Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Job which describes the suffering of Job and the struggle he had with understanding it all. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters eight through eleven of this Old Testament Book. EXPLAINING SUFFERING! EXPLAINING THE REASON FOR SUFFERING! EXPLAINING THE NATURE AND MAKEUP OF SUFFERING! EXPLAINING THE PURPOSE FOR SUFFERING! TRYING TO EXPLAIN GOD’S ROLE IN SUFFERING! GOD, WHERE ARE YOU IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? GOD, DO YOU HEAR ME? GOD DO YOU SEE ME? GOD, IS MY PRAYER AND CRY COMING BEFORE YOU? TURNING SUFFERING INTO A CONVERSATION ABOUT GOD! RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SUFFERING! CAN A JUST MAN SUFFER? SHOULD A JUST MAN SUFFER? WHY WOULD THE LIVING GOD ALLOW A JUST MAN TO SUFFER? WHY WOULD A GOOD GOD ALLOW A JUST MAN TO EXPERIENCE HURT AND PAIN? SIN AND SUFFERING! THE DECEPTION THAT SIN IS THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING! SUFFERING WITHOUT A CAUSE! SUFFERING WITHOUT A PURPOSE! MOVING FROM COMFORT TO CONDEMNATION! HOW LONG WILL YOU SPEAK THESE THINGS? HOW LONG WILL THE WORDS OF YOUR MOUTH BE LIKE A STRONG WIND? STRUGGLING TO UNDERSTAND SUFFERING! STRUGGLING TO UNDERSTAND GOD IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IF JOB’S FRIENDS HAD REMAINED IN SILENCE? WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IF JOB’S THREE FRIENDS PRAYED FOR JOB IN THE MIDST OF HIS SUFFERING? PRAYER IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! SONG IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! HOW SHOULD MAN BE JUST WITH GOD? HOW CAN YOU BE RIGHT WITH GOD! THEOLOGICAL DEBATES IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! TURNING SUFFERING INTO A DEBATE AND DISCUSSION! WHO HATH HARDENED HIMSELF AGAINST HIM, AND HATH PROSPERED? EXPLAINING THE NATURE OF GOD! GOD’S NATURE CALLED INTO QUESTION DURING SUFFERING! HE BREAKETH ME WITH A TEMPTEST, AND MULTIPLIETH MY WOUNDS WITHOUT CAUSE! HE WILL NOT SUFFER ME TO TAKE MY BREATH, BUT FILLETH ME WITH BITTERNESS! IF I JUSTFY MYSELF, MINE OWN MOUTH SHALL CONDEMN ME! IF I SAY, I AM PERFECT, YET WOULD I NOT KNOW MY SOUL! MY SOUL IS WEARY OF MY LIFE! I WILL LEAVE MY COMPLAINT UPON MYSELF! I WILL SPEAK IN THE BITTERNESS OF MY SOUL! I WILL SAY UNTO GOD, DO NOT CONDEMN ME! I AM FULL OF CONFUSION; THEREFORE SEE THOU MINE AFFLICTION! KNOW THEREFORE THAT GOD EXACTETH OF THEE LESS THAN THINE INIQUITY DESERVETH!
THE VOICE OF JOB’S CRY! THE VOICE OF JOB’S SUFFERING! JOB’S SUFFERING SPEAK! JOB’S VOICE IS HEARD! WHEN GOD IS SILENT AND LOVE IS LOUD! WHEN GOD IS SILENT AND FRIENDSHIP IS LOUD! WHERE IS GOD IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? CAN GOD BE FOUND IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? TRYING TO FIND GOD! TRYING TO EXPLAIN GOD! SOMETIMES SEARCHING FOR GOD IN SUFFERING IS HARDER THAN IT SEEMS! TRYING TO FIND GOD, TRYING TO UNDERSTAND GOD, TRYING TO EXPLAIN GOD! When you consider the narrative that is found within the Old Testament book of Job you will find that it is one that would not only bring us face to face to face with the righteousness of a man named Job from the land of Uz, but it also brings us face to face with the sovereignty and justice of the eternal God who would deliberately and willingly mention the name of Job in the hearing of Satan. Undoubtedly, when Satan spoke unto Him and declared that he had come from moving to and fro upon the earth, and from going up and down in it, he was indeed and was in fact seeking whom he may devour. Satan’s words in the presence of the living God revealed his true nature and true character with the sons of God whom he appeared with before the throne of God. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Satan appeared with the sons of God before the throne of God, he not only demonstrated his nature in roaming to and fro upon the earth seeking whom he may devour, but it might very well be that his statement in the presence of the living God, as well as his appearance in His presence indicates something which is more often than not overlooked when considering the nature and character of Satan and his assaults and attacks on the people of God. We know that our adversary the devil like a roaring lion moves to and fro up and down in the midst of the earth seeking whom he may devour, but what we often forget is that even his desire to sift as wheat, and even though his desire to devour must operate within the guidelines and parameters of the sovereignty and providence of God. Before we move any further in this writing, I invite you to consider the words which are written and recorded in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke, as well as the words which were written by the apostle Peter in the first epistle written unto the saints which were scattered abroad through the nations of the earth:
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. And he said unto them, When I sent you with purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And the said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough” (Luke 22:31-38).
