In Job 1 and 2 we see a divine interview as the angels present themselves before God along the lines of a royal audience. Satan came in with the angels and God initiates discussion with Satan. There are very few differences between these two discussions. In each (all passages from the NIV):
- God asks, “Where have you come from” (1:7a; 2:2a).
- Satan answers, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it” (1:7b; 2:2b).
- God directs attention to Job, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8a; 2:3a).
- God praises Job, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless ad upright a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8b; 2:3b).
- Satan calls Job’s obedience into question (1:9f; 2:4).
- Satan lays out a test for Job’s obedience (1:11; 2:5).
- God permits the test but sets the limits of it (1:12a; 2:6).
- Satan goes out from the presence of God (1:12b; 2:7).
While these similarities are important much is to be learned from the differences. In the second event God adds to his praise of Job, “And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (2:3c). This was a personal challenge to Satan. Satan had claimed taking Job’s property would cause him to curse God, but it had not happened. Of course it was not the attack on his health that finally got him to curse God—it was the accusations of his friends (which I’ll go into later).
God has a plan for Job and it involves more loss. His reason is kept within his own counsel, though we will see some parts of that later by looking at what did and did not happen. He speaks to Satan in such a way as to get him to act in line with divine plans. To imagine that God did not have a plan in mind, but simply responded to the idea of His creature is of course ridiculous to our understanding of God. While God says Satan incited Him against Job, we know that it was God who brought Job into the conversation. The story is presented as if it was Satan’s idea to inflict Job and how, but we see throughout the story that God was in control all along and the affliction of Job was according to God’s plan. A god who is incited by a lesser creature may do unjustly. In this case the actions of God appeared unjust to the one experiencing them. This had to bring to mind much of the pagan view of gods as arbitrary, fallible and changeable. But the God of the Bible is not a tool of anyone else’s plans. He directs the universe; bestows good; permits evil; inspires or restrains action. He is not fooled by Satan or tricked into doing harm when He would rather bless. If God cannot be wrong, then his allowing harm cannot be wrong. If God cannot do evil, then His permitting evil must accomplish divine good. I sometimes say this as, “If God cannot do evil then His act of permitting cannot be evil. His permitting must be good, even if what is permitted is itself an evil.” In this way, we all must respond as God did to Job, “Let him who accuses God answer Him!”
1 Of course many will say, “Job never cursed God!” That depends on your definition of a curse. In 19:5f, Job says, “If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me” (emphasis added). Job ends up accusing God of injustice and of wrong doing; he cursed God. Interestingly Satan did not incite this from Job, but his well-meaning friends did.
2 When something evil happens, our omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God permitted it. Without his permission nothing happens. This permission can be in one of two forms: action planned and executed by another agent not stopped by God; action planned by God to be accomplished by divine directive. It is this first form of permitting that I am speaking of here. When someone does evil and God permits it (by not stopping it) then God’s action of not stopping the deed is not itself evil, but good. This permitting of something to happen can be good even if the thing permitted is itself evil. Let me use something from raising children. If I as a parent see my child doing something that will inflict pain and I stop it then the child does not experience the pain—my action was good. At time it may be better to permit the child to experience the pain to learn a lesson. The experience of pain itself may be perceived as evil by the child, but my permitting it was a good action because it was with the purpose of teaching the child a lesson that otherwise would not have been learned.