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Revelation 12: Our Adversary

Revelation 12 begins with a picture of a woman and a dragon. The woman is about to give birth, and the dragon wants to devour that child. The dragon also has an army which is at war with Michael the Archangel after the woman is taken away to hide in the wilderness for 42 months.

Rev 12:7  And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

Rev 12:8  And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

Rev 12:9  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

I am choosing to highlight this passage because of the one phrase in verse nine that speaks about how Satan has deceived the entire world. This stands out to me because I think that sometimes we think we are above deception. We think that we have everything lined up, and that can lead to a sense of idolatry. We can make ourselves into idols and forget about God which is never a good thing.

I don’t remember who said it, but I have heard it said that the greatest deception Satan ever pulled off was convincing the world that he does not exist. In our society that is steadily losing a belief in the reality of good and evil, I have no doubt that Satan is thrilled. After all, now he is an acceptable alternative to God; he is simply just another choice. When people take away the idea that evil is wrong, evil is what wins.

Consequently, I know I did not talk much about the imagery of this chapter, but it seems highly significant to me to always keep in mind that we have an adversary who is smart. We have an adversary who has in fact deceived all of us; all of us have sinned at some point. We need to be careful that we are following God and make sure that that relationship is in the right place.

2 Corinthians 11: Avoiding Deception

Paul naturally felt responsibility for the people that he led to faith in Jesus Christ. He wanted to see them continue to mature, but as we see in 2 Corinthians 11, he was a little bit nervous about what these people would do when they encountered a false teacher.

2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

2Co 11:14  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Deception is the number one tactic of evil. I have no doubt of that. From the beginning, all you need to do is eat from that one tree and you will be like God. Obviously, that was false. That was the first lie, and there have been many more.

We all can be taken in by wrong information. We all can also make up false information to cover for our previous shortcomings. We all know how that goes. To cover for one mistake, we make another one by misleading. There is no shortage of that information in the world today.

As a result, there’s good reason that Paul reminds us to be careful. It is not surprising if the wrong decision looks attractive. After all, even Satan can make himself look attractive. Discernment is the important part. We can’t just go through on autopilot doing whatever looks great. We actually need to think about all the things that look good and decide which ones are good. God can help us with that discernment process as well because we are obviously not perfect.

Whatever approach we take, our goal is to glorify God, and we can do that by trying to avoid this deception of evil and remaining on the path that God would have us be on.

Proverbs 26: Honesty Is the Best Policy

The Bible has an awful lot to say about our words, and Proverbs 26 counsels us on things that we should not be saying.

Pro 26:28  A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

This verse is interesting because we have two types of deception here. The first problem is lying. In other words, we are being dishonest for our own benefit. The second problem is flattery. We are being dishonest for somebody else’s benefit. In either situation, someone is benefiting, but the proverb clearly advises against either one.

Why? To speak as a utilitarian, what if greater net benefit is created? What if I am more well off by telling the lie than the people I lied to are hurt by it?

I think that one thing that is very important to keep in mind with deception is that there are many other costs associated with it. For example, yesterday we talked about the importance of honesty and how we want to be discerning. By doing that, we damage our credibility. Once you are caught in a lie, your credibility goes downhill. That is certainly a cost of either of lying or flattery. People won’t know when we are being honest or when we are simply saying what they want to hear.

Dishonesty can also have implications that reach farther than we could ever imagine. If I lied to someone, they might use that information as part of their decision-making process. It might change the decision they would make in the future which could then change another decision. I know that this is only a theoretical slippery slope, but I think that we have all made a decision or two based on bad information.

Overall, I think that based on what I read yesterday and today, it is very clear that the Bible does not appreciate dishonesty in any form even if it might seem to have some positive side effects.

Esther 2: Is It Okay to Omit Details for a Greater Purpose?

In Esther 2, king Ahasuerus decided that he needed a new queen since the old one Vashti would not do everything that he demanded. As a result, he basically brought a bunch of women in to decide who would be his next queen, and Esther, our star lady, was one of those women.

The interesting part was that Esther was a Jew, and that surely would not have been a popular thing to say in the court. She never would have had a chance at becoming queen.

Est 2:10  Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.

As it turned out, she quickly became the favorite of the king, and it was not very long until he decided that she needed to become his queen. However, the king still had no idea that she was actually Jewish.

Est 2:17  And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Est 2:20  Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.

This is kind of an interesting thought because it makes me wonder if there are ever circumstances where we should hide away some part of our character.

For example, would it ever be right for a Christian to hide part of his or her belief system if it did allow for the ultimate potential for gain for other Christians?

I’m thinking about China hypothetically. Obviously, the house church movement is powerful, but there is also widespread persecution. Identifying with that movement can lead to severe consequences that are potentially lethal.

In that situation, does it make sense for a Christian to not lie about their beliefs (because that is an obvious violation of the 10 Commandments) but rather not disclose them because it could damage some greater mission? Imagine if a Christian official was able to rise into a high position in China like Esther. That person would then have the influence to make life much easier on our brothers and sisters over there. That would be a great thing, but that official might not ever have the opportunity to get into that position of power if he or she had been identified with the house church movement to begin with.

