PART 7 THE FACETS OF DEATH
PART 7 THE FACETS OF DEATH
WHY WOULD GOD ALLOW THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS TO INFLICT HARM ON SOMEONE WHO BELIEVED IN HIM?
I don’t know whether you believe there are invisible forces of good and evil operating on the earth. If you are not sure, this next story will give you a glimpse as to what might be taking place in some of the lives of certain believers who are following God. Please go to the book of Job.
Suggested Reading: Job 1:1-22; 2:7, 9; 42:10
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
As I read the biblical description about him, I thought about a person we had talked about earlier named Noah. What we can portray about Job is that God revealed Himself to him concerning salvation, and he responded. He was characterized as perfect (a man of integrity) and upright (honest in his dealings; a man on whose word people rest), one that feared (worshipped) God and eschewed (refused to follow the way of) evil. His prosperity of wealth in respect to the agricultural economy at the time indicated that his substance (his purchased property) was greater than anyone who lived to the east of Palestine. He was also prosperous in the sense of having many children, i.e., seven sons and three daughters.
6-7 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
Unbeknownst to Job, a group of fallen angels, who accompanied their leader Satan, are now before the Lord informing Him of their true purpose on the earth, which was to go here and there looking for someone who was righteous whom they could hinder in regard to their walk with Him. I’m sure that they, on various occasions, reported to God and probably conveyed to Him how most of His created beings were not subservient to Him. If it just so happened that any of them were, this was only because of the material blessings which He had bestowed on them.
The Lord responded to them in effect by saying, Job follows me, but not because of material or family blessings. They refuted this claim and said, But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. In other words, allow us to do to him whatever we desire, and he will decide to no longer follow You. So, God granted their request, except He told them that there was one thing they would not be allowed to do, and that was to take his life.
What occurred next is an alarming display of the varied powers of the forces of evil. I’m sure for many, the idea of an actual Devil, let alone an army of supernatural beings that follows him, is a myth. If anyone were to say to others that this or that calamity of theirs occurred because of the Devil, they would probably be laughed at, ridiculed, or thought of as being mentally ill.
So, Job is going about his spiritual walk when all of a sudden, a messenger came to him and reported that a group of people called the Sabeans showed up and attacked (killed) the servants of his, who were guarding the cattle (the oxen and cows) and asses (female donkeys), and forthwith took these animals away with them. I’m sure that this might not have set off any alarms. Some people do bad things. When Job heard this news, I’m sure he was heart-broken not only at the loss of life but at the apparent disregard concerning it by those who perpetrated it.
As soon as the messenger had finished speaking, another one arrived and told him of another calamity. He said that a fire (a firebolt) had come down from heaven and killed his sheep and those watching over them. When he heard this news, he was probably still processing what had just happened prior to this. And now he’s contemplating this unusual occurrence of a firebolt killing all of the sheep along with those who were watching over them. I’m sure there were times when news of a firebolt hitting a structure, killing one animal, or killing a human had taken place. But killing comprehensively in this manner had to surprise him.
Believe it or not, he didn’t have much time to contemplate either of these two tragic events when a third messenger showed up immediately after the second one had finished speaking and told him that the Chaldeans came in three groups killing the servants that looked after a large number of camels and took off with them. At this point, all of his agricultural wealth was gone. At this time, could he have been thinking something like, “I have lost all of my possessions, but at least I still have my family, thank you Lord for this?”
And then, right after the third pronouncement, the final declaration came. Another messenger brought him the worst news of all that out of nowhere a great wind (a whirling wind) from the wilderness (a region or country BEYOND, or on the OTHER SIDE20) caused the house where his sons and daughters were living to collapse, and all of them were killed. I can’t imagine what his state of mind was at this stage. It’s one thing to lose your possessions, but it’s quite another thing to lose your possessions and all of your children.
What was Job’s response?
What would have been my response?
I would have been devastated. I would have been in despair. I would probably have said something to God like, “How could you have let this happen to me?” I served you faithfully day-to-day. We are friends. We have the same goals in mind, to let others know about You with the hope of a response by them to your invitation of salvation. We know that I can always get my material abundance back, but not my kids.
What Job does next indicates that his mental processes were not occupied with these kinds of thoughts.
