A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, April 9, 1865, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8)
1. How very uncertain all terrestrial things are! How foolish would that believer be who should lay up his treasure anywhere, except in heaven! Job’s prosperity promised as much stability as anything can do beneath the moon. The man had all around him a large household of, doubtless devoted and attached servants. He had accumulated wealth of a kind which does not suddenly depreciate in value. He had oxen, and donkeys, and cattle. He did not have to go to markets, and fairs, and trade with his goods to procure food and clothing, for he carried on the processes of agriculture on a very large scale all around his own homestead, and probably grew within his own territory everything that his establishment required. His children were numerous enough to promise a long line of descendants. His prosperity had reached its absolute peak. It had come to its flood crest: where was the cause that could make it ebb?
2. Up there, beyond the clouds, where no human eye could see, there was a scene enacted which portended no good for Job’s prosperity. The spirit of evil stood face to face with the infinite Spirit of all good. An extraordinary conversation took place between these two beings. When called to account for his doings, the evil one boasted that he had gone to and fro throughout the earth, insinuating that he had met with no hindrance to his will, and found no one to oppose his freely moving and acting at his own pleasure. He had marched everywhere like a king in his own dominions, unhindered and unchallenged. When the great God reminded him that there was at least one place among men where he had no foothold, and where his power was unrecognised, namely, in the heart of Job; that there was one man who stood like an impregnable castle, garrisoned by integrity, and held with perfect loyalty as the possession of the King of Heaven; the evil one defied Jehovah to test the faithfulness of Job, told him that the patriarch’s integrity was due to his prosperity, that he served God and avoided evil from sinister motives, because he found his conduct profitable for himself. The God of heaven took up the challenge of the evil one, and gave him permission to take away all the mercies which he affirmed to be the props of Job’s integrity, and to pull down all the outer works and buttresses and see whether the tower would not stand in its own inherent strength without them. In consequence of this, all Job’s wealth vanished in one black day, and not even a child was left to whisper comfort. A second interview between the Lord and his fallen angel took place. Job was again the subject of conversation; and the Great One defied by Satan, permitted him even to touch him in his bone and in his flesh, until the prince became worse than a pauper, and he who was rich and happy was poor and wretched, filled with disease from head to foot, and was happy to scrape himself with a miserable potsherd, to gain a poor relief from his pain.
3. Let us see in this the mutability of all terrestrial things. “He has founded it upon the floods,” is David’s description of this world; and, if it is founded on the floods, can you wonder that it changes so often? Do not put your trust in anything beneath the stars: remember that “Change” is written on the forefront of nature. Do not say therefore, “My mountain stands firm: it shall never be moved”; the glance of Jehovah’s eye can shake your mountain into dust, the touch of his foot can make it like Sinai, to melt like wax and to be altogether on a smoke. “Set your affection on things above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God,” and let your heart and your treasure be “where neither moth nor rust corrupts, nor thieves break through and steal.” The words of Bernard may instruct us here: “That is the true and chief joy which is not conceived from the creature, but received from the Creator, which (being once possessed of it) no one can take from you: compared with which all other pleasure is torment, all joy is grief, sweet things are bitter, all glory is baseness, and all delectable things are despicable.”
4. This is not, however, our subject this morning. Accept so much as merely an introduction to our main discourse. The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Let us deliberate, first, in what sense the evil spirit may be said to consider the people of God; secondly, let us notice what it is that he considers about them; and then, thirdly, let us comfort ourselves by the reflection that one who is far above Satan considers us in a higher sense.
