Today’s Reading: 1 Peter 5
Puritan writer Thomas Brooks said: “If God were not my friend, Satan would not be so much my enemy.” In today’s chapter, Peter warns that our enemy, the devil, prowls around us like a lion wanting his next meal: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan seeking to devour means he is on a mission to take down God’s children.
There is a Bible study tool called “The law of first use.” It can be a valuable tool when studying a topic in the Bible. It works by looking at the first time a word is used in the Scripture to see how it is used. If we applied it to “devil,” we’d find it first appears in Genesis 3. And the first thing the Bible ever says about the devil is this: “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made” (verse 1, NLT). This means that Satan is shrewd in Operation Devour. He shrewdly finds ways to devour people. Another Puritan writer, William Jenkyn, said it like this: “He hath an apple for Eve, a grape for Noah, a change of raiment for Gehazi, a bag for Judas. He can dish out his meat for all palates.”
I do not want to be the devil’s next meal.
I have learned some interesting things about lions when they are on the hunt to devour. We can learn some of Satan’s tactics since Peter describes the devil as a lion. Or, as Paul says, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV). For a hunt to be successful, a lion must first stalk close while undetected and then attack with a rush before the surprised prey has a chance to flee. A lion’s prey knows that a visible lion is a safe lion because they are too slow to catch an animal alert to its presence. A herd of gazelle will allow a lion to walk past them at only a hundred feet away!
A second way lions hunt is that they catch whatever is easiest! They often kill the very young, sick, old, or careless.
And finally, as Robert Simmons observed, “when the fire goes out, the lions move in.” When the fire of a camp goes out at night, this is a lion’s signal to move in to devour its prey. Simmons tells the story of a doctor and his wife who had traveled to the jungle in Africa. After a long flight from America and a full day of birdwatching and photography, they went to bed in their tent with a campfire outside. They had been warned to keep logs on the fire all night, or the lions would come in. The fire was blazing hot when they fell into such a deep sleep that they failed to notice when the fire became smoldering embers. Under the guise of darkness, a lioness stuck her head into the tent and killed the doctor’s wife.
One of the ways we keep from becoming the devil’s next meal is by keeping our hearts on fire for God. Remember in Luke 24:32 when the two men on the road to Emmaus realized, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (emphasis added). Our hearts will stay on fire as God speaks to us through His Word. Every time we open God’s Word, it’s like putting another log on the fire.
Finally, when does the devil devour? Again Robert Simmons offers his insight: “Where stragglers roam, lions feed.” These are animals out grazing alone. He says:
In Africa, lions will lay out watching herds. Lions know their own strength, but he also knows the strength of numbers. When he looks at a herd of zebras, he knows if he attacks one and the herd stampedes, they would trample him. When he sees one rebelliously remove himself and independently feed away from the herd, that can be his next meal. When that zebra gets far enough away from the pack, the lion pounces, pulls it into the tall grass, goes for the jugular, and has begun eating the meat before the herd even knew what happened. Stay in the strength of fellowship. Don’t be a straggler and remove yourself from the family of God. The lion is watching.
One of the most powerful books on how Satan attacks the believers is called The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, which is the elaboration of the 1 Peter 5:8 passage. When Lewis wrote the book, he wrote it from the standpoint of the devil. There are three characters in the book. Screwtape is the senior demon training his young apprentice demon, Wormwood, on how to tempt a Christian. It was really a lesson in devouring. When Screwtape talks about the enemy, he is referring to God. Every chapter is a letter in the devilish art of devouring and making Christians fall and fail. The demon letters exchanged are haunting and accurate:
My dear Wormwood, . . .
All extremes, except extreme devotion to the enemy, are to be encouraged. . . . A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing. . . . The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. . . . Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. . . . The search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the enemy wants him to be a pupil.
Wow, that is sobering. In fact, Peter said to be sober, and these devil words make me sober.
We are in a battle, but with God, it’s a battle we can win.