THE COURTROOM OF HEAVEN Based on Job 1:6-12
By Pastor Glenn Pease
The FBI has some amazing ways of bringing criminals to justice. One of these ways is by means of the Petrographic Unit of their famed laboratory in Washington, D. C. This unit is devoted to the analysis and identification of different kinds of soil. They know what soil is from a South Dakota corn field, or a moss cranberry bog, or an Arizona desert. By analyzing the mud on a mans shoes, or from the underside of his car fender, they can tell where he has been.
For example: In March of 1960 a car had been abandoned near the dump in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It had been set afire and burned out. The FBI took samples of the soil under the fender, and they sent it to this Petrographic Unit. The soil revealed that that car had come from Morrison, Colorado, where Adolf Coors III had been kidnapped and murdered less than five weeks before. This evidence put the FBI on the trail of Joseph Corbett Jr., owner of the car, who is now serving a life sentence. The mud under his fenders led to the discovery of the corruption in his heart. The FBI has developed some marvelous methods to get their man.
Satan, in the book of Job, is portrayed as a sort of FBI agent of the spirit world. He walks to and fro upon the earth like a spy seeking to detect some evidence to show that even the best of men are no good. It is not just the guilty he is after, but the innocent. Satan seems to have a compulsion to prove that all goodness is mere sham. He feels that righteousness is only a racket, and that men are pious only because it pays. God has a different view of man, however, and he proudly calls attention to his righteousness servant Job. Satan clearly despises Job whom God so admires. Satan is a pessimist about man in general, and Job in particular. He knows he could prove that Job is a pious hypocrite. He just needed to the freedom to put him to the test. He is saying to God, "Just let me analyze the soil is he make of, and I can prove he is rotten to the core. By his own mouth he will reveal his guilt, for he will curse you."
We are comparing Satan with the FBI, but he is really more like the diabolical secret police, or Gestapo, who are determined to ensnare the innocent, and prove that the loyal are really enemies of the state. God thinks Job is an ideal man, loyal and loving and committed to what is good. Satan is the great accuser who says it is all a hypocritical facade. God does not ignore this accusation, but takes it seriously, for Satan appears to be a servant of God. His duty is to investigate, and bring back reports to the court of heaven. God does not scold or rebuke, but gives him greater power to test his theory, and get more evidence. Satan is like a prosecuting attorney in the court of heaven.
Before we pursue this case, and the methods used by the prosecuting attorney to prove Job was a scoundrel, we need to do a little FBI work ourselves, and investigate this zealous accuser. A slang expression for confusion is appropriate here, as we ask: Who the devil is this Satan who marches into the presence of God with these charges against Job? We are forced by the book of Job to confess how ignorant we are about Satan, and his function in God's total plan. It is not wise to be ignorant about one whose job it is to know everything about you. The CIA of our nation has spies in the Intelligence agencies of other nations so we can know what they know about us. If you don't know what your enemy knows about you, he has an advantage over you. Paul said this of Satan in II Cor. 2:11. He said we are not ignorant of Satan's devices, or designs. The purpose was to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us. Paul is saying, what you don't know can hurt you.
Job did not know that Satan had accused him of serving God for the profit in it. He was at a tremendous disadvantage because of this lack of knowledge. We have this information, however, and we can see what Job never did. Satan's primary function is that of man's accuser. God is for man, and Satan is the opponent of man. The Jews have an ancient tradition that Scripture seems to support. They say that Satan fell because of his jealousy of man. This would explain why he tempted man to fall. God made him a marvelous being of glory, but he became envious when God made man in His own image, and began to devote so much love and attention to man, as the crown of His creation.
Cain envied Able because God accepted Able's offering, and not his own. This led to murder. It is generally believed that Satan hated God first, and that was the motive to get man to oppose God and rebel. But, as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia points out, there are more scriptures that suggest, "Satan's jealousy and hatred of man
has led him into antagonism to God, and consequently to goodness." This fits the picture we have in Job, and most all of the Old Testament. Satan is a servant of God, but by the time we get to the New Testament, he is a total enemy of God, and the reason is clearly due to the opposition Satan took to man. God is determined to love and save man, but Satan is determined to destroy man.