How Does Satan Consider the People of God
5. I. First, then, IN WHAT SENSE MAY SATAN BE SAID TO CONSIDER THE PEOPLE OF GOD?
6. Certainly not in the usual biblical meaning of the term “consider.” “Oh Lord consider my trouble.” “Consider my meditation.” “Blessed is he who considers the poor.” Such consideration implies goodwill and a careful inspection of the object of benevolence with regard to a wise distribution of favour. In that sense Satan never considers any. If he has any benevolence, it must be towards himself; but all his considerations of other creatures are of the most malevolent kind. No meteoric flash of good flits across the black midnight of his soul. Nor does he consider us as we are told to consider the works of God, that is, in order to derive instruction concerning God’s wisdom and love and kindness. He does not honour God by what he sees in his works, or in his people. It is not with him, “Go to the ant; consider her ways and be wise”; but he goes to the Christian and considers his ways and becomes more foolishly God’s enemy than he was before. The consideration which Satan pays to God’s saints is like this. He regards them with wonder, when he considers the difference between them and himself. A traitor, when he knows the thorough villainy and the blackness of his own heart, cannot help being astounded, when he is forced to believe another man to be faithful. The first resort of a treacherous heart is to believe that all men would be just as treacherous, and are really so at heart. The traitor thinks that all men are traitors like himself, or would be, if it paid them better than fidelity. When Satan looks at the Christian, and finds him faithful to God and to his truth, he considers him as we should consider a phenomenon—perhaps despising him for his folly, but yet marvelling at him, and wondering how he can act like this. “I,” he seems to say, “a prince, a peer of God’s parliament, would not submit my will to Jehovah: I thought it better to reign in hell than serve in heaven: I did not keep my first estate, but fell from my throne; how is it that these stand? What grace is it which keeps these? I was a vessel of gold, and yet I was broken; these are earthen vessels, but I cannot break them! I could not stand in my glory—what can be the matchless grace which upholds them in their poverty, in their obscurity, in their persecution, still faithful to the God who does not bless and exalt them as he did me!” It may be that he also wonders about their happiness. He feels within himself a seething sea of misery. There is an unfathomable gulf of anguish within his soul, and when he looks at believers, he sees them quiet in their souls, full of peace and happiness, and often without any outward means by which they should be comforted, yet rejoicing and full of glory. He goes up and down through the world and possesses great power, and there are many myrmidons to serve him, yet he does not have the spirit of happiness possessed by that humble cottager, obscure, unknown, having no servants to wait upon her, but stretched upon the bed of weakness. He admires and hates the peace which reigns in the believer’s soul.
7. His consideration may go farther than this. Do you not think that he considers them to detect, if possible, any flaw and fault in them, by way of solace to himself? “They are not pure,” he says—“these blood bought ones—these elect from before the foundations of the world,—they still sin! These adopted children of God, for whom the glorious Son bowed his head and gave up the ghost!—even they offend!” How must he chuckles, with such delight as he is capable of, over the secret sins of God’s people, and if he can see anything in them inconsistent with their profession, anything which appears to be deceitful, and like himself in it, he rejoices. Each sin born in the believer’s heart, cries to him, “My father! my father!” and he feels something like the joy of fatherhood as he sees his foul offspring. He looks at the “old man” in the Christian, and admires the tenacity with which it maintains its hold, the force and vehemence with which it struggles for the mastery, the craft and cunning with which every now and then, at set intervals, at convenient opportunities, it exerts all its force. He considers our sinful flesh, and makes it one of the books in which he diligently reads. One of the fairest prospects, I do not doubt, which the devil’s eye ever rests upon is the inconsistency and the impurity which he can discover in the true child of God. In this respect he had very little to consider in God’s true servant, Job.
8. Nor is this all, but rather just the starting point of his consideration. We do not doubt that he views the Lord’s people, and especially the more eminent and excellent among them, as the great barriers to the progress of his kingdom; and just as the engineer, endeavouring to make a railway, keeps his eye very much fixed upon the hills and rivers, and especially upon the great mountain through which it will take years laboriously to bore a tunnel, so Satan, in looking upon his various plans to carry on his dominion in the world, considers most such men as Job. Satan must have thought much of Martin Luther. “I could ride the whole world over,” he says “if it were not for that monk. He stands in my way. That strong headed man hates and mauls my firstborn son, the pope. If I could get rid of him I would not mind though fifty thousand lessor saints stood in my way.” He is sure to consider God’s servant, if there is “no one like him,” if he stands out distinct and separate from his fellows. Those of us who are called to the work of the ministry must expect from our position to be the special objects of his consideration. When the telescope is at the eye of that dreadful warrior, he is sure to look for those who by their regimentals are discovered to be the officers, and he bids his sharpshooters to be very careful to aim at these, “For,” he says, “if the standardbearer falls, then the victory shall be more readily gained for our side, and our opponents shall be more readily routed.” If you are more generous than other saints, if you live nearer to God than others, just as the birds peck most at the ripest fruit, so may you expect Satan to be most busy against you. Who cares to contend for a province covered with stones and barren rocks, and ice bound by frozen seas? But in all times there is sure to be a contention for the rich valleys where the wheat sheaves are plenteous, and where the farmer’s toil is well rewarded, and so, for you who honour God most, Satan will struggle very sternly. He wants to pluck God’s jewels from his crown, if he can, and take the Redeemer’s precious stones even from the breastplate itself. He considers, then, God’s people; viewing them as hindrances to his reign, he contrives methods by which he may remove them out of his way, or make them do his bidding. Darkness would cover the earth if he could blow out the lights; there would be no fruit to shake like Lebanon, if he could destroy that handful of grain upon the top of the mountains; hence his perpetual consideration is to make the faithful fail from among men.
