The Adversary’s Devices
“It all fell on a day . . .”
Those few, brief words give us a very vivid description of the enemy’s attack on Job’s possessions. His plan had been carefully thought out with all the skill and cunning that he had developed since he tempted Eve in the garden.
Job had to be taken totally unaware and with full guns aimed at once. It would be during the immense pressure of sudden loss that he would be forced to an impulsive renunciation of God. In Luke 4:13 it says, “When the Devil had finished all this tempting, he left [Jesus] until an opportune time.” It is the timing of the Devil’s attacks, as much as the magnitude of them, that can crush us. The character of man is revealed in the hour of sudden and overwhelming crisis. With absolutely no time for recollection or analyzing, what is in the heart will suddenly break out, especially under the pressure of great anguish and pain.
Also, times of great celebration and rejoicing are times when men are generally off guard, and bad news in the midst of a party is always more appalling.
The time is carefully chosen by the subtle adversary. On a day of feasting, a messenger comes to Job to tell him that the Sabeans have suddenly taken all his cattle away and killed all of the servants with no one left except the messenger.
Before he finishes speaking, another man shows up with news that all Job’s sheep and servants were burned up by fire from heaven. Immediately a third messenger arrives to tell Job that his camels were ripped off and those servants killed, too.
I don’t know if it has sunk in yet, but all of that news meant utter ruin for Job as far as earthly substance is concerned. His entire world caved in overnight. That is like telling Howard Cunningham on Happy Days that his hardware store burned down and everything was gone. Or telling Donald Trump all of his real estate holdings collapsed. On top of that, I am positive Job was not in the good hands of Allstate.
The coincidence of everything happening at the same time and each group of servants killed except the one to tell the news, should have alerted Job that more than natural causes lay behind these sudden blows. Anyone who walks with God learns to understand and recognize the supernatural powers that lie behind the surface of things in daily life.
There was a time when the Lord instructed my wife and I to move to Ann Arbor to be a part of an Ecumenical Christian community. When we arrived, everything seemed to be going against us: We still owned property in Kalamazoo and our mortgage payments were lost because of “computer errors” several months in a row. We were also getting threatening collection notices from a credit bureau for a $15 medical bill we did not know anything about. (It ended up being from a year prior and previously paid by insurance.) Not only that, we were getting cancellation notices on our car insurance, again because of “computer errors.” We paid off a loan from a credit union, and they applied the funds to a different account. Consequently, we were getting overdue notices on the loan we thought had been paid off.
While building a new house, every day brought another problem. For example, after the builder laid the foundation, one neighbor complained our house was too close to the lot line, (9 inches to be exact). The township supervisor settled the matter in our favor, but that was after we went ahead and shortened our house nine inches. Another neighbor brought a lawsuit due to flooding on his property. The flooding was due to improper grading on both of our lots and the land surrounding our lots, but because we were the last to build, he held us responsible. The lawsuit brought against us was decided in our favor, but only after spending $3,000 in attorney fees and another $5,000 in attempts at resolving the grading problem. Because of all the re-grading, we had $23,000 worth of damages to repair on our new house!
Later, my daughter became ill with a viral infection and spent 4 days in the hospital. One of our twins developed a large lump on one arm resembling a tumor and required surgery.
That is only a sampling of the problems we encountered. We have lived in this house since 1987 and the end of the year 2002 was the first peaceful period we had experienced. I could list many other examples of problems, mistakes, misunderstandings and torments that have plagued us. It was so bad my Father-in-law was always comparing us to Joe Btfsplk, from Li’l Abner
At one point, the situation was so intense and continuous we were ready to give up and move back to Kalamazoo. It is so easy to miss the source of all of our trials, to pass them off as coincidence or happenstance, just bad luck. All of us fall into the same mentality at times. We become so overwhelmed we forget to discern the cause of our troubles and to seek wisdom from our only hope of rescue. Fortunately, we realized what was really happening and we strengthened our determination to stay put!
Let me say something right here that is very important. When I say that we “strengthened our determination to stay,” I am not saying that we simply set our wills to put up with the attacks that were coming against us. We did not simply acquiesce to the storms of life. There is a big difference between Job’s situation and our position as believers today. First, we can look back at Job and learn from his mistakes, and he does make them. We can also view our situation from a higher vantage point than Job had. Job was oblivious to the spiritual warfare going on around him. Granted, in this story we will find that Job catches occasional glimpses of that warfare, but it is not a deep-seated reality of his life.
Paul taught that we are not to be unaware of the devil’s devices. We are told to stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. To put on the full armor of God in order to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. We are also to take up the shield of faith in order to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.
The scriptures compare believers to an eagle. The Bible states “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength” (with the literal understanding being they will exchange their weakness for His strength). “They will soar on wings like eagles . . .” (Isaiah. 40:31).
I have heard it said that eagles build their nests in the highest places of rocky clefts. Their homes are secure and unmovable, regardless of the storms that come against them. When a storm is moving in, they leave their nest and face head-on into the wind. They will lock their wings in a climb position so that when the storm hits, they are flown above it until the storm passes. Certainly, the storms are going to hit, but the eagle is untouched and his home is secure in the midst of it, too.