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore unto the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
It is quite clear and quite obvious from these words that not only did our Lord declare unto Simon that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat, but that same apostle whom Jesus declared Satan desired to have him to sift him as wheat would go on to speak of the same adversary the devil, who as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour. We must recognize and understand this tremendous reality, for both of these passages help us understand the narrative that is found within the opening two chapters of the Old Testament book of Job, as we find Satan appearing with and among the sons of God before the throne—not once, but twice. There is not a doubt in my mind that Satan’s appearance before the throne of God was not only to bring accusation against His servants, but also to seek permission regarding whom he might devour. It’s necessary that we understand this truly remarkable concept, for the underlying question concerning Satan’s appearance before the throne of God with the sons of God, as well as the words which he spoke before and in the presence of the living God must be answered. The question not only becomes why Satan would appear with and among the sons of God before the throne of God, but also around and regarding his statement and response to the LORD when he declared that he came from moving to and fro upon the earth, and from walking up and down in it. IN order to truly understand the narrative of the book of Job and the suffering of Job, it is first necessary to understand the various dialogues which took place therein—beginning and starting with the dialogues which took place between the LORD and Satan. Consider if you will the first and initial dialogues which took place between the adversary Satan and the living and eternal God before and at His throne in heaven. Transitioning back to the first and second chapters of this Old Testament book you will find the following narratives which seemingly set the entire foundation for the suffering and affliction which Job experienced, faced and endured:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:6-12).
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes” (Job 2:1-8).
THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM OF SUFFERING! THE JUSTICE OF SUFFERING! THE PROVIDENCE OF SUFFERING! THE SOVEREIGNTY OF SUFFERING! The more I think about the narrative which took place between the LORD and Satan when he came and presented himself before the LORD among the sons of God, the more I can’t help but consider the fact that when we speak about the suffering of the people of God, we must recognize and understand it as having a legal and judicial reality concerning it. We know that our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, moves to and fro throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour, and yet we have to ask ourselves why the apostle Peter chose to speak of the activity of the devil in terms of his “seeking whom he may devour.” Though it is not implicitly stated within these two passages within the Old Testament book of Job we must recognize and understand the fact that when Satan appeared with and among the sons of God before the throne of God in heaven, he was indeed and he was in fact seeking permission and grounds to devour, to sift as wheat, and perhaps even to steal, kill and destroy. Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities surrounding the dialogue which took place between the LORD and Satan is that Satan’s accusations against Job not only came before the throne of God, but also in the presence of the sons of God with whom he appeared before the throne of God. We know that this dialogue took place between the LORD and Satan at the throne of God, but what is also implied from the Scripture is that this dialogue took place in the presence of the sons of God who appeared before the throne of God. Scripture doesn’t clearly state the purpose and reason for these ‘sons of God” appearing before the throne of God, but one can’t help but wonder if their presence on both of these occasions was to serve as witnesses in the court of heaven as Satan the accuser not only sought to accuse Job before the throne of God, but also sought to obtain legal permission from the authority and the government of heaven to devour whom he would. Oh, it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for when we think about the suffering of the people of God, we must recognize and understand it in terms of the justice, the authority, the dominion, and the government of the LORD God, and the throne upon which He sits. We know the righteousness is the foundation of the throne of God, and yet with that being said it’s absolutely necessary that we understand that surrounding that throne is the government, the authority and the dominion of heaven, and the eternal God who is seated upon the throne.