9. It does not need much wisdom to discern that the great object of Satan in considering God’s people is to do them harm. I scarcely think he hopes to destroy the really chosen and blood bought heirs of life. My notion is that he is too good a divine for that. He has been foiled so often when he has attacked God’s people, that he can hardly think he shall he able to destroy the elect, for you remember the soothsayers who are very nearly related to him, spoke to Haman like this: “If Mordecai is of the seed of the Jews, before whom you have begun to fall, you shall not prevail against him, but shall surely fall before him.” He knows very well that there is a royal seed in the land against whom he fights in vain; and it strikes me if he could be absolutely certain that any one soul was chosen by God, he would scarcely waste his time in attempting to destroy it, although he might seek to worry and to dishonour it. It is however most likely that Satan no more knows who God’s elect are than we do, for he can only judge as we do by outward actions, although he can form a more accurate judgment than we can through longer experience, and being able to see people in private where we cannot intrude; yet his black eye can never peer into God’s book of secret decrees. He knows them by their fruits, and we know them in the same manner. Since, however, we are often mistaken in our judgment, he too may be; and it seems to me that therefore he makes it his policy to endeavour to destroy them all—not knowing in which case he may succeed. He goes about seeking whom he may devour, and, since he does not know whom he may be permitted to swallow up, he attacks all the people of God with vehemence. Some one may say, “How can one devil do this?” He does not do it by himself alone. I do not know that many of us have ever been tempted directly by Satan: we may not be notable enough among men to be worth his trouble; but he has a whole host of inferior spirits under his supremacy and control, and just as the centurion said of himself, so he might have said of Satan—“He says to this spirit, ‘Do this,’ and he does it, and to his servant, ‘Go,’ and he goes.” Thus all the servants of God will more or less come under the direct or indirect assaults of the great enemy of souls, and that with a view of destroying them; for he would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. Where he cannot destroy, there is no doubt that Satan’s object is to worry. He does not like to see God’s people happy. I believe the devil greatly delights in some ministers, whose tendency in their preaching is to multiply and foster doubts and fears, and grief, amid despondency, as the evidences of God’s people. “Ah,” the devil says, “preach on; you are doing my work well, for I like to see God’s people mournful. If I can make them hang their harps on the willows, and go around with miserable faces, I know I have done my work very well.” My dear friends, let us watch against those specious temptations which pretend to make us humble, but which really aim at making us unbelieving. Our God takes no delight in our suspicions and mistrusts. See how he proves his love in the gift of his dear Son Jesus. Banish then all your bad surmisings, and rejoice in unmoved confidence. God delights to be worshipped with joy. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.” “Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and shout for joy all you who are upright in heart.” “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice.” Satan does not like this. Martin Luther used to say, “Let us sing psalms and spite the devil,” and I have no doubt Martin Luther was pretty nearly right; for that lover of discord hates harmonious, joyous praise. Beloved brother, the arch-enemy wants to make you wretched here, if he cannot have you hereafter; and in this, no doubt, he is aiming a blow at the honour of God. He is well aware that mournful Christians often dishonour the faithfulness of God by mistrusting it, and he thinks if he can worry us until we no more believe in the constancy and goodness of the Lord, he shall have robbed God of his praise. “He who offers praise, glorifies me,” says God; and so Satan lays the axe at the root of our praise, so that God may cease to be glorified.
