The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

CHAPTER 4- THE DEVIL

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. ~John 8:44

When you think of the devil, what comes to mind? A red guy with horns and a pitchfork who sits on your shoulder and tempts you to make the wrong decisions? Maybe you think of horror movies like The Exorcist, or occult practices like ouija boards and palm readers. These sorts of pop culture ideas can, without our even realizing it, have a profound influence on the way we think about the demonic.

To what extent is your understanding of the devil influenced by pop culture, or Scripture? God’s Word has things to say about Satan—warnings to communicate, promises to give, warfare to equip us for—but if our understanding of him is fundamentally flawed, our strategies for dealing with him probably will be too.

But even if your view of Satan is biblical, if you’re anything like me, you’re also probably sort of fuzzy in your thinking about him. Your understanding of Satan and the demonic may be true but not very clear, simply because this is not a topic that is frequently on your mind. But fuzzy thinking inevitably leads to fuzzy living; if we will not do the hard work of searching Scripture and pressing on to fully know God’s revelation, the fruit of that will be shallow lives full of vague strategies for vague holiness. God intends more for his people than vague, fuzzy lives.

THE TWO-PRONGED DECEPTION OF SATAN

Sun Tzu, in the first chapter of “The Art of War,” wrote, “All warfare is based on deception.” Nowhere is that more true than in Satan’s spiritual warfare. Jesus, in John 8, gives us his scathing assessment on Satan’s primary strategy: deception.

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. ~John 8:44

Lest you think that deception isn’t deadly, see how Jesus links Satan’s murderous heart with his lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning,” says the One who was there in the beginning to see Satan’s transformation from angel of light to murderer, “and does not stand in the truth.” The main way that Satan murders—that is, destroys people and drags them down to the second death along with him—is through lies. From the very first lie—“You will not die”—that brought down death on the human race, to his persistent whispering that sin is not dangerous, repentance is not necessary, and Jesus is not who he says he is, Satan kills more people through his lies than through his overt shows of force.

Satan, being the father of lies, loves to hide behind his own lies to trick us about his purpose and power. The thing we have to understand, though, is that Satan is clever and uses different lies with different people and cultures. Satan’s deception concerning himself is two-fold; in some circumstances, he wants to trick us into thinking he’s not a big deal. In other circumstances, Satan’s objective is the opposite; to make us overly afraid of him. The former is the strategy he most often employs in Western societies like ours, and the latter is his strategy in many other parts of the world.

In our materialistic, scientific, “enlightened” culture, Satan has found it far more effective to work behind the scenes. He doesn’t need to ruin your life to damn you; in fact, bringing suffering into your life might just wake you up from his slumbering fog of worldliness. If he can lead you gently and blindly on a wide, prosperous, gradually sloping road to hell, that’s just fine with him.

But in many societies and countries around the world, Satan works out in the open through demonic oppression and fear. In places like that, the most effective lie he uses is, “You have no hope of defeating me.” People live in daily bondage to the demonic, fearful of the spirits and their power.

When I was a little kid (around 3-5 years old), my parents were missionaries in Thailand for a couple years, and my family got to see this reality up close and personal. The vast majority of Thai people practice a syncretism of Buddhism and animism—that is, spirit worship. In Thailand, in the place where we would put mailboxes, most people erect “spirit houses,” miniature shrines where they can put offerings to appease the spirits. These are often ornately decorated, but don’t let their beauty trick you; the compelling reason for their existence is fear. Whenever we would move into a new house, my parents would always cover up the spirit house with a sheet, making a statement that we would not participate in that spirit worship. People were always horrified, saying things like, “Don’t you realize that you’ll make the spirits angry?

People in Thailand and other places like it are in overt bondage to Satan, kept in chains of fear. Don’t dismiss their fear as the unenlightened superstitions of an ignorant people; Satan is real, and he is powerful. My family got to experience that firsthand in Thailand, as we stepped onto “enemy occupied territory.” My parents came in the name of the King of Kings who is triumphant over Satan, and yet when you come onto his turf where he has authority, don’t expect things to go smoothly. Illness, discouragement, frustration, and fear hounded my family throughout our time in Thailand, and eventually my dad got so sick—through a series of medical mistakes so absurd that they can only be attributed to the demonic—that we were forced to leave the mission field and come back to the United States.

