Job, Suffering, and Spiritual Warfare Part 1: The Invisible Foe
by Berit Kjos
Back in the 1920s and 30s, Western missionaries brought the gospel to Korea. The people received it with joy and, by God’s grace, Biblical faith spread like fire. The news of their zeal spread to China, and Chinese believers came to visit and learn from them. But everything changed when the Communists took control. By the 1950s, thousands had been killed. Torturous persecution had forced others into hiding.
Near the village of Gok San, a group of 24 adults and 4 children lived underground in hand-dug tunnels. They were discovered when communist workers built a road near their tunnels. The Christians were pulled out, bound and led before a village crowd for a public “trial” and execution.
A guard told them to deny their faith in Jesus “or die.” But they refused. A communist officer then ordered the guards to seize the four children and prepare them for hanging. The frightened children clung to their parents, but the heartbroken parents comforted them with the tender assurance that “we will see you soon in heaven.”
With ropes tied around the children’s small necks, the officer again promised freedom if only the parents would deny Christ. None were willing to betray their Lord. The children were hanged.
The officer then called for a massive steamroller and forced the adults to lie down in its path. The deadly machine soon arrived, and they were given one last chance: “Deny this Jesus or you will be crushed.” Again they refused. They had already given up their children; there was no turning back. :”
(The execution was reported in the North Korean press as an act of suppressing superstition. Various versions of this story are posted on numerous websites, without any copyright reference. Two slightly different accounts are quoted in Extreme Devotion, Voice of the Martyrs, p. 99 and Jesus Freaks, Voice of the Martyrs, p. 125. The most detailed version can be found here. A similar but more recent episode involving a steamroller is described in this article: Korean Reds Targeting Christians.)”:
As the steamroller neared its victims, the crowd heard the martyrs singing an old hymn that missionaries had taught them decades earlier: “More love, O Christ, to Thee, more love to Thee….” Mingled with the chilling sounds of crushing bodies, the words of the hymn soon grew faint. But some of the secret believers in the crowd — those who remembered the hymn and the former days of freedom — now gained the courage to join in the singing:
Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!
Notice the VISIBLE foes in this North Korean drama. They were the blinded puppets of Communism — indoctrinated in atheism and trained to hate God and His people.
Meanwhile, the INVISIBLE foes were the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Dedicated to the destruction of Biblical faith, they are now generally ignored in our post-modern culture. But their deadly schemes were all too familiar to the persecuted Christians in Marxist and other anti-Christian nations. As Pastor Richard Wurmbrand wrote in Tortured For Christ (1967),
“…there are no nominal, halfhearted, lukewarm Christians in Russia or China. The price Christians pay is far too great…. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands.”
Job, too, had to face a crushing confrontation but not because of any visible foe. His assailant was Satan himself! And in this first episode, Job didn’t see the human instruments used in the battle to destroy his faith and family. Nor did he have the encouragement of God’s written Word, :”(The first five chapters of the Bible were apparently organized and written as a cohesive manuscript by Moses. But archeologists have found written records that are over 4,000 years old. In 1975, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, Director of the Italian Archeological Mission in Syria, discovered,the greatest third-millennium B.C. archive ever unearthed. It included more than 15,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments and unveiled a Semitic empire that dominated the Middle East more than four thousand years ago. Its hub was Ebla, where educated scribes filled ancient libraries with written records of history, people, places and commerce. See Archeological and historical evidence of Biblical accuracy.)”: ‚ since his torturous test happened long before the days of Moses and the victory of the cross.
Job apparently lived slightly before (or during) the days of Abraham. His misery brings to mind the familiar questions: Why do good people suffer? Why would a loving, all-powerful God allow such pain? Job was a “righteous” man, yet he had to endure a massive loss, agonizing grief, excruciating pain, and merciless accusations from his wife and friends. Why?
