Adonai said to the satan, ‘Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth …’ Then the satan responded to Adonai, saying, ‘… strike everything that he has, and he will certainly curse You to Your face!’ Then Adonai said to the satan, ‘Everything he has is in your hand, only do not extend your hand against him!’–Job 1:8-12 TLV
In 2008, a work of theological fiction was praised as “the New Pilgrim’s Progress,” although it was really more like a postmodern spin off the Book of Job. It was called The Shack–you’ve probably heard about it, if you haven’t read it. It was basically Christian-coated New Age, and it made quite a splash in churches around the world, despite its bloodless representation of the gospel.
Mankind has oft begged the question: “If God is good, why does evil exist?” In response, the Shack offered this explanation: “Darkness and evil do not actually exist.”
Satan was conspicuously missing from the equation.
Such an ideology, according to the Bible, is not only ridiculous but suicidal. Suicidal because darkness and evil do actually exist; and, consequently, there is a very real (although invisible) war happening between the forces of darkness and light, good and evil–and woe to those who skip out naively onto the battlefield, unaware of the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
Unlike The Shack, the Book of Job begins with a confrontation between God and Satan (the fallen angel who is ever accusing, deceiving, and tempting). And God’s dazzling description of the cruel dragon Leviathan (addressing Job out of a whirlwind at the end) seems to point back symbolically to the initial spiritual conflict.
Lay your hand on him; remember the battle–never do it again! … No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me? … He is king over all the children of pride.–Job 41:8, 10, 34 NKJV
The part about Leviathan seems random, but of course it’s not. Leviathan means “serpent,” and there are several places in the Bible (from Genesis all the way through to Revelation) where Satan is referred to as a serpent or a dragon. Isaiah explicitly called him “Leviathan.” So it’s possible that the Leviathan of Job 41 is a metaphor or manifestation of the Satan in Job 1.
But God’s people are not fair game, and that much is not a mystery. The enemy can’t touch them without God’s permission, and even then his power is limited.
Michael D. Fiorello says: “The reason God created man was for fellowship. If Satan is correct [that people do not voluntarily worship God for who He is in Himself, and therefore authentic intimacy cannot exist] then both God and His creative experiment is a failure… God is congenitally true, good, just, etc. It was not just an aspect of His relational interaction with Job; He was that way with Satan too as evidenced by the fact that God heard (took into consideration) Satan’s accusations. Henri Blocher writes, ‘How is Satan’s role as the accuser related to his power? If Satan’s opposition to the Lord were a matter of mere power, the rebel’s finite resources would equal zero confronted with infinity. But the accuser can appeal to justice. He may also indulge in slander, but his force resides in the rightness of his accusation [as we shall see] … The righteous Judge of all the earth, who can do only right, cannot refuse to hear the charges the Accuser brings without denying Himself. In other words, the weapon in the devil’s hand is God’s own law [emphasis mine].’Should God not act, His integrity would indeed be compromised. If God had off-handedly dismissed Satan’s suggestion that Job’s devotion was bought it would suggest that God actually had something to lose. It must be remembered too that it was God who brought Job to Satan’s attention.”*
And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail …’–Luke 22:31-32 NKJV
Satan wanted to “sift” Job, the same way that he would later desire to “sift” Simon Peter. (And notice that Jesus didn’t pray that Peter would not be be shaken, but only that he would not lose his faith.)
Sifting is not just shaking, it is shaking that causes separation.
Life is all about relationships, and Satan’s mission was to separate Job from his children and servants, his wife, his friends–in order, ultimately, to separate him from God.
*”Aspects of Intimacy with God in the Book of Job,” Michael D. Fiorello, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2011, Vol. 4, No. 2