When we speak and when we think about suffering—not only within our own lives, but also within the lives of the countless men and women throughout the world—very rarely do we recognize and understand the sovereignty and providence of God over and in the midst of it. Very rarely do we recognize and understand the authority and the dominion the living and eternal God has over all the suffering that takes place in the midst of the earth, as well as the suffering which takes place within our lives. What’s more, is that we fail to recognize the court of heaven, the presence of the witnesses, the adversary the devil who seeks to not only accuse the saints of God before the throne of God, but who also seeks to obtain legal permission from the LORD to devour whom he might devour. Within the narrative of the suffering of Job and the dialogue which took place between the LORD and Satan we do not find Satan declaring unto the LORD that he had come from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it seeking whom he might devour. What’s more, is that within these two dialogues which take place between the LORD and Satan we don’t find Satan ever being the one to mention Job by name—at least not initially. When the LORD asked Satan where he had come from, Satan didn’t respond by declaring unto the LORD that he came from the land of Uz, and that he came from seeking to destroy and devour Job. In fact, Satan’s initial words to the LORD when He spoke Job’s name before Satan was that the LORD had placed a hedge and had built up a wall round about Job. It’s important that we recognize and understand these words which were spoken by Satan, for essentially that which Satan was saying was that Job was essentially off limits, for the LORD had placed a wall and a hedge round about him. This reality is something that would later be seen and witnessed in the midst of the land of Israel, for the LORD would build up a hedge round about His people in the midst of the land, and the enemy and adversary would by no means harm or hurt them. What we find in Scripture, however, is that there were times when the LORD would temporarily lift and remove that hedge, thus allowing the enemies and adversaries round about the people of God to enter into and invade the land, and to exercise dominion and authority over them. Of course we know and understand that the temporary removal of the hedge round about the land of Israel would be in direct response to their disobedience, transgression and rebellion in the sight of the living God. Even with that being said, however, it’s necessary that we understand that there is still a hedge which the LORD can make up round about His people—a hedge of protection, which is suggested and spoken of in the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this Old Testament prophetic book concerning that one whom the LORD sought for within and in the midst of the earth:
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the LORD God” (Ezekiel 22:30–31).
It is quite clear from these words found within the prophetic book of Ezekiel that there is a hedge that is found round about the people of God, and from Scripture we learn and discover how that hedge can be removed and lifted by the LORD as a direct result of our transgression, rebellion, disobedience, and iniquity before the LORD, or it can be temporarily lifted and removed by the LORD in order that He might accomplish and fulfill His purposes. When Satan declared to the LORD how he had come from going to and from upon the earth, and from walking up and down in it, we do not find him mentioning Job by name, nor even asking for permission to have Job that he might sift and devour him. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the LORD Himself would mention Job by name before the enemy, the adversary, the accuser, the devil, and all the witnesses which were present there before the throne of God that Satan would begin to speak about he hedge that had been built up round about Job and all that he had. Pay close attention to the words which Satan speaks in the hearing of the LORD, for not only did his words speak of the hedge which the LORD had built up round about Job, but his words also reveal his accusation—not only of Job, but also his accusation against the living and eternal God. It’s worth noting and reading these words, for these words reveal Satan’s accusation against the LORD concerning his building up a hedge round about Job and thus making and causing him to be untouchable, as well as his accusation against Job that his righteousness, his piety, and his faithfulness before the LORD was based only in His provision, His blessing, His protection, and His favor within his life. Oh please don’t miss this, for there before and in the company of the witnesses that were before the throne of God in the court of heaven—not only do we have the accusation(s) of the adversary, but we also have Satan seeking legal cause and legal precedent and permission to devour whom he would. It is absolutely necessary that we do not forget, nor miss out and ignore this particular reality and concept, for it is absolutely necessary when we seek to understanding the suffering of the righteous within and in the midst of the earth. More often than not when we think about suffering—specifically, when we think about the suffering of the righteous, which might very well include us ourselves—we ask the question of how a good God could and would allow suffering. We know the popular contemporary Christian song “Good, Good Father” which was written by Chris Tomlin, and yet in the midst of suffering we find ourselves struggling with the goodness of God who would willingly and deliberately allow suffering in the lives of His saints, and in the midst of the lives of His righteous saints. If there is one thing we find and read from the book of Job, it’s that the LORD can, does, and more often than not will allow suffering to take place within the lives of His righteous saints and servants as much as He would in the earth which is experienced by the unjust, the ungodly, and the wicked. Consider if you will the words which are also found and written within the first epistle written by the apostle Peter, which are found in the latter portion of the fourth chapter:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding job. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murder, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a. Faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-18).
