June 2013 Yavoh

The Plans of Satan

Normally, I don’t like to talk about the devil, nor do I try to explain how demonic things work. I would much rather talk about the Lord and His salvation. We should NOT focus on the enemy other than to identify the enemy correctly. The Torah gives only a small description about Satan, explaining the deception of Adam and Eve. The remainder of the Tanach (Old Testament Scriptures) follows the path of the Torah with little information offered on the specifics of the devil, although we get an interesting perspective in the book of Job. However, the New Testament Scriptures have quite a bit to say about the devil. There is the temptation of the Messiah followed by numerous references to demons being cast out of people and places.

The Jews refer to the overall subject of temptation as the “evil inclination,” whereas the Apostles teach about deception, temptation, enticement, and following one’s own lust to the ultimate destination of sin and death. Therefore, it is wise to properly understand who the enemy of the Lord is and how he attempts to disrupt our lives, especially in hindering God’s will in our lives. The fact is, the devil hates us and he plays a specific role in our disobedience. Every one of us is tempted and we all do sin—we are sons and daughters of Adam. If we are to successfully walk out our faith, then we must take steps to blunt the plan of our enemy.

In my youth, a popular TV comedy show starred a funny guy named Flip Wilson. In one of his comedy skits he would repeatedly say, “The devil made me do it!” The audience would laugh at it every time. It’s said that real humor is always based in a truth. Many people believed that Flip’s joke was true. But believing in something does not make it truth. The fact is, the devil cannot make you do anything, but he can tempt you and entice you to make wrong choices.

If I had to summarize the teaching of Satan into a couple of sentences, it would go like this: Satan would like to kill you but God won’t let him, so he tries to get you to kill yourself or to prostitute you (spiritual adultery) so that God will not want anything to do with you (resulting in death). Satan’s power is limited; so he primarily works to exploit our own weaknesses and gain our cooperation. We want things and he is constantly attempting to entice us with those things, deceiving us into following a direction away from the Lord, which he influences us to think is better.

The prophet Isaiah tells us about what Satan wants for himself and his overarching plan. As Isaiah prophecies against the king of Babylon, he defines the very motivation of Satan within the heart of the king of Babylon. He also speaks to the end result.

How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. ISA 14:12-15

Satan has an ego, a really big ego. His ego has led him to want to be like God, even to sit above His throne. Simply put, these are things he cannot have nor can he achieve. Like him, we sometimes want things we cannot have, nor should have. We refuse that reality and pursue those things to our harm and the harm of others.

Many Bible teachers teach that Satan was originally a very high ranking angel, such as the archangels, and it is from that position that he sought more. Satan is defined as a thief and a destroyer. He wants things he does not have, so he steals them. Also, if he still cannot get what he wants, then he tries to prevent someone else from having it, thus he seeks to destroy it. This is the sharpest contrast between him and God. Messiah Yeshua stated this contrast.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. JOH 10:10

This is essentially what happened in the Garden of Eden and how mankind was deceived to begin with. Satan wanted things he couldn’t have. Satan also knew that God had good things planned for man. Satan couldn’t kill man outright. We are not really sure why that is but he is clearly limited from doing so. Therefore, Satan looked for a weakness, a weakness that he could exploit that would destroy God’s plan for man. That weakness was found in the appetites God gave to us to live.

There are three appetites that God has given us for life. The first is ego. We must have the will and motivation to live, succeed, and pursue life to the fullest. However, ego can go too far and result in conflict with God and other people. It can harm us when we allow/support our egos beyond what was purposed by God. Humility is the spiritual quality that keeps pride (ego) in check.

The second appetite is for food and nourishment. We must eat food to provide the necessary energy and nutrients to our physical flesh necessary to grow and be strong. Without it our physical bodies cannot live. However, God has instructed that there are limits to this appetite. We are not to be gluttonousness. He has also instructed us that certain items are detestable and are not to be eaten as food.

The third appetite is sexual. A sexual appetite is what brings about the process of marriage and procreation (being fruitful and multiplying people). A good sexual appetite is at the center of the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. However, expressing your sexual appetite outside of the marriage relationship or in abhorrent ways leads to a host of problems, including lewdness and perversion. We are not to have sexual relations with just anyone (fornication), with other family members (incest), people of the same sex (homosexuality), or with animals (bestiality).

