On another day, the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD; and Satan also came with them to present himself before Him.
I. THE PITY OF GOD FOR HIS SUFFERING SERVANTS. (Vers. 1-3.) Jehovah looks down and beholds "his servant Job," as he stands unshaken amidst a very hurricane of calamity, holding to his integrity as something dearer than life; and he condescends to expostulate with the accuser. Has not the trial gone far enough? Is not the test that Job has already undergone sufficient to satisfy the most sceptical observer of his truth? Must the furnace be heated still another degree? But the adversary is not content; and it would appear that, if further trial is demanded, the demand is not to be resisted, according to the laws of heaven. The moral government of the world may require this. Thus, while the pity of God would relieve from further suffering, his righteousness-which is his adherence to fixed law - may require its continuance, until every doubt concerning a particular character be solved. But the language ascribed to the heavenly Father is, meanwhile, full of the tenderest compassion. There is individualizing regard. There is recognition of integrity and innocence. There is profound sympathy. We are reminded of the touching words of Psalm 103., "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust."
II. In opposition to this, we observe THE MALIGNANT PERSEVERANCE OF THE DEVIL.
1. His specious plea against Job. (Vers. 4, 5.) In the form of a proverb he launches a keen insinuation: "Skin for skin;" like after like; one thing after another will a man give for dear life. Job has only made a barter after all He loses all his property; but then he has that left which outweighs all the rest. The loss of goods teaches him to prize the health which is left. He feels the greatness of this blessing as he never felt it before. Any circumstance which teaches us the worth of a common blessing is so far an advantage to us. An eminent living man has said that, given health, we have no right to complain of anything in the world. Job, then, has only been half tempted after all; and the trial will only run its full course when it has assailed this last great, chief blessing - his health of body and of mind. Such is the "case" of the devilish prosecutor against Job.
2. The final test permitted. (Vers. 6-8.) The All-disposer grants the permission: "He is in thy power; but spare his life!" And then a sudden poison strikes through the sufferer's blood; he becomes from head to foot a mass of disease and loathsomeness, sits in ashes, scraping himself with a potsherd, to allay the fearful irritation of his malady. His mind is, of course, deeply affected by the illness of his body. Natural hope is extinct. It is a life in ruins. Yet that Divine and immortal principle we call the soul is still intact, still glimmers like a bright spark amidst the embers of a dying fire.
III. TEMPTATION IN THE GUISE OF AFFECTION. (Vers. 9,10.) And now what remains of conscious life is to know one further shock; and the hand of woman, the voice of a wife, is employed to urge the tottering sufferer over the brink on which he sits, into despair and total renunciation of faith and God. Then his wife said to him," Dost thou still hold fast to thine innocence? Say farewell to God, and die!"
1. This is a second signal instance in which, in the Old Testament, woman plays the part of the tempter. There is instruction in this pointed fact. Woman is the weaker vessel, in mind as in body. She has less firmness of intellectual texture. Her weakness as well as her strength lies in feeling. She is quick in impulses, both of good and of evil. She represents passion, and man represents strength. On the whole, she is less capable of strong, profound, patient convictions, less able to take a large view of questions, to look beyond the present and immediate aspects of things. Here is the picture of a lively temper, quick to feel resentment at pain or gratitude for good; but a shallow understanding, unused to meditation and reflection on the deeper meanings of life. Her language is that of haste and passion. But this serves to bring out by contrast the calm, reflective piety, the convictions established by lifelong thought and experience of her husband.
2. The rebuke of Job to his wife.
(1) "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women;" that is, thy language is like that of a heathen, not of one who has been trained in the knowledge and worship of the true God. The heathen turn fickly from one god to another as pleasure and pain or the caprice of fancy may suggest. For their gods are but idols, creatures of their own imagination, which they take up and cast down as children with their toys. But there is only one God for me! And that God, the eternally Wise and Good in all that he gives, in all that he withholds!
(2) There are two sides of life and the one must be taken along with the other. Here, too, the language of manly reasonableness and of intelligent piety speaks out Life is a garment woven of both pleasure and pain, of seeming good and evil. The one conditions the other. All experience teaches that constant happiness is the lot of none. Why, then, should I expect to be an exception? Surely we are but crude scholars in life's great school, so long as we think we are entitled to immunity from any particular form of suffering. We are still children who think they have a right to their own way, and are astonished to find themselves withstood. "Who told thee thou hadst a right to be happy? Art thou a vulture screaming for thy food?"
