COMBATING SATAN'S SNARES
Donald J. Godfred
The world will face the year 2009 with much horror, uncertainties and pessimism. The whole world is in deep chaos. Natural calamities, man-made insurgencies, terrorist attacks, civil wars, ethnic struggles, religious fanaticism, caste fights, to name a few, reign supreme in every nation, without any exception. Cold and hot wars for natural resources, diminishing oil resources, supremacy, border disputes with neighbouring countries, international terrorist gang menace-all have made life miserable. Values have nose-dived to the lowest. The overall scenario is most depressing. The world has no hope.
But God's children are different. They have the same world and the same circumstances; but God's children greet 2009 with great joy, peace of mind and enthusiasm because they are led and guided by the hope founded on God's promises for protection and comfort. He has assured that He would be watching the land where His children live, from the beginning to the end of the year (Deut. 11:12). What an encouragement! The powerful and sharp eyes which detect anything minute are on us and our land through each and every second of the 365 days of 2009. No scope for doubt or fear. When our Lord, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, watches His children constantly, when His protecting guidance is promised on the earth, will any evil affect us? We are sure of a smooth and happy sailing in the most perilous and adverse circumstances.
But do we know that another mighty power is increasingly toiling simultaneously with ample preparation and determination to overcome the above divine power and subjugate His children, right from day one of the year through the last day?
Is this surprising? But it is true; we experience this in our daily life-yet we ignore it. This is due to the long-drawn spiritual war between the two super-powers. Shall we, then, try to find out what this power is, and the means and modalities adopted by this super-power in the war against children of God?
This long battle going on year after year is illustrated vividly in the book of Esther.
Esther 3:7 states: "In the first month of the year they cast pur, before Haman, to determine the day and the month (to destroy the Jews: v6) until it fell on the twelfth month."
Everyone knows the story. Haman, the extremely proud and arrogant leader who hated the Jews, was next to the king in position and power; but Mordecai, a Jew and cousin of Esther, the queen, was an official at the king's gate. Being a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites whom Saul attacked on God's orders and destroyed (only partially), Haman nursed hatred against his people's ancient enemy, the Jews. When he knew that Mordecai did not bow down or pay respect to him, his hatred for Mordecai developed into hatred for the whole Jewish race. Instead of reporting to the king about Mordecai's disobedience, he hatched a plan without the king's knowledge to satisfy his lust for revenge on the Jews by destroying the race. He appointed men to cast lots called 'pur,' day by day and month by month. The most favourable day found was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month.
Enter The Enemy
Haman, who decided to root out the Jews, the people chosen by God for His own, from the land, is a reflection of Satan. As he can never subdue God, Satan always plans to destroy His people, looking out for suitable time and opportunity. Satan promptly instigated Haman to wipe out not only Mordecai, but also all his people. Satan plays the same trick on each one of us.
As if an honest and faithful servant of the king, Haman cunningly presented the case 'innocently' (3: 8-9), after doing preparations 'in the dark.' He didn't hesitate to offer a huge bribe (money, flattery) to make sure that the king was trapped (v9). The king fell a prey and authorised Haman to do whatever he wanted with the Jews.
The above is true with God's children too. Satan tempts believers into committing sin (1 Thess. 3:5), and then proceeds to accuse them before God (Rev 12:10; Job 1:10-11, 2:4-5). This he starts from day one and continues till the last day of the year. Just as God permitted Satan in Job's case (Job1:12, 2:6), the king gave his signet ring to Haman to do as he wanted with Jews (Est 3:10). Thus Haman overcame the first hurdle. The same holds true about our lives too. The only difference is that while the king was fooled, God is fully aware of every attempt by Satan on us; and Satan has to get God's permission to do so.
Having obtained the king's nod, Haman arranged to publish to all people to be ready to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. He sent letters to all provinces through couriers to this effect (3:14).
Satan, likewise, knowing that he has very short time (Rev. 12:12), has come with his followers to sift us like wheat (Lk. 22:31) and devour us (1Pet. 5:8). He has instigated all peoples to ruin the children of God. News from across the globe substantiates this. How our brethren are being treated and eliminated in non-Christian countries, and in our country! Even in the so-called Christian countries, Christian fundamentals and values are deliberately withdrawn, and importance given to other religions; Christians have become 'most secular Christians'; all vulgarities and perversions have crept in and got deeply rooted in their lives.
