[Editors’ Note: Tim Jennings and I are pleased to announce a new regular editor to Focus Magazine. Brent Kercheville has long been respected as an insightful Bible student and teacher. Brent has been working with the West Palm Beach church for 19 years and has been a blessing to God’s cause in southeast Florida. Take a moment to check out his website, www.westpalmbeach.church, and you will be rewarded with a wealth of material through sermons and classes on nearly every part of the Bible. We are thrilled to have Brent join us in “providing biblical insights for the edification of thoughtful people.”]
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.” (Job 1:8–11 ESV)
Notice that the Lord initiates the discussion about Job with Satan, declaring Job blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil. The Lord says that this is his servant and Satan should consider his righteous life. Satan then asks the key question for this chapter, for the book, and for our lives: Does Job fear God for no reason? Satan does not disagree with the assessment of Job’s righteousness. Job is righteous. But Satan makes the challenge that Job is righteous only because God has put a hedge around him, protecting him from disaster and blessing the work of his hands. If God will remove that hedge, Job will curse God to his face.
Satan makes a very important challenge of God and of Job. Satan questions why Job fears God. Satan challenges the reason why Job is righteous. If being rich is the result of righteousness, then who wouldn’t be righteous? If a lack of suffering is the outcome of righteous living, then everyone is going to live righteously! This is the insult that Satan makes. Job does not serve you, God. Ultimately Job serves himself. The only reason he serves you is because you have blessed the work of his hands and made him rich. This challenge against God is not only about Job, but it is about all of us. Satan is declaring that all people only serve God because he is good to them. They serve from false motives. Satan indicates that Job is interested in God and God’s ways for his own selfish desires (prosperity) and not for God’s sake. He is virtuous and innocent for his own benefit. So remove the hedge and then see what happens. With this challenge against God made, the Lord gives permission to Satan to strike all that he has.
The question hangs in the air after Satan’s challenge: what will Job do? In verse 20 Job shows expressions of pain and mourning by tearing his robe and shaving his head. But Job falls to the ground and worships. Falling to the ground is the physical posture of recognizing and accepting a significant act of God (cf. Genesis 47:31; 1 Kings 1:47; Exodus 4:31; 12:27). Job sees this disaster as coming from the hand of God and yet Job still worships God. Further, listen to what Job says in verse 21.
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 1:21–22 ESV)
Whether God gives or whether God takes away, he must be praised. This is the godly, righteous response. Job does fear God for nothing in return. Job will not fear God because of what he gives him. Job does the exact opposite of what Satan says he will do. Please notice that both Job and God are vindicated. Job has shown that he will serve God no matter what, not only when God is good to him. God is vindicated because people can serve him, not for the blessings, but because of who he is.
The question that Satan asks is the question that is before us today. Do we serve God for nothing or only because he has put a hedge around us? Do we serve God because we love God and if we lost everything we would still worship and serve him? What do we serve God for? Will we still serve God if we lost our house, lost our cars, lost our wealth, and lost our jobs? Will we still serve God is all our children died in a single day? Will we still serve God if our spouse died? Will we still serve God even if there is absolutely no physical benefit that we receive for doing so? Do we serve God even for nothing in return? We must see that this is the call of true discipleship. Jesus taught this when he called his disciples. He did not offer his disciples homes to stay in. He did not offer them comfort or wealth. Jesus offered them a stone for a pillow and persecution for proclaiming his name. Those apostles proved that they served God for nothing. Daniel and his three friends proved that they served God for nothing. Joseph proved that he served God for nothing. Lord, you can take it all away and I will accept those circumstances and I will still worship you! What did Jesus say but that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matthew 16:24), which is the very picture of what it looks like to serve God for nothing!
We can develop this great faith as seen in Job by recognizing what Job recognized. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” Nothing we have is deserved. Nothing we have is from our own hand. We came into the world naked and with nothing. Everything that we have since birth has been given to us by God’s hand. He has richly blessed us and we have no right to demand that God continue to bless us in the way we have experienced thus far. If we asked God to give us what we deserve, we would not receive the mountains of blessings that we have received in our lives. Job realizes that everything he has enjoyed, from wealth to family, was completely from God. Therefore, he can focus on all he has enjoyed from God, not all that he lost.
Listen to how chapter 1 concludes. “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” This is the goal through our suffering, through tragedy, and through trials. Do not sin and do not charge God with doing wrong. God must not be served from selfishness. God must be served and worshiped for who he is. He is God. He is the Almighty Creator. Live for him. Worship him. Love him.