One of the most common themes in Job is sons. In chapter 1 Job is described as “the greatest of all the men of the East,” but the original Hebrew literally says “sons of the East.” Job had seven sons. Job’s sons feasted. Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his sons. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord , and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6, NASB).
One of the most puzzling things about the book of Job is that Satan appears in heaven among the sons of God, but Job does not.
First of all, we need to answer the question, “Who are the sons of God?” The Bible refers to both angels and humans as sons of God. A clear example of angelic sons of God comes from the book of Job:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
~Job 38:4-7 (NASB)
Human sons of God are described in Romans:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
~Romans 8:14 (NASB)
It is clear that Job was led by God’s Spirit, and therefore was a son of God. The Lord Himself bragged that no one else was like Job, a blameless,upright, God-fearing man, who hated sin (Job 1:8).
“To be the ‘son of God’… is to take on the Father’s mission in the world in a particular way, specifically to carry on the promises of God. All of humanity is made in the image and likeness of God generally. Throughout the Old Testament, the sons of God carry with them, embody, and memorialize the promises of God and the central promise of the seed who will come and defeat the serpent (Gen. 3:15).”
~Toby J. Sumpter, from Job Through New Eyes: A Son for Glory
So why did Satan appeared before the Lord with the sons of God, but not Job?
Satan served a role in the B.C. era as “accuser.” “Satan” means “accuser” in Hebrew. He served as a prosecuting attorney in the heavenly court. This was his role in Job and in Zechariah. In Zechariah chapter 3, the prophet recorded a vision of Satan accusing Joshua the high priest. But, as I pointed out, that was B.C.–before Christ. Since Jesus ushered in A.D.–Anno Domini, The Year of Our Lord–the accuser was cast out of heaven, never to return (Revelation 12:7-12).
Although this explains why Satan appeared before the Lord, it does not explain why Job was not there among God’s other sons. The answer is that–with or without an accuser–Job’s sins separated him from God. Job was considered blameless, but not perfectly sinless (Job 9:2).
When Adam and Eve were driven out from the Garden, God stationed a guardian cherub at the gates with a flaming sword. In order to return to God’s presence in the Garden, they would have to be cut up and consumed in flames. There was a parallel to this in the sacrifices offered by Job for his sons.
Job’s method of sacrifice was a burnt offering. The Hebrew phrase translated burnt offering literally means “ascension” offering. The sacrificial animal was cut in pieces, laid on the altar, and everything was burned. The animal served as a substitute for the worshipper (Leviticus 17:11). The animal rose up to God in the smoke, and the worshipper vicariously ascended to God’s presence with it.
When Job made ascension offerings on his sons behalf, it was as though he was offering up his sons. When Job cut up a sheep it was as though he sliced up his own son. When he set the sheep ablaze it was as if his own son rose up to God in the smoke. The sheep had to be without spot or blemish. The sin of the son was imputed to the sheep, which paid the penalty for sin–death. The spotlessness of the sheep was imputed to the son, who was now reckoned blameless and upright in the eyes of God. He was not only reconciled, but also reunited with God, standing in His presence.
When Job offered these sacrifices on behalf of his sons, it was as if he was saying to God, “Have you considered my son?” As a faithful father he offered up his sons to Yahweh. Yahweh would not forgive sin unless blood was shed, unless the wages of sin were paid in full. This primitive, bloody, fiery act was done because of the great love Job had for his sons. Because God was a faithful Father, He said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Because of His love for Job, He allowed the accuser to put a blade to Job’s throat and cast him into the flames of affliction. This was how the Job, the son of God would present himself before the Lord with His other sons (and daughters).
Of course, Job himself could not be the atoning sacrifice. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant were types and shadows of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The blood of animals perfected no one, but pointed the One who could perfect us (Hebrews 10:1-18). Job was another type and shadow of Jesus, even as he was in need of a Mediator (Job 9:32-33; 1 Timothy 2:5). Job was in need of the Substitute his own life was pointing to.
The apparent problem raised by the book Job–why is a son of God not present before God–is solved in the book of Job. In spite of his great suffering Job never cursed God, but was raised up into His presence. Satan was defeated and Christ was glorified even before He entered history.