execution. However, through God’s sovereign control and providential care, He was able to spoil the plans of Haman. God used Esther to reveal the evil intentions of Haman to the king, and the king immediately executed Haman. Haman was not only executed, but was hung on the very gallows that he intended to use for God’s servant, Mordecai.
As a result of Haman’s death, God again exercised His sovereign control and providential care to influence the king to put Mordecai in Haman’s position. Soon enough, Mordecai was the second in command in the Medo-Persian empire, having the authority of the king to address Haman’s previous edict against the Jews. Though Mordecai could have simply reversed Haman’s original edict, he didn’t. Instead, Mordecai empowered his people to fight back. He made it legal for the children of Israel to congregate together and protect themselves and their dwelling places. If there was going to be an attack against the Jews, it wasn’t going to be an execution-style slaughter. There was going to be a fight! The testimony of Esther states that when the day of Haman’s edict arrived, there were indeed many people in the Persian provinces that sought to fulfill Haman’s edict. They were met with fierce opposition so that the Jews and the Persian governing authorities fought back with passion and courage. The fighting lasted for two days throughout the Persian kingdom as well as in the city of the Persian capitol. At the end of it all, over seventy-five thousand people were dead by the hands of the Jews. God had empowered His people to have a tremendous victory, proving that He is faithful and able to preserve His people, no matter the intentions of the enemy.
The testimony of Esther 9:17-32 explains that the Jews rejoiced greatly during these two days on account of the victory that the Lord was providing. Seeing the mighty hand of God caused the people to celebrate by nature. After the fighting was done, Mordecai and Esther figured that such an occasion should be celebrated continually. God’s providential care and exceptional victor was not something that should be forgotten. Mordecai and Esther figured that the Jews needed to continually remember that God will not leave nor forsake His people. Mordecai and Esther figured that the people should continually remember that God is able to take evil intentions and make good use of them. The scriptures specifically state that they recognized God’s ability to provide rest from the enemy by turning reasons for sorrow into reasons for rejoicing. God turned the day of mourning and weeping into a day of celebration to the extent that the Jews were giving gifts to one another! This is who God is and what He is accustomed to doing. He takes that which is terrifying and miserable and transforms it into the very cause for celebration.
When Mordecai and Esther saw the celebrations that were taking place, they wrote a second decree. The first decree gave the Jews legal permission to protect themselves. The second decree enabled the Jews to celebrate the victory the Lord provided out of the first decree. The second decree was the instructions to celebrate the feast day that they called “Purim.” They called the day “Purim” because of the manner in which Haman’s decree came about. When Haman received permission to exterminate the Jews, he selected his day by casting a lot for a particular day. The “lot” that he selected was called the “Pur,” which fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. Mordecai thought it was fitting to name their celebration after the very tool that the enemy used to try and destroy God’s people so that the people would remember that God foiled the enemy’s plans. No matter the extent of planning and preparation the enemy undertook, God made it useless and provided cause for rejoicing out of it anyway.
Therefore, the children of Israel celebrate “Purim” every year at this same time of year to remember the work that God did to save His people. It seemed impossible that God would let the enemy gain strength and influence over His people. It seemed wrong that the enemy was gaining ground to conduct evil against His people. When Haman’s decree first went out, it might have seemed like God had forsaken His people and given them totally over into the hands of the enemy to be remembered no more. However, that’s not what happened! Instead, God strung the enemy along to make it seem as if the enemy was gaining ground, only to rip the enemy of his strength and influence. No matter how much strength and influence it appears the enemy has, God proved that He continues to be the chief administrator of all such things. When God decides the enemy is done, the enemy is done! The name of this Jewish holiday is a reminder that, no matter how much power, influence, planning, and leverage the enemy has over the people of God, He is able to flip the circumstances and use the evil of the enemy as the chief cause to celebrate His sovereign control and providential care according to His faithfulness.