Perhaps one of the most striking realities surrounding the book of Job—as well as the dialogue which took place between Job and his three friends—is their wrestling with how Job who was (supposedly) a righteous and just man could in fact suffer. If you read the dialogue and narrative that took place between Job and his three friends you will find that they wrestled with each other concerning how a man like Job could indeed suffer in the earth. Undoubtedly Job’s three friends were aware of his righteousness, his faithfulness, his obedience, and his piety before the LORD his God prior to hearing about his suffering, and yet now that they have come upon him in the midst of his suffering, they began to question everything they knew about Job. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for it’s actually quite astonishing to think about when you take the time to consider it. The more you read the dialogues which took place between Job and his three friends the more you will find them wrestling with seeking to understand Job’s suffering and how he who was supposedly a righteous man in the earth could face such intense suffering, and such intense affliction within his life. The only logical conclusion Job’s three friends could find and ascertain within their own minds was that Job was somehow guilty of iniquity before the LORD. Whether through secret faults or presumptuous sins, Job must have been guilty of sin, iniquity, rebellion, transgression and evil before the LORD. Job’s three friends could only explain and otherwise understand the suffering Job in the context and through the lens of sin, transgression and rebellion before the LORD. None of Job’s three friends had any context, nor did they have a framework or understanding for suffering taking place outside and apart from sin, iniquity, transgression and wickedness within the heart of Job. Through the dialogue which took place between Job and his three friends we find Job seeking to understand the nature, the purpose and reason behind his suffering, and we find his three friends attempting to explain his suffering through the lens and in the context of there being hidden and secret sin within his life. None of Job’s three friends could understand, fathom, or comprehend the suffering of Job without and apart from there being sin within his life. There is not a doubt in my mind that Job’s three friends could not understand, nor could they comprehend the fact that the living and eternal God could indeed allow suffering to take place simply because of His sovereignty, simply because of His providence, and simply because of His authority, dominion and government in the midst of suffering and over all mankind. In all reality, I would dare say that at this particular period of time and history there was no underlying context for the saints of God suffering apart from sin, iniquity and transgression within the life of that one who was suffering. Had Job’s three friends been alive and present during this generation and during these days they would have undoubtedly suggested and declared that the suffering which is taking place all around the world is due to the sin, iniquity and transgression of men and women, as well the suffering of those who proclaim and profess themselves to be righteous.
One of the greatest realities surrounding the Old Testament book of Job is the underlying reality that on the one hand you find Job seeking to understand his suffering, as well as seeking to understand the nature of the God whom he served, while on the other hand we find Job’s three friends seeking to explain Job’s suffering through the lens and context of sin, iniquity, transgression, and wickedness within his heart and life. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that within the book of Job—not only do we find the presence of seeking to understand suffering, but we also find the presence of seeking to explain suffering. What’s more, is that within the Old Testament book of Job we find the desire to understand the nature and character of God, as well as the desire to explain the nature and character of God. The dialogue which took place between Job and his three friends was a dialogue that would not only center around the purpose for Job’s suffering, but also around the nature and character of the the living God and why and how He could allow such intense suffering within the life of Job. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that neither Job, nor his three friends knew or were aware of the dialogue which had taken place in the court of heaven before the throne of God as Satan the adversary and accuser stood before the throne of God in the presence and witness of the sons of God who came to appear before the living God. Neither Job, nor his three friends were aware of the proclamation the living God made concerning Job in the presence of all those witnesses, as well as in the hearing of Satan the adversary and accuser. It’s one thing for the author of the book of Job to write and declare that Job was a man who was perfect and upright, and a man who feared God and shunned evil, but it’s another thing for the living God himself to speak those words. What’s more, is that the living God not only spoke those words once, but twice in the presence of the sons of God, as well as unto Satan the adversary and accuser. On both occasions when Satan appeared with and among the sons of God as they appeared before the throne of God in heaven, the LORD spoke of and professed the righteousness of Job, and how Job was a man who feared God and shunned evil. Even more than this you will find the absolutely incredible reality that when Satan came among the sons of God a second time before the throne of God—not only did the LORD echo and utter the same words, but He also added how Job still maintained his integrity in the midst of Satan’s seeking to move the living God against him without cause and without reason.
