October 18, 2012

Escaping from the bird-catcher

Catching a bird seems to me difficult, but I’m not a bird-catcher. This was a common occupation in Bible times, even an amusement in Egypt. In Israel, these fowlers supplied the demand for birds used as caged pets, in sacrifice, and for food.

They used many methods such as a bow and sling or one of four types of net. Some used snares or springy twigs, clap-boards and decoys, such as a partridge in a cage whose cry attracted other birds. These were then trapped with a sticky substance smeared on a stick. Those snared were put into cages and crates that held them until they were sold or destroyed. 

The psalmist and other Bible writers spoke of fowlers in a metaphor that illustrates the deadly traps of spiritual enemies, chiefly Satan and his demonic forces. Yet God is with His people to protect and deliver.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence… (Psalm 91:1–3)

If I were a bird, I would want to be aware of the types of traps used by a fowler so that I could avoid being captured. As a Christian, I also want to be aware so I can avoid being Satan’s pet or experience destruction of my spiritual freedom and effectiveness. Paul wrote, obedience is important toward this awareness. He said to forgive others, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Spurgeon preached that the fowler's snare often looks like pleasure, profit, and advantage. For a bird, it could be seed scattered on the ground that draws it into the snare. Satan uses alluring temptations to beguile me. I might be thinking something pleasant is okay, but it could be that very pleasure that makes it dangerous. 

Satan always gilds his poisons. He knows what appeals to people and can make the destructive look innocent and the most normal hide the grossest of sin. He dangles pleasures so he can trap God’s people and put us in a cage. 

This warning is not to make aesthetics of us, causing us to avoid all pleasure, but to put us on guard with those things that are enjoyable. Job did not forbid the feasting of his children but said, "I will offer a sacrifice, lest my sons should have sinned in their hearts, and should have cursed God foolishly." Satan’s snares are more often connected with some pleasure or profit, but his end is not to please but destroy. 

God’s deliverance might come before I step into the trap.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

He also delivers should I fail to take that way of escape. All I need to do is realize my folly and cry out to Him, because He promised to help me.

When he calls to me, I will answer (her); I will be with (her) in trouble; I will rescue (her) and honor (her). (Psalm 91:15)

Today’s devotional reading warns me about the little things, the hidden traps and nets set to entangle me and ruin my walk with God. Great sins can frighten me from being trapped, but it is easier to escape them than the craftily hidden snares.

Temptations are everywhere. Satan can lure me in riches or poverty, sickness or strength, prosperity or adversity, friendship or loneliness, work or idleness. The unwary can be easily captured, but so can the wise and the watchful. Little things that seem hardly worth guarding against are strong enough to hold me or hinder me. I need continually reliance upon my Savior and not on my own abilities. 

Father, being a Christian puts me into a spiritual battle. While I’m to wear spiritual armor and be strong in You, I’m also aware that I cannot save myself from the dangers of temptation and sin, or from the lies of the fowler. I need You. I am thankful that You are both my Fortress where I can hide from the bird-catcher, and my Deliverer who will rescue me from his snares.

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