Fleeing Serpent

About eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah looked into the distant future, by the omniscience of God the Holy Spirit Who inspired Him. The prophet foretold the day of resurrection and the final judgment. He also prophesied “In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1). This is of course one of the Bible’s several statements about the ultimate demise of Satan, who is called the serpent.

One reason Isaiah sees him as the fleeing serpent is because that is what he continually being forced to do: flee before the inexorable onslaught of the army of the LORD and its Divine Captain (Joshua 5:14ff). The evil one is ever making defensive maneuvers. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, i.e. His people (Matthew 16:18).

Ancient cities were surrounded by walls. The walls had large, well defended gates. An attacking enemy would assail the gates, knowing that if he eliminated them, the battle was all but won. So Christ’s statement pictures the forces of evil as a besieged ancient city, with the forces of the kingdom of God on the offensive from without.

Christ’s temptation by Satan in the wilderness concludes with the serpent fleeing. “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Even so, every Christian has a promise to which he can cling when enduring temptation: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

A fit man armed with a sturdy stick might resist his neighbor’s vicious, loose dog. A woman might resist an unwanted suitor by simply ignoring him. But sticks don’t scare the devil, and he is too shameless to depart if he is ignored. How then do we resist him?

In the first place, we must recognize that as Christians, we are living in constant spiritual warfare. Our standing orders are to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). The tour of duty is temporary, but only because this earthly life is temporary. It is a lifelong war. Believers who don’t even recognize that God’s kingdom – their kingdom – is at war are hardly prepared to make the enemy flee.

In the second place, as indicated above, it is not by earthly weapons, physical or psychological, that we fight. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Third, we must be armed. After describing the panoply of the Christian’s armor in Ephesians 6, Paul tells us of two offensive weapons: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer.

Just as the LORD’s severe sword shall ultimately destroy Leviathan the fleeing serpent, so the LORD incarnate showed us how to wield that wondrous sword through His temptation. Every assault of Satan was skillfully parried with God’s precepts. This sword is not carried in a scabbard, but in the heart. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:1). An ancient warrior had to keep his sword sharp and rust free. Your sword, Christian, is kept sharp and rust free as you hear the Word preached, read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it. Attempts at resistance are futile without this.

On an occasion when the disciples could not cast out a demon, they asked Jesus why. He replied “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Just like having the Word on the heart, devotion to prayer is essential if we are to resist the enemy and watch him flee.

Are you keeping yourself in the Word, and praying without ceasing, soldier?

Previously published elsewhere, October 11, A.D. 2015

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