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7 of Satan's devices...with Examples from the Bible

7 of Satan’s devices: with examples from the Bible
7 of Satan’s devices: wiles, snares, and strategies to make us doubt, discourage us, and steal our joy. Overcome them with the Word of God.

7 of Satan's Devices

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. – St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:11

Paul warns the Corinthians against Satan regarding his “devices.” The Greek word has also been translated as "wiles" and could mean "contrivances," "techniques," "stratagems," "plans," "procedures,” or “trickery.”

It stands in contrast to St. Peter’s presentation of the devil as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” - 1 Peter 5:8 The devices are intellectual, spiritual, and emotional efforts to separate us from God.

Satan uses deception because he knows he cannot stand against the power of God. The first device we see him use is seduction in the Garden of Eden. He sometimes appears as “an angel of light,” but this first imposture was of a serpent.

He used what must have seemed like a wonderful creature to first separate those whom God had joined together, then to induce doubt in God’s word, and then to cause them to disobey God’s command.

Satan’s goal is always to separate us from God by inducing us to sin, and once we sin, he implements other devices.

George Whitefield (1714-1770) preached a famous sermon on Satan’s devices in 1739.

He focused on these six:

1. To drive us to despair. JOB / JUDAS

2. To tempt us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. UZZIAH / SIMON THE SORCERER

3. To make us have “hard thoughts” against God. PHARAOH / MARY and MARTHA

4. To give us blasphemous, evil, and lustful thoughts. DAVID / HEROD

5. To influence us through carnal friends. REHOBOAM / DEMAS

6. To lull us by withdrawing himself for a while. JOB / JESUS

My goal here is to share the wisdom of Whitefield's sermon and show examples of Bible people who illustrate each.

First device is to drive us to despair. Job, Saul, and Judas

Whitefield observes that when a sinner is convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin to lead him to Christ,

then Satan generally strikes in, and aggravates those convictions to such a degree, as to make the sinner doubt of finding mercy thro' the Mediator.

Milton pictures Adam in this state of overwhelming conviction in Paradise Lost, but of course, the LORD steps in to rebuke the Serpent and show His mercy by making clothes for the guilty sinners. (Genesis 3:1)

The most dramatic and on-point illustration is Satan’s scheming to get Job to curse God. Satan attacks him fiercely via his possessions, family, and health. He even gets Job’s wife to tell him “Curse God and die.” Job 2:9

But Job held on believing:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. - Job 23:10

King Saul refused to repent of his sin, the Spirit of the LORD left him, and he was troubled by an evil spirit. (1 Samuel 16:14). Driven to despair, he sought help from a witch and grew more despondent still taking his own life when the battle turned against him. (I Samuel 31:4)

In the New Testament, we see a similar case. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples Jesus called. He was important to the small group, its treasurer, “a thief” the Gospel of John calls him.

When he decided to betray Jesus, as he harbored these thoughts at the Last Supper, Satan entered into him, and Judas set the arrest and crucifixion in motion. When he saw the condemnation proceed, he realized he had sinned, fell into despair, and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5)

Whitefield has some counsel for us in facing this device:

But let not any of you be influenced by him, to despair of finding mercy. For it is not the greatness or number of our crimes, but impenitence and unbelief, which will prove our ruin. No, were our sins more in number than the hairs of our head, or of a deeper die than the brightest scarlet; yet the merits of the death of Jesus Christ are infinitely greater, and faith in his blood shall make them white as snow.

Second device: thinking too highly of self: King Uzziah/ Simon the Sorcerer

Whitefield thinks Satan uses this with young converts tempting them to “think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.”

King Uzziah was one of the best kings of Judah, reigning for 52 years. The LORD had blessed him in every way. He was so strong that he felt entitled to take the high priest’s job and offer incense in the sanctuary.

When the priests tried to restrain him, he got angry, and as his anger rose, “the leprosy rose up in his forehead,” (2 Chronicles 26:19). He remained a leper the rest of his life.

