Am I better than my cowdog? I would like to say I’m smarter, but no matter how well hid my wife’s socks are, she can find them and chew them to pieces. But then again how many times has she been told not to eat momma’s socks…so that’s kind of a push. She’s definitely more athletic. I have never, nor has it ever occurred to me to try to catch a Frisbee with my mouth, nor can I, flat footed, jump over a couch. However, if I tried it would probably do some damage to our house and myself. But then again, my athleticism has never run me headfirst into our refrigerator. When the scoreboard is checked its closer than I would like it to be. There are times when Penny is a better friend, more faithful and caring than I am, but sometimes, just sometimes, I stack up better than her. But there is a book of the Bible where Satan likes to stack up humanity against “man’s best friend.”
Job, a successful and happy man, is living his life in the land of Uz (1.1). He lived his life with integrity and devotion to God (1.5). He was rich both monetary (1.3) and familial (1.2). His family, wealth, integrity, and all the things surrounding Job made him the greatest man among the people of the East (1.3). Job’s fame, fortune, but most of all his integrity caught the eye of Satan.
Satan comes to God after a long day of chores on earth (1.6) and God confronts him. God says: “You set your heart on Job because…” (1.8) The NIV depicts God putting Job up on a pedestal for Satan to shoot at, but the Hebrew displays God telling Satan why he has it out for Job. Satan has set his heart (hb. Leb), his will, against Job. God understands why Satan has picked him out of the masses as he continues: “There is no one on earth like him: he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (1.8) God knows why Satan has picked him out, because of his integrity, because of his love for God.
Satan responds to God by saying: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of is ands…but stretch out your hand and he will surely curse you to your face!” (1.9-10) Satan responds by saying God is holding the doggie treats!
Penny the Cowdog is a smart animal who picks things up quick. She can do tricks, like sit in a chair, rollover, play dead, high five and various other pointless things. She can work a cow, ride in the truck and Im trying to get her to sense when my blood-sugar is low (that’s a tough one). She is also well trained enough to walk her into Wal-mart with a service vest on (not that I have ever done that). Penny, though a year-and-a-half old, is going through a stage where she needs to see a bag of treats in hand before she acts, kind of a show-me-the-money-upfront mentality. With jerky in hand, she makes lassie look like a dummy, without them, she makes me look like I am speaking in tongues. This is the same relationship that Satan is accusing Job of having with God.
Satan is putting on trial the sacrificial relationship between God and Job. Satan says, “Job is doing what you want him to, following your commands, because you are shaking the dog treats in front of him. Put the bag away and he will curse you to your face!” Job’s success, his family, his fame, his fortune, is simply the treats God has given for doing a trick. Satan approaches God and argues “if the bag of treats is dropped, Job will drop God!’ Job is playing the literary role of the Everyman here, so Satan’s attack really involves us. The question: “Is man capable of sacrificial, unrequited, love?” God made man in his image (Gen 1.26-28), Satan making a claim that somehow that image isn’t really a reflection of God. The chips are down on Job to see if man can really reflect God.
If you don’t know the rest of the story, Job passes the test. Man is capable of sacrificial love and our creation in the image of God is upheld and proved legitimate. Satan goes back to his chores and Job continues to serve God. So what is God’s relationship to man? Is man really in it for himself? Is God really the cosmic vending machine, we put in service he gives us what we want? No. Is man really just a dog waiting for a treat? No. Satan has it wrong on all accounts, man and God really are capable of sacrificial love, and that is where I distance myself from my dog!