This is something worth considering, for neither Job, nor Job’s three friends knew or were aware of this dialogue which took place between the living and eternal God, and Satan the accuser and adversary. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but continue to think about this court room scene which took place in the midst of heaven before the throne of God in the presence of witnesses, as the accuser and adversary not only sought to seek legal permission from the LORD to sift those whom he would, but also sought to bring an accusation against Job after the LORD mentioned him by name, and against the LORD Himself because of His preferential treatment of Job, and the hedge which He had built up round about him. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found—not only in the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Zechariah, but also the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in each of these passages concerning the presence of the accuser of the brethren, and the accuser of the saints:
“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that’s hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by” (Zechariah 3:1-7).
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, and where hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against thee dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found Amy more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:1-17).
There is a tremendous and powerful truth that is contained within both of these passages, for both of these passages further confirm one of the characteristics of the ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan. In the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ we find that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and that he accused the saints of God and the brethren day and night before our God. What’s more, is that we find this in full effect in the narrative and vision which the ancient prophet Zechariah saw, for Zechariah describes how he saw Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at the right hand of Joshua to resist or accuse him. For us to truly understand the nature of the adversary it is absolutely imperative that we understand it from a legal perspective, for our adversary the Devil is not only the accuser of the brethren, but our adversary as a roaring lion walks to and fro throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour. The narrative that is found in the Old Testament book of Job demonstrates a great court scene unfolding in the court of heaven with the living and eternal God sitting upon His throne, the sons of God before Him as witnesses, and Satan coming among and with the sons of God. We know from this passage—as well as the words which are written in the first epistle of the apostle Peter—that our adversary walks to and fro throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour, and the narrative within the Old Testament book of Job demonstrates that in order to devour as he would, he needs to obtain legal permission from the throne of God in the court of heaven to be able to move and operate as such. This reality is further emphasized in the narrative of Simon also called Peter when Jesus declared concerning him that Satan asked and desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. Please don’t miss this all important reality, for Satan couldn’t merely have Simon without gaining permission from Jesus the Christ, nor could he sift Simon as wheat without granting and securing permission from Jesus Christ his Lord. It’s necessary for us to realize and recognize this absolutely tremendous reality, for when we think about the opposition of Satan within our hearts and lives we must recognize that not only does, and not only must it operate within the parameters and boundaries set by the living God, but so also must Satan gain specific and certain permission to actually devour as he would. Satan would and could not touch Job without and apart from the eternal God granting him permission to first touch all that he had, and second granting him permission to touch his body.
IT WAS THE LORD ALONE WHO REMOVED THE HEDGE! The words which Satan spoke unto the LORD after He spoke of and mentioned His servant Job clearly indicate a hedge of protection and provision the living and eternal God places before and around His people, and how the living and eternal God can choose to temporarily lift and remove that hedge at any given time. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this truly astonishing reality, for there was indeed a hedge that was set up round about Job, and this was something which even Satan recognized and acknowledged in the presence of the living God. It was Satan who not only acknowledged the hedge round about Job and spoke of it in the presence of the eternal God, but also used the presence of that hedge as a means to accuse both Job and the LORD Himself. Satan used the presence and reality of this hedge against Job to emphatically declare that Job was only faithful before and unto the living God because of the hedge that was round about him—regardless of whether or not he was aware of that hedge and its presence. What’s more, is that Satan used the reality and presence of his hedge to accuse the LORD Himself, for he declared that it was the LORD who had made Job untouchable, and secured Job’s safety and security from any attacks or assaults. Satan came and appeared before the throne of God after moving to and fro upon the earth and from walking up and down in it, and he did so in order that he might not only accuse before the throne of God in the court of heaven, but also gain legal permission to mount his assault and attack against those whom he would. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible reality, for it brings us face to face with the awesome truth that Satan not only seeks to accuse us night and day before the throne of God, but also needs to secure and gain permission and legal precedent from the LORD to devour, to attack, to assault, and target the people of God. We know that Satan is the adversary who seeks to devour, and we do know that Satan is the accuser who seeks to accuse, however, he has never been able to, nor will he ever be able to operate beyond the parameters that have been set by the eternal God. Satan has never, nor will he ever be able to move and/or operate beyond the court of heaven, and he must always more within those parameters and boundaries which the living God sets from the throne in heaven.
