Job - Why Things Go Wrong

Part 4: "The Accuser Enters"

Let's briefly recap to this point:

Before We Continue - Here Is a Repeating Pattern

Sooner or later, when we make mistakes or do the wrong thing, the enemy take action against us. This is not random or capricious but follows a pattern shown in Job and elsewhere. Here is the sequence of events:

I) God teaches or prepares us beforehand to avoid the traps of the enemy

II) Someone does something wrong

III) The Adversary goes before God and accuses the person, demanding access

IV) God generally complies, but sets limits to the harm that the enemy can do.

V) God provides a way or ways to escape, reduce or avoid the penalty from the enemy.

This overview agrees with 1 Corinthians 10:13, Revelation 12:10b, Luke 22:31-32, John 5:14, Acts 21, Zechariah 3 and Job 1,2 and 42, of course!

One example of this pattern, and a good one at that, is Peter.

On the night He was betrayed (which was also the night for the centuries-old celebration of the Passover meal), Jesus spoke of some important things with His disciples and shared communion with all twelve (yes, including Judas - see Luke 22:14-23). Immediately after this the twelve got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest - the enemy were at work sowing discord over trivia and the guys entered in.

Jesus corrected, encouraged and warned them in verses 25 to 28. We will just look at the verses or parts thereof which complete the pattern above.

I) "Simon, Simon, listen! The adversary has demanded you (all), to be sifted as grain..." v31

There is the first warning - the adversary has demanded access to attack the disciples for their mistakes. According to Revelation 12 the accuser of the brethren (the devil, the adversary) is standing before God in Heaven, bringing accusations against the saints day and night. And because of the way He has written the laws of the universe God has to hand us over for penalties to be applied.

I) "But I tell you, Peter, before a cock shall crow this day, you will three times deny Me." v34

There's a second warning, actually speaking of a situation coming up, so that Peter can be on his guard against it. The warning is to give him a chance to not fall into the trap that is going to be set by the enemy.

II) "Now a great disagreement arose among them, which of them was considered to be the greatest." v24

There was something wrong in which all participated. Even seemingly small issues will be used against us as justification to bring problems our way.

III) All the other things they did that demonstrated lack of understanding and commitment, including things like John and James wanting to call down fire from Heaven on a village that had not received them, and the disciples' fear of the storm on the lake, with Jesus in the boat with them.

IV) "...the adversary has demanded that you (all) be handed over to him, to be sifted like grain..." v31. 

Even the betrayal of Jesus by Judas would bring a penalty for Judas - though he had done the bidding of the enemy to bring about the arrest of Jesus, they subjected him to terrible thoughts of despair afterwards. Ultimately, he did not resist the temptation to take his own life, at their instigation.

So often temptation, which comes from the enemy, is so insidious and powerful - it seems real, as if it is our own rational thought but of course, it is not - that once we harbour it even briefly it can overwhelm normal, rational, even God-inspired, loving thoughts.

Note that the word satan, which is generally found in translations, is actually a Hebrew word, not a name, that means adversary, someone who is against you. Even in the original Greek language of the New Testament the Hebrew word satan appears here and in most other places with the Greek definite article (as ho satana), which means that it would be correctly translated as "the adversary." This shows that satan is not a name, but a description of the chief creature that brings trouble to mankind.

This pattern of accusation by the enemy is also found in Zechariah 3, in particular in verses 1 to 4.

"Then (the angel) showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord and the adversary (hassatan) standing at Joshua's right hand to oppose/accuse (satan) him." v1. 

Note that ha or has are different forms of the Hebrew definite article, the equivalent of the English word the. The Hebrew word hassatan  literally mean the adversary or the satan if you like, but are usually translated wrongly as a name,  Satan. This unnecessary error (in both ancient Hebrew and Classical Greek names appear by themselves, just like in English, without the definite article) gives the devil, the adversary, more prominence, more recognition than he deserves. See "Know Your Enemy" on the Ministry page for further details.

"And the Lord said to the adversary (hassatan), The Lord rebuke you, the adversary (hassatan), even the Lord who now chooses Jerusalem rebuke you.  (Note that the word 'rebuke' essentially means to tell someone or something to stop what they are doing.)  Is not this (Joshua) a brand plucked from the fire?" v2  (For more important information on the word 'rebuke' see here.)

