Job’s world doesn’t make sense. He knows he has done no great wrong, certainly nothing to deserve the destruction of all his wealth all his servants, except the few that came to bring the bad news, and all of his children as well.

His so-called comforters insist that he must’ve done something wrong. They insist this not because they know or have witnessed anything wrong which Job has done, that will come out later in the debate, but because they want their world to make sense.

I had some dear friends whose toddler was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. The child was just short of two years old. There was nothing that any one had done that had caused this — that is, unless, you want to go all the way back to Adam. Nevertheless, there were saints who came to assure the parents that they had done something to bring this on. Diet was a favorite target.

The father once asked me why people would do such a thing. I said, “I don’t know for certain, but it seems to me they want to feel safe. They want to be able to say you did this particular thing that caused your child’s cancer. Then they can say to themselves, We don’t do that particular thing, so our child is safe. That’s kind of what’s going on in the book of Job.

The losses that Job has suffered are so horrific it frightens any of us to believe that this might happen for what appears to be no reason at all. Job’s comforters want to feel safe, they want to be assured that they can avoid his fate at all costs. Psychologically, they can’t deal with the notion that this has happened without cause.

The brilliance of the book of Job is that it reveals the cause, and it is exactly the opposite of what his comforters are saying. The Bible pulls back the curtain… so that we can see what is happening not on this planet, but somewhere else entirely.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

The picture here, for the ancient mind, is the picture of a King holding court, calling the various princes and rulers of the different regions of his domain before him to report what is going on there. If that seems too foreign to you, think of it as the CEO of a modern corporation calling in all of the division heads for reports. It’s the same kind of thing.

Note that the term “the sons of God,” is used in this translation, the NASB. Some translations use the word “angels.” They might have been angels, although I think some of the rest of the narrative argues against it. In any case, this scene opens with two parties: God, and “the sons of God,” who came to report to him.

It says that “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also…” The and is important because it tells us that Satan is not one of “the sons of God,” whoever they are. He’s crashing the meeting. It’s also important to note here that, although the word Satan is capitalized, a marginal note indicates that a literal translation would be “the adversary,” or “the accuser.” Another way of putting it, is that the term Satan was originally a title, description of an office or a function, not a name of a being. Later in the development of biblical theology, it will be seen that the office and the Being are one. But this book is very old, and so some of the ideas were still being formed.

And since it is God’s meeting, he is the one who issues the challenge.

 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

Note the challenge that God makes: “from where do you come?” This reinforces the image of a King having the princes who ruled various provinces report. The Lord says, in effect, “I know where these others, the sons of God come from, but where are you coming from?” We already noted that Satan had crashed the meeting, had come uninvited. This makes it clear that the Lord does not believe Satan represents any of his territories.

Satan’s answer is equally revealing. He says he’s been roaming about the earth and walking around on it. Any homeowner knows the feeling. We often walk around our lot or small acreage. Scholars tell us that the Hebrew indicates an action something like “patrolling.” This also indicates a claim of jurisdiction. Police, after all, represent government or rule. That’s why they patrol an area.

So here we have the issue in its starkest form. In essence, the Lord asks, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here!” And Satan replies, “Oh, but I do! I am in charge of the Earth.”

But the Lord isn’t having any of it. His response to Satan’s claim is fascinating. “Have you considered my servant Job?” He then goes on to describe Job’s life as virtuous.

It’s an amazing statement! Satan claims to rule the earth, and not without reason. After all, after the Fall, everyone sins. By trusting the serpent rather than God, Adam and Eve had ceded dominion over the earth to Satan. But the Lord says, in effect, “Not so long as Job serves me!” Wow!

Apparently this explanation hits home, because Satan feels compelled to undermine it–what a trial lawyer calls “impeaching the witness.” Satan charges that Job’s devotion to God is really just a form of sleazy special interest. In essence, Satan claims that the only reason Job serves God is because God is bribing him.

Take note that the accusation is not against Job, but against the Lord. It is the Lord’s behavior, in blessing Job, that is in question.

So far, they have been fencing with words; thrust, parry, counter thrust. But when Satan accuses the Lord of bribing Job, the duel escalates immeasurably. The Lord says, in effect, “All right, then. You can take away everything Job has, all the things you think I’m bribing him with.”

We all know the story. As I mentioned in a previous post, one messenger after another comes each with an increasing message of calamity and doom. Job suffers one shock after another. His own wife tells him to curse God and die. His three “comforters” explain why this all his own fault.

But the scene we just recounted makes it clear that this is not the case. On the contrary, it is precisely because of his virtuous behavior that these ills have befallen him! If you say, “that doesn’t make any sense!” Then you’ve been paying attention. It doesn’t make any sense.

Next time, we will look at the second scene between the Lord and Satan in heaven. Until then, the questions to ask are, Why did God allow Satan to rain such destruction upon this innocent? And what purpose did it serve?

Read other posts from this series on Adventist Identity.