The Bible teaches that God has many names and titles that identify and accentuate certain attributes and characteristics. God is called certain things throughout the Bible in order to emphasize certain qualities that validate God as faithful and able to do that which He says and promises. One of the “names” that God has in the Old Testament is Jehovah Nissi, which translates into “The Lord Our Banner.” God was called this in Exodus 17:15 when God provided a great victory over the Amalekite armies that fought against the children of Israel in the wilderness. Moses called God by this name because of the manner in which God brought the victory. While Joshua and his men fought in the valley against the Amalekites, Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood above the fight, ensuring that the arms of Moses remained raised in the air to God. When Moses’ hands were raised to God, Joshua and his men succeeded in the fight. When Moses’ hands were let down, Joshua and his men lost ground. That “coincidence” was compelling evidence to all of Israel that God was responsible for the victory that Joshua and his men were ultimately able to achieve. They defeated the Amalekites that day because God provided them the ability to do so. Thus, Moses sought to exalt the name of God as a “banner,” identifying the people as God’s people that fight for His sovereign purposes.
Though this is the only time in scripture where God is specifically called by this name, it is not the only time that God revealed Himself as the “banner of victory” for His people. In fact, this isn’t even the only time that God revealed Himself as “Jehovah Nissi” against the Amalekites. The Lord provided a tremendous and miraculous victory for the children of Israel that is still celebrated annually to this day. The roots of this victory and celebration come from the testimony of Esther 9:1-16. This portion of scripture documents the events that took place during the month of Adar after Haman had given his decree to slaughter all of the children of Israel on the thirteenth day of that month. Recall that, while Esther was able to receive favor from the king to do as she pleased concerning Haman’s original decree, her and Mordecai did not issue a new decree to reverse Haman’s original evil work. Instead, Mordecai leveraged the authority of King Ahasuerus to empower the children of Israel to fight back. Mordecai didn’t make it illegal to attack the Jews. Mordecai made it legal for the Jews to band together to fight back against anyone and everyone that would try to attack them according to Haman’s order.
The scriptures explain that many of the people were afraid of the Jews simply because of the rapid ascension of Mordecai. It was amazing to see that this man’s life was being sought one day and was on his way to the gallows, and then the next day was the second most influential and powerful man in the Medo-Persian empire, though he was a Jew! The people recognized that this kind of dramatic swing of events had to be the work of someone greater than a human being. Though God’s name is not specifically mentioned in the context of this testimony, the scriptures clearly imply that many of the people feared God because of the sovereign control He displayed to protect and exalt Mordecai. If this God was able to do such a wonderous thing for Mordecai, what might He be willing to do to protect the rest of the people since they had been given legal permission to protect themselves and fight?
Though many feared the Jews, there were still others that embraced the decree of Haman. The scriptures testify that many of the enemies of Israel sought the opportunity to try and get rid of the Jews. There were many people throughout the provinces of Persia that attacked Jewish homes and communities. However, the Bible states that on that day, the Jews gathered together, banded together, and fought together. The Bible plainly states that, “On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” The wording of this phrase is especially important to consider. When God first called Abraham to be His, He promised Abraham that He would make him and his descendants a great nation, dwelling in a great land inheritance, and would bless the families of the earth through them. As part of that 3-part promise, God said that He would bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, but also curse those who curse and oppose the descendants of Abraham. The testimony of Esther 9:1-16 shows that Israel had many enemies that provoked evil against them. Israel had many people throughout their history that tried to “curse” them. God has ALWAYS remained faithful to His promise, and the testimony of Esther is a powerful example of God cursing those who try to curse His people.
The Lord empowered the Jews to fight and have a tremendous victory over the time span of two days. However, the Bible teaches that the Jews had help from the Lord through the Persians themselves. The testimony of Esther 9:1-16 explains that all of the Persian officials that lived in the Persian provinces fought with the Jews. All of the governors, satraps, and others that worked for the king, banded together with the Jews to protect the lives, homes, and livelihoods of God’s people. They helped the Jews out of fear and respect of Mordecai specifically. Again, they could not fathom how such a man was able to hold such great power and influence and be so close to the king. The circumstances that led up to Mordecai’s ascension was sufficient to show that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of gods. Their treatment and support of Mordecai is parallel to the conduct of those who sought to appease God’s people with the hope of appeasing God Himself. Thus, the children of Israel enjoyed a miraculous two-day victory.