What so utterly and completely fascinates me about what is present within the book of Job is that we find in the opening two chapters two distinct and separate dialogues which took place in the court of heaven between the eternal God and Satan who appeared before him among the sons of God, and yet neither Job nor his three friends knew of this dialogue and interaction. Neither Job nor his three friends knew of the profession and proclamation the eternal God made of Job, and that the eternal God not only pronounced Job as perfect and upright, but also in the same breath and within the same interaction offered Job up into the hands of Satan the adversary. Stop for a moment and think about that, for it has the ability to completely and utterly wreck and destroy your theology concerning the God whom we serve. We have been taught to think and believe that because we might be perfect and upright in the sight of the living God that that somehow exempts and causes us to be immune from suffering, from pain, from anguish, from trial and troubles. We tend to think that our righteousness and our obedience before and in the sight of the living somehow causes us to be immune from any form of suffering, and yet the truth of the matter is that this couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth. If there is one thing the narrative of the book of Job demonstrates and reveals it’s that the eternal God can indeed proclaim and pronounce someone righteous in His sight, and even pronounce someone righteous before the accuser of the brethren, and yet in the same encounter grant permission for that righteous person to experience tremendous suffering. What’s more, is that within the book of Job—not only do we find the eternal God pronouncing and proclaiming Job righteous on two separate occasions, but we also find in those two occasions and encounters the same God who pronounced the righteousness of Job also granted permission unto the adversary to not only touch all that Job had, but also Job’s physical body. How absolutely captivating this thought truly is when you take the time to think a bout it, for we have been taught that our righteousness and our obedience unto and before the living God somehow exempts and makes us immune from suffering, from affliction, from agony, from anguish, from trials, from troubles, and the like. We have been taught to believe that righteous men and righteous woman ought not and should not suffer, and that their righteousness is somehow a hedge round about them in the midst of suffering. The truth of the matter is that it has never been, nor will it ever be our righteousness that is a hedge around us, but the living and eternal God who is the hedge.
THE LORD IS THE HEDGE—NOT OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! Through the Old Testament book of Job we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely remarkable reality that it wasn’t Job’s righteousness that made up the hedge around Job, for it was actually his righteousness that was professed and pronounced by the eternal God. If we are to truly understand that which is found within the Old Testament book of Job we must recognize and understand that it wasn’t Job’s righteousness that made up the hedge round about him, but rather it was the LORD Himself who was the hedge, and the LORD himself who made up the hedge. As such, it was the LORD who could remove and temporarily lift the hedge—despite and even though Job was a perfect and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. Despite the fact that Job was indeed righteous before and in the sight of the living God—that did not mean that the hedge round about him could not be lifted, and the enemy and adversary granted access to touch all that he had, and even his physical body. Just because Job was righteous in the sight of the living God, and just because Job feared God and shunned evil, that didn’t mean that Job was untouchable, nor even that the LORD would and could not remove the hedge—albeit even temporarily. What’s more, is that within the book of Job—not only do we find the LORD pronouncing Job righteous in the court of heaven before Satan and the sons of God, and not only do we find the LORD temporarily removing and lifting the hedge which was round about Job, but we also find the LORD silent in the midst of suffering, silent in the midst of the words of Job’s wife, and even silent in the midst of the three distinct dialogues Job had with his three friends who made an appointment to mourn with him and comfort him. Stop and think about this reality for a moment—that not only could the LORD speak of Job as being righteous in the court of heaven before the adversary and the accuser, but the LORD could also in the midst of that righteousness agree to temporarily remove and lift the hedge of protection that is before and round about His servant, and allow Satan access to do what He granted Him permission to do. It’s worth noting that not only did the LORD temporarily remove the hedge which was round about Job, but He also clearly defined that which Satan the adversary could in fact do within his life. The LORD first removed the hedge which was round about all that Job had, and declared that Satan could touch everything that was in Job’s possession, and the LORD would then remove the hedge which was round about and upon the physical body of Job, and would allow Satan to touch his physical body. This completely and utterly goes against everything we have been taught, and everything we have believed concerning the goodness of the God we serve, and even how the LORD our God operates within the lives of His righteous and faithful servants.