If the question never comes up, is it wrong to simply not mention faith?

As an American Christian, I can say that many of the churches I have heard from are very evangelistic. It is part of our duty as a result of our faith to go out and preach to the entire world. I believe that. If you look at the early church, they were doing that all the time even though many of them did indeed die or at least spent time in prison for what they were saying. They are often times the examples we look up to and use as our justification for doing anything for God. From that perspective, it seems that we really should always be reaching out about Christianity regardless of the consequences.

On the other hand, I have to wonder about someone like Jesus. Until the age of 30, He was not actively engaged in His ministry. In a way, He wasn’t letting people know that part of His identity yet. Again, I’m sure that if somebody came up and asked Him whether or not He was the Messiah, He certainly would not have lied to them, but He simply did not mention that fact until the time was right. On that level then, if this is sort of similar to something that Jesus did Himself, I have a hard time saying that it was wrong for Esther to do.

As you can tell, I certainly have mixed feelings.

What do all of you think? Are there circumstances where omission is okay particularly if there is long-term benefit and no lying (an obvious sin) involved?

I would love to get a little discussion going about this one if people have some opinions to share.

2 Chronicles 32: Attacking God with a Straw Man

I’m not an expert on debate techniques yet, but it seems as if in 2 Chronicles 32, the king of Assyria was ordering his men to commit a pretty large logical fallacy as they tried to dishearten the defenders of Jerusalem.

Hezekiah was absolutely certain that God would be able to defend Jerusalem.

2Ch 32:7  Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

2Ch 32:8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

However, the men of Assyria took a shot directly at this claim indirectly if that makes sense. It is similar to a straw man argument.

2Ch 32:15  Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?

Hezekiah presented the first argument that said that God would be able to protect the city of Jerusalem and all the people. That is what should have been the debate topic.

Rather than debate the argument directly, the Assyrian presented the argument that no other god had been able to stop his army yet. Based on that argument, he then said that the God of the Bible would not be able to stop him.

Do you see the problem with this argument? He was setting up an argument that he knew was true, but he did not take the current situation into account and actually avoided the topic altogether. He had never come up against the one true God, so it is kind of irrelevant what happened with all the other deities.

I have become very interested in this field of apologetics lately, and this is very similar to what we often encounter in the world every day. I am not saying that we all need to become brilliant orators, but it is beneficial to think about the situation and be able to follow a conversation.

If you need a good resource to get you started, check out my review of Tactics by Greg Kokul. I would definitely recommend it.

1 Kings 13: Practice What We Preach

It is interesting how people are able to resist sin for a while, but eventually some end up giving in. This is what happened to the unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 13.

He had come to tell Jeroboam that Josiah would rise out of the house of David. After all of this interchange, Jeroboam invited the prophet into his house for some food.

1Ki 13:8  And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:

1Ki 13:9  For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.

We don’t know the exact parameters of why God told him not to eat bread, but the point remains that he was told not to, and he did not.

He left Jeroboam and ran into an old prophet and his sons. Again, this man invited him to stop by for some food.

1Ki 13:15  Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.

1Ki 13:16  And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:

1Ki 13:17  For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.

1Ki 13:18  He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.

1Ki 13:19  So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.

The man of God was deceived by this lying prophet, and he violated the plan that God had ordered him to follow. When he eventually left the house, he ended up being killed by a lion on the ride home. Because of his disobedience, he had to pay the penalty.

You might wonder why this good man had to pay the price. After all, he had a pretty good resume. He went in front of the king and told him that his adversary will rise again. He must have been trusting God pretty heavily at that point. However, after he made what seemed like a small mistake, he died. In fact, it wasn’t as if he just decided to violate God’s will. He was convinced by a man who he thought was a man of God. He thought that the old prophet would not lie to him. He wasn’t necessarily malicious, but he was deceived. Why was the penalty so severe?

I think that most of this comes back to the idea that as Christians we need to be aware. I don’t really know anyone that was struck down what this man was, but I do know many Christians who have lost their testimony because of mistakes they have made. Even if someone comes to us and says that something came directly from God, we need to make sure that it checks out with what we absolutely know about God. This priest knew that God told him not to eat food. He received contradictory information, but he abandoned what God had told him.

God takes disobedience seriously especially from those of us who claim to follow Him, and we need to make sure that we are living in a way that God would approve of.

1 Samuel 21: Running without Fear

It is kind of interesting to see what happened to David as he ran away from Saul in 1 Samuel 21. Although I am sure he was still trusting God on some level, he reminds me of Abraham in this passage. He starts to use deception to preserve his life rather than trust that God will see him through whatever was coming.

1Sa 21:10  And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

1Sa 21:11  And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

1Sa 21:12  And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

1Sa 21:13  And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.

1Sa 21:14  Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me?

1Sa 21:15  Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?

