Job: Sermon 8: Part 2

Job 2v1 – 6

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered him, “From roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him: he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and withdraws himself from evil. And still he maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but spare his soul.”

We see why it is stated again that Satan appeared among the children of God, before God. Satan did not intend to disguise himself through hypocrisy that he might mix with the angels. But he is fain to appear before God to yield an account of his doings. Of course, the encounter between God and the angels and Satan should not be taken in a literal way; scripture frames it so to communicate to us in our rude state. We cannot conceive how things are in the presence of God; we cannot conceive of such a power and pre-eminence that nothing is hidden from him. When we read of such things in the Holy Scripture, we must acknowledge that Scripture applies itself to our limited reason and it teaches us by means that are convenient for us. It chooses the means that are most agreeable to our understanding. God therefore is likened here to a prince that holds his assizes or court, where all people must come before him and be judged. Thus we see why it is said that upon a certain day the devil made his appearance with the angels.

Let us mark, then, that just as when God sends his angels to guide us and to be ministers of our welfare so that they are his hands as it were, and the instruments of his power to maintain us, so also, on the contrary, he sends the devil to vex us and torment us. And he knows the end to which he does it, which is ultimately for our benefit. It is true that we may be astonished at first when we do not see any reason why God should do this or that. But how should our faith be approved by God if it is not through glorifying God while we are at our wits end and yet we nevertheless conclude that all that ever proceeded from God is right and just and that there is nothing but steadfastness in all his ways? If we are not so minded, how can we claim to have any faith at all?

And surely this present story is a good instruction. For unless we consider the reasons why God persecuted his servant Job, it may seem to us that we have good cause to complain of God. If God punishes wicked people, it is well done. In so doing, we can gainsay him. But if a person walks in uprightness and simplicity, why does God deliver him into Satan’s hand? If a person tries to say that God only permits or suffers Satan, as if Satan were at his own liberty and that we are left as Satan’s prey, should we not of necessity be overwhelmed at the first push? But on the contrary, we see how it is God’s purpose to have the patience of His servant made known through suffering. And although God has other reasons which are hidden from us for a time, yea, even all our life long, yet we must hold ourselves short and confess that all that God does is good, even though we do not perceive the end to which he does it. So then, we see neither the devils above us, nor the angels. Yet, we must assure ourselves that God sends both the one and the other to maintain us on the one side and to trouble us on the other. It behoves us always to know that God has just cause to chastise us, and that if he continually overwhelms with no respite at all, then we are well worthy of it. Yet, when God afflicts us, he very often does not have any regard at all to how much we may or may not deserve it. Now and then, it is His will that Satan should torment us to the end that we might gain victory against him and that our victory should be so much more honourable, just as Satan’s assaults against us have been so much more terrible.

Another reason for our sufferings is that God intends us to stand in awe of Him and not to take occasion to advance ourselves, nor to overstep ourselves in vain self trust and presumption, as we would be wont to do. God then awakens us in such a way that we understand that if we were not upheld by him, it would be to our sorrow; we would fall and stumble at every blow. We are led to understand that God must put his hand under us, otherwise our falls would be deadly. It is God’s will that we should sense the danger and to understand that the angels have a special care of us to guide us in the way that God has appointed. They are to be ministers of our welfare. God has committed us to their keeping. We therefore see why they are called powers and principalities. In the meanwhile, the devils do not cease to cause turmoil and to destroy all things as much as they can. This does not happen without God’s will. These things are carried out to the end that we should be awakened by them and challenged by temptation and trial so that our victory should be so much greater when we have fought valiantly. The angels are sent so that Satan may gain nothing at our hand, for we are guarded with strength from above to withstand his temptations.

At the beginning of the second chapter, God demands of Satan from where he came. Satan replies that he has roamed over the whole world, causing mischief throughout. Touching Job, it is God who raises the question, just as it was God who introduced the subject of Job in the first chapter, another demonstration that it was God who was the author of everything that befell Job. ‘Have you not considered my servant Job?’ Again, the Holy Scripture applies itself to our rawness. For God has no need to ask this of Satan. All things are present with God, but it is for our own instruction that we have speeches couched in terms that we can understand. God shows himself in a way that we may conceive of him. Here we see God’s great goodness towards us; while we are unable to raise ourselves up to him, he condescends to come down to us here, so that we might know him, sufficiently for our profit. For if we should presume to come into the presence of his great majesty, we should be overwhelmed. If we are not able to look upon the sun except that our eyes be dazzled and permanently damaged, how shall we behold the glory of God in its full perfection? It is impossible for us to do it, until we have been made new again, as the apostle John writes telling us that we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3v1 – 3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

In the mean while, let us be contented to be his children and to have the grace of his adoption sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, let us be content to know him in the image by which he has showed himself to us.

