Thursday, October 27, 2005

Serpents and Scorpions

A few days ago I was rather rudely reminded of my lack of splendid isolation when I perceived on the floor of my cabin, shortly after awakening in the early morning hours, a scorpion positioned perilously close to my bare foot. I did manage—thank God—to carefully remove myself from harm’s way and to send the little monster to its forefathers via the impact of a suitably sturdy implement.

I thought of the words of Jesus: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19). Being unshod at the time, I deemed it imprudent literally to tread upon the beast, which would undoubtedly have envenomed me with its dying reflex, but the divine dictum lost none of it force thereby—I still had authority over its power, and it did not harm me.

We will probably never be without some intrusion or another of adverse elements in our lives, be they minor natural irritations or actual onslaughts of evil. But the Lord has promised his protection in the midst of it, even if our ultimate deliverance is not quite at hand. “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Since He hasn’t decided to take us out of the world, He has granted us protection from and authority over the spiritual serpents and scorpions that would seek to harm or destroy us.

We have to remember that this is the arena of our warfare: “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Eph. 6:12). We have not been given authority to tread on each other, though we seem to feel obliged to entertain those same hosts of wickedness by engaging in that very folly. We are called by God to be united with each other in order to present a strong and invincible front against the principalities and powers, the serpents and scorpions, who attempt to divide and conquer, to sow fear and suspicion and anger and lust. If we try to go it alone, we walk in the dark and get stung when we least expect it.

The Lord told his disciples to rejoice, not so much over their newfound authority over adverse powers, but in the fact that their names were written in Heaven. That is the chief cause of joy; all other gifts and victories are benefits deriving from our citizenship in Heaven. It’s great to see the devil fall from the sky like lightning, but the goal is to end up in that place where you’ll never see him again! We’re not there yet, but the Lord has given us the means to navigate the treacherous waters of this life and so arrive at Heaven’s safe harbor.

So keep your eyes open. Authority to tread on scorpions will not do you much good if your lack of vigilance enables its stealthy approach, and you end up noticing its presence only by the feel of its plunging stinger. How pitiful is the overcoming of an armed man in his sleep! The Lord has not taken us out of the world, but if we’re spiritually awake, we will be safe from the evil one. Tread on!