20-22 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Job arose and proceeded to rip his outer garment and shave his head, both of which were signs of mourning. Afterward, he fell down (lying or [kneeling] and touching the forehead on the ground21) and worshipped God. Worshipped God in what way? His worship consisted of expressing to Him his thoughts or perspective on all that had happened. He said that as he came into this world out of his mother’s womb without earthly possessions, so he will return. He seemingly thanked God for the privilege of allowing him to have a family and found consolation in the belief that an intelligent and holy Sovereign presided over his affairs.22 He understood that prosperity and adversity happen to every person. In this instance, extreme hardship was at his doorstep, intense heartbreaking adversity. He blessed (gave praise and honor to) Jehovah. In all this, he didn’t sin because he hadn’t charged (murmur) against God foolishly (with wrong or blame). Wow! What a testimony!
Job 2:7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
I’m sure that at some point, he conveyed all that happened to his wife. What was her response? Did she comfort him? Did she pray to God? The dialogue I am imagining doesn’t appear to have been recorded in Scripture. It’s something that could have happened. I’m sure that both of them were mourning intensely at the loss of their kids. And at some point, they had to see to it that they were buried. When Job had time to reflect, I can’t imagine that he didn’t think that something was going on in the supernatural realm even though he had no idea as to what it was.
It appeared that some time had passed, and the Devil and his angels were not satisfied with the response of Job. He didn’t blame God. He didn’t go to his friends and complain. However, this didn’t deter the evil forces from wanting to see how far Job would go before he decided to say to God, “I’ve had enough.” They figured that if they could convince God to grant their final request, which was to harm his physical body, then this is what ultimately might cause him to voice his displeasure. Did God grant them their desire? He did. So, they decided to inflict his body with boils from head to toe.
Job 2:9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
Apparently, this was the breaking point for Job’s wife. After she noticed her husband’s bodily appearance of the inflammation of the skin, she told him to curse God, and die. The word curse in Hebrew means to tell God that He is worthless. Some commentators believe that this was an example of ironic reproof. What she was really saying was, Bless God, and die - What! [Bless] him for his goodness, while he is destroying all that thou hast! [Bless] him for his [support] while he is casting thee down and destroying thee! Bless on, and die.23
From what we can tell, his thoughts kept a focus on all that had happened from divine perception. However, there was one more test, albeit a sixth one, that he would encounter. Along came three of his friends to let him know that he had brought all of this misfortune upon himself because of some kind of sin. Throughout this constant drumbeat by them that Job was at fault, he at times did mentally falter, but eventually, he regrouped and did this amazing thing that got God’s attention.
Job 42:10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
We were told that the Lord restored Job from this series of trials to spiritual and material prosperity after he prayed for his friends. Some commentators say that the word prayed indicated that he not only forgave his friends but forgave himself first to God of harboring any wrong mental attitude toward them. Once he recovered and prayed, God blessed him.
What can we deduce from this story concerning the subject of death and extreme adversity?
We learned that death could be attributed to unseen, invisible forces of evil whose purposes are to thwart God’s plan for those who have responded to His initiation for salvation and walk uprightly. Another thing we learned was that these forces of darkness have tremendous power. They can influence (motivate) people’s minds to commit horrendous acts on their fellow human beings for personal financial gain without any regard for their economic welfare and physical well-being. They can control and use the various phenomena of nature in order to bring about the loss of someone’s livelihood, property, and even their life. And they also have the ability to bring diseases upon people.
In today’s world, I’m sure that if someone is going through a difficult time and attributes it to the Devil, no one would believe what they had to say. In many churches, the Devil and a place called hell are considered fictitious. In the early years of my walk with God, I had heard about the Devil but didn’t pay much attention to him or his trickery. I was too busy working out my own salvation. As I have grown spiritually, I have become more aware of one of the enemies’ main types of assault. Any idea as to what I am referring to?
Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
This assault takes place in the mind and is called fiery darts. Fiery darts? Fiery darts are strong injections or considerations that sometimes start up suddenly in the mind, against the deliberate desire, sometimes even in the middle of holy exercises.24 They could pertain to lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, doubts, and burning desires for sin.25
When they occur, hopefully, we will be able to recognize them, not fixate on them in our mind, and focus on God’s Word that provides us with a clear oppositional perspective.