All of these appetites (ego, food, and sex) are the natural elements given to man to live and be successful in life. However, these are the very appetites that Satan tries to exploit to our harm. When we follow our appetites we progress toward satisfying a need. But when we allow our appetites to go beyond the need continuing on to lust and want, there is no satisfaction. This is how the sin of covetousness takes shape in our lives leading us to murder, theft, adultery, and lying.

In the garden story, Satan used Eve’s desire with deception to bring about sin in man. Let’s examine how that came about. It began first by Satan questioning Eve about some limits set by God. God had said that there was one tree (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) that they could NOT eat of. They could eat of all the trees but not that one.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” GEN 3:1

Now there is nothing wrong with asking a question, but this is not just a question. It has a manipulative element that is intended to lead Eve in her answer. Satan asked if God had forbidden eating from any and ALL of the trees. Only one tree was forbidden; all of the others could be eaten. So, Eve answers Satan’s question and corrects his implication.

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” GEN 3:2-4

But what Eve said was NOT correct. God said they could not eat of the tree; He never said that they could not touch it. Now it is logical that you must touch it as a part of eating it, but the command to not even touch it is a lot different from not eating it. But Eve has now positioned herself beyond what God said and she can now be deceived. So Satan corrects her and, in the confusion, speaks the lie (deception).

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” GEN 3:4-5

Now Satan lies about the consequences of violating God’s instruction, alluding to his own aspirations. Literally, he is asking mankind to join in his quest to be equal with God and make his throne higher than God’s. The stage is now set to use enticement and the natural appetites of man to bring about sin.

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. GEN 3:6

The first temptation was the lust for food, then the lust of the eyes (sexual/physical attraction), followed by the lust of ego (life) to be wise.

This is the same pattern that the Apostle John refers to in his instruction to avoid contact with the world and worldly things apart from God.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1JOH 2:16

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the world changed for them.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. GEN 3:7

Satan had not told them about their eyes being opened to see their own nakedness, about the embarrassment or the guilt that they would immediately experience. He left that part of out. But he was right about one thing—they had become a little bit like God. He didn’t tell them how it would affect their relationship with God and what other consequences would befall them. This is the reason that they were kicked out the garden, and why you and I are where we are today. We became like one part of God.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– GEN 3:22

What part of God did we become like? I’m not sure, but it has something to do with seeing things we couldn’t see before and the increase of knowledge. Let’s look at the pattern again. The sequence was contact, deception, lies mixed with a little truth, temptation, lust, and finally sin with its consequences. The Apostle James lays out this pattern in his book.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. JAM 1:13-16

This is what Satan has planned for all of mankind – to use deception and mix it with man’s wants to bring about sin. This is his path of death and the way to destroy what God has intended. As I said before, he can’t kill us (mortal or spiritual death) outright, but he can lure us to do it to ourselves.

The story of Job in the Tanach speaks to Satan’s conflict with God and sheds more light on his limits in dealing with man. The story of Job speaks more about testing as opposed to simple temptation. God permits Satan to test Job to prove him. Let’s examine the story briefly.

The man Job was very successful and loved the Lord greatly. A conversation about Job occurred between God and Satan where God commended Job. But Satan argued that Job was faithful only because of his successes. He told the Lord that Job would curse Him to His face if God’s protection, his abundance of things, and his family were removed. God disagreed and proceeded to prove Satan wrong by allowing Satan to have power over Job’s life except for his mortal life.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he [Job] has is in your [Satan’s] power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” JOB 1:12

As a result, Job began to suffer loss. First the Sabeans attacked his fields where his oxen and donkeys were plowing. Many of his servants were slain there. Next, a fire from heaven (lightning) fell upon the fields and hills, causing a wildfire that destroyed his flocks and shepherds. Then several bands of Chaldeans raided all of his camels and killed his servants. Then, a great wind came upon his eldest son’s house with his sons and daughters inside, causing the house to collapse, killing all his children. Only he and his wife were left with no possessions or servants.

As the story continues, Job’s friends came to sympathize with him and to comfort him. However, their conversations dealt with the natural questions that had to come forth. They are the same questions we ask when unexpected events happen in our lives such as natural disasters, car accidents, death of loved ones, etc. How could God have let this happen? Why did this happen? Why me?

