The many ages of man parallel the continuous rise and fall of nations and empires, advancing and receding like the tides of the sea. As one empire sinks, another rises. We, whenever and wherever we live, are subject to these surges on the current of history. Only God knows how they will turn out. As God's people, we may be pulled down in our nation's defeat or exalted by its victory.
The latter has been the case for the modern church in the United States, as it has enjoyed the success of our nation's global supremacy. However valiant our forefathers' victory in pursuit of liberty was, the sun seems to be setting on America, as well as on all the nations of Israel. To those who are watching, it is growing apparent that an adversary worthy of our opposition stands before us.
The saints of God face a tireless, unremitting adversary. During our lifetimes, we may be subject to our nation's slow decline and the rise of Gentile powers, yet our chief adversary, Satan the Devil, will always be present to challenge us.
The apostle Peter writes, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). He portrays Satan as a vicious predator hungrily seeking its prey. Lions hunt in packs called "prides" that sneak up on unwary prey and catch the weakest or slowest in a herd. On the savanna, a lion's fur provides excellent camouflage, so that most prey must rely on other senses to detect its approach. Spiritually, we would be wise to ensure that our senses are on high alert for Satan's approach.
Curiously, Peter describes Satan as "roaring," suggesting that he is not interested in stealth but proudly announces his presence to cause terror and panic. A person is much more likely to trip and fall when fleeing in terror than when standing fast in faith. But Peter indicates that we have no need to fear him if we remain faithful to Christ: "Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (I Peter 5:9). We can draw a measure of strength knowing that we are not alone in our fight—that our faithful friends and brethren have overcome similar attacks. If they can do it, we can too.
Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, exemplify this attitude in their resistance to Nebuchadnezzar's evil decree in Daniel 3. They reject the order to worship the image Nebuchadnezzar had constructed (Daniel 3:4-6). They do not try to fight the king's command but simply refuse to worship the image, which they know would be idolatry. They are faithful, keeping the standards that God had set, and by doing so, make themselves adversaries of Nebuchadnezzar.
Like the roaring lion, Nebuchadnezzar is furious, demanding that they either worship the image or burn in the furnace. He wants them to fear him more than God. The three friends answer his demand in Daniel 3:17-18: "[O]ur God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
What an excellent display of faith! The friends know God has the power to deliver them, but they are not entirely certain that God will. He may intend that they become martyrs. Either way, they remain respectful, addressing Nebuchadnezzar as king and declaring that despite his threat of death, they would not disobey God by yielding to him. They would rather face the roaring lion head on than make God their enemy!
As fearsome as the roaring lion is, he is nothing compared to the Lion of Judah. Paul describes governing authorities, like Nebuchadnezzar, in Romans 13:4, "For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." How much more terrifying is it to become an enemy of God, who is called a "consuming fire" in Hebrews 12:29?
The God we serve is formidable indeed, and we do well not to cross Him. Consider Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus shows that under the letter of the law, murder was the actual killing of another human being, yet under its spirit, it is no longer acceptable even to be angry without a cause. From the court to the Sanhedrin to hell fire, we see the increasing seriousness of punishment in relation to the offense. The sinner gradually moves from human judges to the ultimate Judge, who alone can condemn to the Lake of Fire.
Christ then goes on to illustrate the proper recourse, explaining that reconciliation can be made through seeking forgiveness—apologizing—and repenting. If we remain unrepentant, God remains our enemy, and He may "lock us up" to ensure we cause no further damage (see Matthew 5:25-26). God, the perfect Judge, would not find us guilty unjustly and deliver us to prison if it were not serious—and it is a serious thing indeed to be at odds with our righteous Creator.
Though we cannot make peace or agree with Satan lest we be opposed to God and perish, we can make peace and agree with God through Jesus Christ in humble, sincere repentance. If we sin against God, we need to repent. If we sin against a brother, we need to humble ourselves and seek their forgiveness. It is as serious as murder!
Just as God desires that the sinner repent, He also wants the one sinned against to forgive the sinner when he repents. At various times in our lives, we will find ourselves in one or the other position, but it is paramount that we follow Christ's instructions lest we find ourselves at odds with more than our brother—with God Himself by ignoring His Word!
We can be thankful that God is merciful and rarely strikes us down immediately when we sin, as He did to Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah. Even so, we must always strive to walk as Christ walked and never take His mercy for granted. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." It is part of human nature to think that, because we have not been punished, we have "gotten away with" our sin. In our relationship with God, it is not this way at all, nor should we have this attitude in our relations with one another.
As we strive to live as Christ did, we will always be challenged by our spiritual Adversary, the roaring lion, and his minions. Like Peter, James instructs us, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). We must never submit to him and thereby make ourselves an enemy of Christ, lest He "come to [us] quickly and remove [our] lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:5). Instead, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:8, 10).
- Levi W. Graham
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