One particular story from our time in Thailand which involves me illustrates the demonic oppression we faced—and the power that our Savior wields over Satan’s forces. One night, my parents were jolted awake from sleep with the apprehension that something was very wrong. They went down the hall to the room where my sister and I slept, and discovered me choking and unable to breathe. Now, one thing you need to know is that my mom is a nurse, a medical professional. And my dad has a doctorate in computer science. They are educated, intelligent people. But in this moment in the middle of the night when they discovered me choking, both of my parents somehow immediately discerned that this emergency was not physical in nature, but rather spiritual. And so my mom didn’t administer CPR, and my dad didn’t call the hospital. They got down on their knees next to my bed, where I was dying, and began to pray. And just like that, I began to breathe again.

Spiritual warfare is real; I am literally a living testament to that. Most people in the developing world know this reality. And increasingly, Satan seems to be coming out from “underground” in our culture as well, as eastern mysticism and “new age” spirituality and the occult gain more widespread acceptance. More and more—and, I fear, increasingly so in the future—Satan may be adopting a new and more overt strategy of oppression in our society.

Yet just because we don’t daily experience spiritual warfare that looks like this doesn’t mean it isn’t real, and doesn’t even mean that it never happens in America. In fact, remember how in the first chapter I told of a dear pentecostal co-worker of mine who diagnosed my infant son’s sickness as the oppression of the enemy? I told that story as an example of the potential pitfalls of an over-inflated sense of Satan’s activity. And yet there is a little more to that story that I didn’t share. While my son’s sickness turned out to just be the flu or some other bug that was circulating that winter, a couple months before that, I had started experiencing daily debilitating migraines. Most afternoons I would come down with a migraine, and it progressed to the point that these headaches were taking a real toll, not just on me physically, but on my family and ministry. My doctor prescribed a medicine that didn’t really have much effect, and none of the other migraine strategies I tried were helpful. Several discouraging months went by. One morning, I was coming down with a particularly early migraine, and so I asked for prayer from the other teachers at my school. Afterwards, that same teacher who just a couple weeks before had given me that advice about my son, asked to pray for me, and proceeded to command the spirits of infirmity and illness to stop oppressing me. To my surprise, the headache lifted, and didn’t return for a couple days. A few days later, when I felt another headache coming on, I decided to pray in the same direction that my co-worker had prayed, and commanded the evil spirit in Jesus’ name to stop oppressing me. The headache vanished again. That pattern went on for another week or so—every time I felt a headache developing, I would pray against the spirit of infirmity in the authority of Jesus, and every time, the headache would disappear. After about a week of this, the headaches stopped altogether, and have not returned.

Once again, I reiterate: spiritual warfare is real. My experience with this reality has made me start to wonder how much of our affliction, discouragement, and maladies have roots that go deeper than the merely physical. Of course, please don’t hear me backtracking on what I said in chapter 1. I think that the tendency to see “demons under every doily” is a misunderstanding of both the Bible’s teaching on the demonic and of what it means to be physical creatures in a fallen, physical world. Not every illness is caused by Satan. The common cold really can just be the common cold. Many migraines are merely physical maladies. Depression and mental illness can be caused by circumstance and chemical imbalances in the brain.