"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and was standing before the Angel." v3

"And He spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And He said to Joshua, Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel." v4


i) Joshua was the high priest, so he had been trained, he knew  what he was doing. v1

ii) He did something wrong, perhaps a whole series of things that were wrong - represented by the filthy clothes he was wearing, verse 3, and by the expression "your iniquity" in verse 4. 

Verse 2, in describing him as "a brand plucked from the fire" (a firebrand in this sense is a stick used to carry fire from one place to light it in another) suggests that he had spent too much time doing something unimportant or less important, and that he had not moved on as he was meant to and was about to be consumed (through overwork in the wrong place). This also was ground for the enemy to accuse him on.

iii) The adversary stood at Joshua's right hand - the traditional position for a prosecutor - to accuse him before God. v1

iv) We don't see God surrendering Joshua (his name means "he saves") to the adversary in this case. Instead, God rebukes the adversary (telling him to stop the accusations), providing a way out. v2

v) Through the command of the Angel of the Lord (who is regarded as being Jesus) Joshua's filthy clothes (his wicked past, referred to as his "iniquity" or wrongdoing in verse 4) are replaced with new, rich clothing and he is given a commission from God to lead the people. v4.  This matches the restoration that came to Job after he recognised God for who He is, (Job 42:12ff), and is imagery representing the salvation offered to all by Jesus

There's more than a strong suggestion in this that with certain people who are called by God for a specific leadership role, some of their past of wrong-doing will be wiped away, freeing them from attacks of the enemy in relation to those past mistakes, and  that they will be given recognition and promotion before the people that allow them into areas that were previously closed to them. See verses 7-8.

 Back to the story of Peter

IV) From Jesus' words to Peter it seems that God did not deny the adversary's request but set a limit to the sifting so that they could all survive..

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, listen! The adversary has demanded you (all), to sift you as grain,  v31

"But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."  v32a

There's no sign in those words between the demand and the prayer that Jesus sought to limit the amount of "sifting" that they would all go through in the next few days because that, as we will see in Job, was the Father's job. The adversary has to approach God in Heaven to demand access to believers for their mistakes, and those demands are generally met because that is the way God has written the Laws of the Universe: "The soul that sins, it shall die."

The word 'sifting' implies a big shake up for them all.  We know Peter was devastated at his denial of Jesus and His subsequent death. We know Thomas was shaken up, too, to the point of losing his faith. These things are not some natural result that just "happen" to people, but the result of attacks from the enemy who plant those seeds in people's minds.

Even Peter being challenged in the courtyard during Jesus' trial was a put-up by the enemy. John was there, also, but he didn't face the same opposition. Nor did he defend Peter, so John might have subsequently paid for that as well.

Even though Judas was doing the will and work of the enemy in betraying Jesus he did not earn any favours from them in doing so. Instead, he was so assailed by oppressive thoughts of failure and hopelessness from them that, instead of calling on God for mercy, he took his own life. It's important to realise that death does not take away major problems - it just transfers them into a different realm where we can no longer do anything about the issues.

V) God always provides a way out.

Judas repented (changed his mind) but he did not trust God for a solution. God would have had one that did not include suicide!

As always, God provided a way out for the disciples, partly through the prior warnings from Jesus, partly through the limits placed on the "sifting," and partly through the resurrection of Jesus. He then spent the next 40 days, on and off, with them.

Apart from the wonder of entering the empty tomb, Peter's way out included ministering to the other disciples, encouraging them as Jesus told him to.

The Next Part of Job Causes Great Confusion

The best way to avoid confusion is to understand God's character and intentions.

Continuing From Job 1:6

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, so the adversary (in Hebrew hassatan) also came among them." v6

There is some uncertainty about who the "sons of God" were. They are first mentioned in Genesis 6 as having mated with "the daughters of men" and thereby producing a race of giants, the Nephilim. They play no part in the story of Job, other than being a backdrop for the presence of the adversary on two occasions, in chapters 1 and 2.

It is possible that in Genesis 6 the expression actually refers to enemy angels, while in Job 1 and 2 "the sons of God" refer to angels of God. The early books of the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) are not yet established in their understanding of God and the spirit world. In fact, very little information is given directly on this (angels, demons and the way "spirit" works) and we must learn predominantly by inference through most of both the Old and New Testaments.

