November 15, 2007

Scared of snakes?

When we were teens living on the family farm, my older brother and I spotted a garter snake in the very small creek that flowed between our house and barn. Jack said, “I wonder how hard it would be to catch one of these things?”

I replied, “It’s easy; just like this” as I made a swipe at the snake and caught it. Catching it so easily surprised me as much as him. I was also surprised that the snake was not slimy. (Where does that notion come from?) Instead, it was smooth and dry, even fresh out of the creek.

My third surprise was my brother’s reaction. I started toward him holding the snake and he began backing up. Realizing my new power, I chased him all over the yard with that 18" harmless snake. Now, fifty years later, he is still annoyed at me for exposing his fear of snakes.

It’s too bad that Eve in Eden had not shared his fear before she talked to a snake. (As creatures who had not yet sinned and who perfectly reflected the image of God, it is possible that Adam and Eve could communicate in some way with animals.)

Genesis 3:1 says, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree in the garden”?’”

Scripture later identifies this serpent as one of Satan’s disguises.

Satan was an angel created by God who decided he wanted to be “like the Most High” so rebelled and was cast out of heaven. He landed in Eden and offered Eve the same ambition. Forgetting that she was already made in His image, being like God made that tree look “good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” so she took the bait along with Adam. By their disobedience, sin entered the world and was passed (some say through their blood) to all generations.

After they sinned, God spoke to Adam who shifted blame to Eve. God turned to Eve who said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.

So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of our life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and your shall bruise His heel.’”

Since that fateful day in Eden, the features of that simple story of the first temptation and sin surface as fertility themes in pagan myths—with a serpent as a common denominator. Some pagan groups worship snakes and even consider this biblical symbol of sin and death as their source of life, twisting and altering the biblical story and elevating serpents to gods.

Satan has another beast-like designations. He is called a ‘roaring lion’ who roams about seeking people to devour. He is also called Abaddon, accuser of our brethren, adversary, angel of the bottomless pit, Apollyon, Beelzebub, Belial, the devil, the enemy, the evil spirit, father of lies, the gates of hell, the great red dragon, the liar, a lying spirit, Lucifer, the murderer, that old serpent, the power of darkness, the prince of this world, prince of the power of the air, ruler of the darkness of this world, serpent, spirit that works in the children of disobedience, tempter, the god of this world, unclean spirit, and the wicked one.

Some would like to dismiss the notion of Satan as a real being, but the Bible does not allow that. This evil spirit disguised himself as a serpent who deceived, but he can also appear as someone good. 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 warns of false apostles and deceitful workers who “transform themselves into apostles of Christ.” Then it says, “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

Satan is a great deceiver whose sole plan is to usurp God and His role in my lifes. He can twist Scripture, pervert my motives, and deceive me into thinking disobedience is not only the right thing but is actually the will of God. For that reason I am told to “know his devices” and to resist him and his lies.

Christians have the power to do it. We are given spiritual weapons, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God as our sword. We also have the example of Jesus, who, when tempted by Satan to worship and obey him rather than God, thwarted him each time with Scripture.

James 4:7-10 offers me the best way to fight him: “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 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.

These verses have a sequence. When I’m submitted to God, I will be able to resist the devil. When I resist, he has to flee. When I am close to God, I never have to fight my own battles, and the way to stay close is by humbly confessing every sin, keeping short accounts with Him. I need Jesus. Because of Him, it is the serpent who must flee. Even though I know his power to ruin my life and that he is no harmless garter snake, I also know the power of Jesus Christ, who “through death has destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and released those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Next time the subject of snakes comes up between my brother and me, I must remind him that he didn’t have to run from that garter snake, but he ought to be on his guard around that other one.

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