Canaanites: Types of the Devil
"And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and will deliver him into thine hand. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
"And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. And they showed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword and there was not a man left." (Judges 4:1-16.)
How to Overcome the Devil
The Canaanites, with Sisera as the captain of their hosts, are figurative of the devil and his power, and we shall see in the victory of Deborah and Barak the way in which the devil has been, and still may be, a defeated foe.
There are several features in the story which prove that we have the devil's domination and defeat before us.
- Sisera was the great leader, and his name means, "he that binds with chains," and we are well aware that the great captive-maker is Satan himself. He was finally destroyed by that which was very weak in itself - his head was bruised, even to death, by a woman and a nail of the tent, and JESUS, the woman's Seed, has bruised the serpent's head. Men despised Him, because He was meek and lowly; His death was weakness and folly in their eyes, but -
"By that which seemed defeat,
He won the meed and crown,
Trod all our foes beneath His feet,
By being trodden down."
- It was a woman who raised the song of thanksgiving at Sisera's overthrow, and this links our story with the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and of Goliath in the valley of Elah. Each of these incidents sets forth different phases of the Lord's victory over Satan, but they all have this one striking feature - the women appreciate the greatness of the triumph. At the defeat of Pharaoh "Miriam . . . took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously," Ex. 15: 21. At the overthrow of Goliath "the women answered one another as they played, and said . . . David has slain his ten thousands," 1 Sam. 18: 7. And now, at the defeat of Sisera, Deborah sings "I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel," Judges 5: 3. This sets forth the grace of God most beautifully, for the woman was the first to fall before the wiles of Satan, and the woman is typical of the Church - the Bride of Christ, which is made up of all who have believed the gospel of our salvation. None will appreciate the triumph of the Lord over death and the devil like this ransomed host and from them will rise the fullest and sweetest song of praise. The angels must rejoice at Satan's overthrow, but we, who have been deceived by his lies, and known the bitterness of his bondage, can enter most truly into the triumph of the Lord over him. We can say, "Bless ye the Lord!" For "where sin abounded grace does much more abound."
- In Deborah's song we have, for the first time in Scripture, the expression, "captivity led captive," which undoubtedly refers to the Lord's victory over Satan, and of which we will speak presently.
- "I am the light of the world," John 8:12; John 9:5.
- "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," John 5:17.
"I work," John 9:4.
- "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," John 10:11.
"I lay down my life," John 10:17.
How Satan works.
It will be well for us clearly to understand what Satan's real work is, and how he has succeeded in enslaving the human race. From the very outset his effort has been to blind the eyes of men to the true character of God, so that instead of loving and praising God they might hate and curse Him, and instead of walking in the highway of His will they might wander in the dark and crooked paths of their own lawless desire. And so, in the story before us, we do not get the song of praise until Sisera is overthrown; and Deborah has to confess that, throughout the twenty years of Israel's captivity to the King of Canaan, the highways were unoccupied and travellers walked in the crooked paths, ch. 5: 6.
We know that man was made upright, and so long as he remained faithful to his Creator he was possessed of everything that could make his life one thrilling anthem. God beheld the work of His hand and saw that it was very good, for His noblest creature stood before Him as a well-tuned instrument of praise. But Satan succeeded in turning men from God and light and liberty and song. He looked upon that fair scene with eyes of malice, and, that he might spoil it all, lied concerning God. He maligned God's character to the woman, and thus proved his right to the title: "A liar, and the father of it," John 8: 44. His proposal was: "Break God's command, and ye shall be as gods," which meant, God is not as good as He pretends to be, listen to me, and you will do better for yourselves than God has done for you; put self first, and leave God and His will out of your reckoning. The temptation succeeded; the lie was believed; sin came in and light went out. The chord was lost, the music died out, and man, that fair instrument of praise, lay broken and spoiled in the power of the foe. It seemed as though God had met with defeat and that Satan held the field, for he made the heart of man, in which God ought to have been enshrined, his citadel, and succeeded in enlisting men in his rebellion against God; and to this day he keeps them in captivity by keeping them in darkness; for we read: "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them," 2 Cor. 4: 3, 4. And our Lord declared: "Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved," Luke 8: 12. So that we see very clearly that Satan gained his power over men at the beginning by blinding them to the truth of God's character, and he keeps them in bondage in the same way.