And yet, that’s not always the case, and perhaps it would do some of us good—especially those of us who tend to discount and ignore the demonic—to consider that perhaps Satan is more active than we give him credit for. Some illnesses are spiritual (for example, Luke 13:10-17 or 1 Corinthians 11:28-30). Some depression is rooted in spiritual causes, or the direct effect of satanic oppression. Some of what we call mental illness and try to treat as such are probably demonic manifestations that we, with our “scientific” mindset, fail to discern. And beyond the black and white categories of “physical” and “spiritual” is the whole spectrum of gray that we, as fallen creatures comprised of both body and spirit, inhabit on a daily basis. There are spiritual maladies that produce secondary physical problems (one example would be my struggle with spiritual depression, which in prolonged seasons of depression often leads to overeating and weight gain with its associated medical consequences). And then there are physical illnesses that Satan will grab hold of in order to afflict us with spiritual consequences (for example, a cancer diagnosis that leads to depression and discouragement). Truly, reality is complicated, and life is messy. Navigating a broken world as redeemed sinners with broken bodies and broken souls, participating in the cosmic battle against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” is a difficult, daily challenge that requires much discernment.

In addition, in Ephesians 4 Paul gives us a window into the relationship between the demonic and our struggle with sin:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. ~Ephesians 4:26-27 

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger—that is, do not persist in unforgiveness, bitterness, and unresolved conflict—because doing so gives “opportunity to the devil.” That word translated “opportunity” is the Greek word topos, which means “ground” or “place.” It’s where we get out word “topography.” What Paul is saying is that bitterness gives ground in our soul to the enemy, a beachhead into which he can move and take control.

Unrepentant sin is an open door, a chink in the armor, which allows Satan to oppress us. Think about the most entrenched, intractable sin struggles in your life, the pattern of disobedience in which you’ve been struggling to repent and unable to change. The temptations in this one area of your life—many believers experience this in areas of lust and unforgiveness in particular—seem to ambush you when you least expect it. You struggle with intrusive thoughts related to this sin. You even have trouble praying about. Could it be that this area of sin has become a beachhead for the enemy, a stronghold that can only be overcome by facing down the reality of the demonic? The prescription of James 4:7 is the only strategy that can successfully overcome strongholds like this: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Submit to God, and then resist the devil. Submit this area of your life to God’s will and prescription; bring it into the light, confess it to God and to fellow believers, repent, appropriate the free mercy of the gospel that covers all your sin, and ask others to hold you accountable. Only by first submitting to God and repenting will the promise come true: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” A heart submitted to God gives no ground, no topos, to the enemy; when you are confessing and repenting and believing the gospel, Satan has no choice but to flee.

So how do we tell the difference between the physical and the spiritual, between the voice of our flesh and the voice of the demonic? What patterns in my life may have given opportunity to satanic oppression? How do we grow in discernment and a better, more balanced understanding of the demonic? The answer is, go to the Book. God’s Word has clear answers, but we must be willing to do the hard work of knowing and understanding the whole scope of God’s revelation for this topic. The truth about the demonic that we would like in neat bullet-point form is scattered through the pages of divine revelation, told in story or mentioned in passing, and it takes the discipline of study to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

A BIBLICAL SURVEY OF SATAN

So I think the best way to get grounded in the tricky landscape of spiritual warfare is to do a quick survey of what the Bible says about Satan and the demonic. You may actually be surprised—especially if you come from a background where spiritual warfare is a major topic—that the Bible honestly doesn’t say a lot about Satan. (Although maybe we shouldn’t be surprised; this isn’t Satan’s book, after all, it’s God’s book). There are many questions that Scripture leaves unanswered that I, in my curiosity, would really like to know: what, exactly, led to Satan’s fall? How many demons are there? Where is Satan now? While the Bible gives us glimpses, apparently God doesn’t think that we need to know all the details in order to live full, successful, free Christian lives. The central focus of the Bible is not Satan and his power; it is Jesus and his almighty grace. And so we have to be content to limit our understanding of the demonic to what the Bible actually says. When we do that, I believe that instead of having a crippled understanding, we’ll find that God has actually given us exactly what we need to faithfully live for him in this fallen world.

THE ORIGINS OF SATAN

The Bible gives us a couple glimpses into the origins of Satan, but doesn’t answer all our questions. The little book of Jude at the end of the New Testament says this:

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their position of authority, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day. ~Jude 1:6

2 Peter 2:4 says almost the exact same thing:

God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.