The following is an example of two conflicting possibilities, only one of which can be correct. This is an example of a change in the description of an event due to theology developing over the course of time among the people who wrote the original documents or told the original stories.

We are looking at an incident where King David asked for a census to be taken of all Israel without paying the sanctuary tax as required under the Law. In the earlier writing, 2 Samuel 24:1 we read something like this in the overwhelming majority of Bible translations:

"Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them saying, Go, number Israel and Judah." 

Most translations which add the word he capitalise the H to imply that it was God who moved David to do something wrong.

Firstly, the word "he" or "He" does not exist in the original Hebrew text, but has been unnecessarily added by translators for clarification, in their eyes anyway. Three translators out of more than thirty versions add the words "an adversary" in place of "he" or "He." Even though that is more accurate it's not written that way in the original text. They are editing, based on what we find about the same incident in a later writing. Probably the most accurate translation of this verse is found in Young's Literal Translation:

"And the anger of Jehovah addeth to burn against Israel, and an adversary moves David about them, saying, 'Go, number Israel and Judah.'" The words "an adversary" is in different type to show that Young acknowledges that those words are not in the text and have been added by him for clarification. This looks like a typical temptation from the enemy, a suggestion to do something that was completely against the Law of Israel.

According to Exodus 30:12ff it was permissible to take a census at any time, but every person counted had to pay a half shekel tax to the sanctuary for its upkeep, to avoid a plague coming upon the people. (The sanctuary was a term which initially referred to the Tent of Meeting, then the Tabernacle, and finally the Temple.) David did not ask for the tax, which subsequently presented a problem for the people, and David. We are not concerned with any of the other details of this story, other than the verse quoted at the beginning, from 2 Samuel.

As the verse in 2 Samuel stands in almost all Bible translations it is quite nonsensical, for if God had asked David to take a census, then he (David) would have been entitled to do so without penalty. The first two recorded censuses took place in Numbers 1 and 26 at God's request to Moses, and there is no mention of a half shekel tax being collected, although it could have been.

And, as we have already shown, God does not tempt or incite or cause anyone to do anything wrong - the idea that He does is ridiculous and could be seen as blasphemous or idolatrous (creating a false image of God is a form of idolatry). In the case of Abraham being asked to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, that act would have never been completed, and what Abraham actually did had no penalty attached. David's action, on the other hand, carried a massive penalty. Had God been involved He would have stopped David before he committed the offense. He tried, through Joab his commander who had to carry out the unpleasant task, but David would not listen.

This passage in 2 Samuel demonstrates another problem that, at times, God gets blamed for bad things which are carried out by the enemy. We will see this happen in Job, also.

Authorities suggest that the books of Samuel were probably written around 1000 B.C.

The books of Chronicles are generally thought to have been written around 500 years later and cover many of the same events recorded in Samuel. When they deal with this incident they make it very clear who was behind it

In 1 Chronicles 21:1 we read:

"Satan (satan in Hebrew) stood up against Israel and stirred up David to number Israel."

This is the one occasion in the Old Testament where the word appears as a name, without the definite article the (in Hebrew ha or has or e), but the truth is still clear: it was not God who stirred up David to make a major mistake, but the enemy leader. In this way we can see a development in theology, or understanding of God's character, and also development in understanding the nature of opposition.

The idea of 'the adversary' (hassatan) first appears in Job, which was possibly written as early as 1500 B.C. The events recorded in Job possibly took place around 1650 B.C. in the land of Midian, or 5-600 years before the events in 1 & 2 Samuel, and perhaps 1000 years before the rewrite of those events in Chronicles.

Job Introduces the Idea of 'The Adversary' to Scripture

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, so the adversary (in Hebrew hassatan) also came among them." v6

From this it seems that it is no effort for the adversary to appear in Heaven before God and His angels. There must be a reason why he can do this, and Zechariah 3 and Luke 22 (as described above) show what it is.

Revelation 12:10 summarises this succinctly:

"And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.'"

The outcome of this verse (the throwing down or expulsion of the adversary/devil) has not yet occurred - it is set for some time in the future, at the end of the age.

We have a lot of fun at conferences when I ask the question, "Where is the devil?" The answers usually are similar: "He's here," or if I ask, "What is he doing?" then I often get the answer, "He tempts me." So far no one has yet come up with the correct answer: "He's in Heaven, accusing us before God."

