Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Value of a Spiritual Enemy

Job and his friends lack a theology of Satan - they don't even consider the possibility of a spiritual enemy. We who read the story know what a profound role Satan played in Job's misfortune, but since Job is blind to the influence of the enemy, it leaves him in a very difficult place. 

Read Job carefully, and you'll see that he and his friends start with a pretty solid understanding of God. They know who He is, what He says, what He requires, how He acts. Job himself even defends the Lord rather staunchly, claiming that the Lord is good and is firmly who He has declared Himself to be. 

But watch closely, and you'll start to see some other ideas creep in. Ideas that suggest that God, for all that He is, is also unknowable. That is, we think we know who God is or who He wants us to think that He is, but when it comes down to it, we are simply incapable of truly understanding Him. There's a lot about Him that we just can't know. He does whatever He pleases, whatever He wants to do, and we're left to just deal with it because it doesn't have to make sense to us. 

From there, it's not that big of a leap to decide that maybe God isn't even good. Maybe He's just vindictive. Maybe He's completely unpredictable. Maybe He just lives and does things on a whim, whatever strikes Him in the moment. Maybe God's not even really thinking about you. 

See the problem? If there's not a spiritual enemy vying for your soul, then you have to have a theology of God that makes sense of your affliction. And when we do that, we find ourselves further from God, with less of an idea of who He even is - not closer. The enemy, by convincing us he doesn't exist, convinces us that God isn't who He says He is. 

It's Did God really say...? all over again. (The enemy has a pretty limited playbook.) 

But it's not just that. It's not just what we believe about God; it's also what we believe about ourselves and about each other. Job's friends are willing to give up on him just as easily.

They know his goodness. They know his generosity. They know his purity. They've had front row seats to it; they are his friends. But given his affliction and what they know about God, even Job's friends sit there and tell him straight to his face - you know, you're really not that good of a guy. You aren't who we thought you were. You aren't who you pretend to be. 

Actually, Job, you're kind of a wretch. You're kind of a jerk. You're an arrogant hothead who thinks he knows everything. And if we're being honest, you kind of deserve everything you're getting right now. 

Wow. Some friends. 

It's not really that they truly believe this about Job. I don't think it is, anyway. It's that they're doing what we all do - they're trying to make sense of what they're experiencing and encountering in the world, and given everything that they think they know, they can't do it. They can't reconcile Job's suffering with both the idea that God is good and knowable and that their friend is also good and righteous. So one of these has to give - and actually, we see both of them give. God is not good or knowable and their friend is not good or righteous. In fact, life as we know it and even faith are fully depraved; there is no hope for either. 

This whole world's going to Hell! And who do you think is responsible for that? 

If you're Job or his friends, you don't know. But if you have a spiritual enemy, well...isn't that exactly the kind of thing he would want?

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