This is the second part of a three-part series on Job. Read the first part here.
Satan has been defeated, but he is nothing if not persistent. Job is stronger then Satan reckoned, yes, but that merely means that the ultimate cause of Job’s faith must lie in Job’s own person. Satan, of course, cannot understand love, so on further reflection he must have thought, “Yes, of course Job would be unmoved by the death of his children. They were no good to him anyway: He cares only for himself, his own body, and that has remained largely safe.”
Armed with this new knowledge, he once again boldly enters the heavenly court, ignoring the “Hast thou heard of my servant Job?” t-shirts that have since become extremely popular in heaven.
Finally he comes into the throne room of Jehovah. It begins exactly as before, as if nothing has happened, but everyone present knows that something has, indeed, happened. Satan is discredited, and God’s faith in his human servant has been vindicated. God asks the same question, but with one sentence added: “He still holds fast his integrity: In vain you have set me on to destroy him.”
The angels might expect Satan to fly into a rage, but instead he smiles, and the heavenly host shivers. Satan freely admits his error. He had forgotten that a man will give everything he has for his life. Touch that, take away his health, and then, then Job will fall. Immediately comes the reply from the throne: Job is in Satan’s hand, and only his life must be spared.
We can imagine Satan entering hell and personally selecting the finest sickness the pharmacies of hell have to offer. He finds Job, still in mourning, still in torn robes, head raggedly shaved. Satan raises the sickness, pauses to savor the moment, and then strikes Job with it, watching in twisted joy as pustules break out from the crown of Job’s head to the soles of his feet. Job, taking a moment to consider this new tragedy, searches through the ashes until he finds a broken piece of pottery with which to scrape himself. His wife, beside herself with grief at her husband’s misfortunes, tells her husband to curse God and end it. There is once again silence in the universe, and all the demons and angels anxiously await Job’s next sentence. But Job rebukes his wife: All things come from God, and we should accept all things with peace.
This is a minor setback for Satan, and the angels breathe a little easier. But Satan is playing the long game, and he knows all too well the frailty of humanity. And as he sees Job’s three friends coming to comfort him, he sees yet another opportunity to break Job’s spirit. They do not know God as Job does, and there is room to twist the knife further. To be fair, they are good friends: they come personally, they do not send a message and go about their day. They come, they sit with Job, and even as they rebuke him and argue with him, they only do so because they have his best interests at heart. Nevertheless, they are wrong, and as they speak it becomes increasingly obvious that they believe that the hidden sins of Job are to blame for everything that has happened.
Now: We must understand that Job is not sinless. He admits his sin multiple times. But, more importantly, he is, by the very words of God, “Blameless and upright.” His sins are merely that of frail humanity, and as much as is in his power, he strives to serve God. There is nothing in here of punishment, nothing even of improvement. Job does not need to build character. Too often we see punishment in the workings of God. Or failing that, we see a goal of improvement, which implies that one is weak to begin with. We must do Job justice. We must understand that inasmuch as this has to do with Job, it has to do with his goodness, his utter faith, and his extraordinary mental and spiritual strength.
But ultimately, I think it’s wrong to say that this book is even primarily about Job. Job is the instrument, to be sure, but the point is something even larger. When Satan attacks Job in the beginning, he is also attacking God. When he insists that Job only loves God for the stuff God gives him, Satan says just as loudly and directly that God is not loveable.
That is the heart of Satan’s attack: he aims to prove that God, in and of himself, cannot be loved. And what better way to do that than to take the strongest, most godly man alive and break him? If Satan can prove that Job, out of all the inhabitants of the earth, does not love God as God, then he would count that a valuable victory indeed.