Related Verses: Genesis 3, Job 1-2, Matthew 4, Luke 4
Leading Question: Is Satan’s attack on Job typical of his methods in dealing with humans?
The title for this week’s lesson is simply a sneer from Satan as he talks about Job’s apparent morality: “Does Job fear God for nought?” His intention is to prove that Job’s apparent morality is nothing more than a bribe as a result of God’s material blessings. But for God’s goal in the “Great Controversy” to be successfully met, he needs people who will freely and willingly submit to any kind of test in order to prove that their love for God and for the good is genuine.
In short, the kind of test through which Satan took Job is particularly villainous and quite unfair. But to use an image from sports, the only way a coach can prove that his kids can swim is to dump them in the water. Rhetoric by itself just doesn’t cut it.
This kind of attack, however, is not the only weapon in the devil’s arsenal. This week’s lesson allows us to glimpse a variety of victims and a variety of satanic methods as he seeks to destroy God and God’s good creation. In particular we will look more closely at Adam and Eve in Eden, at Job’s wife, and at Jesus’ temptations in the wildness, noting similarities and differences with reference to Job’s experience.
In the Garden
Question: How did Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden differ from Job’s trials? How do the two different approaches compare with those that confront us?
- Disguised villain or an invisible one? In the garden, Satan was fully present, though disguised as a serpent. In Job, no satanic figure appears to Job at all. The Tempter is entirely invisible. For us, which would be more difficult to resist?
- Conversation or silence? In the Garden, Satan lures his victims with subtle attacks against God and insinuating suggestions. In Job, there is no misleading story line. The heavens are as brass. When Job cries out for an answer, he hears nothing – until the very end. Which would be more difficult to endure for us? Are not our temptations more like Job’s?
- A final examination? In the Garden, our first parents don’t realize that they were being put to the test. They simply slipped into the examination unawares. In Job, the disasters came without comment. But after the dust had settled, God appeared in the storm and confronted Job with a real examination, one which Job flunked. His score? Zero out of eighty-eight. Of the two methods, which would be a better test of one’s loyalty? Today, we do not often have the privilege of flunking God’s exam as openly as Job did. So is our narrative more like that in the garden or like that in Job?
Question: To what extent did Satan directly attack Job’s wife? Is her situation at all like ours?
Innocent bystander vs. the one directly attacked. In Job, the primary object of Satan’s wrath was Job. In fact, the only place where his wife comes to view is in 2:9 and 10. She speaks all of two sentences to Job and he two sentences to her:
9. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
The narrator in Job adds: “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
The context is tantalizing because the stakes raised by the use of the word “curse.” The Hebrew word translated as “curse” also can be translated as “bless.” Thus one could translate the wife’s response as: “Bless God and die!”
Does all this possibly suggest that she was simply a devout woman who was asking Job to recognize the realities of a cruel world, speak one final blessing, then die? Virtually all commentaries paint her as a villain. But note that Job is right on the verge of abandoning his stoic acceptance. In 3:1 Job “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” He didn’t curse God directly, but cursed the day of his birth.
Is it significant that Job’s wife is never named? Three of his new daughters at the end of the book receive names (that’s more than the original three) and Job’s wife is never mentioned in the restoration. Was she the mother of all 20 of Job’s children? Scripture does not say.
Question: How often are we called upon to speak a word of “encouragement” to someone who is suffering from multiple attacks? To what extent is this a subtle temptation from Satan?
Jesus in the Wilderness
Question: To what extent do Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness mirror our own in the on-going tussle with Satan?
In the wilderness temptation scene recorded in both Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Satan confronts Jesus with three separate temptations. Though Matthew and Luke switch the order of the second and third temptations, the essence of each temptation is the same. But given the focus of this lesson on Job, it would be helpful to ask how the mode of confrontation and the content of each temptation parallels our own.
Though the first temptation involves appetite and food, the root of the first temptation is more deeply tied to Jesus’ self-consciousness as the Lord’s Messiah. Forty days earlier Jesus had come from his baptism with the words of affirmation spoken there: “This is my Son” (Matt. 3:17). Will he be able to remember his calling in the light of Satan’s attack? For us, turning stones to bread is not a temptation. It is an impossibility. For Jesus, it was a real temptation to “test” his status. Would he be able to perform such a miracle? Yet he stood firm.
Reasoning from my own experience, the first of the three is the only one that I can imagine being a real temptation for Jesus. The second one (in Matthew) the challenge to throw himself down is buttressed by a quotation from Scripture. But I cannot imagine how this temptation would have any appeal for Jesus. Similarly the temptation to bow down and worship Satan would seem to be even more far-fetched.
But for ordinary mortals, the three temptations could take quite different forms. We are forever being tempted to manipulate power to our own advantage (rocks to bread), we are always at risk from presumption, placing ourselves where we should not be in hope that God will deliver us (jump from the temple), and to “worship” the forces of evil by our devious motives, even though we probably would be horrified if we could recognize that we were actually worshiping Satan.
To sum up, if one compares the four different modes of satanic attack that have been raised in this lesson, it gives us plenty of room for personal application. These are the four:
Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Jesus in the wilderness.
Since most of us rarely encounter Satan in a personal form, Job and Job’s wife are the ones with the most likely parallels to our experience. For Job, there is no evidence that he was aware of the role of Satan in his sufferings. His world looked just like ours when tragedy strikes. For Job’s wife, the application would be tantalizingly cryptic. In terms of Satan’s intention, she would appear to be a collateral figure. She was near the one under attack. Did she encourage Job or not? “Perhaps” may be the best answer we can give. Still, the personal application is available to us. When anyone is under attack, we have the opportunity of encouraging and supporting. We don’t have to attack as did Job’s friends.