How Satan's power has been overthrown.
But how has Satan's power been overthrown? There are three things which were prominent in connection with Sisera's defeat. First of all we have Deborah. Deborah means "activity," or, "like a bee." She was wedded to Lapidoth, which means "light" and in Deborah's song she finds much cause for thanksgiving in the fact that the people willingly offered themselves. "When the people willingly offered themselves," ch. 5: 2. "The governors of Israel that offered themselves willingly," ch. 5: 9. "A people that jeopardized their lives unto the death," ch. 5: 18.
Here then are the three things which are essential to victory over Satan: (1) Light. (2) Activity. (3) The willing offering. These three things were seen most blessedly in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He, by them, overcame the devil completely. It is in the Gospel of John that we have the statement: "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out," John 12: 31; and it is in the same Gospel that we have these three things of which I have spoken made prominent: -
Darkness is ignorance of God, and, when Jesus came to earth, gross darkness covered the people. He came to declare God's true character, and to make known His heart of love. But this light was not passive; it shone forth in all the activities of God's beloved Son. Light and activity were wedded together in Him, nor can they be divorced. We see that light shining in the works and words of Jesus. He fed the multitude when it fainted with hunger. He gave relief where sorrow held sway. The sick received health, and the dead, life. He blessed the children and wept over sinners; but in all these things He was but displaying the character of God. The words and works were all His Father's, so that He could say: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," John 14: 9. Now the light that shone forth in the activities of His grace was for the deliverance of men from the thraldom of Satan, who had held them in darkness and ignorance of God; and the shining of this light was not in vain, for some could say: "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," John 1: 14. But more was needful than the display of God in His life: He had to become a willing offering, for only by His death could the prince of this world be cast out and the power of death taken out of his hand. It was only by the death of Christ that the light of God's love could reach you and me; but in that death the light of love, the activity of infinite compassion, and the offering up of the devoted sacrifice were combined.
Let us recall that notable scene. When Pilate brought Jesus forth wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and, presenting Him to the multitude, exclaimed: "Behold the Man!" - the world was on its trial. Did it, in that supreme moment, return to its allegiance to its Creator, and signify such a return by bowing down in lowly submission to His Son who stood before it? Oh, no! Instead they cried: "Away with Him, crucify Him" "Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away," John 19: 16. In that culminating act of rebellion we see how Satan dominated men. They were so completely under his yoke that, there and then, they attempted the murder of their God.
I am firmly of the opinion that if the Lord had used His power, and destroyed that devil-deceived and rebellious multitude by the breath of His mouth, Satan's object would have been gained; for then would men have remained in ignorance for ever as to God's love, and sin would have proved greater than God's grace. All the powers of darkness were marshalled against the Lord, and men were so blinded and driven by those same powers that nothing would still their frenzy but His blood. Did the devil hope that that would be the unpardonable sin? and that in pouring out his own inveterate hatred against the Son of God he was involving the whole race of men in his own irretrievable and eternal ruin? How complete then has been his defeat, for instead of Jesus manifesting His glory as the Judge of all, we read, that, "He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha," John 19: 17. He went forth that the blood which sinful men were determined to shed might be efficacious for their redemption.
"They led Him away:" in that their guilt reached its flood tide. "He went forth:" in this was manifested the great victory of divine love over human hate. He was not dragged forth, nor driven forth: He went forth. No man took His life from Him: He laid it down Himself. The shouts of the rabble smote His ear, and, with a holy sensitiveness, He keenly felt it all, and yet no thought of saving Himself was in His heart. In majestic lowliness He went forth, bearing His cross, to accomplish that for which He came.
