As we look further into Job and the view of God in this ancient text we see Satan depart the presence of God, with permission to attack Job physically. God still limited him—“he is in your hands; but you must spare his life,” Job 2:6 NIV. Satan had already received permission to strike all that Job possessed but now he could attack Job directly by taking away his health. We’ve all heard the trite saying used with the suffering, “At least you have your health.” Now Job won’t even have that.
As a result of Satan’s attack Job is reduced to scraping himself with a pottery shard while sitting in ashes. He is covered with painful sores “from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head.” The great man was brought low—once respected and honored, now to be pitied.
From here the scenes of heaven move to the background and though God is mentioned, He does not take an active part in the story until the end. It is from here forward we see the problems of Job and consider them the way we see problems in our own life today—with little or no idea of what God may be doing behind the scenes. Among my favorite books of the Bible are Esther and Ruth. They are my favorite, not because of what they have in them, but because of what they do not have. Though in both books God is central, he never appears. You may think it strange that a preacher would like a story because God is silent in it, but this is because of all the books these are the closest to our everyday human experience. We serve God, our family, and others with the limited revelation available to us. Many times we are working in the dark with no idea of what is next or which course of action God would have us take. We respond to this ignorance, or in spite of it, by putting one foot in front of the other and striving for the best. In the end, God’s purpose is fulfilled regardless of our own ignorance.
Job will spend the rest of the story striving with others. The attacks are not over. In the first two chapters Satan attacked Job directly with permission of God. God had called attention to Job for a reason and now Job was suffering. The suffering will continue and increase through the actions of his wife and friends, but even though we are not given any sign that these attacks are inspired by Satan or directed by God, we can see some evidence that the writer intended us to discern some divine action behind the attacks. Though I will go into more detail later, let’s look at two signs that the attacks from friends and family are being at least permitted and eventually used by God. First is the response of Job’s wife. In 2:3c, God points out that in spite of the first attack Job “still maintains his integrity.” In 1:11 and 2:5, Satan contends that, if certain things befall him, Job will curse God to His face. In 2:9, Job’s wife says, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Though I don’t have evidence to call this a divinely or satanically inspired utterance it seems likely that the author is showing some connection between the attacks and the words of the wife. The second such divine insinuation is in the words of Elihu. This young man waited until the more elderly friends stopped talking. Though the others had tried to prove Job’s sinfulness, Elihu chose to defend God. Immediately after he is done God answers Job “from the storm.” During the discussion a storm had moved in and Elihu used the majesty and power of the storm to show how God was beyond such accusations (Job 37). Elihu’s words are so tied to the storm that they actually set the scene for God to answer Job “out of the storm” (Job 38:1). These details show divine direction not only in the actions of Satan and the changing of weather, but also in the actions and words of mankind.