If he is personally tempting you then he can't be simultaneously tempting me on the other side of the world - he simply is not that powerful or capable. He actually reveals this truth a few verses along in Job 1.

In reality, unless you are a world leader in politics or business or crime or religion the adversary is not going to waste time dealing with you - there are plenty of lesser spirits to deal with the overwhelming majority of most of us.

In the same way that God uses angels to protect and guide and minister to us, the adversary uses his fallen angels, also known as evil spirits or demons, to harass and harm us. The adversary is not God; he's not equal to God or a rival to God; he's not fighting God, his hordes are fighting and attacking us!

The Accuser is Not the Only One at Work

In Zechariah 3 the adversary is accusing Joshua the high priest before God; the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) defends and protects Joshua before the adversary.

In Luke 22 the adversary is accusing Peter and the rest of the disciples before God; Jesus prays for them. This is a unique event and time. Since Jesus was in a human body on Earth He was not in a position to appear in person on the disciples' behalf in Heaven where they were being accused, as He normally does.

I once heard a pastor say in church, "Jesus is praying for you."

He's what??

Today I did an internet search on the words, "Jesus intercedes for us." I was shocked at what I found, or rather, at what Google found. The top result at the time (it changed later in the evening) is quoted at some length at the top of the search page. I was shocked to read:

"There are a couple of verses in the bible mentioning that Jesus is praying for us in heaven."

He's what?? Praying for us in heaven?? Unbelievable. (This is not the only online exposition that Jesus is praying for us - it seems to be a common, misleading refrain.)

Isn't Jesus a part of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If He is praying, who is He praying to, Himself?

If He wanted something from the Father, since He is seated at the right hand of the Father, wouldn't He just lean across and ask?

The author continued by first quoting from Hebrews 7:25,

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,” and then from Romans 8:34,

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” 

The author assumed and concluded that intercede and intercession both refer to prayer, but do they? Just because that is a common misunderstanding these days doesn't make it so, does it?

*Also known to us as 'the devil' from the New Testament writings which often use the Greek word 'diabolos' interchangeably with the Hebrew word 'satan.'

**There is a Job listed as a descendant of Issachar, while his three friends are descendants of Esau. 

What is Intercession?  What Does it Mean to Intercede?

The Greek word, entunchano, used in the two verses above and in three other places in the New Testament, literally means 'to meet with' or 'to apply to' someone. It is translated as intercede, which is made up from two Latin words, inter=between, and cedere=go. Someone who intercedes "goes between" two opposing parties.

Where have we seen this before?

In Zechariah 3, of course. Let's summarise what happened.

In a vision of the night an angel shows Zechariah a number of things, the fourth one of which is shown in chapter 3, and runs like this:

Joshua the high priest is standing before the Angel of the LORD (one of the names given in the Old Testament to describe what we now know as the Jesus-part of the Godhead), and the adversary (in Hebrew=hassatan=the satan=the adversary) is standing at Joshua's right hand to accuse or oppose him, in the typical position of a prosecutor.  v1 (Note that we do not get to see all of the court proceedings in the verses.)

The LORD (here the Hebrew uses the tetragrammaton YHWH, in earlier days translated as Jehovah) who is positioned like a judge behind the Angel of the LORD, says to the adversary, "Stop it. Stop it now! Joshua has been saved from destruction for something better." The judge has passed judgment and so orders the prosecutor to cease the accusations. v2 (Note that the rhetorical question, "Is not this a brand plucked from the fire," is a figure of speech meant to emphasise that this is, indeed, the fact.)

Verse 3 describes Joshua the high priest as being clothed in filthy garments, a picture of him having done the wrong thing, or perhaps many wrong things, as he stands before the Angel of the LORD, who stands between the accuser and the judge, just like a defense attorney.

But this defense attorney now takes on a different role. He stood between the accuser and the accused and the judge and interceded for the accused (went between or stood between the accuser and the judge).  He is the one who explained to the judge that Joshua had a special position as a firelighter (a firebrand), someone who gets some sort of activity going and then moves from one place or thing to another, doing the same thing, getting a move of God going. He was not meant as fuel for the fire to be consumed or destroyed, but as a tool to start new fires.

The defense attorney saved the accused from the fire (destruction) by rescuing him from the accuser (it was the opposer/accuser who was helping to keep Joshua in the metaphorical fire). Having rescued Joshua from the situation (the fire) and the trial (his court appearance in Heaven) the Angel of the LORD now gets the opportunity to bring cleansing and restoration as well, as described in verse 4. This is a beautiful description in the Old Testament of the salvation role that Jesus would play in the New.