10. Moreover, if Satan cannot destroy a Christian, how often has he spoiled his usefulness? Many a believer has fallen, not to break his neck—that is impossible,—but he has broken some important bone, and he has gone limping to his grave! We can recall with grief some men once eminent in the ranks of the Church, who did run well, but suddenly, through stress of temptation, they fell into sin, and their names were never mentioned in the Church again, except with bated breath. Everyone thought and hoped they were saved so as by fire, but certainly their former usefulness never could return. It is very easy to go back in the heavenly pilgrimage, but it is very hard to retrace your steps. You may soon turn aside and put out your candle, but you cannot relight it quite so quickly. Friend, beloved in the Lord, watch against the attacks of Satan and stand firm, because you, as a pillar in the house of God are very dear to us, and we cannot spare you. As a father, or as a matron in our midst, we do you honour, and oh!—we would not he made to mourn and lament—we do not wish to be grieved by hearing the shouts of our adversaries while they cry “Aha! Aha! so would we have it,” for alas! there have been many things done in our Zion which we would not have told in Gath, nor published in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised should rejoice, and the sons of the Philistines should triumph. Oh may God grant us grace, as a Church, to stand against the wiles of Satan and his attacks, that having done his worst he may gain no advantage over us, and after having considered, and considered again, and counted well our towers and bulwarks, he may be compelled to retire because his battering rams cannot jar so much as a stone from our ramparts, and his slings cannot slay one single soldier on the walls.
11. Before I leave this point, I should like to say, that perhaps it may be suggested, “How is it that God permits this constant and malevolent consideration of his people by the evil one?” One answer, doubtless, is, that God knows what is for his own glory, and that he gives no account of his matters; that having permitted free agency, and having allowed, for some mysterious reason, the existence of evil, it does not seem agreeable with his having done so to destroy Satan; but he gives him power so that it may be a fair hand to hand fight between sin and holiness, between grace and craftiness. Besides, remember, that incidentally the temptations of Satan are of service to the people of God; Fenelon says they are the file which rubs off much of the rust of self-confidence, and I may add, they are the horrible sound in the sentinel’s ear, which is sure to keep him awake. A practical divine observes that there is no temptation in the world which is so bad as not being tempted at all; for to be tempted will tend to keep us awake: whereas, being without temptation, flesh and blood are weak—and although the spirit may be willing, yet we may he found falling into slumber. Children do not run away from their father’s side when big dogs bark at them. The howlings of the devil may tend to drive us nearer to Christ, may teach us our own weakness, may keep us upon our own watchtower, and be made the means of preservation from other evils. Let us “be sober, be vigilant, because our adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour”; and let us who are in a prominent position be permitted affectionately to press upon you one earnest request, namely, “Brethren, pray for us,” that, exposed as we are particularly to the consideration of Satan, we may be guarded by divine power. Let us be made rich by your faithful prayers so that we may be kept even to the end.
What Is it That Satan Considers?
12. II. Secondly, WHAT IS IT THAT SATAN CONSIDERS WITH A VIEW TO THE HARM OF GOD’S PEOPLE?
13. It cannot be said of him as of God, that he knows us altogether; but since he has been now almost six thousand years dealing with poor fallen humanity, he must have acquired a very vast experience in that time, and having been all over the earth, and having tempted the highest and the lowest, he must know exceedingly well what the springs of human action are, and how to play upon them. Satan watches and considers first of all our particular infirmities. He looks us up and down, just as I have seen a horse dealer do with a horse; and soon finds out where we are faulty. I, a common observer, might think the horse to be an exceedingly good one, as I see it running up and down the road, but the dealer sees what I cannot see, and he knows how to handle the creature just in such quarters and at such points that he soon discovers any hidden faults. Satan knows how to look at us and to size us up from head to toe, so that he will say about this man, “His infirmity is lust,” or about that other, “He has a quick temper,” or about this other, “He is proud,” or about that other, “He is slothful.” The eye of malice is very quick to perceive a weakness, and the hand of enmity soon takes advantage of it. When the arch-spy finds a weak place in the wall of our castle, he takes care to plant his battering ram, and begin his siege. You may conceal, even from your dearest friend, your infirmity, but you will not conceal it from your worst enemy. He has lynx eyes, and detects in a moment the joint in your harness. He goes around with a match, and though you may think you have covered all the gunpowder of your heart, yet he knows how to find a crack to put his match through, and he will do much mischief, unless eternal mercy shall prevent it.