The victory of the Jews was two days because Queen Esther extended the decree of Haman from one day, to two days. The scriptures explain that as the Jews fought against their enemies in the capitol city, King Ahasuerus took notice of the power, strength, and resolve of the Jews. Like his administrators scattered throughout the provinces, he expressed fear and respect of the people in honor of God. The king was informed that the Jews had slaughtered five hundred men in the capitol city alone! He was stunned and provoked to inquire of Esther again. He sought for her will to be done, asking her again, what she would like for him to do. Since Esther sought the will of God concerning His people, Esther’s response was representative of God’s response. Haman wanted to issue a decree to appoint a day in which all of Israel would be exterminated from the world. God wanted to send a message: No weapon formed against His people shall prosper; and that which the enemy intends for evil, God will use for good to preserve His people alive. God wanted to prove that His people have nothing to be afraid of. Thus, God extended Haman’s decree one more day and gave the enemies of Israel one more legal chance to destroy Israel. They failed both days!
The fact that Esther asked the king to extend Haman’s decree to another day shows that God was executing judgment against the enemies of His people while also instilling confidence in the hearts of His people concerning His faithfulness. Why should God’s people fear their enemies if God continually provides opportunities for their enemies to succeed, and they continually fail? Does the enemy really have power? Does the enemy have any ability? Though the enemy has hate, that hate has no bearing on God’s ability to protect His people according to His promise. Thus, God extended Haman’s decree to judge those who continued to rebel against Him by rebelling against His people. The enemies of Israel failed the first day. To try again a second day served as public proof of their hate for God’s people and God’s purposes. Thus, God continued to empower His people. The Bible testifies that between the two days, the children of Israel killed eight hundred people in the capitol city of Persia, but over seventy-five thousand people throughout the provinces of Persia! God was an EXCEPTIONAL banner of victory.
Still, the Lord didn’t stop there. In addition to the great slaughter, God also judged the household of Haman. The scriptures state that Haman had ten sons that remained alive. They were captured and hung on the second day of this great victory. This detail also testifies to the slaughter being emblematic of God’s judgment. When God provided victory for Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and Hur against the Amalekites in the Book of Exodus, he pronounced judgment against “all” of the descendants of Amalek. That judgment was supposed to be carried out by King Saul long before the days of Esther and Mordecai, but Saul was disobedient to the Lord’s command. Several Amalekites were left alive and their goods were plundered. The testimony of Ester 9:1-16 shows that God made good on His original judgment. Recall that Haman was an Amalekite. Hence, the execution of his sons was the fulfillment of God’s promise to judge the Amalekites and cut them off for fighting against His people.
When King Saul fought against the Amalekites, he was disobedient to God and fought for selfish gain. The testimony of Esther 9:1-16 shows that the people fought for self-defense. The Bible explains that over seventy-five thousand enemies of Israel died, but is specific to state that the Jews fought to protect themselves. Many people died because many people provoked fights with God’s people. Had they not provoked fights, they would have lived. This truth is further supported in that the testimony of scripture repeats several times that the Jews did not take any plunder of any kind from anyone. Though there was likely a great spoil to be had, the Jews didn’t touch a thing. They didn’t seek to increase themselves from the judgment of God against His enemies. They didn’t seek to kill for selfish gain. They killed to protect their lives and the integrity of God’s promises – nothing more, nothing less. In the end, the Lord was highly exalted through the victory of His people showing that He is truly the means by which His people win!
There is an old phrase that says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” The Bible shows that this is a philosophy that God likes to employ every now and then. God will often exercise His sovereign control in ways that show He is unbeatable. He reveals the strength of His hand in ways that show He is far superior above all people and nations, discouraging those people and nations to fight against Him. As a result, it is common for those people and nations to give in, humble themselves, and submit to God and His purposes. When people come to the point of finding out that God’s will cannot be undone, the Bible shows that people often will just give in, lest they risk offending the Almighty God. Though people are often motivated by fear in this manner, the Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Hence, it is that fear that causes people to respond wisely to God’s judgments and salvation. When people come to the point where they understand that God’s will and purposes cannot be beaten, they often times join Him, His purposes, and become beneficiaries of His promises.