There is no prayer in this scenario. There is no place for prayer (remote communication with the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in this scenario, since all of the participants are able to appear in person or in spirit in the court of Heaven.

This is intercession: Jesus goes between the accuser and the Father to defend us

Here is the pattern we have seen several times:

If we go back to those two misunderstood passages quoted already and view them with eyes of understanding they read like this:

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to go between the accuser and the Father to defend them,” Hebrews 7:25

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is going between the accuser and the Father to defend us.”  Romans 8:34

The greatest act of intercession in Scripture was set up by Jesus, but He did not perform it

We see intercession, going between the accuser and his target, as something far greater than prayer, or prayer alone. Here is another, very special example, from Luke 10.

"Now after this the Lord chose 70 others and sent them ahead of Him into every town and place where He Himself was about to come." v1

He gave extensive instructions on how they were to handle this ministry task and summed it up like this:

"Whenever you go into a town, and they receive you...heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come close to you." v8a, 9

"He who hears you, hears Me..." v16a

So off they went doing ministry like Jesus. They didn't pray for the sick (there is no evidence that Jesus ever prayed for people during ministry), they healed the sick in the same way that they had seen Jesus do it, in the same way He taught them. The results were spectacular.

"The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!" v17

Then Jesus said something which has confused a lot of people. Some think that He was referring to the time that the enemy were thrown out of Heaven at the beginning of Creation, but that would not follow on from what the seventy had said - that would be what we call a non-sequitur.

"And He said to them, I saw the adversary (in the Greek, ton satanan, which translates as 'the satan,' but since we know that is actually a Hebrew word, satan, with a Greek ending, we would say 'the adversary'), falling like lightning from Heaven.v18 

He could have added, "while you were ministering like Me," but the seventy had already claimed that when they said that "even the demons are subject to us in Your name." To make sure that this is in context and talking about the present moment at that time, He added:

"Behold, I have given you authority...over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall in any way harm you."

In other words, what the seventy did by going out in pairs to minister like Jesus was so effective in standing between the enemy and their victims that their leader had to leave his post in Heaven, which meant stopping accusing people for the time being, and flash down to Earth with such ferocity and force that it was like lightning falling, in order to whip his demonic spirits into shape and get them back to work attacking people with sickness, pain and whatever.

That's real intercession, going between attackers and their victims, to set them free.

It's interesting to note that this powerful effect came as the result of many people in pairs doing ministry like Jesus in the same area at the same time. When He carried out the same exercise with the twelve disciples previously, as recorded in Luke 9, they saw the same results with the people but did not dislocate the enemy leader.

In Job 1:7 God starts the conversation with the adversary.

"And the Lord said to the adversary (Hebrew = hassatan), From where did you come?"  v7a

This is what we call 'a literary tool,' designed to give us information about the limited capabilities of the enemy leader who is, after all, a created archangel. God would most certainly have known the answer to the question before He asked.

"Then the adversary answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the Earth, and up and down on it." v7b

Straight away we see the limitations of this malevolent spirit leader who is geographically confined to one place at a time. Many people, perhaps even most Christians, think that the devil personally tempts each and every one of them, but that simply is not true. Temptation comes from the individual demonic spirits

The next verse requires us to know something about the heart and character of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have looked at some of these already - here is a summary:

1.  God is not the accuser

2.  God does not hand us over to be tested just for the sake of us being tested

3.  God is our protector and defender

In Job1:1 Job is described as upright and blameless, one who abstains from evil, in spite of the fact that verse 5 shows 5 wrong things he did before God in regard to his children.  In the same way verse 8 presents the opposite of what really happened. As explained in the Introduction God does not always make things easy to see. In this case, and we will see more of this in the book of Job, the story-telling is "upside down."

"And the Lord said to the adversary, 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 abstains from evil because it is wrong?" v8

Here is what really happened in Heaven that day

This summary is based on information in the rest of Scripture which we have already discussed. Please see Parts 1-3 for previous examples.

When we read verse 6 you could almost think that the accuser dropped into Heaven for a cup of tea and a scone or two, and to have a chat with his buddies. There is no tension whatsoever in what has been written:

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, so the adversary (in Hebrew hassatan) also came among them." v6

Compare this with Revelation 12:10; which do you think paints a more accurate picture of the dynamic between God and the accuser in Heaven?