Children Taste His Power
As the Jews felt the enemy's iron hand, they were frustrated and started a great mourning, weeping and wailing (4:3). What did they do? Ran away to their safety? Being captives, where would they go? Planned to resist and save themselves and their families? Exhibit their protest by arranging hunger strikes and processions against the king's murderous edict? If so, they would have been annihilated without waiting for the D-day. No, they responded to the crisis by organising a massive fasting accompanied by prayer for three days. Even the queen and her maids fasted, thus committing the matter into the hands of the Lord.
And the result? Queen Esther gathered courage to go to the king in his royal palace without her being granted permission (4:16). The fasting and prayer also made the king to show favour on Esther and to offer up to half of his kingdom to her (5:1-3), not once, but thrice. What power this fasting prayer!
This is the perfect example for us to follow at times of such onslaught by the enemy during the year. Most of us would prefer to protest, show our strength and solidarity, organise public marches, rallies, hunger strikes, etc. But our Lord would favour the action taken by the Jews.
Further, even after the edict was published, and his life was under threat, Mordecai did not bow to Haman, the enemy of the Lord (5:9). The fasting and prayer in the last three days gave him courage to dare Haman. What steadfast faith in the Lord!
The wicked Haman, on the advice of his wife and friends got the gallows made in the night. Then in a frenzy of brutal happiness of getting Mordecai eliminated unexpectedly earlier, he ran to the king to get permission for Mordecai's execution, this time ignoring the advice of his wife and friends. This was the beginning of his end. Similarly, for Satan also…. the countdown has begun already.
The sovereign God can over-rule such acts of Satan. We see that though Haman got everything ready to hang Mordecai, the Lord caused him to honour Mordecai (6:10-11). The Lord sees to it that the same weapon Satan prepares for His children boomerangs on him.
Haman now wanted Mordecai to be publicly hanged so that it would create a wave of terror and fear in the minds of the Jews. But God had an entirely different plan. He caused insomnia to the king that very night, caused him to get a book read for entertainment, instead of various other choices, made the servant to pick up the kingdom chronicle and select the page wherein was recorded the exposure by Mordecai of the plot to murder the king, and reminded the king that he had forgotten to reward Mordecai. Finally, Haman ended up honouring his avowed enemy on the streets of Shushan (6:11).
God does the same for us just under the nose of the enemy (Psa. 23:5).
These were all warning signals to Haman, sounded by God; but he chose to ignore them in his excitement to see Mordecai's end. When he reached home totally disgraced, humiliated and shattered, his wife and counsellors ridiculed him saying that he would not prevail against Mordecai, the Jew and that he would surely fall (6:13). This was one final warning from God; but Haman never cared for even this final warning, leave alone obey it.
The all-supreme God, the final righteous Judge, so controlled the situations, that on the very same day that Haman wanted Mordecai to be wiped out, he himself fell victim to the very same gallows he had made for Mordecai (7:10).
Though the enemy of the Jews was thus eliminated, the appointed day was still ahead. The Jewish people were perplexed and anxious about their future. In our case, though God delivers us from certain problems, though we win a battle or two against the adversary during the course of the year, the war goes on till the end of the year and continues till the last day of one's life because the adversary is constantly battling against those who are on the Lord's side.
Haman was dead and gone; but the treacherous edict was still very much alive. So, Queen Esther, on behalf of her people, once again went to the king beseeching him (8:3). Our Lord also, as the Mediator, constantly intercedes with the Father for us (1 Tim. 2:5). What a comfort and encouragement that we have such an Advocate to implore on our behalf with the Judge throughout the year in this dark, mischievous world and the most miserable, unfavourable and tempting conditions.