He knew, to its last bitterness, all that the cross meant. He was not taken by surprise, nor did He go forth on the impulse of a moment. On the night that was passed in Gethsemane's garden He had looked into the darkness and had fully counted the cost. He had talked of it on the holy mount with Moses and Elias. This hour had been planned in the council chamber of Eternity ere ever He came, and He could not draw back. There was no resistance, no regret, and every step He took towards Golgotha, shook the kingdom of the devil. And "there they crucified Him;" and the crucified Christ is God's answer to the devil's lie in Eden. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3: 16. If God had left us to reap the bitter harvest of our rebellion and sin, we could not have complained; but, instead of this, He undertook to dispel the darkness and overthrow the power of the devil, by this mighty and convincing proof of His love to us. Satan had made men believe that God was a hard master, gathering where He had not strawed. God has proved that He is full of love by giving the very best gift that heaven contained, even His own beloved Son, to bear the penalty of our sin, and it is when the glorious light of this love shines into the hearts of men that Satan's thraldom comes to an end. Jesus was lifted up upon the cross, and that lifting up has declared the whole truth, and we who believe it have been drawn to Him. He has become our great attractive centre, and the devil no longer holds us as his prey. The lie is laid bare, the darkness of ignorance past, and God has triumphed; for the prince of this world is cast out of the hearts of those who believe. He no longer holds them as his citadel. They have surrendered themselves to the God whose perfect love has been demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
How great is the splendour of Calvary! By its glorious light we have been awakened from our night sleep as by the rising sun at morn. We have been compelled to exclaim: "Then God did love us, after all!" The entrance of His word has given light, and with light has come liberty. The curtains of darkness have been torn asunder, and our souls have stepped forth into the day.
Science has revealed to us the fact that light, like sound, is caused by vibrations, and with all vibration there is music, and if the auditory nerve were as sensitive as the optical we should hear the music of the light as well as see its beauty. Certainly the light of God's love brings sweetest melody with it even the melody of heaven - and the chord that was lost in Eden is found again; only the music is sweeter, the strain higher, and the glory of the praise more wonderful. As we gaze upon Him, who is now upon the throne, and in whose face all the brightness of God's grace shines, our hearts are kept in tune, and our whole souls vibrate in responsive praise to the love of God.
Nor have we any doubt as to the completeness of the triumph of Jesus, for He is alive from the dead, and His glorious words to us are: "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death," Rev. 1: 17, 18.
Since the Lord has gained so signal a victory over Satan, it is the privilege of those who have been delivered from his power to overcome as well to be "more than conquerors, through Him that loved us." And if we turn again to the overthrow of Sisera we shall be helped in seeing how this can come about.
Barak was called from Kedesh.
He dwelt at Kedesh, which means, "sanctuary, - the place of refuge." It was, in fact, the first-named of the cities of refuge which were set apart for the manslayers in Israel, and in which such dwelt securely. Whether Barak had been compelled to seek refuge there from the avenger of blood or not we cannot say; but it is certainly true that it is from the position typified in Kedesh that we go forth to the conflict with the foe. Christ is the true and great antitype of Kedesh. Death was the penalty due to our sins, and we were held in bondage by the terror of it, but we have fled for refuge to the only hope of death-doomed sinners - the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we have salvation and a perfect deliverance from the fear of death. The devil can no longer hold us in abject bondage by the thought of it, for Jesus died "to deliver those who, through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." And, being safe in Christ, - dwelling in the true Kedesh, - we can face the enemy boldly, and take up the song of triumph: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Cor. 15: 55, 56.
But our great foe is full of wiles. The activities of Satan are tireless, and many an ambush will he lay in which to ensnare us; and, if we are to be overcomers, we shall need to be sober, vigilant, and watchful.
How we overcome.
There are those who imagine that the Christian pathway is one of ease; that, since the future is all secured for them, all must be peace for ever, and that they may dream themselves into heaven without trouble or exercise. How mistaken are such. We have peace with God, and may always have peace as to our circumstances, but there must be no peace with the foe. We are exhorted to -
- "Be strong in the Lord ... "
- "Put on the whole armour of God ... "
- "Stand against the wiles of the devil."