"Then I heard a strong voice in heaven, saying, Now it has come, the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren, he who keeps bringing before our God charges against them day and night, has been cast out!"

This is yet to happen, sometime in the future, but it shows that there is no "hale and hearty, clapping each other on the back" sort of camaraderie between the accuser and God, as there appears to be in Job. There is confrontation from the enemy, and pushback from God. While it is possible that the conversation began as recorded in Job 1:6 it is far more likely that it was written that way to teach the restricted mobility and limited presence of the enemy leader on Earth.

Here is the part that is not included in the narration in Job

This part should come between verses 7 and 8 in chapter 1.

The accuser entered and growled at God, "It's time you hand Job and his children over to us. The children continue to treat you with disrespect, and their father continues to offer fake sacrifices on their behalf."

When we see the word God we need to remember that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are included in this identity. Sometimes They are seen in their individual roles - "the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" or "as Prince of the Lord's host I now come." (Genesis 1:2; Joshua 5:14) Since (in Joshua 5) the Prince of the Lord's Host allowed Joshua to worship Him we know He was not an angel but He who we now know as the Son of God. It is He who now spoke up to challenge the accuser and defend Job, in verse 8, which needs to be slightly rewritten for accuracy. We are not rewriting Scripture for accuracy of doctrine but for comprehension.

Here is how it would read if Job was written 'right-way up'

This is spoken by the Defender, the Interceder, the One goes between the accuser and the judge, the one we now know as the Christ, Jesus

"We don't see Job in that light - We see Job as upright and blameless, that there is none like him on the Earth, who fears God and avoids evil because it is wrong." (Verse 8 adjusted.)

"Then the accuser answered the Lord, "You can't keep protecting Job forever." (Verse 9 adjusted.)

Verse 10 is rewritten as a statement of accusation from the enemy leader, rather than as a rhetorical question, because that is how we read or understand a rhetorical question, which states a fact in the form of a question.

"You have placed a hedge of protection around him and his house and all that he has on every side." v10a

This statement is partly true in the sense that God does provide protection for us and all that we have, but the statement is not complete in itself, since we need to understand what that hedge is made of and how it is maintained.

What is the hedge of protection God provides for everyone?

Around the world, especially in parts of Africa, people still use hedges, often thorny bushes grown very closely together so that the livestock cannot wander away and to keep out predators, both animal and human.

Hebrews 11:1 sums up faith succinctly:

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proof of things we do not see."

1a. In other words, faith is believing something that we cannot see and, ultimately, acting upon that belief.

Most people around the world exercise faith every day without thinking about it, when they operate a light switch, for example. You cannot see electricity, and you are not meant to feel it, either, for if you do, in most countries of the world operating from a 240V power grid, if you touch electricity you will receive a massive shock to your heart which will most likely kill you. In most cases we cannot even see the electrical connection between the switch and the light yet, in faith, we turn on that switch and the resulting electricity flowing through a tiny filament of wire or, these days, through a light-emitting diode, lights up the room.

1b. Faith comes as a result of believing something that we have heard but cannot see

That is what assurance (Hebrews 11:1) means - we are sure of something.

Hebrews 11:6 puts it like this:

"For whoever would come near to God must believe that He exists, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him out."

For the Christian at least, "faith comes by hearing, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ." Romans 10:17.

1c. According to Romans 12:3c there is a measured but varying amount of faith given to each person by God.  "I warn everyone among rate his abilty...according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him."

Knowing how God operates we can assume that everyone receives enough seeds of faith planted around them by God to provide for a substantial hedge of protection. It's partially what we do with that knowledge of God that determines how well our hedge grows and develops.

1d. Faith is knowing something, not just believing it.

If you asked me where I lived in 1971, and I said, "I believe I lived at 26 Alto St, Wentworthville, New South Wales, Australia, you would know straight away, by the use of the words "I believe," that I wasn't really sure that I lived there. Even though that address no longer exists, having been consumed by the M4 Motorway, it is still a statement of fact if I say, "I lived at 26 Alto St."

Almost any time that we say "I believe" a particular thing we are expressing doubt and uncertainty. Unless we have prior knowledge of an existing fault we don't normally say, "I believe this light will turn on," or the even more bewildering "I'm believing for this light to turn on."

