When my kids were younger, I got pretty good at deciphering the real meaning behind a question. Like, “Can you stay downstairs a while?” really meant, “I’m up to something so hurry upstairs as quickly as possible.” Or “I like these shoes. Can I take them off?” really meant, “Don’t buy the shoes because I’m never going to wear them.”
So sometimes, the question asked by someone gives more information about the one who poses it than the question itself. That’s definitely the case with the question Satan asked of God recorded at the outset of Job’s story. I realize that I wrote about the end of this man’s story last time, but I thought that knowing how the story concludes helps with the beginning as well. So if you’ll drop back to chapter one to peek behind the celestial curtain for a moment, God allows us to be privy to a unique conversation and at the same time learn a great deal about our adversary, the devil.
With no concrete grounds for blame (vs 1), Satan asked “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (vs 9) and in doing so, he revealed a key dimension of his character. By implying this man’s fundamental motivation for serving the Lord was prestige and selfish gain, he insinuated that material blessing and earthly prosperity were the only possible reasons for devotion. The crafty deceiver supposed that Job’s righteousness was only a façade that would disintegrate if comfort, health and prosperity disappeared. (vs 9-10) But the question really cut deeper since, by extension, his implication was that without a personal profit incentive, God was unworthy of worship, love and trust. Back up to the Garden of Eden and you’ll find a similar twisted meaning implied in the enemy’s taunting statement to Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. In pointing out at the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit and ignoring God’s instructions, he really gestured his gnarly finger at the Lord, indicting Him of being untruthful and wholly untrustworthy.
Accusation. This persists as one of the foremost weapons Satan uses against believers as he pursues his three-fold campaign to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10) And no one is immune from its pointed barbs. As in Job’s case, even the most righteous, godly and committed follower can -and will- hear the stinging voice of the accuser, questioning their intentions, conduct and commitment. (Rev. 12:10)
However, believers in Christ aren’t left defenseless. Since the devil is a defeated foe (Rev 20:1-3), his twisted and malicious indictments have no binding power on God’s children. 1 John 2:1 assures us that because of what took place at Calvary, believers have “an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.” The Greek word for advocate – parakletos – literally means “one who is called to our side” which assures us of the ever-present meditation of Christ on our behalf before the throne of God.
At the same time, the Holy Spirit resides within us to provide unending comfort, encouragement and counsel. (John 14:16, 26) However, since no one (including Job) truly attains right standing before Holy God based on even the purest motives, most righteous behavior or unwavering devotion, (Is 64:6; Rom 3:23) acceptance by God is centered solely in a renewed nature as a result of our relationship with Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:8-9)