One of the most profound aspects of the book of Job is its beginning. The writer picks up the account of a man named Job, who lived in the land of Uz. The man was “blameless” and “upright;” meaning, he was one who “turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). The author ascribes Job to much wealth and integrity; he is a well-known guy in community and is “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). What we read next is an attestation concerning God’s ultimate authority and sovereignty over all creation and events.
God summons the “sons of God to present themselves before” him. The term sons of God is a Hebraic idiom for angelic beings. At this point, we are introduced to Satan; he too must present himself before the Creator. The Lord demands an answer from Satan, “Where have you been?” Satan provides the usual response, “I’ve been out doing what I do, seeking to devour people” (Job 1:7; c.f. 1 Peter 5:8). This is where I have always wondered how Job would have felt if he knew what was being said in the conversation between God and Satan. The Lord is the one who asks Satan if he had considered Job as a prospect. Satan admits he had declined devouring Job, saying:
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. Job 1:9–10
We must first recognize Job feared God, not because he was wealthy or prosperous, but because he had a covenant relationship with God. Satan cannot, and never will, understand the relationship people have with the Creator nor with any of the Godhead.
We must also recognize that fear does not mean intimidation but respect. Also, God was the one who made this entire proposal. I have to think that if Job were in the room, he would have been signaling to God feverishly, “Ixnay esttay ithway emay nday atansay” (my Latin is not so good); you could see him signaling with his hand waving in front of his neck. However, God does not consult Job about the testing that will literally turn his life upside down, nor does God consult us when things occur. One thing that God does do—he set the boundaries of what may or may not occur to Job: “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand’” (Job 1:12). This basically means, “You can do what you want to Job, but you cannot take his life.”
Just so that you realize this is not an isolated event; a similar situation occurs between Christ and Peter. Jesus calls Peter and informs him, “Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32). Here, we see that Satan has asked permission from Christ to destroy the disciples and Peter (the you in the Greek is plural). Jesus explains that he has allowed them to be discouraged but that they will be restored.
Trusting in God is believing that he alone is sovereign and has the right to do what he pleases with the lives he has created, owned, and purchased (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 6:19). As Psalm 115:3 declares, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” In the end, Peter was restored and filled with the Spirit; in the end, Job was restored and interceded in prayer for his friends.
Satan is not equal with God; he is a created celestial being; he is not more powerful than God, nor can he read minds and intentions. However, as Paul says, we are not ignorant of his evil schemes (2 Cor 2:11). Acknowledge darkness, but do not be consumed by it, as we are to live as children of the light (Eph 5:8). Needless to say, we must then come to the conclusion that God is sovereign and in control of all things. It seems that Satan must ask God for permission when it comes to his people. So how does this affect the way we view demonic possession and oppression?
Honestly, Romans chapter 1 informs the reader that if man will continually practice evil, God will oblige the intentions of the heart, helping him harden his heart, giving him over to a “lustful…dishonorable…debased mind” (Rom 1:24, 26, 28). Most notably, when King Saul decided not to be obedient to God’s command and allowed jealousy, hatred, and anger in his heart, the Lord gave Saul over to demonic influence (1 Sam 18:10). With this mentioned, one makes the conclusion that demonic possession and oppression cannot occur without God’s ultimate knowledge; he controls all things. This should soberly alert the reader of the necessity to have a close relationship with righteousness and Christ.
This article is part of Matt’s book, Identity Theft: Revealing the Lies of Strongholds, Addictions, and Sin, p. 127-129
Matthew Fretwell is married, has three daughters, loves Jesus, being a dad, people, and coffee. Besides being an author (Denied Desires; Identity Theft, Sanctificagious, 30:1 Manhood), he’s Pastor of a comeback, church planting church (Oak Hall Baptist) in Sandston, Virginia, and is the founder of Job 31 Ministries. Matt’s an advocate board member of Living Bread Ministries, a global comprehensive Church Planting organization. He also writes for Church Planter Magazine. Twitter: @w84harpazo or Facebook