1e. Scripture does not use the expression or teach the practice to "believe for" something

The word 'believe' is an intransitive verb: it does not carry any action over from the person believing to what they believe. We can believe something that is fact or something that is false, but you cannot 'believe for' something to happen. Not in the real world, although the expression is constantly used in certain church circles.

The woman with the issue of blood believed that she would be healed because she heard that from God and knew in her spirit that if she could just touch the smallest, most insignificant part of Jesus' outer garment, not even the man Himself, her healing would come. She was not 'believing for' her healing, but somehow knew it could and would come through an action of connection.

If I ask where you live, would you say, "I'm believing for my home to be at 123 Alphabet St, Sentenceville?" Even if you could not see you house at the time you would say the address as a matter of fact. "I live at 123 Alphabet St, Sentenceville." That's what believing is, that's what faith is, knowing as fact something that cannot be seen.

If your house burns down while you are at work or out shopping, and you say, 'I'm believing for it to still be there when I get home," will it still be there?

If I haven't paid my power bill, would "believing for" the power to be on after it has been cut off, ever work?

What about believing for a new job or a new ministry? Because it has no scriptural underlay or real-world precedent, unless it is followed up by real action, such as looking for a new job and submitting job applications, it's unlikely that anything can happen, because believing something does not make it fact, especially if what you believe is not true.

If you want a new job you would accurately say, "I'm expecting to get a new job. I'm actively searching and applying. God is in this."

If you have planned an outdoor wedding for March 26 and want the weather to be fine can you "believe for" that to take place? Not by believing. Believing something will be is what Scripture calls 'hope'. You could pray, but for many people that, too, incorporates a large amount of hope. Or you could do what Jesus demonstrated and recommended: speak to the weather like He spoke to storms. If He could still a storm then, according to what He said about dealing with problems, which He called 'mountains', then you could speak to the weather and tell it to be calm and still on that day. It actually works!

If your power bill is due can you go to the electricity supplier and say, "I don't have the money, but I am believing for it to come in." The real world does not work in that way, and by using an incorrect euphemism, 'believing for,' Christians are robbing themselves of a New Covenant truth: God does not base blessing on our performance, whether it is good works or 'believing for' something. Instead, He "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm." (Ephesians 1:3b)

In other words, God has already made provision for us in "every good and perfect thing (which) comes down from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no shadow as if He had turned away." James 1:17

Sometimes (?) we have to apply spiritual truth in a practical way. A pastor in East Africa invited me to present a conference in his church after reading some of my posts on Facebook. As the time approached he told me that he and his wife were praying for the conference every morning from 4:00 to 6:00 am at the church. That was a concern for me, and I had a sense that this was not going to be a big meeting, in spite of what he had said earlier. He said they were believing for a large attendance, but asked for some financial support to promote it. That was the second concern, which became a third concern when I found out that he had spent the $100 to repair the roof on the church.

When we arrived for the first service only the pastor and his wife were present, and one or two people drifted in as I was speaking, and for the following service the next day. Actually, the pastor left and dragged in a young person he had previously introduced as an elder in the church. The biggest crowd was 9 people including our team and theirs, and two children.

Between the outside wall of the church and the boundary fence was a small area with a maize crop, almost ready to harvest. 

I asked the pastor, "How did that crop get there, did you pray and believe for it?" "Oh, yes," he replied with some pleasure.

"So you didn't have to plant any seed, you just prayed and believed for it to grow?" "No, we planted seed," he replied.

"And what seed did you plant for this conference?" "We prayed and believed for it here in the church every morning from 4:00 to 6:00 am," he responded.

"That's not planting seed, that's praying. Would your maize crop have grown if you had not put in some effort and worked up the ground and planted the seed?" There was a very grudging, "No."

"How do you plant seed for a conference? You go out and talk to people in the street, and knock on doors, and tell people about the healing presence of God and invite them to come."

Or, as James 2:17 puts it, "Faith, without corresponding works, is dead."

Job falsely believed (or maybe he was just hoping) that offering fake sacrifices on behalf of his children would pressure or trick God to preserve and enhance their lives, but it actually precipitated their deaths. He would have been better to talk to them about the problem. Failing that there is something else that was known, even in his day.

