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Alert Against the Adversary


Some of you might be familiar with the motion picture The Ghost and the Darkness. In the late 1800’s, the British Empire was trying to build a railroad across East Africa between Kenya and Uganda. One of the big obstacles they faced was a pair of man-eating lions. The lions would lurk in the tall grass near the work sites and camps, waiting for workers to be alone and vulnerable. One estimate says that these two lions killed 135 people. Would you want to work on that railroad or sleep in an unprotected camp, knowing what was waiting in the tall grass?
Peter warns us of a greater threat lurking in the “weeds.” “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
A greater threat than the Tsavo man-eaters portrayed in The Ghost and the Darkness, greater even than COVID-19, is your adversary or enemy, the devil. He is on the prowl in the tall grass, looking for his moment to strike. He is looking for weakness. He is waiting for you to be off guard and spiritually wandering off from God’s Word for his moment to strike.
The devil, or Satan, was once an angel of light, one of God’s holy angels. Isaiah calls him Lucifer, meaning “light-bearer” (Isaiah 14:12-15). Ezekiel may be alluding to him in Chapter 28, where he speaks of him as having been “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” adorned with every precious stone (Ezekiel 28:12-19).
Yet Lucifer was “puffed up with pride” (1 Timothy 3:6), and with his pride came a haughty spirit (Proverbs 16:18). Satan thought he was greater than God and led a band of angels in rebellion against Him. But the creature is not greater than its Creator. Thus Satan and his evil angels were defeated, and heaven was no longer their home. Instead, God prepared the fires of hell for them (Matthew 25:41).
Since Satan could not defeat his Creator, he has been attacking God’s creation. He lies in the weeds, appealing to people’s pride with the same deceptive lie that appealed to him. “You can be like God,” he told our first parents in the Garden (Genesis 3:5). He continues that lie today: “You can be like God, deciding what is truth for you, what is right and wrong.” Through the pride of belly-serving false teachers, he lies and twists the Word of God, leading people to stray from their faith.
Thus Peter warns each of us to “be sober, be vigilant.” Satan is lurking in the weeds waiting for his moment to strike with lies, and to appeal to your sinful pride.
In East Africa, Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson hunted and killed the two lions called Ghost and Darkness in 1898. While there were many more lions in Africa, railroad workers could rest easy knowing the man-eaters had been killed.
By dying on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus crushed Satan and left him powerless. This accuser has been thrown down (Revelation 12:10). Even though we confess that we are sinners, Satan can no longer accuse us of sin, because Jesus already suffered for our sins. God remembers our sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34). Through Christ, death no longer has power over us because just as Jesus rose from the dead, we too shall rise. The writer to Hebrews says of Jesus’ death, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
(Hebrews 2:14-15)
Dear brothers and sisters, be on alert against the lies of this lion on the prowl. Yet you may humbly rejoice that through your faith in Christ, he cannot prevail against you.
Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done!
One little word can fell him. Amen! (TLH 262:3)

Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.