As the apostle Peter says, Satan does not cease to go about like a roaring lion, continually seeking new prey. Since it is so, let us keep good watch and stand upon our guard. For after Peter has warned us about Satan, he adds ‘Resist him by keeping yourselves steadfast in your faith.’

1 Peter 5v 8-11 Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God shows us that we must not be afraid, even though Satan has such power and even though he be named the Prince of the World. We need not be afraid that Satan should overwhelm us so long as we are armed with faith. For through our faith, God shall endow us with strength enough; we shall be sure of the victory if we rest upon God and lean upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the apostle John writes about in the tenth chapter of the gospel. ‘The father,’ he says, ‘has put you into my hand and he is stronger than all.’

John 10v27 – 30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my father’s hand. I and the father are one.”

We should not fear that Satan shall overcome his maker. For God has put us into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that he should be the good and faithful keeper of both our bodies and our souls. Therefore, let us rest upon him. But yet, let us not cease to be wary and careful. Those who are negligent shall find themselves overcome by every blow. For as for the sureness that we have in God, it does not make us dull; it does not lead us to forget our own dangers. It only upholds us so that we do not quail in the fight. But as for those who are drowsy and flatter themselves, they despise God’s aid and relief. Our Lord says, ‘I will hold you up, be not afraid. For although Satan will charge against you with thundering assaults so that it seems to you that everything shall go to ruin, yet you shall be safe under me and under my hand.’ But when he says so, his meaning is not that people should presume upon themselves and go no further. On the contrary, he says, ‘Come to me and retire yourselves under my protection that I may be your fortress against those who devise mischief against you.’ Since we find ourselves assailed by so many enemies, it behoves us so much more to know the need we have of God’s help, and that when we are under his protection, we are sure that neither Satan, nor all the wicked people in the world can bring to pass their ultimate aim against us.

Let us mark how Holy Scripture presents a graphic picture of the devil. When the Holy Ghost says that he does not cease to keep his courts and circuits about the earth, it stands us on hand always to keep a sure watch, to be continually on guard and to pray to God and have recourse to him, to arm ourselves more and more with the faith that we may enter into the battle field and fight courageously until such a time that God grants us to enjoy the victory that he has promised us.

Job 2v3 Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and withdraws himself from evil. And still he maintains his integrity, although you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.

It is stated next that God questioned Satan about Job especially. This is a token that in those days there were very few who served God purely. Job’s distinguishing feature is that ‘he withdraws himself from evil’. For the whole world was full of corruption and overflowing with iniquity. If there had been a good store of righteous people in the world and if there had been many like Job who had given themselves to serve God as he did, God would not have spoken of that one man alone. But here it is stated expressly of Job, ‘There is not his match nor his like.’

By this we are warned, then, not to mar ourselves when we are among wicked persons. Even though we may see the whole world set upon mischief and turned upside down, we must not follow the example of the world, or suffer ourselves to be carried away. Rather, we must continue in obedience under the guidance of God, beseeching him to strengthen us with his holy spirit, that we are not tripped up by the stumbling blocks we see around us, which the devil casts before us to thrust us out of our way.

Seeing that Job lived in such a world in all soundness, we should note that whatever may be going on around us, we should never permit ourselves the liberty of doing evil. We should have an eye towards God and be thoroughly set upon him alone and walk as if we were in his presence. For we see the record that is given of the holy fathers who lived righteously, for example in the eleventh of Hebrews. They did not regard the people around them. They did not say, ‘even if I only go half way towards the way they live, at least I will still be better than my neighbours.’ Rather, they noted that God sees how we walk in this world and that we must carry ourselves as if we were under God’s eye at all times. We must have our eyes settled upon him alone.

For emphasis, God repeats the commendation of Job, that he was sound and upright and withdrew himself from evil. This soundness of heart is the true foundation upon which we must ground ourselves. No matter what virtues we may have, all will be nothing but dung and stark filthiness before God, unless the fountain of the heart is pure and clean. According to that shall all our works be judged. Therefore, let everybody enter into themselves and search their own conscience. For even if we are well liked by the people around us, even if they are well contented with us, yet we shall be cursed by God if there is any hypocrisy in our hearts. We should not be ‘double hearted’, as the scriptures put it in another place. When we are so minded to serve God, our life will be answerable to him alone and we should walk as it becomes us before him. We see various people that would fain be taken for righteous people in the world, but their very lives show the contrary. They are people of such good behaviour, who have appropriated all the finish and polish associated with class and culture, that it is a wonder to see them. Nevertheless, the true behaviour, which is so beautifully covered by the veneer of charming etiquette, shows them to be fully devils incarnate and deadly plagues to infect the whole world. So then, let us mark well that the foundation of soundness of heart must be matched by honesty and upright dealing, so that we may be conversant among people, without doing evil to any person, endeavouring to help our neighbours and showing the neighbourliness which God commands us. Here we see how we show our soundness, and this is the one true touchstone whereby God proves us. Just as gold is tried either by the touchstone or the furnace, even so our sound heartedness shows itself by our honest and upright dealing when we live among people without perpetrating evil against any of them and without desiring to draw other peoples goods to us, being void of cruelty, void of pride, void of vainglory. On the contrary, being courteous to all, quick to help those in need, not seeing injustice ‘through fingers’ and diligent to employ ourselves fully according to the ability that God has given us. Just as it behoves us to walk uprightly and faithfully with our neighbours, so it behoves us also to fear God, for it would be absurd if people should have their right and duty, while God in the meantime goes without his. For it is He that should be our starting point, since He is above all and almighty. So then, we must apply ourselves to serving our neighbours, keeping a constant eye on God.

