The Boys Club

audience

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. (Job 1:6)

Things were different back in the old days. Back then heaven was more of an inclusive neighborhood and the boundaries of hell were a bit fuzzy.  These days heaven is a gated community and hell is like Detroit on a bad hair day. It’s we humans who live in the transitional neighborhood now.

It’s weird to think of God hosting regular pow wows of celestial beings where even the black sheep of the angelic family were welcome. Even if this is a literary fiction to illustrate a point (and remember, the parables that Jesus told were fictions to illustrate a point), it’s still disconcerting to think of the Holy God chatting amiably in the palace with his arch-nemesis. This odd détente had apparently collapsed by the time Jesus met up with Satan in the wilderness, but in Job’s time God and the Devil could still be civil to each other.

Of course, Satan is a black sheep for good reason. Long before, he had gotten himself kicked out of heaven for showing a little too much initiative. Then there was the Garden of Eden incident which completely screwed the development plans for that subdivision. Yet though Satan lost his heavenly parking space, he was apparently still allowed to show up for special occasions. And after these two cosmic faux pas, Satan went into an early retirement of a sorts, keeping a low profile and spending most of his time, as he says, “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” He was a kind of demonic Good Sam Clubber.

Satan was definitely a pain in God’s neck, but he appears to have remained one of God’s favorites. Of all the angelic hot shots attending the conference, it is to Satan that God brags about Job. Among the assembled host, it’s Satan whom God thinks will best appreciate a good joust. This, of course, doesn’t work out all that well for Job, but a wager’s a wager. At this level of play there’s bound to be some collateral damage.

Alas, the good times around the throne couldn’t last. God’s heir apparent, Jesus, never did take to the Devil the way his dad did. And the truth is that Satan resented having to kowtow to this presumptive upstart. Once Jesus was appointed the right hand man, things went to hell in a hand-basket fast. Not only was Satan now unwelcome in the heavenly courts, but Jesus ejected him wherever he found him, even on the earth where God had tossed him to live. It got so that the Devil couldn’t even count on a good possession anymore. And the eviction into swine thing—well, for Satan that sealed the deal. It’s been bad blood ever since.

Ah, but once upon a time . . . .

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