Satan and Job
James Smith, 1859
"The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord." Proverbs 21:31
Such is the testimony of the Scripture, and the fact is plentifully illustrated in the Christian life. It is not the circumstances by which we are surrounded, nor even the strength of our character, or the vigor of our graces which preserves us—but the Lord.
Satan is powerful, vigilant, and malicious; he is always watching us, and seeking an opportunity, and permission to do us an injury. He has cast down and wounded many strong men, and he will soon cause us to fall, if permitted. What a striking confirmation of this truth, we have in the case of Job. He was prosperous, healthy, and happy. His graces were strong. His character was complete. He was an incomparable man. Hence the testimony of God himself is, that he was a perfect, and an upright man, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. There was none like him in the earth. And yet against him did Satan plot, and against him did he throw out the insinuation, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." Job 1:9-11
What an enemy is Satan to our comfort, peace, and prosperity! He observes us, and seeks an opportunity to injure us. But God has made an hedge about all his people, through which Satan cannot pass without permission. That hedge is a special providence. God himself in the operations of nature and grace, has a special reference to his people. As the objects of his ancient choice, he pre-appointed all things, so as ultimately to secure their best interests. As the children of his infinite love, he sends his angel to guard them, and in all his operations he keeps his eye upon them. His eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The angel of the Lord encamps round about those who fear him, and delivers them. This is the hedge, and no wall of fire could secure the traveler from the wild beasts, as this secures them. If they prosper—it is because he smiles; if they are stripped—it is because he grants permission.
In Job's case, Satan comes as the accuser of the brethren, and insinuates that he was a self-seeking professor, serving God from selfish motives. That his religion would only live in prosperity—but would soon die in adversity. That he was no better than a hypocrite, and flourished because he was not tried. Only strip him, said he, turn your hand against him—and he will curse you to your face! And he did curse almost everything but God, and he spoke unadvisedly of him.
Satan knows human nature well. He hates the Lord's people with a bitter hatred, and would use any means to do them an injury. What a daring deceiver he must be, to try to impose upon the Omniscient God! What an implacable enemy to a consistent saint, whose conduct honors the Lord! How assiduous he is to gain permission to worry our souls, and bring us into trouble! He watches our conduct, examines our motives, puts a bad construction on all that we do, and seizes every opportunity to do us harm. Well may the Apostle say, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about, seeking whom he may devour!"
His design was to rob Job of his comforts, stripping him of his property, depriving him of his health, and disturbing his peace of mind; and all this, with a view of betraying him into sin. He knew that Job's sin, if he should fall, would dishonor God, disgrace religion, grieve the godly, and put a stumbling block in the way of sinners. Not only so—but it would bring down the rod of God on his shoulders, and fill him with deep distress. He wanted also, to quench the life and power of religion in his soul; by damping his graces, stirring up his corruptions, injecting his fiery darts, and then employing his friends to tempt and provoke him. His aim was, through Job, to dishonor the Lord himself. This object he keeps in view still, for though he could not succeed as he desired in Job's case, he has succeeded in hundreds of cases since. Let us therefore as Peter exhorts, "Resist the devil," assured that he will flee from us. And let us take encouragement from the case of Job and others, to believe, that we shall overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony.
Let us admire greatly, the condescension of the Most High God, in dealing with his creatures. How amazing that he should deign to listen, for a moment, to a foul spirit like Satan! Can we then suppose that he will listen to Satan against us, and not listen to us against him? Will God hear Satan, and refuse to hear his child? Impossible! Let us also admire his wisdom and love, as they appear in allowing Satan to try his utmost, and do his worst—and yet so supporting and working in his people, as to bring them safely through; not only so—but making them conquerors over Satan and all his allies.
Let us bear in mind too, that what Satan suggested against Job, was from a knowledge of human nature. Job would no doubt have cursed God—but for the restraining and sanctifying grace of God. Nor must we forget, that Satan is still the same implacable enemy of the Lord's people. He is a real person. He has astonishing powers of intellect. He has a deep and profound acquaintance with our nature, and knows how most successfully to attack it. He would soon and certainly overcome us, if we had not a wiser, and a stronger One than he, on our side.
What encouragement we may derive from this, that though he was allowed to try Job, and try him to the uttermost—yet he was not allowed to overcome him, so as to gain his ends upon him; so, though he may be allowed to try us, and the conflict may be desperate, long continued, and the outcome seem for a considerable time to hang in the balance, yet the same grace and goodness that enabled Job to overcome, will secure to us the victory. We may be overcome for a time—but we shall overcome at the last. Yes, we shall be more than conquerors through him that has loved us. Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.