14. He takes care also to consider our moods and states of mind. If the devil would attack us when our mind is in certain moods, we should be more than a match for him: he knows this, and shuns the encounter. Some men are more ready for temptation when they are distressed and desponding; the fiend will then assail them. Others will be more liable to take fire when they are jubilant and full of joy; then he will strike his spark into the tinder. Certain people, when they are much vexed and tossed to and fro, can be made to say almost anything; and others, when their souls are like perfectly placid waters, are just then in a condition to be navigated by the devil’s vessel. Just as the worker in metals knows that one metal is to be worked at such a heat, and another at a different temperature; just as those who have to deal with chemicals know that at a certain heat one fluid will boil, while another reaches the boiling point much earlier, so Satan knows exactly the temperature at which to work on us for his purpose. Small pots boil quickly when they are put on the fire, and so little men of quick temper are soon in a passion; larger vessels require more time and heat before they will boil, but when they do boil, it is a boil indeed, not soon forgotten or abated. The enemy, like a fisherman, watches his fish, adapts his bait to his prey; and knows in what seasons and times the fish are most likely to bite. This hunter of souls comes upon us unawares, and often we are overtaken in a fault, or caught in a trap through a careless frame of mind. That rare collector of choice sayings, Thomas Spencer, has the following, which is much to the point:—“The chameleon when he lies on the grass to catch flies and grasshoppers, takes upon him the colour of the grass, as the octopus does the colour of the rock under which he lurks, so that the fish may boldly come near him without any suspicion of danger. In like manner, Satan turns himself into that shape which we least fear, and sets before us such objects of temptation as are most agreeable to our natures, so that he may the sooner draw us into his net; he sails with every wind, and blows us that way which we incline ourselves through the weakness of nature. Is our knowledge concerning faith deficient? He tempts us to error. Is our conscience tender? He tempts us to be scrupulous, and much too preciseness. Has our conscience, like the ecliptic line, some latitude? He tempts us to carnal liberty. Are we bold spirited? He tempts us to presumption. Are we timorous and distrustful? He tempts us to desperation. Are we of a flexible disposition? He tempts us to inconstancy. Are we stiff? He labours to make obstinate heretics, schismatics, or rebels of us. Are we of an austere temper? He tempts us to cruelty. Are we soft and mild? He tempts us to indulgence and foolish pity. Are we hot in matters of religion? He tempts us to blind zeal and superstition. Are we cold? He tempts us to Laodicean lukewarmness. Thus does he lay his traps, that one way or other, he may ensnare.”
15. He also takes care to consider our position among men. There are a few people who are most easily tempted when they are alone; they are the subjects then of great heaviness of mind, and they may be driven to most awful crimes: perhaps most of us are more liable to sin when we are in company. In some company I never should be led into sin; into another crowd I could scarcely venture. Many are so full of levity, that those of us who are inclined the same way can scarcely look them in the face without feeling our besetting sin stirring; and others are so sombre, that if they meet a brother of like mould, they are pretty sure between them to invent an evil report of the goodly land. Satan knows where to overtake you in a place where you lie open to his attacks; he will pounce upon you, swoop like a bird of prey from the sky, where he has been watching for the time to make his descent with a prospect of success.
16. How, too, will he consider our condition in the world! He looks at one man, and says, “That man has property,: it is of no use my trying such and such arts with him; but here is another man who is very poor, I will catch him in that net.” Then, again, he looks at the poor man, and says, “Now, I cannot tempt him into this folly, but I will lead the rich man into it.” Just as the sportsman has a gun for wild fowl, and another for deer and game, so has Satan a different temptation for various kinds of men. I do not suppose that the Queen’s temptation ever will annoy Mary the kitchen maid. I do not suppose, on the other hand, that Mary’s temptation will ever be very serious for me. Probably you could escape from mine—I do not think you could; and I sometimes imagine I could bear yours—although I question if I could. Satan knows, however, just where to strike us, and our position, our capabilities, our education, our standing in society, our calling, may all be doors through which he may attack us. You who have no calling at all, are in particular peril—I wonder why the devil does not swallow you outright. The most likely man to go to hell is the man who has nothing to do on earth. I say that seriously. I believe that there cannot happen a much worse evil to a person than to be placed where he has no work; and if I should ever be in such a state, I would get employment at once, for fear I should be carried off, body and soul, by the evil one. Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them. Let us have something to do, let us keep our minds occupied, for, if not, we make room for the devil. Industry will not make us gracious, but the lack of industry may make us vicious. Have always something on the anvil or in the fire.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
I would be busy too,
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
So Watts taught us in our childhood, and so let us believe in our manhood. Books, or works, or such recreations as are necessary for health, should occupy our time; for if I throw myself down in indolence, like an old piece of iron, I must not wonder that I grow rusty with sin.