Simon the sorcerer was a new convert and aspired to have the power Peter had to lay hands on others to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. But this good desire was corrupted by his offer to give money to purchase this power. Peter warned and rebuked him, and he repented of this wicked thought in his heart. (Acts 8:22)

Uzziah’s sin was public and dramatic, Simon’s private of the heart. This is a teaching moment; Whitefield takes this opportunity to admonish us:

That the free grace of God has alone made the difference between us and others; and was God to leave us to the deceitfulness of our own hearts but one moment, we should become weak and wicked, like other men. We should farther consider, that being proud of grace is the most ready way to lose it.

The third device Satan uses is to make us have “hard thoughts” against God. PHARAOH MARY/MARTHA

These “hard thoughts” tempt us to doubt when He is not answering our prayers or responding to our will.

A powerful example of this comes via Pharaoh who asked Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? -Exodus 5:2 Nine times after this he hardened his heart and brought destruction and death to his people only to ultimately bow to the will of the LORD and bring Him glory.

In the New Testament, the hard thoughts against Jesus come from His belovéd friends, Martha and Mary. They were hurt that Jesus did not come to heal their brother Lazarus and confronted Him: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.John 11:32 Of course, Jesus had something even more wonderful in store for them, as He always does for us.

Whitefield reminds us not to be afraid and think our disappointment is unique but to remember how Jesus suffered for us:

But be not afraid; for this is no more than your blessed Redeemer, that spotless Lamb of God, has undergone before you: witness his bitter agony in the garden, when his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. When he sweat great drops of blood, falling on the ground; when the sense of the Divinity was drawn from him; and Satan, in all probability, was permitted to set all his terrors in array before him.

Fourth device: To give us blasphemous, evil, and lustful thoughts. DAVID / HEROD

It was through this device that I was moved to pray for divine help which subsequently led to this topic. One night lustful, lascivious, dreams awakened me, frightening me and presenting me with pornographic images that made me feel unclean.

Whitefield says that Satan troubles “you with blasphemous, profane, unbelieving thoughts; and sometimes to such a degree, that they are as tormenting as the rack,” and this was so. At once I looked to the Bible for encouragement and found these two stories.

Satan tempted David with lustful thoughts that led to adultery, betrayal, and murder. Triggered by the sight of a naked woman, David took her, caused her to commit adultery, betrayed his loyal servant, corrupted his household, and murdered an innocent man. (2 Samuel 12:9)

Herod was king of the Jews and knew that the Lord was God. Nevertheless, Satan tempted him to think of himself as a god. When he did and gave a blasphemous public oration, God struck him dead. (Acts 12:23)

So how am I to respond to these unholy thoughts? Whitefield reminds me:

And think not that God is angry with you for these distracting, though ever so blasphemous thoughts: No, he knows it is not you, but Satan working in you; and therefore, notwithstanding he may be displeased with, and certainly will punish him; yet he will both pity and reward you.

Satan’s motive IS to distract from God’s purpose and present these horrible dreams and thoughts to lead you from God’s grace:

Be not driven from the use of any ordinance whatever, on account of those abominable suggestions; for then you let Satan get his desired advantage over you; it being his chief design, by these thoughts, to make you fall out with the means of grace; and to tempt you to believe, you do not please God, for no other reason, than because you do not please yourselves.

When he says “ordinance” Whitefield is referring to the Lord’s Supper, but I interpret the term to mean the work God has called you to at the present time. Do not be swayed from what Jesus has called you to by “another gospel.” (Galatians 1:6-8)

Fifth device: tempting us by our carnal friends and relatives. Rehoboam/Demas

The best example of this in the Bible is the story of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Think of his privileged position. He was the “my son” Solomon addressed twenty-five times in Proverbs and the recipient of the wisdom of the wisest man in the world for the first 41 years of his life.

Finally, his time to rule came, and the very first thing he did was to reject the wisdom of his father and listen to the council of the young men he had grown up with. (1 Kings 12:14) It cost him the kingdom.

In the New Testament, we have St. Paul’s “fellow laborer” Demas, whom the Apostle says hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica (1 Timothy 4:10) We do not know the details behind Demas’ move, but we know Thessalonica as a worldly city that celebrates the things of this life.