The New Testament supports this view by showing Satan to be the chief opponent of the plan of salvation. He alone could hinder it, and in the book of Revelation, in 12:10 we read this description of Satan's being cast out of heaven. "I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God." Satan has always been man's great enemy, and Jesus is the only defense attorney who can help him escape the charges, for Satan is right
when he accuses man, and man's only hope is pardon through the blood of Christ.
Satan was wrong in his accusation against Job. Had he just accused him of being a sinner, he would have been accurate. Satan was really out to get Job as a fraud, but Job was good and loyal to God that Satan could not tolerate it. Job was destroying Satan's whole plot to undermine God's faith in man. Satan had to prove that Job was a pious hypocrite, to prove all righteousness of men was a sham. At its very core, the book of Job reveals a battle over the worst and dignity of man. Satan argues he is worthless, and not worth saving. God takes the position that men can be faithful, and pass any test they have to go through. Here were the two views of man, and Job was the one who would prove either Satan or God the wisest, and the best judge of the worth of mankind.
How Job responds to this test will determine if Satan's pessimism should govern the destiny of man, or God's optimism. As the Advocate and Accuser of mankind watch Job, it is a good thing he didn't know what was going on in heaven, for such a responsibility would frighten anyone into panic. This glimpse into the court of heaven is worth the focus of our attention for a few minutes.
Presidents call their cabinets together, and kings call their courts and nobles together for counsel. Leaders and authorities in all walks of life meet with others to hear reports and make decisions. This pattern, according to Scripture, is also followed in heaven. The implications are, God has multitudes of servants, active in all parts of His vast universe, which is beyond our comprehension. These servants come before God from time to time to report. All of the millions and billions of spiritual beings God has created are not idle, but are active, an Satan is but one of these servants, here in Job.
This strikes us as being very unusual, but this concept is referred to many times in the Old Testament. God is supreme ruler over a host of celestial beings who are sometimes called gods. When Satan is called the god of this world, it is easy to see how this planet was assigned to him, by God, in the counsel halls of heaven. Listen to some of these verses from the Psalms. Psa. 86:8, "There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like thine." Psa. 96:4, "For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised. He is to be revered above all gods." Psa. 135:5, "For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods." These gods, so often referred to, are obviously the celestial members of God's heavenly counsel. They are gods, or rulers, over various parts of God's creation. Satan being the god of this world. All of these gods are created beings who are servants of Jehovah.
We have to use our imagination, but just think of the great assemblies among men. The supreme court, the congress, the U. N., and imagine how much more impressive the gathering of those ambassadors of God, who have come back to the court of heaven from the far corners of the universe. God rules the universe through a great host of principalities and powers in heavenly places. We know very little about the vast complex government of God's total universe. Psa. 82:1 gives us just a glimpse. "God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment." This is the real Supreme Court. Psa. 89:6-7 says, "For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible above all that are round about Him."
We tend to miss this Old Testament concept, and see God alone on the throne, or Jesus at His right hand, but we do not see the Parliament, or the Congress, that host of powers by which God governs His universe. I am grateful for the book of Job, for it compels us to consider the facts of God's heavenly government, and it helps us grasp some things that other wise are too obscure. One of these being the nature and role of Satan. Satan's existence, fall, and battle with man, all make sense when we see him as a ruler gone corrupt, because of pride and envy. Job had to suffer because of Satan's recommendation in the council of heaven, just as all men often suffer because of decisions made by government bodies.
It is clear that Job was not suffering to make him a better person. It was designed by Satan to prove he was never a good person in the first place. If God wanted to improve somebody by suffering, He would have chosen somebody other than Job. Job was selected to suffer because he was the best man alive. He did not need to be purified by the fires of affliction. There is a lot of truth to the idea there is value in suffering, and the idea that people can be made better through it, but you have to ignore Scripture to think that is an adequate explanation of suffering. It is another half truth that becomes a whole lie where it doesn't fit. To say to someone who has lost a child that God allowed it to make them stronger, is to stand with Satan against man, rather than with God, and for man. All the ideas about suffering being of value have limited application. In Job's case they don't fit at all. Job was not a better man for his suffering. The only real bad thing he ever did, he did because of his suffering.