These are the only two crystal clear texts we have as to the origins of the demonic, although Revelation 12, Isaiah 14, and Ezekiel 28 may also fill in some details. Satan was originally one of the angelic host, created by God. Based on the poetic imagery of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 which may describe this event, it is possible that Satan wasn’t just any angel but was in fact the greatest of the angels, the most beautiful of God’s creation. Apparently, at some point in the distant past, Satan and those with him rebelled against God’s rule and “did not stay within their own position of authority.”

At some point—this is a great mystery that the Bible does not elaborate on—this angel, created in perfect communion with a perfect God, chose to rebel. Why? How could pride and the desire for self-rule have entered into the heart of a perfect being in the presence of infinite beauty and goodness? We don’t know. But Satan chose self-determination, convinced others to participate in his rebellion, and was cast out of heaven into hell with “chains of gloomy darkness,” although because he managed to usurp Adam’s authority over creation, apparently he and his minions now have some measure of freedom and authority on earth.

Genesis 3:1 and Revelation 12:9 tell us that it was Satan who deceived our first parents. Full of hate, he determined that if he could not destroy God, he would destroy those made in God’s image, and so introduced the first lie into creation, and convinced the first man and woman to join in his suicidal campaign of self-rule. That snake in the garden, although not identified any further in the book of Genesis, is named as none other than Satan himself in Revelation 12:9—“that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” In successfully tempting Adam and Eve to join him, Satan brought the curse of God and the ruination of all creation and enslavement to sin on Adam and all of his descendants. Everything wrong in the world, all the brokenness you see when you turn on the news, every heartache in your own life, all trace back to this first cataclysmic deception when Satan convinced us to join arms with him against the Creator.

THE ACTIVITY OF SATAN

Today, Satan continues his campaign against God and against God’s people, and throughout the Bible we are given brief pictures of what this looks like. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are given this warning about Satan’s activity:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

That picture of a hunting lion is meant to say to us, “Take this enemy seriously!” Satan is not a joke or a punchline. In the first two chapters of the book of Job, which we will examine in more detail later, we are given a glimpse of Satan’s power. While under the authority of Almighty God—remember, he can’t do anything against Job without God’s permission—nevertheless we see Satan wielding weather (1:16,19), wicked people (1:15,17), and illness (2:7) in his quest to destroy. Satan is dangerous, and we underestimate him to our own peril.

Passages like Revelation 13 and 1 Peter 5 tell us that the demonic influence of Satan stands behind the evil and corrupt systems of power in the world. Events and atrocities like the Holocaust and the ongoing persecution of Christians around the world are no fluke or merely the outworking of the sinful nature. Rather, see in the news and in your history books the activity of Satan himself. Peter makes this explicit in his description of Satan as a roaring lion:

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

What, exactly, does it mean for Satan to “roar” and “devour?” Peter identifies it: “the same kinds of suffering” that your brothers and sisters are experiencing throughout the world; in other words, persecution. From the days of the Roman empire, when Christians were literally devoured by lions, to the beheadings of Christians by Islamic militants today, to the rising tide of subtle ostracism and disapproval facing Christ’s followers in America, the raging hatred of Satan himself is behind the persecution of believers. In the comfort of your safe, American Christianity, violent persecution may seem far away, but consider this fact: this year, more than 100,000 of your brothers and sisters around the world will be martyred for their faith in Jesus. The roaring lion is still prowling around today.

Continuing the biblical survey of Satan’s activity, when you read the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you see that Satan and his demonic agents have power to possess, oppress, deceive, and cause illness and death. In Luke 13, Jesus sees a crippled woman who had been oppressed by “a disabling spirit” and heals her by casting out the demon. In Matthew 8 and elsewhere we see Jesus confronting demon-possessed individuals and liberating them. We’re told in Luke 22:31 that Satan was behind Peter’s denials on the night of Jesus’ arrest, and in John 13:27 it is Satan himself who possesses a guilty, Christ-despising Judas in order to carry out that heinous act of betrayal.