We see a partial answer in the first chapter, where we meet Job and his precious family:
“There was a man in the land of Uz, :”(Uz was in the area later called Edom, south of what was called Caanan. It was probably renamed when Esau and his descendant settled in Edom. When Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Edomites refused to let them pass through their land. In Lamentations 4:21, we read this judgment against Edom: O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you, and you shall become drunk… Lamentations 4:21)”: ‚ whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
“And his sons would go and feast in their houses…. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did regularly.” Job 1:1-5
God saw Job’s faithfulness. While paganism flourished in most of the visible inhabited world, God had communicated His truth to the hearts of those who would listen. Then, during an invisible heavenly gathering of angelic beings — both good and evil — our sovereign, all-powerful God calls attention to Job:
“…there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them…. Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'”
Satan — who would love to destroy this uncompromising believer — can do nothing to Job as long as God protects him. So he challenges God to an amazing test:
“‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’
“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” Job 1:10-12
In other words, God gave Satan permission to tempt and test (and later torture) His servant Job. And Satan didn’t waste any time. A string of tragedies would soon break Job’s heart:
“Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; and a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away “” indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’
“While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The fire of God :”(Satan who was given limited power to manipulate the forces of nature, was called the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2. During Job’s testing, he had permission to raise up a great wind,perhaps a tornado or hurricane, and “fire of God”,see Revelation 13:11-14. He also provoked the deadly assaults by the Sabeans ,apparently a nomadic tribe in Arabia, south of Uz, and the Chaldeans ,east of Uz, near the Euphrates river.)”: ‚ fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants… and I alone have escaped to tell you!’
“While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’
“While he was still speaking, another also came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!’
“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’
“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Job 1: 20-22
God triumphed, and Satan was proven wrong! Job didn’t curse God! Nor did his faith weaken. Instead he worshipped God in the midst of his heartbreaking agony!
But Job’s trials and Satan’s assaults didn’t end here. In fact, Job was about to face a more subtle satanic scheme — one that sounds very similar to the assaults on Jesus two thousand years later. As Luke’s gospel tells us, “when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) For Job, that “opportune time” was to be just around the corner.
Keep in mind, none of these plots surprise our sovereign God! Now as then, He uses Satan to fulfill His purpose: to demonstrate the victory of a righteous person who lives by faith in God and anticipates His promised eternity! History is full of such hope-filled believers! Some are listed in Hebrews 11, God’s special hall of fame:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac… By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible….
“…the time would fail me to tell of … David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions… out of weakness were made strong….
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented”” of whom the world was not worthy….” Hebrews 11:17-38
This message continues in the next chapter, Hebrews 12. It reminds us that the lives of these faithful men and women continue to shine as testimonies to God’s overcoming strength for us today. God’s righteous disciples, servants and martyrs of the past have demonstrated the kind of faith and endurance that we need now in order to follow His way and reach His goal:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:1-2
Don’t expect the battles ahead to be easy. God trains His children through challenges that we can’t possibly meet apart from His Word and His strength. Evil will continue to flourish, but God can use it for ultimate good. And as we trust and follow Him, He may even use us as witnesses who demonstrate His grace and strength among broken people who long for His peace. For,
“…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Our two centuries of peace, freedom, and relative comfort in America may soon come to an end. But God invites us to train our minds with His Truth and our hearts to follow Him in the hard times ahead. Only by trusting Him and walking by His strength can we share in His victory. So let’s pray that He will encourage and equip us for the times ahead.
Many crowd the Savior’s Kingdom, few receive His Cross,
Many seek His consolation, few will suffer loss
For the dear sake of the Master, counting all but dross.
Many will confess His wisdom, few embrace his shame,
Many, should He smile upon them, will His praise proclaim;
Then, if for a while He leave them, they desert his Name.
But the souls who love Him truly — thrust in woe or bliss,
These will count their truest heart’s blood, not their own, but His;
Savior, Thou Who thus hast loved me, give me love like this.
By Amy Carmichael
Other poems by this special missionary to India’s children: My Prayer,