In the first five verses of the book, we are introduced to a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz, who was blameless, upright, feared God, and turned away from evil. He is richly blessed by God in terms of his possessions as well as his family. The scene turns away from the earth and directs our attention toward heavenly realms and, in particular, into the presence of God.
The Sons of God and Satan (1:6-7)
The scene opens with a heavenly assembly, the sons of God presenting themselves before the Lord. Immediately we desire to know who these “sons of God” are. To understand them as “angels” (NIV) is probably too precise and too presumptive. The text does not call them angels but rather the sons of God. This seems to be a convening of certain spiritual beings before the Lord.
There are two reasons to not be troubled by this picture. First, this assembling of dignitaries before the king is common in ancient Near Eastern literature and thought. The king would summon his attendants, receiving reports from them, taking counsel from them, and giving directives to them. God uses commonly understood imagery about a kingdom to describe the scene that is about to unfold. Second, there are other places in the scriptures where we see this summoning on spiritual dignitaries before the throne of God (Isaiah 6:8; Psalm 82; 1 Kings 22). It is the 1 Kings 22 text that gives us the closest picture to what Job 1 is likely picturing.
And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (1 Kings 22:19–23 ESV)
So we have a picture of the Lord as the enthroned king with various spiritual beings gathering before him. In this gathering we have one who is called the Satan come among them. We must remember that “Satan” is not a name but a title. The word means “the accuser.” Besides in the book of Job, this title only appears in two other places in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1). Our understanding of the accuser (Satan) comes primarily from the New Testament, not the Old Testament.
The Lord asks where Satan has come from and his answer is a picture of causing trouble everywhere. We should not think that the Lord does not know where Satan came from or what Satan is doing. This is setting for the reader. These questions and answers are for us so that we can understand what is about to happen. Remember that the first two chapters are setting up the occasion for the poetry that is found in chapters 3-42. Satan is bent on our ruin and discrediting God (James 4:7). Satan is described as accusing us day and night before our God (Revelation 12:10).
Questioning God and Job (1:8-12)
Notice who starts this discussion. It is God who speaks to Satan and asks if Satan has considered the righteousness of Job. The Lord agrees with the narration given to us in the first five verses of the book. The Lord says that Job is blameless, upright, fears God, and turns away from evil. This gives us a picture of what the apostle Paul meant in Ephesians 3:10 when he said that the manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church in the heavenly places. The Lord tells this heavenly assembly to look at Job. In fact, please consider that the Lord calls Job “my servant.” What a wonderful designation to be given by our Lord! The Lord says that this is my servant and Satan should consider his righteous life.
Satan then asks the key question for this chapter, for the book, and for our lives: Does Job fear God for no reason? Notice that Satan does not disagree with the assessment of Job’s righteousness. Job is righteous. Satan makes the challenge that Job is righteous only because God has put a hedge around him, protecting him from disaster and blessed the work of his hands. If God will remove that hedge and strike all that he has, Job will curse God to his face.
Satan makes a very important challenge of God and of Job. Satan asks why Job fears God. Satan asks why Job is righteous. If being rich is the result of righteousness, then who wouldn’t be righteous? This is the insult that Satan makes. Job does not serve you, God. Job serves himself. The only reason he serves you is because you have blessed the work of his hands and made him rich. This challenge of God is not only about Job, but it is about all of us. God is too gracious, too generous, and too kind. People only serve God because he is good to them. They serve from false motives. Job is interested in God and God’s ways, not for God’s sake, but for Job’s own prosperity. He is virtuous and innocent for his own benefit. So remove the hedge and then let us see what happens. The Lord gives permission to Satan to strike all that he has. The Lord limits Satan from touching Job (1:12). But all that he has can now be touched by Satan.
Disaster Strikes (1:13-19)
What we read about in verses 13-19 is just a staggering amount of disaster hitting the life of Job. A messenger comes to Job to report that the Sabeans took his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants. Then another messenger comes to report that the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants. Then another messenger comes to report that the Chaldeans raided his possessions, took his camels and killed all the servants. Finally, another messenger comes to report that while his children were feasting in the oldest brother’s house, a great wind came across and caused the house to fall, killing his children.
What Satan does is particularly sinister. Not only is this a staggering amount of loss all occurring within a moment’s notice. Not only does Job have it all and then lose it all in a single day. But what Job loses and how it happens sounds like the judgment of God. Listen to Deuteronomy 28:31-35.
Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you shall not eat any of it. Your donkey shall be seized before your face, but shall not be restored to you. Your sheep shall be given to your enemies, but there shall be no one to help you. Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see. The Lord will strike you on the knees and on the legs with grievous boils of which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head. (Deuteronomy 28:31–35 ESV)
Sounds just like what Job has experienced and what Job is going to experience in chapter 2. Satan has made it appear to all that God has struck Job down for sinfulness and disobedience. Yet we know this is not the case because God has declared that Job is righteous and Satan did not disagree.
The Response of Job (1:20-22)
So what will Job do? In verse 20 Job shows expressions of pain and mourning by tearing his robe and shaving his head. But then notice that Job falls to the ground and worships. Falling to the ground is the physical posture of recognizing and accepting a significant act of God (cf. Genesis 47:31; 1 Kings 1:47; Exodus 4:31; 12:27). Job sees this disaster as coming from the hand of God and yet Job worships God. Further, listen to what Job says in verse 21.
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:21–22 ESV)
Whether God gives or whether God takes away, God must be praised. This is the godly, righteous response. I will fear God for nothing. I will not fear God because of what he gives me. Job does the exact opposite of what Satan says Job will do. Please notice that both Job and God are vindicated. Job has shown that he will serve God no matter what, not only when God is good to him. Further, God is vindicated. God can bless people and people will serve him, not because of the blessings, but because of who God is.
The question that Satan asks is the question that is before us today. Do we serve God for nothing or only because he has put a hedge around us? Do we serve God because we love God and if we lost everything we would still worship and serve God? What do we serve God for? Will we still serve God if we lost our house, lost our cars, lost our wealth, and lost our jobs? Will we still serve God is all our children died in a single day? Will we still serve God if our spouse died? Will we still serve God even if there is absolutely no physical benefit that we receive for doing so? We must see that this is the call of true discipleship. Jesus taught this when he called his disciples. He did not offer his disciples homes to stay in. He did not offer them comfort or wealth. Jesus offered them a stone for a pillow and persecution for proclaiming his name. Those apostles proved that they served God for nothing. Daniel and his three friends proved that they served God for nothing. Joseph proved that he served God for nothing. Lord, you can take it all away and I will accept those circumstances and I will still worship you! What did Jesus say but that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matthew 16:24), which is the very picture of what it looks like to serve God for nothing!
We come to this strong faith by recognizing what Job recognized. Nothing I have is deserved. Nothing I have is from my own hand. I came into the world naked and nothing. Everything that I have since birth has been given to me by God’s hand. He has richly blessed me and I have no right to demand that God continue to bless me in the way I have experienced thus far.
Listen to how chapter 1 concludes. “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” This is the goal through our suffering, through tragedy, and through trials. Do not sin and do not charge God with doing wrong. God must not be served from selfishness. God must be served and worshiped for who he is. He is God. He is the Almighty Creator. Live for him. Worship him. Love him.