God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28).
People in the Old Testament knew a little about the devil, devil spirits, and spiritual influences. The prophets also spoke about the adversary (Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:13-19), although it was often cloaked in figurative language (Ezekiel 28:12). People were aware that devil spirits did affect mankind negatively. However, it was the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that really exposed the network and functioning of the devil-spirit realm. He clarified what the devil’s will is, describing him as a thief and detailing his objectives.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Look at the emphatic way it is stated: “The thief cometh not, but for to….” John 10:10 uncovers the sole reason for the thief’s actions. Jesus, in contrast, came declaring the one true God so that we could be victorious over the devil-spirit realm and could live more abundantly. He taught his disciples how to be victorious over their personal adversary, giving them power over the spirit realm.
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. 23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
The Old Testament prophets would have loved to know what Jesus Christ was able to teach his disciples. However, the full exposure of the snare did not happen until after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and the sending of the power of the holy spirit on the day of Pentecost.
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Although the believers in the Old Testament were not fully cognizant of the spiritual forces at work, they could still express what was going on by using this idiom of permission. Furthermore, and important to note, God specifically instructed His people on occasion to not even mention the name of false gods.
And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.
That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them.
Therefore, instead of saying that the devil or Belial did something, the people would say that the Lord permitted it to be done. This figure allowed people to explain what was going on and still portray God as sovereign and in control of the situation.
The Books of Samuel are written from man’s point of view, revealing man’s limited awareness of the devil-spirit realm. In II Samuel we find the idiom of permission used in speaking of the numbering of Israel.
II Samuel 24:1:
And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he [the Lord] moved David [permitted David to be moved] against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
However, Chronicles, written from God’s point of view and with the proper understanding of the spiritual forces at work in the world, states the literal truth.
I Chronicles 21:1:
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
There is no contradiction here. Understanding the idiom of permission dissolves the apparent contradiction.
Another example of the use of this idiom in light of man’s limited understanding is seen in the Book of Job. God had the account of Job recorded for one major purpose: to show us the goodness of God and the wickedness of the devil.
And [Job] said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
This verse appears to be in direct contrast to what the Book of James tells us about God’s nature.
Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
There is no variableness with God. He is not fickle. His will does not fluctuate. He does not contradict Himself. He does not give and then decide to take away. Again the proper understanding of the idiom is necessary: “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath permitted it to be taken away.” Job knew that it was his own fear that brought the devastation upon him.
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
As we read the account of Job, God adds details necessary to our understanding. However, Job was not fully aware of the spiritual forces involved. He did not have the luxury of reading Job 1:6-12 like we do. Job knew he had an adversary, but he did not initially know much about him. He lamented, later on in the account, that he did not know more about his adversary.
Oh that one would hear me behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
It was the devil who stole Job’s health and killed Job’s children. It was the devil who destroyed Job’s reputation and wanted to ultimately destroy Job by getting him to curse God, to blame God for all the evil he suffered. However, Job never cursed God. In the midst of the devastation of the adversary’s attack on Job, he never succumbed as the devil wanted him to. He never attributed folly, or evil, to God (Job 1:22; 2:10). Job knew that none of the evil and hurt that had befallen him came from God. Since Job is the first book of the Bible that God had written, we could consider this the oldest and most foundational lesson of all.
In addition to the Old Testament believers’ limited knowledge of the adversary contributing to the frequent use of this idiom, the second major factor was the relationship between God’s law and man’s freedom of will. We will handle that tomorrow.