Another view of suffering is that it brings out the good in others. There is no doubt about the truth of this view. Disaster and great human suffering always produce heroic deeds, and noble responses. Most all humanitarian acts of love are in response to human suffering. Again, however, it is folly to think of this as the ultimate value of suffering. To kill 7,000 people in an earthquake, to produce heroic deeds, and give many people a chance to express compassion, it not good planning, if you mean to imply, God allows such tragedy for these weak reasons. It would be equivalent to your sticking your arm in the combine, so your son can learn emergency first aid. No one would be impressed with your wisdom.
This view of suffering does not fit the suffering of Job at all; not even superficially. His suffering brought out the worst in everybody. His friends were compelled by its severity to be severe in their false judgment that he was a terrible sinner. Job's wife was likely a sweet godly woman, but his suffering made her bitter, and she called upon Job to curse God and die. The only way you can get good out of all suffering is by the Procrustes method. You have to chop off what doesn't fit, and stretch everything else so it does. The honest mind can find no comfort in this kind of exercise. The flow of lava enriches the soil, but do not think this will bring comfort to those who have just seen their families and villages wiped out by a volcano. Christians who latch on to one theory of suffering, and apply it to all situations, do great harm, just as did the friends of Job. When the theory does not fit, people are forced by the theory, if they really believe it, to think of God as unjust or uncaring.
Job the sufferer had to suffer even more because of the non-sufferers easy solution to his problem. So when you are trying to persuade the victims of a natural disaster that it produces unity and heroes of compassion, they will be lamenting your blindness to the looters and thieves. Easy answers are almost always false answers, when it comes to the realm of suffering. Job is a victim of a jealous enemy, who is Satan. Job is so good and godly, and such an ideal man, that God has blessed him in every way, and it makes Satan sick. Job never would have been the target of Satan's testing had he been more worldly and wicked. Satan is out to get Job just because he is so good. The facts are just the opposite of what the friends of Job spend hours arguing about. Job does not suffer because of sin, but because of the lack of it. He suffers because of his opposition to sin, and he proves you can suffer plenty by not sinning.
Satan is no amateur accuser. He knows that if you can bring the best man to a fall, you don't have to worry about lesser men. Satan goes right to the top. God is so proud of Job that he flaunts him before Satan, the first pessimist of the universe. Have you considered my servant Job God asks? That is, in all your snooping and spying out the defects in man, have you been able to get anything on Job? Satan is aggravated that his file on Job is as empty as his heart is of love. He insists that the reason is because Job has a, let's make a deal religion, and God is giving him such a good deal he can't afford to be a sinner. Satan says just stop the handouts, and you will see, Job, like a spoiled child will throw a tantrum, and curse you to your face.
Satan is no atheist. He not only believes in God, and that God is good, he believes God is too good to man. Satan does not attack God, but man. His goal is to prove to God that man is not a being worth saving, for he only loves God for purely selfish motives. If Satan can get man to curse God, and God to condemn and forsake man, his ambition will be fulfilled. Note how directly opposite this is to the role of Christ as the one mediator between God and man. His goal is to get man to love God, and God to pardon and save man. Satan, therefore, is the anti-Christ. If Satan could get his way, he would be a top leader in God's universe, and man would be scraped as a failed experiment.
Satan charges that what appears so good is really a cover up. Man's chief nature is selfish, and what's in it for me is all he cares about. Remove the fringe benefits and he will drop his faith without regret. If Satan is right, and he can prove it with Job, then God's whole plan for man is a flop. What value is goodness if it is only purchased behavior? If evil paid more, then the person would be evil. Man is not loyal is what Satan is arguing. He is good when it pays, but cut off the check, and he will side with evil. Satan's question is a key factor in this whole book. Does Job fear God for nothing? Would he be truly good if the wages were withdrawn? God looks at Job and says yes.
But if Satan is right, God can have no true relationship with man, for all religion is a fake loyally for a price. God had to let Job be tested, for the value of the whole plan of salvation depended on Job proving Satan wrong. I wonder if God could have the faith in us that he had in Job? We need to examine our lives in the light of Satan's charge. Do we love God, serve Him, come to church, live righteously, all because it pays, or would we do all of this even if the blessing were taken away? Would you be one of those who lets tragedy cause you forsake the church, and God's people, or could you say with Job, "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him." The book of Job makes us ask the question, can God believe in me?
Very good. A couple of things in there I had not thought of in that way. Very interesting perspective. I totally agree with you on the idea that God is not allowing things so that you can become a better person. Simply does not make a lot of sense. Thank you!!