"Couldst thou, Pausanias, learn
And Satan came also among them.
I. SATAN IS FROM TIME TO TIME ALLOWED TO MOVE THE LORD TO AFFLICT EVEN HIS MOST FAITHFUL PEOPLE IN VARIOUS WAYS. The Lord's ways toward His people, and indeed toward all men, are most mysterious, but from the analogy of His dealings with the patriarch Job we may safely conclude that they are full of secret love and mercy towards them, and designed to promote their everlasting happiness.
II. THE LORD GIVES SATAN ONLY A LIMITED POWER OVER HIS OWN PEOPLE. As the Lord said, "He is in thine hand, but save his life," so in your case He may have given him liberty to proceed just so far, and no further, with you.
III. FAITH UNTRIED IS FAITH NOT PROVED ACCEPTABLE. Many a man deceives himself with the empty counterfeit of faith. Hence an ordeal is requisite in which numbers fall away, whilst the faith of others is brought out as pure gold refined from the furnace of affliction. God graciously keep you from falling away in this your season of trial.
IV. SATAN IS MOST FREQUENTLY THE LORD'S AGENT IN THE INFLICTION OF DISEASE AND OTHER TRIALS. But Satan defeats his own purposes in afflicting God's people, because their faith, through God's grace, is thereby strengthened. In order the better to strengthen his position in attacking believer's faith, Satan will often incite his nearest and dearest relatives to seek to withdraw his heart's allegiance from God. He did this in the case of Job. In the moments of his fancied triumph Satan moved Job's wife to assist him in the deadly warfare. But God had not forsaken him.
(J. C. Boyce, M. A.)
I. THE CHARACTER OF TEMPTATION.
1. God is not the author of it. In temptation there are three parts.(1) The external conditions which tend to bring it about. God may be the author of these conditions.(2) The state of heart which makes temptation tempting to us. God is not the author of this.(3) There is the special thought in the mind, the suggestion to do the deed, which is the focusing of the pre-existing and undeveloped feelings of the heart. Satan is the author of this.
2. But God permits us to be tempted. He allows natural laws to work about us, and historical events to shape themselves, and persons and things to come into contact with us, in such ways that temptation arises. Whatever is, is by His permission.
3. God permits temptation for our good. In our lesson we see that it was permitted in Job's case in order to bring out clearly the stability of his faith in God. God is not careless or thoughtless in His permission of our trial.
4. Our friends sometimes unwittingly make temptation harder to us. Job's wife spoke to him in sympathy. "Renounce God and die" is not a fling of sarcasm, but a weak and honest attempt to give comfort.
5. Temptation is never necessarily successful. It was not so in Job's case.
II. BEARING TEMPTATION. Job's example gives some practical lessons.
1. See the solitude of the tempted soul. The barriers of the soul cannot be passed. There alone we each must confront temptation and have our fight with it.
2. Job rightly says to his wife that to renounce God would be foolish. If Job had renounced God he would have been irrational, because he would have given up the only source of help possible.
3. Job shows us that faith is the only reasonable attitude of man towards God.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
I. SATAN IS A PERSONAL BEING. That this is the old doctrine no one denies; but it is asked by many, whether such belief has not been outgrown with all our progress in theological thought. Over against all speculative opinion we have to set the plain teaching of God's Word. The language here is figurative, but it must mean something. Satan is not an abstraction. Observe that Satan here is called the accuser. Milton's story of the fallen angels is only a human invention. The interpretation which makes him a mere personification of evil would make Jesus Christ a mere personification of goodness.
II. GOD PERMITS SATAN TO TEMPT BELIEVERS. The great enemy of the soul in its race toward heaven is Satan.
III. GOD SETS A LIMIT TO THE POWER OF SATAN. "Behold, he is in thine hand; only spare his life." The tempter could go no further than he was permitted to. But the mystery to Job was that such permission was given at all. If his troubles had come from an enemy, or even from his "miserable comforters," he could have borne them more easily; but that they should have fallen from his Father's hand, that puzzled him. That is the puzzle of human life. Our best relief is that Satan's power has a limit; it cannot go beyond God's permission. No soul needs to be under the control of temptation — it cannot hold the human will; it is not the supreme force in the world. One thing is stronger: the power of God in Jesus Christ, and that power is pledged to every soul in its fight with sin.
(T. J. Holmes.)
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