In addition (and perhaps more dangerously), Satan is a master of temptation. In two places—Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5—he is simply called “the tempter.” We’re told in 2 Corinthians 11 that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” in order to make evil look attractive and to tempt and deceive. The reason that this activity of Satan is probably more dangerous than what he did to Job or to Christians in the Colosseum is that it’s way more subtle; why would Satan need to use the natural elements and outright persecution to destroy us when he could get us to destroy ourselves? Look at the world around you and at your own struggle with sin, and it’s obvious that Satan doesn’t need natural disasters or evil governments for his destructive work; temptations on computer screens and street corners and in checking accounts will do just fine.

Our sinful hearts often need no prompting to find the allurement of the world more attractive than holiness, which makes Satan and his demonic cohort’s job all the easier. That connection between our sinful nature and Satan’s ability to successfully tempt is made explicitly in 1 Corinthians 7 in Paul’s advice to married couples: “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” A lack of self-control in your own heart gives Satan leverage to exploit and harm.

Finally, one of Satan’s most dangerous activities is also one of his most overlooked:

In their case, the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. ~2 Corinthians 4:4

Satan takes the native darkness in the rebellious human heart and makes it pitch black, and blinds us to the reality of God. He contributes to the hardness and blindness of every person who hears the gospel message and rejects it. In our sinful state, we are more than capable of rejecting Jesus on our own, but Satan does not leave it to chance; his blinding power is added to our own love of the darkness to make it impossible for us, on our own, to see and savingly respond to Jesus’ offer of grace in the gospel. If you’ve ever sat across the table from a friend or family member and clearly, patiently, lovingly laid out the gospel and seen only coldness and hardness in their eyes, you have been witness to the devastating impact of this power. Only God’s sovereign intervention in opening the eyes of our hearts to see Jesus for who he really is can free us from this power (2 Corinthians 4:6).

A CASE STUDY: JOB

Probably the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpse we get of Satan’s activity in the entire Bible is in the first two chapters of the book of Job. I’ve saved this story for last because of its particular insight into how Satan operates, and what that means for us today. Recall how the story opens: Job is a righteous, wealthy man who delights in God and delights to do God’s will. He consistently uses his material blessings to bless others (see his description of his life in chapter 29 for a remarkable picture of what radical generosity looks like). He was intensely committed to holiness, even offering daily sacrifices on behalf of his children’s unintentional sins.

But into this idyllic scene enters the Enemy, beginning in verse 6:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

We are given an exclusive backstage pass to see the drama unfolding in the court of heaven. One day when the angelic host (the phrase “sons of God” in the Old Testament often refers to the angels) present themselves before God, Satan comes with them. This is one of those places where, even with this backstage access, my curiosity is not satisfied and I wish I could know more. Why are the angels assembling before God? Do they do that every day? What is a day in the life of an angel like, anyway? And who let Satan into the party? What is he doing here? I thought he was kicked out of heaven; why is he allowed back in for this celestial event? We’re not given answers to any of those questions; I suppose I’ll have to wait until I get there to ask the angels in person. All we know is the information given; Satan arrives in the heavenly court, and God begins a conversation with him, and the conversation quickly turns to the subject of Job. God is quick to point out Job to Satan, almost as if to needle Satan, saying, “Check out this particularly great display of my character! Don’t you just love that, Satan?”

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Satan is not nearly as impressed with Job as God is. Satan is a cynic, so blinded by his own hatred of God that he cannot comprehend the reality of a life transformed by grace and glory. Remember that, because this is one of Satan’s great weaknesses: as clever as he is, he consistently underestimates the transforming impact of God’s glory on a sinner’s soul (for another example of Satan’s power being undone by a sight of superior glory, read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6). And so Satan cynically chalks up all of Job’s obedience to the fact that he’s been protected and blessed by God. “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face,” Satan claims.