This principle is illustrated in the testimony of Esther and Mordecai. In Esther 8:7-17 the Bible explains the events that took place after King Ahasuerus brought judgment against Haman. Haman had been hanged and his household was given over to Esther, who in turn, gave it over to Mordecai. However, even though the personal circumstances of Esther and Mordecai were restored peacefully, Esther pleaded in tears to the king in regards to the safety of her people. The decree of Haman had gone out already and there was a date scheduled and funds distributed to wipe out the Jewish people in all 127 provinces of the Medo-Persian empire. Esther knew that something needed to be done about that. Haman’s decree needed to be undone so she pleaded with the king for an opportunity to do so.
The king indeed showed mercy to the people. The scriptures testify that Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Mordecai and gave him permission to rewrite Haman’s original decree in any manner that he desired. Esther and Mordecai were given the authority of the king of Persia to administrate the salvation of the Lord! Mordecai got right to work on the matter and took an interesting approach. Rather than reverse the command to exterminate the Jews, Mordecai simply issued a new decree that empowered the Jews to protect themselves. Thus, the Jews were given legal permission to defend themselves by any means necessary against any attack that came as a result of the original decree authored by Haman. Mordecai’s decree enabled his people to fight back. If Persian authorities were going to try and kill and pillage the Jewish households, they were going to be met with determined and zealous opposition. Mordecai’s decree not only gave the Jews legal permission to defend themselves against attacks, but also permitted them to band together in order to do so. This decree wasn’t inciting a rebellion or revolution against Persia, but sent a message that the people of God were not going to sit back and be easy targets for evil people looking for selfish gain.
The scriptures testify that the Jews rejoiced over Mordecai’s approach to resolve the situation. Though Haman’s original decree was not literally reversed, Mordecai’s decree produced the same results. The people were afraid of the Jews. The scriptures explain that Mordecai’s decree was written, authorized by the king, and distributed to all 127 provinces in Persia in every native language. This all happened within three months of Haman’s first decree. The people marveled at how the circumstances and fortunes of the Jews were able to be reversed so dramatically and so quickly. How could an entire race of people be on the brink of extinction as they were, but yet so quickly be empowered by the king to live? How could the heart of the king be swayed so swiftly and so radically? How did Haman come into power so definitively and then be judged so violently? How could a nation that was so weak one day, become so strong and encouraged the next day?
The people of the Medo-Persian provinces attributed the sovereign hand of God as the power that was responsible for this change and they feared the God who had so much power, control, and influence over world affairs. It was not as if God changed the life of one person. He changed the hearts of a few people in order to affect the entire workings of the world’s largest empire at that time! Who but God could do such a thing? When Mordecai sent out his decree, the Jews celebrated with “light and gladness.” Though they were still scattered throughout the provinces of the Medo-Persian empire, they recognized that God was still able to protect them. They celebrated the salvation that God provided through the hands of an exiled orphan girl that became queen of the most powerful nation in the world. They celebrated the salvation that God provided through a man whose life destined for the gallows at one point. They celebrated the salvation that God provided by changing the heart of the king to show favor.
The encouragement and joy of the Jews spread to infect the people that surrounded them. The testimony of Esther 8:7-17 explains that the Jews threw a feast day in honor of the salvation that was given through Esther and Mordecai. As onlookers observed the attitudes of the Jews they actually desired to become Jews because of their fear of the Jews. It was clear that the God of the heavens and the earth favored the Jews and was willing to do some incredible things to preserve the lives of His people. Many of the people recognized that if the authorities and governors of Persia couldn’t destroy the Jews, no one could. They recognized that the Jews could not be beaten, so many of the people joined the Jews. Though the Jews were still technically captives of the Persians, their joy didn’t communicate bondage. Somehow, the Jews celebrated even though things were not that different from before. The joy of the Jews increased, not just because their lives were preserved, but because of the manner in which it happened. The God who was able to control the hearts and influence of the world’s most powerful people was proving Himself faithful to do the work that needed to be done to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those promises weren’t fulfilled yet, but God showed that He was still moving in that direction despite all of the terrible things that had taken place. The people had joy because they had hope. The people had hope because they saw the faithful and powerful hand of God. Others joined the Jews because they saw the same hand and feared Him.