FIRST, THE HEDGE AROUND POSSESSIONS WAS TEMPORARILY LIFTED! SECOND, THE HEDGE AROUND THE PHYSICAL BODY WAS TEMPORARILY LIFTED! Please do not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and astonishing reality, for when we speak of the suffering which Job experienced at this particular point in his life, we must note and understand that the hedge which was round about him not only touched his possessions and that which he had, but it also touched his physical body. What’s more, is that we must recognize and understand that if Job’s righteousness was indeed the hedge around him, or if Job’s righteousness was the hedge around him, then we would have a drastically different picture found within the Old Testament book of Job. Perhaps the most important reality to learn and understand within the book of Job is that it was the LORD Himself who made up the hedge round about Job and all that he had, and it was the LORD Himself who could choose to keep that hedge in place, or temporarily remove it. It should be noted that the LORD didn’t merely remove the hedge within the life of Job once, but He removed it a second time—and in both cases, He removed it BECAUSE Job was a righteous man. This was something Job’s three friends could not understand, and was something they struggled with—not only in their understanding of the living God, but also in their understanding of suffering in direct relation to righteousness before and in the sight of the living God. One thing I can’t help but wonder is what would happen if the first two chapters of the book of Job weren’t found at the beginning of the book, but were rather found at the end of the book—perhaps either before we finally find God breaking His silence, or after God broke His silence. Hindsight is always 20/20, and we have the benefit of reading the book of Job knowing that Job was a righteous man, knowing that Job was pronounced righteous by God in the court of heaven before Satan and the sons of God, and that it was the LORD Himself who removed the hedge round about Job and allowed him to be exposed to the attacks and assault of the adversary and accuser. In the presence of accusation in the court of heaven the LORD temporarily removed and lifted the hedge which was round about Job and allowed all that he had—even his physical body to be touched.
The more you read the dialogue which took place between Job and his three friends the more you will find his friends not only trying to explain his suffering through the lens of sin and transgression, but also instructing him to seek the LORD, and to call and cry out to him. The trouble with the dialogue which took place between Job and his three friends is when you think about and consider that the LORD can pronounce you righteous in the court of heaven, the LORD can temporarily lift the hedge of protection round about you, and the LORD can allow you to be touched by suffering, adversity, and affliction, and yet He can also allow Himself to be seem and/or feel distant and silent. Through the book of Job we encounter Job’s three friends instructing Job to call upon the LORD, and to seek the LORD, and yet how do you respond to that when you feel as though God is not only silent, but is also distant and far away? How do you respond to that particular reality when you feel as though God is nowhere to be found, and that heaven is as brass and iron? There is not a doubt in my mind that confusion and questions swirled round about Job and within his heart and soul as he struggled and wrestled to understand what was taking place, and why it was indeed taking place. We cannot afford to miss this, for one of the greatest dangers that we as the Church can do in the midst of suffering is to instruct those who are suffering to seek the LORD, and to call upon the LORD—all the while we fail to recognize that for them heaven might seem as brass, and God seems and appears to be distant and silent in the midst of their suffering. While I do believe that we can indeed and can in fact call upon the name of the LORD in the midst of our suffering, and that we can in fact seek the LORD in the midst of our suffering—we might very well find God to seem silent and distant in the midst of our prayers and suffering. What do you do, and how do you respond when you are walking through perhaps the most intense suffering you have ever experienced, and even though you are seeking the face of the eternal God, it seems as though He is not listening and not present. We know that God is an ever present help in time of need, however, how do you explain that reality in the midst of the suffering of Job when Job thought and felt that the living and eternal God was not only silent, but also absent and distant? It’s interesting to note that God was present within the first two chapters of the Old Testament book of Job, and then He doesn’t show up until the final chapters of the book when He not only confronts Job in the midst of His suffering, but He also confronts Job’s three friends.
