Accuser vs. Mediator (Job 1)
Having blogged about the book of Genesis, with this post I start a new series of the book of Job. I want to go through the Bible chronologically, not the traditional order, and so I’ll explore Job before returning to the Exodus.
Job is a strange book and quite unique in the Bible. It’s very well-known – Job is still a byword for innocent suffering – and people regularly associate it with God testing people. But what I want to do in this series is dig a little deeper and see what else God might be teaching us through this book, and to offer up some thoughts about the things that strike me.
The first thing that strikes me is that we all have an accuser. We all stand accused before God and the charges are serious. Most of the time it is our own sins that accuse us, but behind every accusation there is an accuser. We meet him in Job in one of his rare cameos in the Bible. His name is Satan. It means accuser. A lot of people would wish to deny his existence (something he himself would encourage gleefully), but he is real, as are his accusations. It’s important to understand this, and also useful to know a bit about him.
The book of Job is mostly a series of conversations, either between Job and his friends, or between Job and God, but it is bookended by sections of narrative. Here at the beginning the scene is set. We are introduced to Job, a righteous and wealthy man, and we are ushered into the throne-room of God…
“One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.” (Job 1:6)
On first viewing it seems like Satan is just tagging along and that he doesn’t have to present himself before God like the other angels, but in a close repetition of this scene in Job 2:1 we see that Satan also presents himself. This is the first thing we should note: he is subordinate, he is a created being under the authority of God. He is not an equal or an opposite. He is, however, a trouble-maker. His answer is full of pride when God asks him where he’s been:
“roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it.” (Job 1:7)
This is the second thing to note about Satan: he doesn’t have a job or do what he’s supposed to. He has nothing better to do than roam around looking for trouble. This is why he’s so well-informed about Job, and, indeed, about all of us. While it is God who brings up Job, Satan has plenty of ammunition to hand to use against him. He confidently predicts that Job will curse God once his divine protection and blessing is stripped away. When this first prediction falls flat he asserts the same if God goes further and allows Satan to harm him physically as well as materially and emotionally. That’s the third thing to be clear about with Satan: he can only do what God permits him to do. He has no real power. Quite why God permitted him to attack Job is a big question and one that might become clearer by the end of this series, but the important thing for now is to know just how limited and powerless Satan is.
Satan is full of accusations. He is accusing us constantly. Revelation 12:10 makes it clear that Satan accuses all of us. Unlike Job, who is a righteous (but not perfect) person, most of us are actually guilty of a lot of what he accuses us. If we picture ourselves in the court-room of God, standing in the dock and having these charges read against us, we would be facing an eternal sentence if nothing else happened.
But the good news is that while we have an accuser we also have a mediator. If Satan is the counsel for the prosecution, Jesus is the counsel for the defence. And Jesus has the perfect answer every time: those charges don’t count because I have paid for them already. This man/woman is innocent, because I have taken away their guilt. This defence wins every time. So long as you have put your faith in Jesus, He provides an infallible defence.
Jesus justifies. Justification means to pronounce someone innocent and to dismiss any charges against them. It is a legal term, and quite in keeping with the court-room drama we’ve just imagined. Romans 4-5 tells us that this is what we have in Jesus. Colossians 2:14 is even more explicit:
“having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He [God] has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
So Satan accuses, but Jesus justifies. Satan’s accusations didn’t stick against Job, and they won’t prevail against us. Because Jesus mediates between us and God, He intercedes for us and makes our case. This will come up again and again in Job. And while Satan is a created creature, a subordinate with no real power, Jesus is the Son of God with all the authority in the universe (Matthew 28:18). I know whom I would rather have in my corner. Is He in yours?