In a sense, that is what Patrice and I did: we exchanged our weakness for God’s strength. We battled with the spirits trying to hinder us and drive us back from fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for our lives. However, be aware that this battling is not a “one time and it’s over” deal. It is a way of life! It is a daily struggle with flesh and a sincere fight of faith. Yes, many times the battle gets burdensome and frustrating. Decide right now if you are going continue to fight or roll over and let the Devil have his victory? Make what we used to call a “Quality Decision!” That is a decision you will not and can not back down from.
In the case of Job, this touching of his possessions did not end his torment. The devil reserved his keenest blow for the last.
Job hardly had time to realize that all his wealth was gone when one more messenger arrives to tell him that in the midst of a party. A strong wind struck the house his children were in and killed them all.
“They are dead!”
This is the hardest blow of all, and its effect on Job is what the subtle foe has been counting on. How would Job react? All of his wealth stripped away and then, suddenly, his children swept away without warning!
“Then Job got up . . . fell to the ground and worshipped the Lord.”
Job could never have realized the cloud of witnesses looking on! What sympathy and joy there must have been in the heart of God for Job’s faithfulness! In all of this adversity, Jehovah was not the adversary. He was not the one that afflicted Job. Yet, Job had stood the test. The adversary was defeated. Instead of rebellion, Job had worshiped God. All hell broke loose against him but still Job was firmly fixed on God. In one moment, his anchored soul clung to the only refuge he knew. He had torn his robe and shaved his head to show his deep sorrow and horrible grief, but in his hour of trial, his spirit worshipped the God who had given him life!
“In all of this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job instantly confessed that he did not really possess anything of his own. The Lord had given him his wealth. By making the continual burned offerings for his children, he was, by faith, laying his children before the Lord. He had nothing except what the Lord had given him; he was born with nothing and would take nothing out. The Lord had given him everything and the Lord had the sovereign right to take it all away! Whichever He did, Job would bless the name of the Lord.
Everybody wants to criticize Job. Some feel he is self-righteous, lacks faith, or had a defeatist attitude. Some charge that Job did not have any faith otherwise this would never have happened to him. Yet, it was because of his faith that all these things happened to him. The Lord had already declared there was “no one on earth like him; . . . blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” In addition, we know that without faith it is impossible to please God!
The most amazing thing about this is how worship is the initial response of Job; it is the spontaneous reaction to tragedy that simply wells up out of his heart. This type of response is foreign to us. Under similar circumstances, worship does not come to a person naturally or spontaneously, it is a practiced response, the fruit of a long faith and discipline. Job could never have reacted as he did unless he had been practicing for this moment all his life.
I wonder if we would have fallen on our knees and worshipped the Lord. There are some who waiver and are ready to renounce the Lord if their BMW stalls on the highway. Some feel they are going through great testing because they do not have enough money to pay the monthly bill for their cable TV or are angry with the Lord because they cannot afford a microwave oven. Yet millions of people cannot even afford one meal a week, let alone the luxury of watching MTV or I Love Lucy reruns.
How much of a storm will it take to make you fall? Job lost everything and still worshipped the Lord! Not only that, he did not have the insight as to the accusations made by Satan concerning his integrity. He had no idea he was being put to the test. All he could feel was the pain in the aftermath of the attack.
Take careful note of the attitude of heart in which Job’s words of worship were offered. In the midst of this turmoil and grief, Job certainly did not have a peaceful spirit nor was he filled with some kind of spiritual joy. No, he was as broken and cast down as a man can be. Granted, he apparently had the presence of mind to shear off all his hair and then take a straight razor and drag it across his scalp (no easy task, I can imagine). However, if Job’s hand was uncannily steady, it certainly was not from being cool and collected. Rather, I believe from being in a state of shock.
I am puzzled, though. Can true worship really transpire when the heart is broken and the mind shocked and dulled with horror? Is there any place in worship for bitter tears and wailing? Just one chapter later we will hear Job groan, “May the day of my birth perish.” Has his worship quit at this point? Has mere self-pity overtaken him? On the other hand, can groaning be a part of worship too?
Think of Mary at the foot of the cross: was it a sweet and mystical experience for her to stand there and watch her son die? Maybe years later, looking back on the day, she had more tender feelings. However, at the time it was hellish. I believe that is how it will be for us whenever we make direct contact with the cross. Oh, we love to meditate on the cross and to be flooded with peace and joy. Although, that is the Holy Spirit showing us the effects of the cross; it is not the cross itself. It is wonderful to be filled with mystical rapture at the thought of Calvary. My question, though, is how will it be for us the moment the rough wood touches our flesh and the nail pierces our hand? Real worship has less to do with offering sacrifices than with being a sacrifice. Paul urged us to, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for this is your spiritual worship.”
So where is your heart? Take the time right now and examine and judge your own heart and determine whether you will fall apart or stand strong in a spirit of worship and praise?
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
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