Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: The Misfortunes of Job

Scripture: Job 1:13-19, 2:7-8

When God gave Satan permission to strike, Satan wasted no time. After the first meeting with God, Satan destroyed or stole all of Job’s livestock and then proceeded to kill all ten of Job’s children in one day. After the second meeting, Satan struck Job with a chronic and debilitating illness.

Observations: Although the book of Job provides us the readers a behind-the-scenes look, Job, his family, and his servants are not privy to that information. All they knew for sure is that multiple, devastating disasters befell on the same day, with Job becoming gravely ill some time later.

As a result, it is interesting to note whom the servants blamed for the catastrophes. Twice they were attributed to men (the Sabeans and the Chaldeans, verses 15 and 17). Once they pointed to God as the source (v. 16), and lastly, a natural disaster is credited (v. 19).

Yet we know from the surrounding context that Satan is the source of these things. This reveals that Satan, when given permission, can manipulate people, employ natural forces, and bend the supernatural to his will. Illness, death, natural disasters, armed conflict, and destructive supernatural phenomenon can all find their source in the Satanic, proving that Satan’s hallmarks truly are death and destruction.

It is interesting to note, on the other side, that God doesn’t cause any of this. Nor did He force Satan to bring any of this about. Yes, God removed the hedge around Job. Yes, He gave Satan permission to act and the freedom to bring out these things, even as He knew what Satan would choose to do with the freedom given. But Satan could have struck differently or with less ferocity. In fact, Satan didn’t have to inflict the damage he threatened at all. He could have walked away. But he didn’t. Rather, Satan chose to go forward because of his determination to break Job.

Significance: Catastrophic disasters can and do strike. That is a fact of life. The reason they strike, the place from which they originate—these things are less clear.

As we saw with the Flood and as will see again in Exodus, God can be the source of disaster, usually for the purpose of judgment. But as these passages reveal, Satan can also be the source of the catastrophes, usually with the intent of causing division, destruction, and death.

Unfortunately, from our human perspective, it can be difficult and even impossible to tell the two apart. Both God and Satan can influence human actions, wield natural forces, and employ the supernatural in their work. In both cases, the destruction of property and the loss of life can result. About the only things that separates the two are the target and the purpose: God’s judgment falls upon sin, and Satan attacks the godly in order to crush them.

As a result we need to exercise caution when assigning a purpose and a source to external events, especially when we are not directly involved. Many unseen factors may be at work behind the scenes, sometimes simultaneously: Satan may turn a judgment of God into an opportunity to attack the godly (e.g. the bricks without straw for the Israelites; the sufferings of Jeremiah during the destruction of Jerusalem), while God may manipulate a Satanic attack for His own purpose (e.g. Joseph being sold into slavery in order to save lives; the men who sought to destroy Daniel ending up in the lion’s den themselves).

How then should we react when disasters bombard us personally? With humble examination first: Is there some area of sin that would have brought this upon us as a judgment? Is there some area of evil from which to repent? And while it may be tempting to push quickly through this stage, don’t. That is where pride and hardness of heart often set in. Moreover, even if you find no direct link to the problem at hand, sin is sin and breaks the world in some way, which contributes to the larger brokenness of the world that may be the cause of the disaster. So consider any sin, any way, you may be contributing to the larger problem or issue. 

Or course, if anything is uncovered, repentance and seeking forgiveness is your next step.

Then, after cleaning house, stand firm. Don’t let Satan use difficulties or distress to destroy you. Rather, lean into God and depend on Him. Let Him strengthen you and teach you as He bends the circumstances, even those of our own making, to His glory.

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