- "Wrestle against ... principalities and powers."
- "Give no place to the devil."
- "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
- "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith."
This is not the language of the couch of down, but of the battle-field, and we need to be fully equipped if we are to be overcomers in the fight.
You will remember that three things have already been made prominent in Sisera's overthrow, namely: Light, Activity, and the Willing Sacrifice. These three things, so perfectly displayed in the Lord, will need to be reproduced in us if we are to become overcomers.
- We overcome the devil by the word of God.
Our text for the first shall be: "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one," 1 John 2: 14. This is light, for the Scripture saith: "The entrance of Thy words giveth light," Ps. 119: 130. The young men in the Christian sense of the word know God in His true character. This light is in them, and they are fortified and made strong by it, and the devil can not shift them from their position. They are enabled, moreover, by the word of God, to overcome him - to make him flee from them. The devil can only overcome by darkness and lies, but these must fly away before the light and the truth.
The Scriptures must be our constant study, and so shall we be able to build ourselves up in our most holy faith: then the truth of God will be our shield and buckler. It was by the word of God that Jesus overcame the devil, and as God's word is hid in our hearts, so shall we have it ever ready to meet the foe.
Thousands who have really trusted in the Saviour are still greatly harassed by the devil, and are kept in constant doubt and fear, because the full light of the gospel is not theirs. If it were his attacks would be in vain. When the devil brought the long catalogue of Luther's sins before him, in the hope of overcoming and affrighting him, his reply was: "The blood of Christ, His Son, cleanseth me from all sin." And with that blessed truth abiding in him he was able to overcome the devil.
But there are others, who, in times of stress and trial are attacked by the enemy in another way. He would tempt them to doubt the love of God towards them. "How can God love me and permit me to be in such trying circumstances?" is the question in many hearts. A Christian of our acquaintance, who was thus tempted, exclaimed: "Though He slay me I will trust Him!" and the devil was put to flight. But, if all Christians who are tempted, truly believed that they are loved by an unchanging and almighty love, would they give way to the temptation and allow doubts and murmurings and complaints a place in their lives? No, for their hearts would be garrisoned by the knowledge that, if God loves them perfectly, that which He permits must be the best for them, and so Satan would have no power to make them doubt the God whom they know.
We must remember that Satan gains the victory when he makes us doubt God. It was thus that he triumphed in Eden; it is thus he triumphs still; and only as the truth of God abides in us are we strong to resist his attacks.
- We overcome the devil by the activities of divine grace.
It would be wrong for us to sit at ease, and, being blessed ourselves, to eat our morsel alone. To do so would be undoubted proof of our complete failure to be what God would have us, and thus also prove that Satan had gained an advantage over us; for Satan triumphs if we falsify the character of God, which we are here to display.
"As My Father hath sent me, even so send I you," John 20: 21, are wonderful words for us to listen to, and set the high standard for our life down here. It is God's intention that we should be kept in the activities of His grace, showing forth His character in that corner in which He has put us.
I know that some people are very fond of harking back to Luke 10: 38-42, and putting Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet, in contrast to Martha, who busied herself in service; but the story is often set in the wrong light, and the interpretation is in consequence very much fogged. Let us go back and consider the Lord's words that precede this incident. In verse 37, there are two words which we will put in capitals - they are, "GO" and "DO." You could not find two smaller words than these in the English language, but it would be impossible to find any more forceful and vigorous. They pulsate with life; they vibrate with energy; and they are the command of Jesus. But, He adds "likewise," and as the meaning of that qualification forces itself home, we see at once the necessity of sitting at His feet. How can we go and do like Him unless we learn of Him? It was here that Martha failed. She had got the words "go" and "do," but she forgot the qualifying word "likewise," and as a consequence her service was marred by worry and trouble, and she served in a cross and carping spirit. Mary's place at Jesus' feet must indeed be ours. It must always be the attitude of our souls. But be assured that those who sit there will most truly and constantly be found in the activities of the grace of God.