David thought that he could run to Gath where no one would recognize him, and he would be away from the danger in Israel.

Immediately though, people seemed to recognize him, and that made him incredibly nervous. As a result, he decided that he needed to pretend to be insane.

I know that David was a great man of faith, and that is obvious from the episode when he killed Goliath. Obviously, he was trusting God a great deal at that moment.

This time, he was running by his own agenda as we get no sense of any divine instruction. What that kind of implies to me is that God didn’t want him to run. At times, God told people to run away from danger kind of like Joseph and Mary when Herod was slaughtering all the children.

However, we get no sense of that here. David was letting his fear dictate his actions.

As Christians, we cannot fall into this trap of fear. There are numerous biblical passages that refer to living a life without fear, and the simple fact that we can do that is because Jesus himself promised that He would be with us always in the Great Commission.

If we are in the will of God, we won’t need to run alone.

Joshua 9: Keeping Our Word

Even the best leaders have problems every now and then, and Joshua was certainly no different. in Joshua chapter nine, the people of Gibeon had heard that the Israelites were marching through the Promised Land and destroying everyone in their path.

Obviously, nobody wants to have their entire population destroyed, so the leaders of Gibeon came up with a very clever trick. They pretended that they were poor ambassadors from a faraway country and came to Joshua to make peace with Israel.

All of the Israelites bought the deception, and when they found out where they were really ambassadors from, they had no choice but to spare the city.

Jos 9:18  And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

Jos 9:19  But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.

Jos 9:20  This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.

I remember I wrote about this a while ago, but they knew that it was not a good thing to break an oath to God. They knew that they had been deceived, and they obviously weren’t happy about it, but they knew that there was nothing they could do now.

I hope that we all try to be as honest as our dealings as Israel was. They had plenty of reasons to retaliate and certainly had the ability to conquer Gibeon, but they knew that they had to keep their word.

Obviously, making the treaty in the beginning was the mistake that they should not have made, but they did not make another mistake in how they handled the people they had made a treaty with.

Genesis 43: Be Upfront and Straightforward

Genesis chapter 43 demonstrates the old saying that honesty really is the best policy.

All of the sons of Israel knew that they needed to go back down to Egypt to get more grain, but they were nervous. Joseph was holding their brother Simeon, and he was only going to let him go if they brought their youngest brother Benjamin with them.

Israel didn’t want to risk losing another son. I can’t say I blame him whatsoever, but he didn’t seem overly worried about Simeon which is a little bit odd.

However, the famine was bad enough that Israel finally allowed all of them to go down to Egypt with Benjamin, but he gave them a piece of advice.

Gen 43:12  And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:

I didn’t mention this in yesterday’s post, but when they left Egypt, Joseph commanded that all the money that they had brought to pay for the grain should be put back in their bags. However, he didn’t tell his brothers that, and they didn’t realize that until they got home.

They were understandably afraid that there was some mistake and perhaps they could be accused of thievery.

That is why Israel suggested that they bring the money again. They knew that they had bought the grain with that money, and they wanted to be honest about it.

That honesty paid off.

Gen 43:19  And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,

Gen 43:20  And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:

Gen 43:21  And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.

Gen 43:22  And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

Gen 43:23  And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

It is incredibly important to be upfront when we deal with other people. There are many Bible verses that talk about the importance of honesty, but let me give you a few of them right here.

Pro 12:22  Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

Heb 13:18  Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

Israel had a difficult time with deception when he was younger, so it is nice to see him counseling his sons to deal honestly. We should try to explain everything clearly to people and not use people or situations for our own personal gains.

Genesis 31: One More Thing about Deception

In Genesis chapter 31, we see more deception from Rachel.

Jacob decided that he had to get away from Laban because things were becoming a little bit more tense after Jacob essentially took a ton of his property.

Jacob called Rachel and Leah and told them that they were leaving, but on their way out, Rachel decided to steal her father’s idols.

On top of the obvious problem that she was stealing to begin with, her actions had even more serious repercussions.

Laban decided that he wanted to pursue Jacob. After all, his new family virtually disappeared with one of his most precious possessions.

When he finally caught up, he understandably had strong words for Jacob.

Gen 31:26  And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?

Gen 31:27  Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?

Gen 31:28  And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.

Gen 31:29  It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

Gen 31:30  And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

Laban wanted to know what Jacob had done with his idols, but Jacob had no idea that Rachel had taken them.

After Laban went through the entire camp and couldn’t find the idols, Jacob was obviously upset. He didn’t understand why he had to be subjected to this search since it was obvious that he hadn’t stolen them.

All of this came out because of deception again.

If Jacob would have been honest about leaving, and if Rachel had never stolen the idols, none of this would have happened.

I kind of feel like a broken record, but in this portion of the Bible, there are a ton of stories that illustrate the damage that deception can do. When people are not honest with one another, feelings are obviously hurt, and people are worse off because of it.

You might think that deception will get you ahead, but when it is eventually exposed, the damage is greater than the original benefit.