Job’s experiences reveal that the devil has to go through God to get to us, and that most of what hell would like to do is off-limits. The interplay of our lives with satan has a “load limit” sign on it. When satan does entice, God provides an escape so we can bear the strain of the oppression and spiritual pressure.
Grace is without limit. Evil has a daily limit: “every has sufficient evil.” As our spiritual father, John Kilpatrick preaches, “Everything is Fathered filtered.” Others characterize this spiritual reality as “covering.” With respect to angels, it is the ultimate spiritual “circle the wagons” approach to defending against hellish methods of destruction and marauding.
The term in Hebrew for “hedge” has linguistic tones of “thorns” because of the natural fence created by planting and cultivating thorny hedges around property. The accuser complains that God has Job within this hedge, constructed by God, keeping him out of reach to some extent from what satan would like to do.
In the story, God allows satan into this secured spiritual enclosure in which Job, his family, and possessions have been protected. The greater question Job answers is “Why do the righteous suffer?” The spiritual reality is that God’s sheltering isn’t designed to keep us from our enemies but to prepare us to face them and overcome even the worst that they can do. In Job we learn that satan can send storms and weather, thieves and destruction, and sickness and disease. In Job we learn that satan will kill our children and turn even our closest relationships against us. With Job, God set the new limit so that satan could not kill him.
I know full well that people will turn Job into whatever literary form that best serves their preconceived notions of how things work in the spirit, but the reality is the reality. The fact that Scripture is written in a certain literary form does nothing to diminish its revelation. The worldview of the Bible remains the worldview of the Bible. We either adopt God’s worldview or we are left to work out the differences in ways that diminish revelation. We cannot hope to think God’s thoughts when we refuse to put His Word into the framework of His worldview.
So, take Job literal. God has interactions with the enemy about His children and other subjects. God sets limits on the enemy. The enemy has to seek permission before he can implement a strategy against us. We are sheltered and the hedge comes down to give us the opportunity to defeat our enemy through confrontation.
Sheltered, Not Shielded
One would think that Paul was overplaying his leadership role when he says that he was carried into paradise but exaggerating his tough times “filling up what lacks in the sufferings of Christ.” He sees and hears things not to be spoken or shared and experiences an attack of satan that Jesus refuses to remove from his life. Paul doesn’t die one moment before God is ready for his to finish his course, but he faces heightened spiritual confrontations the further along his fulfillment of destiny he goes. The “higher levels, bigger devils” theme seems to be confirmed.
I have met modern American Christians who doubt the goodness and kindness of God because their hedge isn’t absolute. They think God needs to start doing a better job of being God if they face the slightest discomfort or fail to possess their whims and fantasies. Their theory of how things work in the spirit is that God’s job is to keep the devil out of their lives so they can live them. They have no intention of pursing God’s higher levels because they wish to avoid any devils, let alone bigger ones. To them that seems contrary to what their Christian life is all about.
They wish to be both sheltered and shielded. “I want to ignore the devil so he will flee from me,” they say. “I don’t want to resist because that takes too much work and distracts me from what I really want to do.”
Then, I’ve heard the theory that God is using to the devil to test our mettle. Try this crazy thinking on for size: “You can see that it is not the devil who is bringing this but God who brings these illnesses and diseases. God does not just allow disease to happen as many Christians believe, but God brings it on to those who disobey Him. Yes, it is the devil that administers the curses and sickness but it is coming from God.” And, “The devil is just a tool that God uses to chasten His children.” Laughable if it were so seriously misguided. It comes from an over-cooked dish of Divine sovereignty.
God can be sovereign without using the devil. The concept that the devil can’t do anything unless God is making him do it or else God wouldn’t be sovereign parallels the same thinking that men do not have a free will. I am not talking about God uses satan as much as I am talking about God uses us. God isn’t using the devil but equipping us to overcome the devil and establish God’s sovereignty on earth.
Here’s a quote to consider how the concept of satan gets wrapped up in faulty systematic theology: “Job’s sufferings, while inflicted by Satan, are ultimately from the hand of God.” Again, the idea is that God is sovereign, everything is preplanned, satan is part of God’s plan, satan serves God’s purpose, and in the end God gets what He wants by our suffering.
God wasn’t having His own version of gladiators with Job and Lucifer! God isn’t turning hell loose on Job because of Job’s pride! Faulty worldview and a misunderstanding of God’s purposes can get you thinking odd things about spiritual warfare and how things work in the spirit.
The Battle with the Adversary
There is no war between God and satan. If there were a battle between God and satan, it would already be over! Instantaneously over. God and satan are not matched foes! God created an angel who rebelled against Him. He didn’t pick a fight with an equal god.
God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled outside of the rule and dominion of God on earth through man. God isn’t trying to take dominion of the earth; if He were, it would be done! What other thought could anyone who knows who God is entertain? God created earth and put man in charge of it, to take dominion over Creation as God’s representative so the rule of God would be established on earth through man.
The battle is not between God and satan. The battle is between satan and man! God empowers us to overcome and defeat satan. The purpose of God can only be established by the triumph of man over satan. God empowers us to overcome, defeat satan’s methods, take and possess the land, and establish the kingdom of God. For sure, satan is attempting to stop this purpose, but there is an eternal guarantee that the rule of God will be established on earth through man. Jesus is the Son of Man! So, He defeated satan to empower us to establish His kingdom on earth.
The shelter is present to shield us from the battle so we can develop through a series of victories, the authority and power to face down satan at higher levels and broader expansions. The shelter is not taken down so God can use satan. The shelter is taken down so we can overcome satan and expand the dominion of God through our enduring submission to God. Our obedience and submission establishes His rule, and the test of that obedience and submission isn’t all about God pitting one champion against another for the entertainment of the Divine, a cosmic gladiator battle in which God whips His children into submission! God isn’t using satan. God is using our growing strength to overcome, through grace are we rescued.
Job defeated the enemy! Paul defeated the enemy! Jesus defeated the enemy in ultimate ways so He can empower us to establish God’s kingdom on earth. The battle between satan and man is being won: redeemed people empowered by Holy Spirit, limitless flows of grace, and strengthened by our submission to God are overcoming the attack and expanding the kingdom.
Our being “submitted to satan” by God’s sovereign plan, in some strange “fair play” or “give the devil his proper place in God’s plan” is spurious. “God is using satan to make us suffer so we will be humble or something?” That is an overreach to make a systematic theology “walk on all fours.” Instead it limps around as a religious cripple.
Sheltered For Readiness
So, God has given us safe places in which to grow and mature into champions. He isn’t producing wimps but warriors. He isn’t protecting us from satan because He is knows we can’t win. He is positioning our lives so that we can grow into His armor.
Some Christians have bought the idea that they pay leaders to fight their battles for them, tithing so professional warriors can do the stuff on foreign soil so they can live happy and go-lucky behind the hedge. Some interpret the phrase, “the battle is the Lord’s” to mean that God will fight the battles for us so we can build our little American lives. Some are convinced that they are lovers, not fighters, and Jesus sees them as a Bride to be kissed, not a warrior to equip with armor. Get a clue! Warriors are lovers! Love motivates their training, equipping, preparing, and battling. They face death because of love! They war with worship. They embrace their Commander who sends them into the teeth of hell’s fury.
Shelter serves to protect what we have already won. Inside the shelter, we enjoy the territory we have conquered, but God is conquering that territory through us.
If you are facing the same battle, the same enemy, and the same conflict over and over, you are not learning the lessons of victory but accepting the role of a victim. You are wondering why God doesn’t “just make it go away” when God is wondering why you don’t grow up, stand up, and man up to defeat your enemy and expand His kingdom.