A friend asked me an interesting question about God that I believe is often misunderstood, mainly because of a passage in Job 1:12.My friend was reading a daily devotional and was confused by the author’s statement, “He [Satan] has to ask God’s permission before he can touch us (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31).”
Job 1:12 (NIV)
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Luke 22:31-32 (NIV, Jesus speaking)
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
The key, I believe is reconcile it with the Luke 22:31 passage as well as others throughout Scripture such as Romans 8:28.
Romans 8:28 (NIV, Paul speaking)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
To boil down my thoughts, I would have to say that I do not believe that Satan must ask permission before touching us or doing evil. While these passages may seem to “imply” that there are boundaries and rules Satan must abide by, there is no real biblical proof that he needs God’s permission. Let me attempt to explain.
FIRST: There are a two principals to which I subscribe when I study Scripture and attempt to answer questions (especially tough questions):
1. The Royal Law of God (To love your neighbor as yourself, James 2:8) can only be fulfilled with the presence of free will, which in everything I can see, is a strength that God possesses in granting it to us. I believe that God intentionally does not cross the line of free will so that we can truly understand love and a fulfilled life. Incidentally, yes, “free will”, as it applies to God and us, does often seem a paradox as He is always in control, right? Can someone be in control (like a parent) and yet still allow their children free will? I believe the answer is yes. We must remember that in the very first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve chose to exercise their free will. Satan certainly exercised his free will (as did the angels who rebelled with him) to rebel against God. THIS, I believe is prime proof that God is a loving God and that He is not bent on control and puppet mastery, that He truly wants us to know, experience and embody love in our life. Both the love for Him as well as love for others.
2. All Scripture must be reconciled to itself. This can be a tough one in that it often takes much study, prayer and a mind that is open to what God is really saying to embark on this journey to reconcile Scripture. That is why it is so important to resist cherry picking Scripture or simply finding Scriptures to support our positions.
SECOND: Many people accept the book of Job as a historical fact while, I believe that it is more of an allegory (most scholars also believe this). The conversations, I believe, between God and Satan were not so much literal as figurative. If taken literally, yes, it does sound very much as if Satan must ask permission from God to do evil and that God sometimes grants that permission.
Why do I believe that this is more figurative? Because the New Testament reveals to us that Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the “Prince of this world” (John 12:31 & John 16:11) who doesn’t ask God’s permission before doing evil.
2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) (in reference to Satan)
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Indeed, if Satan had to ask God’s permission to do evil, then the whole “war” raging between the forces of good and evil would be not be real. Think of this, if Satan had to ask God permission to do evil, evil would stop……right? God would simply say “no”. God clearly is not a controlling puppet master but is a loving Father to us all.
Additionally, I think we often give Satan way to much credit for what happens in our lives. The truth is, much that happens in our life is due to our own culpable actions, the free will of others or simply that S**** happens! Shame on you, I was saying “Stuff” happens, LOL.
Interestingly enough, I believe that Satan may have conversations with God and may “ask”…….but God, being all knowing, just as in the case of Job and in Luke 22:31, knows that as believers and followers of Christ, we have an advocate, the Holy Spirit. God, indeed Jesus……helps us to resist the temptation of evil….if we choose to resist. So, in a sense, God “allows” evil because of the free will that He grants in order that we may truly love and find fulfillment in life. But, I, believe, that this is out of love, not twisted into the “controlling” God that many would seem to make Him out to be.