You might be thinking that this is all nonsense, made up, fake, etc. Based on what we have learned about the Devil and his demonic hosts from the story of Job, I would like to leave you with a true, real-life story that could be described as supernatural. What is supernatural? The supernatural could be a being, place, object, occurrence, etc., considered as supernatural or of supernatural [origin,] that which is [supernatural] or outside the natural order.26 If what is described is real, based on fact, eye-witnesses, then at least you might acknowledge that there could be invisible forces working behind the scenes for nefarious purposes.
ANOMALOUS EVENTS THAT CAN SHAKE ONE’S SKEPTICISM TO THE CORE
I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism.
[Often,] I am asked if I have ever encountered something that I could not explain. What my interlocutors have in mind are not bewildering enigmas such as consciousness or U.S. foreign policy but anomalous and mystifying events that suggest the existence of the paranormal or supernatural. My answer is: yes, now I have.
The event took place on June 25, 2014. On that [day,] I married Jennifer Graf, from Köln, Germany. She had been raised by her mom; her grandfather, Walter, was the closest father figure she had growing up, but he died when she was 16. In shipping her belongings to my home before the wedding, most of the boxes were damaged and several precious heirlooms [were] lost, including her grandfather's binoculars. His 1978 Philips 070 transistor radio arrived safely, so I set out to bring it back to life after decades of muteness. I put in new batteries and opened it up to see if there were any loose connections to solder. I even tried “percussive maintenance,” said to work on such devices—smacking it sharply against a hard surface. Silence. We gave up and put it at the back of a desk drawer in our bedroom.
Three months later, after affixing the necessary signatures to our marriage license at the Beverly Hills courthouse, we returned home, and in the presence of my [family,] said our vows and exchanged rings. Being 9,000 kilometers from family, [friends,] and home, Jennifer was feeling amiss and lonely. She wished her grandfather were there to give her away. She whispered that she wanted to say something to me alone, so we excused ourselves to the back of the house where we could hear music playing in the bedroom. We don't have a music system there, so we searched for laptops and iPhones and even opened the back door to check if the neighbors were playing music. We followed the sound to the printer on the desk, wondering—absurdly—if this combined printer/scanner/fax machine also included a radio. Nope.
At that [moment,] Jennifer shot me a look I haven't seen since the supernatural thriller The Exorcist startled audiences. “That can't be what I think it is, can it?” she said. She opened the desk drawer and pulled out her grandfather's transistor radio, out of which a romantic love song wafted. We sat in stunned silence for minutes. “My grandfather is here with us,” Jennifer [said] tearfully. “I'm not alone.”
Shortly [thereafter,] we returned to our guests with the radio playing as I recounted the backstory. My daughter, Devin, who came out of her bedroom just before the ceremony began, added, “I heard the music coming from your room just as you were about to start.” The odd thing is that we were there getting ready just minutes before that time, sans music.
Later that [night,] we fell asleep to the sound of classical music emanating from Walter's radio. Fittingly, it stopped working the next day and has remained silent ever since.
What does this mean? Had it happened to someone [else] I might suggest a chance electrical anomaly and the law of large numbers as an explanation—with billions of people having billions of experiences every day, there's bound to be a handful of extremely unlikely events that stand out in their timing and meaning. In any case, such anecdotes do not constitute scientific evidence that the dead [survives] or that they can communicate with us via electronic equipment.
Jennifer is as skeptical as I am when it comes to paranormal and supernatural phenomena. [Yet,] the eerie conjunction of these deeply evocative events gave her the distinct feeling that her grandfather was there and that the music was his gift of approval. I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well. I savored the experience more than the explanation.
The emotional interpretations of such anomalous events grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.27
Up to this point, the stories that we have looked at concerning the subject of death have been quite varied. In the next chapter, I present another one, this time involving a woman, her son, and a famous Old Testament prophet.
23Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
24The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 23 November 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
25The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament, 1989. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 23 November 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
27Michael Shermer. “Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core.” 2014. Scientific American. < https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/anomalous-events-that-can-shake-one-s-skepticism-to-the-core/>.
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