Job’s distress also led to the loss of his health and much personal discomfort. He came to the point that he questioned why he was born and why he should remain alive any longer. His friends weren’t much help. They counseled that God was just, rewarding the good and punishing the guilty, concluding that since he was suffering, Job must be bad. His friends eventually became his accusers. Job was humiliated and attempted to speak for God, rebuking his “so-called” friends. Job asserted his righteousness and integrity in the Lord. Eventually, God comes to speak with Job.

God does not speak of Job’s enemy Satan. Instead, God explains who He is and His sovereignty over all that He created, including Job. This resulted in Job’s final statement to God.

Then Job answered the Lord, and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” JOB 42:1-5 

God also spoke to the friends of Job calling upon them to repent for what they had done to Job. They did and once Job prayed for them, God restored Job’s life with an increase over what he had earlier.

The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold. JOB 42:10

We should be grateful that we are not tested as Job was. We have God’s blessings and protections. When you step back and see Satan’s attack against us under God’s protections, it is easy to overcome him. Firstly, we can avoid contact with the world and worldly things that tempt us. Stop listening to Satan and his representatives. That is easy to say but difficult to do. We all must interact with the world as we are mortals limited to our present dimensions on this planet. But we know that we can make a host of decisions that mitigate our involvement with the world. We make those choices every day by avoiding those who willfully don’t follow the Lord. We make choices about where we go, who we form relationships with, what we eat and drink, and what activities we participate in. Those decisions open the doors of opportunity along the way of life or entangle us in the things of the world.

This is usually one of the first lessons we try to teach our children. As teens become sociable and desire to go places, their associations and places are fraught with hazards. Teens are usually like Eve. They think they know the difference between right and wrong, but they have no idea how deception and seduction works. All it takes is one little compromise, break one little rule, go over the line just a little bit before they find themselves leveraged into a path of deception with all of the embarrassment and guilt that goes with it. Once they have crossed the line or gone that far, what is to stop them then? They can’t see the long-range or eternal consequences. They think to themselves, “This doesn’t hurt anyone.” They don’t realize the enemy is whispering bad advice in their ears. They can’t stop; unless someone helps them to stop, such as a parent’s correction.

Secondly, we can defeat Satan’s plan by knowing accurately what the Lord has taught and commanded us to do. This is where Satan’s deception works the hardest. He wants us to be confused, bewildered, flustered, and simply “give up” on learning the commandments of the Lord. He will twist what the Lord has said. It is your responsibility to learn what the Lord has said, but it is so much easier to be ignorant and deceived. This is the reason that false teachers and false prophets are so dangerous to God’s people. Unbeknownst to them, they are laying the foundation for future deceptions by disputing what the Lord has supposedly said with “theological answers.” If you want to know something about God, go ask Him. Don’t ask another man. God describes Himself in the Scriptures many times and in many ways, using words and deeds. But most people would rather have another person tell them about God. They are not willing to learn (it’s too much work or it’s too much of a commitment) or grow in their relationship with the Lord (that means they are accountable for their actions). We do these same things in our relationships with our families and friends and it usually leads to mistakes.

Yet, if we could hear and learn the instructions of the Lord directly (by His Holy Spirit) for ourselves, then we could stop Satan’s deception in its tracks. Temptations would evaporate as soon as they appear, since we would be content with what God has given us to meet our needs. We would no longer find ourselves chasing after wants that are never satisfying.

…Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. JAM 4:7b-8a

Thirdly, we can defeat Satan’s plans by being honest with ourselves in defining our wants and needs. Needs are real and finite; they are measurable and specific. But wants and lusts can never be satisfied. Lust is like a fire; it has a life of its own and always seeking more. This is why the eyes play a direct role in lust and want. The eyes see something desirable and beautiful. Do your eyes then say to the brain, “Okay, enough. I’ve seen enough. I’m satisfied.” No, the eyes are always ready to blink and see more. Here is a tip on how to avoid most temptations. Look away!

A campfire never says, “Okay, those logs you gave really hit the spot. I am full and satisfied. I can’t possibly burn up another log.” No, of course not. The fire is always ready to get hotter and burn more. So it is with lusts in our lives. They burn and want to burn more.