This is well worth marking. For sometimes one sees an outward countenance of virtue, giving the impression that a person is angelic in their goodness and no fault can be found. But this counts for nothing if they do not regard God, but rather despise him. Therefore, it is with good cause that God Almighty himself purposes here to commend his servant Job by matching these two things together, that he has lived uprightly among the people whom God had put around him and he was also devoted to his worship of the living God. He did this, even though he lived here in a world filled with many corruptions. Now, if we consider the soundness in which Job lived among such corruption, we are too lazy if we do not resist all the evils surrounding us. Therefore, do not let us imagine that we can serve God without trouble, for we are certain to be provoked by evil on all sides. How then shall we walk as becomes us? It behoves us to endeavour to withdraw from evil, yes, particularly the evil that is within us. If the evil were merely near to us, we would still need to be careful to withdraw ourselves from it. When Satan seeks to poison us and everything is full of infection, we have good cause to withdraw ourselves. But the evil that is within us is like a burning oven. Look how many wicked lusts there are to carry us away if only we were to allow them. There are so many adversaries to the will of God. As the apostle Paul says, the entire nature of mankind is nothing but enmity to God.

Romans 8v5 – 8 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Therefore, it behoves us to be all the more careful that we withdraw ourselves from evil. How shall we withdraw ourselves? First of all, let us take heed of ourselves and of our wicked affections, which serve to turn us aside from God. Afterwards, let us beware of those who aim to lead us astray and turn us away from God. Such people are mortal plagues. When we see so much iniquity, so much looseness and so much outrage in the world that every vice seems to have its full scope, what is to be done? Let us withdraw ourselves and shun the occasion to participate, as the apostle Paul exhorts us:

1 Corinthians 6v14 – 18 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.”

“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord.

“Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,

and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.

The apostle Paul means that once we have believed, and in so doing entered into the Saviour’s family, it behoves us to be holy both in mind and body and to be given wholly unto God and dedicated to his service. This cannot be done except that we withdraw ourselves from all defilements that may corrupt us. So then, we must eschew occasions of evil. And when we see the world so overflowing with all vice, let us advisedly withdraw ourselves and fasten our eyes upon God, who makes us holy.

And now our Lord adds an accolade to Job that he had not used before: ‘And still he maintains his soundness’.

Job 2v3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains soundness, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

Here God commends Job’s constancy, which was not apparent until such time that he had been wounded to the quick. Job had therefore been a man who had feared God, he had been sound and he had been honest and upright in his conversation with his neighbours. But since he had not been tested, his constancy under extremity had not been revealed. But now Job is bereft of all his goods and has lost his children. Yet he still praises the name of God, acknowledging that he ought to live under whatever conditions the Lord gives him. If it pleases God to give him goods to use, and afterwards to take them from him again, he ought to prepare himself for nakedness and misery; he should not kick against God who has all power and authority.

And so the invincible constancy that God knew to be within Job is revealed. Up to now, it had not undergone serious trial. By this, we see that it is necessary for us to be afflicted. Although we may find it hard and painful at first sight, yet it is necessary for us. And why so? For we do not think on God’s help as it becomes us until we have worked through many dangers and seen that it is through God and God alone that we have gained the upper hand over all temptations. Just as God stated, Job kept his soundness even though he had been sorely persecuted. We must also be continually ready to serve God and to give ourselves wholly to him, no matter how we be tried. We see that it is necessary that each one of us be exercised so that we may understand how much we need God’s help and that our faith be tried in such a way that the power of the Holy Spirit may show itself within us, by getting the upper hand in the temptations and battles that Satan puts to us. May God then grant that we are armed with the heavenly virtue of constancy to withstand all encounters until we have the full victory when we shall be gathered into the everlasting rest of the heavenly kingdom.

Prayer Now let us cast ourselves down in the presence of our good God, acknowledging our faults and beseeching him to make us understand them better, so that we may be brought to a true repentance, when we crave pardon at his hand. We pray that he may so strengthen us by his Holy Spirit that the devil may not be able to gain any victory through us, but that we may have the victory against the devil and against the whole world and against all the sinful desires of our own sinful nature.

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