In all reality, I am convinced that one of the greatest truths and one of the greatest realities which we as the body of Christ can indeed show and express in the midst of any suffering we witness, experience and behold in our generation is written and expressed in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James. While within the latter half of the second chapter we find James speaking of the relationship between faith and works, we must understand that in the midst of the suffering which takes place before and all around us—there needs to be a wonderful marriage and partnership of faith and works. There is not a doubt in my mind that in the midst of suffering we can’t only respond with faith, nor can we respond only with works. There would be those who would choose to meet suffering with faith, and feel as though that somehow accomplishes that which needs to be done in the hearts and lives of those suffering, however, I am convinced that more often than not—not only is faith not enough, but it’s only half of the picture. What’s more—and conversely—I do not believe that works alone is enough, for works alone does not entirely meet the need which arises in the midst of suffering. There would be those who would choose to meet the need of suffering with works, and would altogether and entirely leave faith out of the picture. I am convinced that it is just as dangerous to respond to suffering solely with faith as it is with works, and if we are truly going to be agents of change in the midst of suffering, we not only need to express and embody this marriage of faith and works, but we also need to be ambassadors for Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James, as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Year, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But with thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou I how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the LORD, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which lives should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which diced for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto him self, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:9-21).
It would be very easy in the midst of suffering to respond simply and solely with and through faith, and throw works to the wind, and yet I am completely and utterly convinced that such a mindset is not only dangerous, but is also deadly—both from an earthly perspective, as well as from a heavenly and eternal perspective. We dare not, we cannot, we should not respond to suffering solely by faith and think that faith alone is enough in the midst of suffering. We do recognize and understand that the just shall live by faith, however, what we must understand is that faith has always and must always lead to and produce works—and not just works, but good works—within our hearts and lives. We cannot in good conscience before and in the sight of the living God rely solely and completely on faith, and leave works entirely and altogether out of it. Prayer does in fact exact and effect change in the midst of suffering, however, I would dare say there are countless men and women who think to use prayer as a means to somehow exempt them from any type of responsibility with works and with action(s) which they must take when witnessing and beholding suffering. Perhaps there is no greater demonstration and manifestation of this than is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus written by the apostle Matthew. Within the twenty-fifth chapter of this gospel we find the apostle Matthew writing concerning the kingdom of heaven, and how before the throne the King will separate on one hand the goats, while on the hand He will separate the sheep. This particular passage is especially needful and necessary when we are speaking of the suffering that might very well and does in fact take place before and all around us. If we want to understand our responsibility of faith and works in the midst of the suffering we must consider Jesus’ words concerning how the sheep and goats are going to be separated before the throne of God in heaven. Consider if you will the words found within this passage of Scripture beginning with the thirty-first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set he sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, LORD, when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? OR when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the KING shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me not meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
With these words we are brought face to face with the tremendous reality of what faith manifested and demonstrated by works actually looks like—and even what it means in the midst of a present and real need. Although suffering is not specifically mentioned within this particular narrative, we must recognize and understand that what we find and read within this passage of Scripture is indeed a truly powerful declaration concerning what is needed during times of suffering. We dare not read these words and consider these words and consider them to be applicable during times of peace, during times of calm, during times of comfort, and even during times of need. There is absolutely mistaking or doubting the fact that the words which Jesus spoke within this particular narrative have a direct implication as to a responsibility which we as the people of God do in fact have in the midst of suffering which takes place in the world and generation in which we live. One of the underlying questions that is being asked during this time is what can we do to help in the midst of the need, and in the midst of the suffering that is prevalent all around us. We cannot, we must not, and should not think—even for a moment—that faith alone is enough during this time, and that there is not a responsibility within our hearts and lives to be men and women of action and works. I will never state that faith alone isn’t enough, and that faith and prayer can’t make a difference in the midst of suffering, but what I can and will wholeheartedly declare is that faith and prayer by their very nature and essence demand works on our part. Faith and prayer have never been, nor will they ever be absent responsibility on our part to works, and to actively fleshing out what we believe and what we are praying. We dare not think and believe—even for a moment—that we can and should have faith and works absent and apart from any responsibility to works in the midst of everything that is taking place around us. We dare not think and believe that we are somehow free from the responsibility of faith and works in the midst of everything we see taking place before and all around us, and that we do not bear a responsibility through prayer and in prayer to engage ourselves in works as we demonstrate and manifest our faith within this generation, and during this time—especially with all the hurt, all the pain, all the suffering, and all the chaos and confusion that is all around us. Oh that we would be men and women of faith and prayer, but that our faith and our prayer would drive us and compel us to action and not simply inaction, complacency and laziness.