The excitement and lure of worldly cities continue to this day, and I am amazed at how many of the “stars” of the entertainment world began their careers in the church, but let carnal friends lead them astray. Why?

Whitefield says:

But such persons err, not knowing the scriptures, and the power of godliness in their hearts; for whosoever receives the love of God in the truth of it, will find, that Christ came to send not peace, but a sword upon earth, as much now as ever.

Sixth device, by withdrawing himself for a while, to come upon us at an hour when we think not of it. Job and Jesus

Satan is a clever strategist and has a long-term purpose, to separate us from Jesus. We see this in the Old Testament in the case of Job where he worked first to discourage him by disaster, waited to see the result, and then went further to attack him with boils from head to toe. (Job 2:7) Job bore all of this and remained faithful saying,

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: -Job 19:25-26

In the New Testament, Satan uses this device again, boldly, audaciously upon the Lord Jesus Himself. After trying three of his best temptations and being rebuffed by Jesus’ use of the Bible, Luke tells us “He departed from Him for a season.” (Luke 4:13)

Satan attacked again at the Last Supper, putting betrayal in Judas’ heart, and beginning the final agony Jesus bore in the Garden of Gethsemane, at trial, and on the cross. (Luke 22:44)

After citing this example of Christ, Whitefield warns:

Arise, and call upon thy God; thy spiritual enemy is not dead, but lurketh in some secret place, seeking a convenient opportunity how he may betray thee.

If thou ceasest to strive with him, thou ceasest to be a friend of God; thou ceasest to go in that narrow way which leadeth unto life.

With this sixth device, Whitefield leaves us, comfortingly pointing out that, since then Christ is praying, whom should we fear? And since he has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though a host of devils are set in array against us, let us not be afraid; though there should rise up the hottest persecution against us, yet let us put our trust in God.

Whitefield was yet a young man and not yet married so he did not reflect on this seventh device Satan uses to tempt us, the marriage relationship.

7th DEVICE; Marriage Relationship David and Michal, Joseph and Mary

Marriage is instituted by God and is holy and blessed for both men and women. In it they become “one flesh” and it is a “great mystery” concerning “Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

St. Paul teaches the Corinthians that in matrimony neither spouse controls his or her own body, it belongs to the other spouse. The sexual relationship is intended to be ongoing and holy. The Apostle warns:

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 1 Corinthians 7:5

Satan, who knows the temperament and disposition of men and women, may tempt them not only to hatred of, and quarrels with one another, but to impure lusts and desires, to fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness; a very good reason why, though abstinence from the marriage bed for a short time, by the consent of both parties, for religious purposes, may be lawful, yet ought not to be continued; since Satan may hereby get an advantage over them, and draw them into the commission of scandalous enormities. John Gill

The marriage of David and Michal is a good example. Saul gave his daughter to David, and he loved her deeply as she did him. But Saul hated David and took her away from David and gave her to another man. When David became king, he fought to get her back, but their love had been tested and replaced by bitterness, and the marriage was unfruitful. (2 Samuel 6:20-23)

In the New Testament, Joseph and Mary’s marriage was holy and blessed. Joseph took Mary as his wife and “knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son.” (Matthew 1:25) From that point on the marriage was fruitful and blessed with four sons and several sisters. (Mark 6:3)

Satan operated after the fact in this case teaching Mary’s perpetual virginity and holiness. This false teaching led to devotion and prayers to this handmaid of the Lord who would be horrified to see how her lowliness and grace have been disfigured.

Once again, we see that what God has established as holy and meant for His glory and our blessing is used by Satan to discourage, spawn doubt, and distance us from the One who loves us and died for our sins. George Whitefield has written this anointed conclusion to support and encourage us as we face the devices of Satan:

Once more therefore, and to conclude; let us be strong, and very courageous, and let us put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the fiery darts of the wicked one. Let us renounce ourselves, and the world, and then we shall take away the armor in which he trusteth, and he will find nothing in us for his temptations to work upon.

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