Esther begged the king to nullify the orders since its author's intentions had been revealed (8:3). But the king did not agree to this. Instead, the king advised her to counter that with another decree written in the king's name and sealed with his signet ring, to fight back and protect their lives, to destroy, kill and annihilate the attacking forces (8:3-12). Copies of this were sent to all provinces and published to all people so that the Jews would read and prepare themselves for the final battle (v.13). He reiterated that none could cancel or revoke the orders written in the king's name and sealed with his signet ring (vv. 13-14).
This applies to believers also. We have no authority to invalidate Satan's plans and plots. Even Jesus would not bind or destroy demons or Satan before the judgment day (Matt. 8:29, 31-32). He authorised the disciples to subdue and cast out demons (Lk. 10:17, 20; Mk. 3:14-15). Instead of trying to bind the enemy, we are commended to fight and overcome him with the power and authority of the 'God-inspired-document' (2 Tim. 3:16) and duly protected by the whole armour of God (Eph 6:11-17). No power whatsoever can ever annul this document.
The Ultimate Preparation
Mordecai, dressed in the royal attire and golden crown, came out of the palace. The Jews lined up behind him to celebrate. Their grief had turned to gladness, and darkness to light (8:15-16). The new decree in favour of the Jews was issued on the twenty third day of the third month. Now the battle lines were drawn. The Jews were in a strong position. They were not defenceless. For the same reason, they were excitedly waiting for the ensuing 'destruction day' on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month.
In the intervening period of about eight months, apart from preparing for the final battle under the leadership of Mordecai, I presume, they conducted 'gospel' campaigns; and multitudes were 'converted' (8:17, 9:2-3).
For the Church, the King in His grand royal apparel is with us ready to lead every one of His followers to victory against the enemy. What an inspiration! Let us line up behind our commander for the year-long war.
The enemies of the Jews hoped to destroy them on the day set by Haman. But the unexpected happened. God had turned the tables in favour of His people. The enemies of the Jews were vanquished and slaughtered (9:15). For the Jews, God's chosen ones, the following days were days of joy, gladness and feasting, and exchanging presents. They did not forget the poor and sent gifts to them. Even today they celebrate their victory over Haman.
If God's children march behind the Master and overcome the devil, they also can convert the mourning days of the year into festival days of feasting and gladness and exchanging gifts till the last day of the year…year after year.
The 'family tree' of the enemy of the Jews, Haman, was felled and burned with the hanging of his ten sons (9:14). In the same way Satan and his followers too will be removed in the final war.
God's children, who were perplexed and fearful in the beginning of the year, progressively became joyful and celebrating by the end of the year because of total dedication and surrender to the Lord and His timely help. This is the solid message we get from the book of Esther for the year.
It is amazing that there is no direct mention of God in the whole book. In a hidden way He has been developing and executing His plan to deliver His people from the clutches of the eternal enemy, and preserving them to keep His promise about Messiah!
But how? The divine providence was working through the following situations:
Vashti's disobedience and her removal as queen
Esther won favour of Hegai, the eunuch
Esther crowned and enthroned as queen
Mordecai saves the king from being assassinated
Mordecai not recognised / rewarded in time
Lot cast in the first month, the month of Jews' deliverance
Lot falls for the last (twelfth) month, giving eleven months' time
Esther finds favour in the sight of the king
God sealed Esther's lip not to share her petition at the first two chances
King suffers insomnia on the same night Haman made gallows for Mordecai
King prefers a book to be read to him
The servant picks up the chronicle book and selects the page where Mordecai's faithfulness was recorded
The king understands that Mordecai was not rewarded; decides to honour him
Haman arrives at the appropriate time, and is made to honour Mordecai
Haman falls flat on the queen's couch, creating an impression to the king that he was up to some mischief
Though we can't see God explicitly anywhere in the book, we note His presence throughout by way of His miraculous works. Similarly in our lives too, we do not actually see God, but feel His presence and guidance with love throughout the year. Even if believers pass through many perilous situations and get perplexed, the ultimate victory is theirs if they put their load on Jesus' yoke (Matt. 11:28-30).
Any unfavourable situation given to His hand can be converted to favour His children if we surrender unconditionally to Him. So, be cheerful and don't be dismayed. We have a happy and victorious year ahead. Wishing all readers a Word-led 2009.