What we see Satan doing here is accusing Job. In fact, that’s what the name “Satan” actually means; it means “accuser” or “adversary.” Satan is the great accuser of humanity, the prosecuting attorney, if you will, in the courtroom of heaven (which probably explains what he’s doing here in the story of Job). In Revelation 12:10 he is called “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before our God.” As we’ll examine in chapter 7, that accusation is Satan’s primary activity as well as his most deadly weapon—and it’s the very weapon that God took out of his hands at the cross.

What’s so surprising about this scene in Job, however, is that God basically says to Satan, “Okay, we’ll see if you’re right. You think he only obeys me because I protect him? Fine, I remove all protection from him. Have at him.” The entire rest of the book of Job is the outworking of this wager; who will be proved right in the end—God, or Satan?

There’s something else here, though, that is of supreme importance for us to see if we are to have a proper, biblical understanding of Satan. In focusing an entire chapter on the activity and character of Satan, it would be really easy for us to get an overinflated view of Satan’s authority and power. After all, in the next 7 verses of Job 1, Satan is going to literally unleash hell on poor Job and his family, and we see Satan exercising control over weather (verses 16 and 19), evil people (verses 15 and 17), and, later, illness (2:7). Satan wields tremendous power over the created world. That’s why it’s so important to see one crucial detail: Satan is on a leash.

The Bible does not present God and Satan as a yin/yang duality of equal and opposing power. God is the one on the throne; Satan is the one on the leash. Before Satan was even able to touch Job’s family, he had to get permission. And God put strict bounds on that permission: “All that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” Satan was permitted to go after Job’s family and livelihood, but couldn’t lay a finger on the man himself. And when Satan’s first assault against Job failed to produce the desired results, he had to go back to God and ask for more permission:

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

Satan had to get permission to afflict Job’s body, and even then, God extended permission with limits; “He is in your hand; only spare his life.” Let this sink in, because what was true of Satan’s campaign of terror against Job is true of all his interactions with you: Satan has to get permission for every move against God’s people.

And even beyond that truth, the language that God and Satan use to describe Job’s affliction is interesting. In both conversations, Satan asks for God to afflict Job (“Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has… Stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh”), and God responds by giving Satan permission to afflict Job. What are we supposed to make of that?

Here’s the lesson I think we are supposed to learn: God is absolutely sovereign over all of Satan’s designs. Satan has to get permission before he moves, and even when he does move, God remains the originator of the action. Satan may be the one doing it, but God stands behind him with his own purposes. That’s precisely the lesson that Job himself drew from his pain; twice, he looked past the hand of Satan to the hand of God holding the leash, and attributed his pain to God. And both times, the inspired author says that Job is absolutely right:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. ~Job 1:20-22

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. ~Job 2:9-10

And finally, at the end of the book, the inspired author adds this note in the epilogue:

Then came to him all his brothers and sisters… and they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. ~Job 42:11

The consistent message of the book of Job—and the rest of the Bible, for that matter—is that Satan is on the leash and under the thumb of Almighty God, and can do nothing apart from God’s express will, purpose, and permission. And even when Satan does act, God will not share any of the glory with him; he reserves for himself the glory of being the ultimate originator of all events, even the ones that we see as bad. When all is said and done in the book of Job, Satan doesn’t even get credit for destroying Job’s life; even over that tragedy, God says, “I am sovereign, I did that, and I will get the glory for it.”

What comfort this should give to us, weak sheep threatened by the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion! In the midst of temptation and trials, what a comfort it would be if we could see our circumstances with the eyes of Job; to see that the roaring lion is on a leash, and behind his growls is the smile of God our Shepherd and Father, purposing all of Satan’s evil intentions for our everlasting good.

The truth of 1 John 4:4 stands even truer for us than it was for Job:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

The Almighty God who holds Satan’s leash has stooped to dwell in the hearts of us, his people, who have been freed from Satan’s most deadly weapon by the resounding victory that Jesus wrought through the cross and empty tomb. In chapter 7, we will pick up this theme and celebrate all its implications: Satan is not only a subordinate foe; he is a defeated foe, and we can know for certain that Jesus’ mission described in 1 John 3:8 was successful:

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

NAVIGATE CHAPTERS: