by David C. Grabbe
CGG Weekly, May 15, 2020
"If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed."
After the apocalyptic Flood from which God delivered only eight souls, He made a covenantal promise that He would never again send a globe-covering flood. To remind humanity from that time forward, He gave the sign of the rainbow, a symbol that those who esteem pride over purity have recently co-opted. Nevertheless, God is faithful to His promise (Isaiah 49:7; I Corinthians 1:9), and when He cleanses the earth the next time, it will not be through a deluge of water but by purifying heat.
However, God's promise does not mean the danger of flood is over. Revelation 12:15 foretells of an end-time flood of a different nature altogether: "So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood."
In this scene, Satan aims a torrent of water with deadly intent at God's people, and in this symbolic description, God reveals one of Satan's tactics. That the Devil spews water from his mouth indicates we are to understand that what he emits consists of words. A flood of words—of information—fits the figure quite well, as we will see.
Notice that the immediate danger lies not as much in the specific teachings or meanings of those words but in their sheer volume. Rather than succumbing to deception, a person's primary peril lies in being swept away and overwhelmed. We should not think all the words are harmless, though, since anything coming from the serpent's mouth will be twisted. So, Revelation 12:15 warns us that one of Satan's tactics is to sweep believers away by an overwhelming volume of information, its massive quantity threatening more than its corrosive quality.
The larger prophecy is not necessarily being fulfilled right now, but we can still see an application of it in the world's attempts to sweep us away in a flood of information. As mentioned, the information need not be sinful or deceptive, though it often is. Even so, an overwhelming amount of spiritually neutral information will keep our limited human minds too busy to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
This time has been rightly dubbed the Information Age. We are awash in information. In addition, the pace of change is so rapid that information we consumed only a few hours ago may have already lost its relevance, so we must keep going back for more. Our minds become trained to seek new stimulation continually, and in the flood of transitory information, we may find doing that easier than resting in the still waters that give true delight, abundance, and life.
The deluge of information will sweep us away unless we consciously filter what and how much we allow into our finite minds. If the information we act on is the Word of God, then we are living by faith (II Corinthians 5:7). But if our minds rise and fall with the unending tide that surrounds us, then our faith must struggle against the currents of the times. Our perspective adjusts according to what we assimilate, and our priorities become set in relation to what we regularly focus on. What information we consume forms the basis of our active beliefs, making us either spiritually strong or spiritually weak.
The entertainment, social, and news media all have the potential to dilute our faith. Whether through outright falsehood or the prodigious volume of knowledge that has nothing to do with life above the sun (heavenly things as opposed to earthly things; see Ecclesiastes 1:3), this rushing, dynamic river of information can erode our foundation, filling our minds so full that they can barely retain the Creator God. As this happens, we may still pray but be so distracted that we never really draw close to God.
The information buzz is so addicting that we may have trouble studying the Bible without checking email, our phones, checking posts, tweets, feeds, chats, and every kind of digital distraction. We may even dip into them during a live service. As a culture, our tools are enslaving us, and we are allowing them to. When life under the sun overshadows God's Word, living by faith degenerates into living by noise.
We see symptoms of this in the online conflicts even among those given the rare right to become children of God. Church members strive over politics, sports, and vanities of a world that is passing away. If we fight over carnal things—over cultural controversies and opinions—then perhaps our kingdom is of this world more than we realize. Satan's flood may be drowning our faith.
Even if all the information we absorb is spiritually neutral, we still face more information coming at us than we can assimilate, and little of it will help us in seeking first God's Kingdom and His righteousness. As we bring more of this flood into our lives, we unwittingly dilute the truth of God because almost none of Satan's flood reinforces the extraordinary revelation that God has given to us.
Consider the amount of truth that we may take in on any given day, through spending time with God, studying, or listening to sermons by faithful ministers. Contrast that with how much of the world's flood comes in through news, opinion, music, movies, games, and social media. What does that ratio look like? Is there cause for concern that God's precious gift of truth is becoming degraded through the unrelenting surge of worldly waves?
Having God's Spirit does not make us immune to the damaging effects of information-overload. Instead, it helps us to prioritize and make wise decisions so that we treasure God's revelation and protect it from damage. The war for our minds rages on, and God provides the help we need, but we must make use of it. We must evaluate whether our spiritual condition and our level of faith might improve if we absorbed less of the world's flood and spent more time on what matters in God's spiritual purpose.
This proposal may sound radical, perhaps even offensive: Consider unplugging more, to open more time and greater mental capacity so that God and His Word will drive more of our thoughts and perspectives. Consider exchanging a movie or television show for more Bible study or for listening to a sermon. Evaluate whether all the digital connections that clamor relentlessly for our attention are supporting us as we put our all into seeking God's Kingdom. The flood cannot give eternal life. That only comes from knowing the Father and the Son (John 17:3), so the flood that spews from outside that relationship can only undermine it.
We will not withstand the flood if we do not consciously prioritize what to focus on and what to ignore. We may not even know that our spiritual focus is drifting—until we find ourselves lost at sea.