This grace must first show itself in the innermost circle, amongst our fellow Christians. If we fail here we shall be terribly crippled in the wider circle of the world: and that the devil is anxious to trip us in this inner circle is evident from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. There was in that church a brother who had grievously sinned, but repentance had done its work, and he was full of sorrow and longed to be restored to the comfort and fellowship of God's people. But they evidently kept him at arm's length, and were not ready to forgive him. The keen-sighted apostle sees in this reluctance of theirs a wile of the devil, and he writes earnestly to them to let grace flow out, or Satan would get an advantage. Had they done other than that urged by Paul they would have failed to display God's character, and the repentant brother would have been swallowed up with sorrow, and Satan would have triumphed over both. 2 Cor. 2.
It had evidently forced itself upon Peter that this was the spirit in which the Lord intended that His disciples should act when He said: "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times but, Until seventy times seven." Matt. 18: 22. There must be no limit to the activities of grace in this circle. We must not be weary in well-doing, but ever keep in mind that word "likewise."
Let us awake to the fact that harshness and legality in our dealings one with the other spells victory for Satan. Let us also keep in mind that gentleness, forbearance and love are for the glory of God.
But these activities also manifest themselves in seeking the good of souls. When Christ ascended on high He fulfilled the prophetic song of Deborah and led captivity captive. From that place of power He has bestowed gifts upon men, for the edifying and building up of His own people, so that in spite of all the enemy's attempts to throw them down, and his cunning craftiness, they might not be deceived by him or turned away from the truth, Eph. 4: 9-14. It is within the reach of all who are near the Lord to carry sweet thoughts of Christ about to others, with the result that joy takes the place of depression in the hearts of those who hear, and the temptations of Satan thus lose their power.
God's grace to the world.
It is our privilege also to tread in the steps of Jesus, our Lord and Pattern, and carry to those who have fallen beneath the power of the devil that which can completely deliver them. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty and the lawful captives delivered?" was asked long ago. We have the answer to that question to-day, for the gospel concerning God's Son has delivering power, and every soul saved is a fresh bit of territory wrenched from Satan's domination - a fresh bit of territory added to the Lord's kingdom. How glorious to see the dark flag hauled down and the devil driven out to see the Lord come in and take possession and use that new bit of territory as a vantage point from which fresh victories may be gained.
This is the Lord's own work, but He is pleased to put it into the hands of those whom He has delivered, for we read:
- "How shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14.
- "They so spake that a great multitude believed," Acts 14:1.
- "He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins," James 5: 20.
But the conflict is real and fierce, and foot by foot the devil will contend for the ground that he holds. We must realize that we are confronted by his power, then shall we turn away from any fancied wisdom and strength of our own to the Lord alone. We shall desire earnestly to carry out the glad tidings, but we shall seek constantly the place where true power and wisdom are to be found - even the presence of the Lord - and so shall we prove that dependence on Him alone is the way of victory.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked [one]. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel," Eph. 6: 20.
The gospel of the grace of God makes way for that which is behind it, and with this end in view, Christians are exhorted to wrestle and pray; for the ultimate result of the preaching of the gospel is the triumph of what God is in His nature and activities, and the utter confounding of the enemy.
"Curse ye Meroz." Are any who profess Christianity indifferent as to this conflict? Let them hear the solemn words: "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty," Judges 5: 23. Oh! why did Reuben abide by the sheep-fold while the great conflict waged? Why, oh, why do Christians to-day, loving ease and comfort, abide in the safety of the sheepfolds, when God's glorious gospel is going forth, and is opposed by all the power and ingenuity of Satan? Surely where such indifference holds sway the devices of Satan have been successful, and he has got an advantage. The Lord grant us grace so that we may forget ourselves, and go forth to the conflict, led by the light of the knowledge of Himself and the activities of His grace, until the morning dawns, when all His enemies shall perish, and when those that love Him shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. Judges 5: 31.
- We overcome Satan by being ready to sacrifice ourselves.
