Job. Wisdom, and Satan’s Strategy Part II
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
“But he knoweth the way that I take:
when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
In Part 1 of this series, I presented a biblical rationale for wisdom having four basic elements:
- Wisdom is a skill or an ability one can develop;
- Wisdom seeks to view life and all of its components from God’s perspective;
- Wisdom enables a person to make God-honoring choices; and
- Wisdom keeps the proper focus.
Now I wish to investigate how Satan tempted Job.
I. The Strategy Satan Used in Job’s Temptation
Usually we think of Satan’s attacks on that Old Testament figure (see chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job) as circumstantial: the destruction of all of Job’s possessions (his wealth), the death of all his children (his family), and a painful disease (his health).
But let me suggest that Satan’s attack on Job also continued throughout chapters 3-26, though in a different form. Now the attacks come through the words of his wife and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
Now the attacks come through the words of his wife and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
A. The Counsel of Job’s Wife (2:9).
“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.”
The Bible speaks of the power of words either to help or hurt. Proverbs 12:18 instructs,
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword [words that pierce like a sword]:
but the tongue of the wise is health [brings healing].”
Again, Proverbs 18:21 warns,
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Perhaps there is no person in our life with greater ability to speak encouraging words or to speak words that wound and destroy than those who are the closest to us. We are especially vulnerable to the words of family members.
Knowing how sensitive and vulnerable Job was after all his tragic losses, Satan prompts Job’s wife to say to him, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.”
Job’s response is classic. He said to her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
The narrator of the book of Job then tells us, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Satan’s attempt to get Job to surrender his trust and faith in God had failed! But Satan is not through with him.
Job holds tightly to his faith in God, but he has allowed Satan to change his focus. As we have said, focus is your “self-talk”— the way you
mentally process the negative, hurtful things that happen to you. Focus is controlled by the questions one asks.
The proper focus seeks answers to the following questions:
- “What is God wishing to teach me in this situation?”
- “How can this situation make me more Christlike in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions?”
- “What can I be thankful for in this situation?”
In contrast, a wrong focus asks these questions:
- “Why me?”
- “Why this?”
- “Why now?”
- “Why won’t God answer my prayer or at least help me to make sense out of what has happened?”
Unless one is able to figure out satisfying answers to such questions, negative self-talk leads to frustration, discouragement, depression; and it may lead to a crisis of faith. Getting Christians to adopt the wrong focus is one of Satan’s most popular and subtle tools.
Job became fixated with trying to answer the question, “Why me?” Life no longer made sense to him, and as a result he developed a distort
ed focus accompanied by severe mental and emotional depression.
He curses the day of his birth (Job 3:1). “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3). “Why died I not from the womb?” he laments. “Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” (Job 3:11).
He even wishes his mother had had a miscarriage, causing him to be stillborn (Job 3:16).
Satan has not succeeded in getting Job to give up his faith, thus destroying his relationship with God. But now the tempter will use Job’s wrong focus to cause him to struggle with doubt and unbelief.
These are primary tools in Satan’s arsenal of deceptive practices and dirty tricks. So Job begins a struggle with doubt and unbelief about the wisdom of God’s permissive will in his life.
Wishing himself to be dead, Job is denying that God has chosen what was best for him.
B. The Counsel of Job’s Three Friends (Ch. 4-26)
Satan now diabolically uses Job’s three friends to try to convince him that he had sinned and that his losses and personal pain were the result of God’s judgment on that sin. Let’s imagine for a moment that Satan had succeeded. What would he have accomplished?
Job would have believed a lie both about himself and about God, and thus Job would have been deceived. This would have involved his embracing a worldview that was false. So why would Satan want to “unchristianize” Job? I suggest that he was hoping for at least one of these two outcomes:
- Job throws up his hands in frustration and despair and says, “It’s simply not possible to live a godly life, so I give up”; or
- Job begins to search his life for some sin, finds “it,” and then alters his behavior in an attempt to conform to a concept of righteousness that is false.
This path would have led Job into all kinds of false teaching and legalism. In either case, the result would be a big win for Satan. How does Satan go about trying to convince Job that he has sinned?
I suggest that he was influencing Job’s friends in a manner similar to what he did in Matthew 16, when Peter responded in protest to Jesus’ announcement that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, and die.
Peter’s negative response and Jesus’ immediate rebuke show that it is possible for well-intentioned, good people to embrace Satanic teachings without realizing it (Mat. 16:22, 23).
II. The Purpose of Recording the Speeches of Job’s Friends
The speeches of Job’s friends reveal some of Satan’s best deceptions. This also means that what we have in the book of Job is unique in Scripture.
Generally we are not given much detail concerning Satan’s lies. Even in the case of Eve in the Garden of Eden or of Jesus in the wilderness or in Gethsemane, we have very little detailed information of what Satan said. But in the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, we have entire passages that we can study as case examples of Satan’s attempts to deceive people. He uses truth mixed with error.
What do we find Job’s friends saying? We discover that the essential deception is this: you have sinned and God is judging that sin. This deception, moreover, is wrapped inside a package of truths about the righteous, the wicked, and the nature of God.
To complicate things, Psalms and Proverbs are filled with basic principles agreeing with much of what Job’s friends said:
- God’s judgment is on the wicked;
- they are on a slippery slope; and
- God’s blessing and protection are on the righteous.
It is this wrapping of truth around error that causes many readers of Job such confusion. However, the narrator of the book tells us that God said to Eliphaz, “
My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends:
for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (Job 42:7).
So, the question remains, “What is it that Satan has Job’s three friends say about God that is not right?”
Let me make a few suggestions:
1. They portray the connection between calamity and sin as a necessary connection.
2. They portray God as transcendently righteous but insufficiently immanent.
3. They misapply what is true about God to Job, and this mischaracterizes Job’s relationship to God.
If Satan can’t get a Christian to do wrong deliberately, he will seek to undermine his confidence in God. And Satan accomplishes his goal when a Christian begins to base his conclusions about his relationship with God upon what he can’t feel or is not experiencing during times of trial.
If you do not wish to become a victim of Satan’s strategy that all too often leads to depression and spiritual doubt, the book of Job teaches that a wise person will seek to keep the proper focus for his “self-talk.”
This means that a wise person, regardless of how much pain and discouragement he may face, should seek always to offer God reverent worship with or without reward, because He is worthy.
Further, a wise person must learn to be confident in his faith in God with or without emotional evidence, because God has given His promises in His Word.
And, lastly, a wise person is to live his life in trusting submission to God’s will, with or without understanding, because God is both good and sovereign.1
1. Layton Talbert, Beyond Suffering: Discovering the Message of Job (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007), 22.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.