17. Nor am I finished yet. Satan, when he makes his investigations, notices all the objects of our affection I do not doubt when he went around Job’s house, he observed it as carefully as thieves do a jeweller’s premises when they mean to break into them. They very cunningly take account of every door, window, and lock: they do not fail to look at the house next door; for they may have to reach the treasure through the building which adjoins it. So, when the devil went around, jotting down in his mind all Job’s position, he thought to himself, “There are the camels and the oxen, the donkeys, and the servants—yes, I can use all these very admirably.” “Then,” he thought, “there are the three daughters! There are the seven sons, and they go feasting—I shall know where to catch them, and if I can just blow the house down when they are feasting, that will afflict the father’s mind the more severely, for he will say ‘Oh that they had died when they had been praying, rather than when they had been feasting and drinking wine.’ I will put down too in the inventory,” says the devil, “his wife—I dare say I shall want her,” and accordingly it came to that. No one could have done what Job’s wife did—none of the servants could have said that sad sentence so stingingly—or, if she meant it very kindly, no one could have said it with such a fascinating air as Job’s own wife, “Bless God and die,” as it may be read, or “Curse God and die.” Ah, Satan, you have ploughed with Job’s heifer, but you have not succeeded; Job’s strength lies in his God, not in his hair, or else you might have shorn him as Samson was shorn! Perhaps the evil one had even inspected Job’s personal sensitivities, and so selected that form of bodily affliction which he knew to be most dreaded by his victim. He brought upon him a disease which Job may have seen and shuddered at, in poor men outside the city gates. Brethren, Satan knows quite as much in regard to you. You have a child, and Satan knows that you idolize him. “Ah,” says he, “there is a place for my wounding him.” Even the partner of your bosom may be made a quiver in which hell’s arrows shall be stored until the time may come, and then she may prove the bow from which Satan will shoot them. Watch even your neighbour and your wife who lies in your bosom, for you do not know how Satan many get an advantage over you. Our habits, our joys, our sorrows, our recreations, our public positions, all may be made weapons of attack by this is desperate foe of the Lord’s people. We have snares everywhere; in our bed and at our table, in our house and in the street. There are snares and traps in company; there are pits when we are alone. We may find temptations in the house of God as well as in the world; traps in our high estate, and deadly poisons in our abasement. We must not expect to be rid of temptations until we have crossed the Jordan, and then, thank God, we are beyond gunshot of the enemy. The last howling of the dog of hell will be heard as we descend into the chill waters of the black stream, but when we hear the hallelujah of the glorified, we shall be finished with the black prince for ever and for ever.
A Higher Consideration
18. III. Satan considered but THERE WAS A HIGHER CONSIDERATION WHICH OVERRODE HIS CONSIDERATION.
19. In times of war, the sappers and miners of one side will make a tunnel, and it is a very common counter action for the sappers and miners of the other side to countermine by undermining the first tunnel. This is just what God does with Satan. Satan is mining, and he thinks to light the fuse and to blow up God’s building, but all the while God is undermining him, and he blows up Satan’s tunnel before he can do any mischief. The devil is the greatest of all fools. He has more knowledge but less wisdom than any other creature, he is more subtle than all the beasts of the field, but it is well called subtlety, not wisdom. It is not true wisdom; it is only another form of folly. All the while that Satan was tempting Job, he little knew that he was doing God’s purposes, for God was looking on and considering the entire thing, and holding the enemy as a man holds a horse by its bridle. The Lord had considered exactly how far he would let Satan go. At first he did not permit him to touch his flesh—perhaps that was more than Job at that time could have borne. Have you never noticed that if you are in good strong bodily health you can bear losses and crosses, and even bereavements with something like equanimity? Now that was the case with Job. Perhaps if the disease had come first and the rest had followed, it might have been too heavy a temptation for him, but God who knows just how far to let the enemy go, will say to him, “Thus far, and no farther.” By degrees he became accustomed to his poverty; in fact, the trial had lost all its sting the moment Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” That enemy was slain—indeed it was buried and this was the funeral oration, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” When the second trial came, the first trial had qualified Job to bear the second. It may be a more severe trial for a man in the possession of great worldly wealth suddenly to be deprived of the bodily power of enjoying it, than to lose everything first, and then lose the health necessary for its enjoyment. Having already lost all, he might almost say, “I thank God that now I have nothing to enjoy, and therefore the loss of the power to enjoy it is not so wearisome.” I do not have to say, “How I wish I could go out into my fields and see to my servants, for they are all dead. I do not wish to see my children—they are all dead and gone—I am thankful that they are; better so, than that they should see their poor father sit on a dunghill like this.” He might have been almost glad if his wife had gone too, for certainly she was not a very particular mercy when she was spared; and possibly, if he had had all his children around him, it might have been a harder trial than it was. The Lord who weighs mountains in scales, had measured out his servant’s woe.