Now, if the devil fails to make us doubt the love and goodness of God, and to hinder us from seeking the good of others, he will endeavour to overcome us by making us think much of ourselves - putting self first instead of God. This was the first evidence of departure from God in Eden. Eve thought of herself, and when she put forth her hand to take the fruit of the tree, she proved that she had begun to love SELF rather than God, and this has always been natural to men since that sad day. It was this that Satan cast in God's face when he said in the presence of the Almighty: "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face," Job 2: 4, 5. Satan understood well the character of the fall. He knew that men were utterly selfish; that they would sacrifice everything, even their God, to save themselves.
In the Lord Jesus Christ, our Pattern and our Guide, we have a perfect example. He willingly sacrificed everything, even His life. When tempted by Satan to pity Himself and refuse the cross, He maintained His blessed pathway of perfect devotion to God. He loved the Lord, His God, with all his heart, His soul, His strength; and His perfect answer to the great temptation was: "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"
The saints of God have the victory through Him, and Satan will be bruised beneath their feet. We have the character of this victory made plain in Rev. 12: 10, 11: "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." Here, indeed, is victory over Satan, for here are those who, in spite of all his subtlety and temptations, loved God better than themselves, and willingly laid down their lives for His testimony. God was more to them than life itself. This is God's triumph over Satan in the hearts of His people. They love God: but this is the result of His love to them, as manifested in the blood of the Lamb. That blood is the undeniable token to us of a love that would overcome every opposing force; a love that could not be quenched by the many waters of death. And this love so triumphs over them and takes captive their hearts, that it, and the truth of the God whose love it is, becomes everything to them - all else is of no account. Thus it was with the martyrs, who sang their songs of triumph amid the flames at the stake. Thus it will ever be where the love of God holds sway.
But, how do we stand in this matter? these days we are not called upon to go to actual martyrdom for Christ's sake, yet it is our privilege every day to prove that we love Him better than ourselves. Is not this the secret of true discipleship? Do we not find it set forth in the Lord's words? "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple," Luke 14: 26, 27.
"Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it," Mark 8: 34, 35. There is here not self-denial, but the complete denial of self - the constant sacrificing of self, if you will, for bearing the cross means this; and in so doing - in losing our lives thus - we tread in the footsteps of the One who was ever victorious, for He -
"Trod all His foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down."
As we tread this path we are more than conquerors through Him. "What is it to be more than a conqueror?" was the question asked. "To kill six men and be ready to kill a seventh," was the reply given. But, was this the right answer? Ah, no! but exactly the reverse. It is to be killed six times ourselves and be ready then to be killed again. "For Thy sake we are killed [not killing] all the day long," Rom. 8: 36. When we are thus prepared to sacrifice ourselves for His sake, we have the victory, and God is glorified in us.
But see what precedes and follows the verse quoted, and you will then understand the secret of this victory, and see how it is possible for us, who are by nature always self-centred, to rejoice in suffering. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword?" ver. 35. None of these physical sufferings can separate us from His love, though oft-times our souls may lose the sense of it. Then we get downcast and prone to murmur in the midst of trial: and thus Satan gains an advantage. But, if our hearts are right, and we are dependent upon the Lord, our great Intercessor, the tribulation does but drive us closer to Him, and we are thus made to prove afresh the blessedness of that love which is greater than the greatest trial. Then can we glory in tribulation: then do the dews of sorrow shine like unto precious gems, and we are content and happy with God's way for us, and are true overcomers. Then follows the blessed conclusion: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," verses 38, 39. If the first list are physical trials in which we need the love of Christ as our support, here are spiritual foes, and against these God Himself is opposed. They cannot separate us from His love, for His love is greater and mightier than them all. All the power of these spiritual things was marshalled to separate us from the love of God and to hold us in bondage, but the cross of Christ destroyed their dominion, and through His precious death, the love of God has secured us in spite of them all, and since this is a glorious fact we need not fear. Oh, may the light of this matchless love so fill and move our hearts that we may be always ready to be killed all the day long for Jesus' sake, and so be more than conquerors through Him that loved us.