As we continue our examination of “The Prologue” (Chs. 1-3), the scene shifts dramatically from earth to heaven. The curtain is pulled back as it were and we listen in on a conversation between God and Satan!
II. A Celestial Challenge (1:6-12)
God’s messengers, spirit beings called angels, report to the Lord and He singles out Satan for a challenge. Asking him, “Where have you come from?”, God requires the devil to give an accounting of his activities. Satan’s response is: “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth in it.” (v. 7). We are reminded of Peter’s declaration of the devil that we are to “be alert and of sober mind [because our] enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8).
Ours is no stationary adversary. He roams, he prowls, he’s looking for his next meal! Amazingly the Lord does not say to Satan, “Stop it! Stop your roaming!” No, the Lord issues a challenge to the devil: “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.” (v. 8).
What an endorsement of Job’s character! These words are the same as those which introduced the book, that Job was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (v. 1). Again we are reminded that whatever calamities eventually come Job’s way, they are not punishment for his sins.
But Satan does not cower in the presence of the Almighty. His retort to God is: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (v. 9). He explains Job’s godliness by a kind of quid pro quo argument (something for something else). “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.” (v. 10).
This demonic accusation — that Job’s loyalty is conditional upon God’s blessing — evilly focuses upon God’s goodness toward His servant. God’s “hedge” has provided protection for Job, his family, and his many possessions. God’s blessing has been the bribe God used to keep Job loyal and godly.
And Satan is not finished with his debate with the Lord. He next issues a challenge to God: “But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (v. 11). Satan wants God to do the striking. Satan wants God to be cursed by Job.
But Satan is not in charge, even if he acts like he is. The Lord’s response to Satan’s assault is: “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (v. 12). Satan is a real and powerful adversary. But he is not God. And God gives him permission to remove Job’s possessions. However, the devil is commanded not to lay a finger on Job himself. How will a poverty-stricken Job respond to his upcoming loss of all things?
Satan wastes no time in carrying out his God-allowed attack on Job and his wealth. We read that he “went out from the presence of the Lord.” (v. 12).
This first challenge from the devil should give pause to all who have swallowed the health and wealth gospel nonsense. Is the Lord obligated to materially bless His servants? Are riches a definitive proof of God’s blessing? Should one be loyal to the Lord in order to receive prosperity? What about when that wealth wastes away or is violently removed?