20. Did not the Lord also consider how he should sustain his servant under the trial? Beloved, you do not know how blessedly our God poured the secret oil upon Job’s fire of grace while the devil was throwing buckets of water on it. He says to himself, “If Satan shall do much, I will do more; if he takes away much, I will give more; if he tempts the man to curse, I will fill him so full of love for me that he shall bless me. I will help him; I will strengthen him; yes, I will uphold him with the right hand of my righteousness.” Christian, take those two thoughts and put them under your tongue as a wafer made with honey—you will never he tempted without express licence from the throne where Jesus pleads, and, on the other hand, when he permits it, he will with the temptation make a way of escape, or give you grace to stand under it.
21. In the next place, the Lord considered how to sanctify Job by this trial. Job was a much better man at the end of the story than he was at the beginning. He was “a perfect and an upright man” at first, but there was a little pride about him. We are poor creatures to criticise such a man as Job—but still there was in him just a sprinkling of self-righteousness. I think, and his friends brought it out. Eliphaz and Zophar said such irritating things, that poor Job could not help replying in strong terms about himself that were rather too strong, one thinks; there was a little too much self-justification. He was not proud as some of us are, of a very little—he had much to be proud of, as the world would allow—but yet there was the tendency to be exalted with it; and though the devil did not know it, perhaps if he had left Job alone, that pride might have run to seed, and Job might have sinned; but he was in such a hurry, that he would not let the bad seed ripen, but hastened to cut it up, and so was the Lord’s tool to bring Job into a more humble, and consequently a more safe and blessed state of mind. Moreover, observe how Satan was a lackey for the Almighty! Job all this while was being enabled to earn a greater reward. All his prosperity is not enough; God loves Job so much, that he intends to give him twice the property; he intends to give him his children again; he means to make him a more famous man than ever; a man whose name shall ring down through the ages; a man who shall he spoken of through all generations. He is not to be the man of Uz, but of the whole world. He is not to be heard of by a handful in one neighbourhood, but all men are to hear about Job’s patience in the hour of trial. Who is to do this? Who is to fashion the trumpet of fame through which Job’s name is to be blown? The devil goes to the forge, and works away with all his might, to make Job illustrious! Foolish devil! he is piling up a pedestal on which God will set his servant Job, so that he may be looked upon with wonder by all ages.
22. To conclude, Job’s afflictions and Job’s patience have been a lasting blessing to the Church of God, and they have inflicted incredible disgrace upon Satan. If you want to make the devil angry, throw the story of Job in his teeth. If you desire to have your own confidence sustained, may God the Holy Spirit lead you into the patience of Job. Oh! how many saints have been comforted in their distress by this history of patience! How many have been saved out of the jaw of the lion, and from the paw of the bear by the dark experiences of the patriarch of Uz. Oh arch fiend, how you are taken in your own net! You have thrown a stone which has fallen on your own head. You made a pit for Job, and have fallen into it yourself; you are taken in your own craftiness. Jehovah has made fools of the wise and driven the diviners mad. Brethren, let us commit ourselves in faith to the care and keeping of God—come poverty, come sickness, come death, we will in all things through Jesus Christ’s blood be conquerors, and by the power of his Spirit we shall overcome at the last. I wish that we were all trusting in Jesus. May those who have not trusted him be led to begin this very morning, and God shall have all the praise in us all, for evermore. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Job 1:1-2:10]
[Note—At the request of several subscribers, we intend in the future to mention the passage of Scripture read at the Service, or some other more suitable to be read with the Sermon.]