BIBLE STUDIES ON SUFFERING

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002

7. SUFFERING AND SATAN

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF JOB

Scattered through the pages of the Bible we find various descriptions of Satan and his activities. We learn:

[1] Satan is accountable to God (Job 1:6,7;2:1,2).

[2] Satan is bent on destruction

Particularly the destruction of whoever has the approval of God(Job 1:7; 2:2; 1Peter 5:8). In Revelation 9:11 he is called Appolyon - which means the one who exterminates or destroys. Related to this identification of Satan as the Destroyer is his association with murder and death: John 8:44; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:11,12.

[3] Satan is the accuser (Job 1:9-10; 2:4-5).

The word 'satan' means 'the accuser'. (Note also that the Greek diabolos means 'slanderer', and relates to defamation, libel and misrepresentation). In Revelation he is called the accuser of our brothers (12:10). It is in that role that he operates in the prologue to Job. He makes the accusation that Job's faith is not genuine, that it is focused not in God himself, but in the physical health and prosperity with which God hasblessed Job. He attacks the integrity of Job's faith and relationship with God, saying that it is all a sham covering up Job's materialistic design, that it is not God that Job loves, but God's gifts.

[4] Satan is the adversary.

'Satan' also means 'adversary'. This operates on two levels: level one, Satan is God's adversary, God's enemy. This is a basic fact of the whole universe. Level two, Satan is therefore the adversary of everything that belongs to God and is approved by God. Anything that is precious to God is automatically the target for the opposition and attacks of this enemy. We can see this in Genesis 1:31 (where God announced that everything was 'very good', and Genesis 3:1-4 (where Satan comes in to corrupt that perfection); in Matthew 3:17 (where God affirms his pleasure in his Son) and Matthew 4:4 (where Satan comes in to try to turn Jesus away from the God appointed path); and in Matthew 16:17 (where Jesus receives another affirmation from his Father) and Matthew 16:22-23 (where Satan, through Peter's words, again seeks to turn Jesus away from the cross). The person on whom God's blessing rests (and it rests on all who believe in Jesus Christ) automatically has Satan as an enemy, is automatically involved in this great cosmic opposition of Satan to God and all that is God's.

[5] Satan is a liar, tempter and deceiver (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:3-11; John 8:44; 1Corinthians 7:5; 2Corinthians 11:14).

Here in Job Satan has the audacity to lie to God himself.

All of this activity of Satan is ranged against God, and against his servant Job. It is also ranged against us as believers in Jesus Christ, both individually, and corporately as the church. We see evidence of it when:

  1. individual believers are plagued by doubts, by guilt, by self-condemnation, by lack of assurance of salvation.
  2. individual believers experience abnormal suffering - either in size, or in duration.
  3. individual believers suffer persecution because of their allegiance to Christ.
  4. the church or individual believers are deceived by false teaching - either overt or subtle.
  5. the church or individual believers believe lies, for instance, about the origin of the world or the nature of the Bible.
  6. the church experiences any of [1], [2] or [3].

None of this ought to surprise us. The New Testament warns us to expect it and to be prepared for it. Satan is opposed to all that is God's. He is consumed with hatred for and opposition to God. He so hates God that he wants to corrupt and destroy all that is precious to God. For someone to appear to love God as Job did is to Satan like a red rag to a bull. He so hates God that he cannot bring himself to believe that anyone could possibly love God with a pure love. He so hates God that he hates to see any one obeying and submitting to God and giving glory to God. He so hates God that he hates to see the kingdom of God advancing in the hearts of human beings and spreading throughout the world. He so hates God, and the thought of anyone loving God, that he opposes anything that will undo the effects of sin and reconcile man to God.

[6] Satan is limited by God's permission (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6; 1Corinthians 10:13).

Note the flow of conversation in the Job passages: first, Satan makes the suggestion that God afflict Job; second, God gives permission for Satan to do it; third, God sets a limit as to what Satan can do.

This is a perspective which we need to constantly keep in mind. Satan is not autonomous. Satan is not on the same level of authority as God. He wants to be. He acts as though he is. But he is not. He is a created being who is in a state of constant rebellion against his Creator, constantly trying to undermine and usurp his authority, but he is, and he knows he is, actually under the authority of God. He cannot touch Job or Job's possessions and family, unless God allows it. He can only go as far as God permits him to.