God does not answer our prayers for wants (pleasures). He knows that He cannot satisfy a pleasure based in lust. He has pledged to meet our needs, not our wants (pleasures). James addressed this issue directly.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. JAM 4:1-3

The path of spiritual maturity requires that each person take responsibility to understand their own appetites, to recognize the difference between need and want (pleasure), to wisely pursue their needs and avoid chasing wants. In so doing, each person needs to also recognize their own weaknesses in relation to those wants. Temptation will come with those strong wants. Every person has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their appetites. It is common to all of us.

I don’t need to offer many examples here since we all experience these things. Anything that we desire beyond the need level that is repeatedly before us becomes a weakness and a temptation. For some it is about power and ego, controlling others, or seeking their own glory. An egotistical person is lusting after the pride of life. For others it is the comforts and pleasure of the flesh, whether it is excessive food, excessive drink, or something for their body’s appearance. And for some, it is sexual lust; sexual gratification is their incessant goal. Once you determine where your weakness is then you must set up additional protections and exercise self-control. Paul teaches us that every temptation, especially the ones that prey on our weaknesses, can be defeated. We defeat those temptations by escaping.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. 1CO 10:13

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and something Satan would like you to forget. We can ask God to assist us and strengthen us to follow His ways and keep His commandments. Paul teaches extensively that the works of the flesh (all of the natural appetites that are beyond the need level) are contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit. By pursuing the Spirit of God (walking in Him) we avoid the desires of the flesh, making it easier to resist Satan’s deceptions.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. GAL 5:16-17

He goes on to give you a simple inventory of those things that come from following the desires (wants) of the flesh.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. GAL 5:19-21

Following the desires of the flesh, seeking the desire of things, and lust all resulting in spiritual death. Then he shares a list of those attributes from following the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. GAL 5:22-24

An egotistic person needs to change his personal priorities (stop seeking only his needs and wants) and serve others (seek meeting the needs of others). A person tempted by the flesh may need to restrain himself in how much he eats or drinks or his/her approach to attire and grooming. A person who is tempted sexually may need to find activities that reduce temptation opportunities, such as restricting his associations to public settings rather than private settings. Let me share a quick personal observation here. I have discovered that if I can sense God’s presence with me in a situation, I rarely feel tempted to sin. One of my favorite Jewish proverbs on prayer goes like this: “It is better to talk to a woman and think of God than to talk to God and think of a woman.” Bring all idle thoughts into obedience to the Lord as well.

Like a child in a questionable setting who looks up and hides behind the presence of his parent, so we must learn to look up for God’s presence with us and then we are able to walk by the Spirit and cling to the Lord

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. DEU 13:4

When Yeshua was being tempted by Satan, He quoted only Scripture and held firm to what God had said. Satan tried to twist the Scriptures to tempt Him, but Yeshua prevailed against Satan using just the Scriptures. Here is the exchange between Yeshua and Satan in the three temptations. The temptations were an attempt to exploit a weakness in Yeshua in that moment, after 40 days fasting in the wilderness.

Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” MAT 4:1-4

Did you catch Satan’s attempt at deception? If You are the Son of God... Yeshua was the Son of God; that is not the question. Yeshua didn’t fall for it.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Yeshua said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” MAT 4:5-7

Again Satan tries the deception in another way, and again Yeshua does not fall for it.

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Yeshua said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. MAT 4:8-11

Satan tried to get God’s own Son to join with him by deception. Maybe he thought that the Son of God would fall since He was now in the flesh of a man, but thank God, God’s word and instruction prevailed against the deceit.

Satan’s plan to exploit the Son of God failed, but there was another person who he has chosen to be opposed to the Son of God. This is Satan’s plan for the end of the ages. We call the one chosen by Satan the antichrist (antimessiah).

I believe that the person of the antimessiah has fallen for the final temptation offered to the Messiah. The antimessiah will come believing that all of the kingdoms of the world and all its glory are to be his. He will come in the name and power of Satan. He won’t have power to do things but he will have influence and use intrigue for what he wants. The leaders of the world will be deceived and follow after him. But the end will be death and judgment upon them all.
To summarize, Satan wants to steal what is not his and destroy what he can’t have. Satan is shrewd, manipulating the truth and playing with our wants. The key to defeating his plans for us is to know what God has said, to understand where and how we are tempted, and to escape with God’s help. We need to understand that Satan is a liar and a deceiver. He will attempt to use the very words of God and even our own loved ones to find a path into you to deceive, but his plans can be defeated. He can’t make you do anything!

I hope that this word has strengthened you to fend off Satan’s plans in your life.