Suffering and the Inevitability of Sin

The opening chapters of Job seem to set up a contest of sorts – but what could be its point?  Although it appears on the surface that Satan is challenging God, actually it is the other way around.  Right at the beginning, God directs Satan’s attention to Job:

Then Jehovah said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” [1:8]

But what is the reason for this contest?  It is important to first consider the nature of Satan.  When originally faced with the idea of rejecting God, the Devil had jumped at it, and like an addict, rebellion now fills the center of his vision, or as St Paul puts it: “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure” [Titus 1:15].  Satan thoroughly expects that anyone who is given the chance to reject God wouldn’t even think twice about the opportunity – in other words, “rebellion is inevitable.”

On these same lines, one may encounter comments where there is high praise for Adam and Eve for finally “thinking for themselves” when they sinned – in other words, when humans really think for themselves, it is unavoidable that they will reject God’s will.  One also hears the “cult of selfishness” speaking in the Devil’s accusation that Job is merely acting “in his self-interest” when he worships God, since God is blessing him.  However, take away the props of blessings, and he will fall like a ton of bricks into rebellion.

Of course, it would appear that Satan has the advantage in this contest, since humanity by nature is already leaning so far in the direction of rebellion that it should not take much of a push to make one go all the way.

It is true that Job certainly does not show himself as “a saint,” that is, he is not “like a sheep that before its shearers is silent” [Isaiah 53:7].  He does not unquestioningly submit to the trial.  No, he wrestles, he argues to know why, he curses the day that he was born – but what he does not do is what Satan challenges through the mouth of his wife, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die” [Job 2:9].  Instead, he pronounces a powerful statement of confidence and faith,

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last He will stand upon the earth; and even after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, my eyes shall behold Him, and not another.  How my inward self yearns within me! [Job 19:25-27]

At the end of the book, Satan likely would be seen walking away completely bewildered that one who has so much reason to “curse God and die” refuses to do so.  The concept of such faithfulness is just too foreign to the Devil’s nature – after all, his whole being has already leapt at the chance to rebel.

As well, the contest also identifies that there is serious responsibility that comes with rebellion, which cannot be trivialized as in the idea that  “the Devil made me do it!” or that “I could not help myself, I am the victim!” which often is the excuse for addictions.  No, sin does not have to be inevitable, when one looks to the Lord.

It is also important to realize that the contest is not merely for Satan’s sake.  Remember that it has been played out from the very throneroom of heaven, therefore its observers are the universe.  It is demonstrated literally to all that, at least for the human believer, sin (rebellion) does not have to be inescapable.

Still Job does not understand what has happened.  It is startling to realize that nowhere in the book does God ever tell him why.  Nowhere is this human given to understand that the battle fought in his life has cosmic significance.  But then could he ever comprehend that he is the proof which refutes what Satan thinks cannot be avoided?  Jehovah of Covenant does not explain the importance of what he went through, rather the message is simply, “trust Me, I do know what I am doing.”

The message is the same as when after St Peter is reinstated and informed by Jesus that he will courageously stand up for his faith [John 21], he indicates St John and asks, “what about him?”  Jesus’ reply is “What is that to you? You follow Me” [vv 21-22].  No, God is not obligated to explain everything He does to us, but rather He looks us square in the eye and says, “you be faithful – trust Me!”

The Covenant Name “Jehovah” is used in Job, although as Abraham’s contemporary, he would not be under the Circumcision Covenant.  Yet the relationship here parallels Abraham’s bond with Jehovah: there is the total reliance upon each other for those who have bound themselves together.
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The demand on Job is really not much different than the call on Abraham when Jehovah commands him “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering …” [Genesis 22:2].  Abraham’s response is the uncomplaining trust of this bond, although he also probably powerfully wrestles with this command as Job wrestles with his circumstances, since Satan does not take vacations during these times.

Is the contest only for 4,000 years ago?   In a congregation where I once served, there was a older woman who was dying of a painful cancer.  Yet every time that I visited her, staff and even doctors would take me aside and remark how this woman would patiently wait for medication and without a miss would always thank them for whatever they did – all in spite of the great pain that they knew she had.  When she died, probably half of the congregation at the funeral was from the hospital.  Like Job, she probably had no idea why she should be the battleground for suffering.  But like the Book of Job, we know.

And even here, Satan walks away, shaking his head in bewilderment.



An emailed response to this post asks this question:

>  you wrote in relation to Job’s suffering that sin is not inevitable.
>  This is a question in my mind as I have thought that sin is
>  inevitable with our sinful nature. I would need this clarified in my mind.

The post in reply to this question is “Revisiting Inevitable Sin


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