Jesus taught very clearly that we can speak to problems and have them removed in that way, and see blessings come in a similar manner. However, He was not the first to teach this. Job's friend Eliphaz spoke this truth in Job 22:28 when he said. "You will decree a thing, and it will be established for you." There is no sense anywhere that Job ever applied this to his children, or spoke over them in their absence, if face-to-face communication had failed.

For more information on how this works and how to do it, see Ministry Like Jesus

Ultimately, we have the defining promise of Hebrews 10:39 to draw on:

"But our way is...of those who believe and by faith preserve the soul."

In other words, even though we might not be able to see a good outcome at the moment we know, because God is always looking after us, that there is something good 'around the corner'. That is meant to give us confidence and courage to continue to face whatever might lie before us.

Here the word 'soul' represents all of us that is neither physical nor spiritual: our thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, plans, intentions, aspirations, our calling from God, our commission from Them and so on.

Job was not acting out of faith when he offered those fake sacrifices, but out of fear. "It might be" is not fake or even fear but is meant to be the trigger to spur us into action. Not for fake or 'religious' action like Job tried, but for something real, something that spoke healing, health and wholeness over his children and all that he had.

Once things got really bad for him Job himself admitted that his real problem was one of faith; his wrong actions were a result of that faith issue. In chapter 3:24-25 we read:

"For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me, and that of which I am afraid befalls me. I was not at ease, nor had I rest, nor was I quiet, and trouble comes."

Perhaps Job had become wealthy quickly, and did not know how to maintain it? Perhaps he had made mistakes as he made his way in life? We know that the narrator's estimate of him as an upright and blameless man was not as accurate as it seems, and we do know that Job himself did not expect his prosperity to last - something was troubling him.

I'm inclined to think, though, that God was trying to get through to him about his false sacrifices and his attitude that he could somehow manipulate God into saving his children. Whatever we do that is wrong gives the enemy power over us to attack us in some way.

How do we maintain the hedge of protection?

By offering fake sacrifices to God on behalf of his children Job was showing that he did not trust God to have enough concern for them, and that he did not trust his children to be able to make their own way before God. He had started with a good hedge, planted by God, watered and fertilised by his early experiences and contact with God.

Then, as he started to doubt God's ability, goodness and love and tried to fake his children's way into God's "good books," Job was, in effect, kicking or burning holes in his hedge. He was doing things that allowed the enemy in to attack him.

In verse 8 God is not offering an imperfect Job to the enemy as a perfect sacrifice. Sixteen hundred years later Jesus offered himself as a perfect, unblemished sacrifice. He spoke according to a principle that any one of us can also follow, when He said:

"No one takes My life from Me. I lay it down, only to take it up again."

In other words, when it came time for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, the Father did not submit Him as an offering to death - Jesus did it for Himself. If the Father would not do that for a perfect offering such as Jesus, why would He do that for someone presented as perfect, but who isn't? The simple answer is, God would not do that.

Jesus Revealed a Connection Between Sin and Affliction

This same Jesus understood well the relationship between sin and infirmity. After He told the man with a deep-seated, lingering disorder waiting for healing at the pool of Bethesda to pick up his bed and walk He met him again sometime later in the temple and told him, "Stop sinning, or something worse might happen to you."  John 5:14

Jesus again made the connection between sin and affliction with the paralysed man who was let down through the roof when He said, "Son, your sins are forgiven."  Luke 5:20  He did not pray for the man or lay hands on him, but the message of forgiveness removed the fear of punishment which had come upon the man. As he believed Jesus and followed His command to do something that he could not do, "pick up your bed and go home," he was miraculously and instantly healed.

After He rescued the woman caught in adultery Jesus said, "Go on your way and sin no more." John 8:11.  He wasn't concerned for her eternal security but her temporal safety - He knew that when we do the wrong thing we give the enemy power over us to do us harm, as had happened to her already.

The soul that sins...

The second part of Job 1:10 continues like this:

"You have conferred prosperity upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land."

The first part of verse 10 - "You have placed a hedge of protection around him and all that he has on every side" - was partly true. It's true that God planted the seeds of protection for Job, and for us, and everyone else who has ever lived, but it is up to us to maintain and trim and fertilise and water the hedge of faith.

The second part of verse 10 is completely true - Job's prosperity and our prosperity comes from God. They are always preparing ways to bring abundance into our lives, ways to abundance that we often miss.