A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples Beware the Devil

 

In chapter one of the Gospel of Matthew we have seen that the pre-eminent Person for the disciple is Jesus; that the pool from which disciples come is not that of perfect people but in fact God often makes disciples from the dregs of life; and we saw that though God is silent at times, He is always at work. Disciples begin with Jesus and know Him as their Savior who is ever present with them and want to share Him as Savior with others.

 

Now in chapter two of Matthew we will see one of the most heinous crimes perpetuated against humanity in the annals of human history and in this circumstance we see the enemy of the disciple at work, that is, the devil. In chapter two of Matthew we see how the devil uses human instruments to accomplish his evil plans. Later in chapter four we will see through the example of Jesus how the devil can be defeated. Throughout Matthew we will see the influence of the devil to destroy Jesus and His disciples.

 

We need to say from the start that while the disciple needs to beware of the devil, the disciple does not and should not dwell on the devil. Too often the disciple attributes every sin and problem they have with the devil when really they ought to look to themselves, or more accurately, their flesh or carnal sinful nature of self-centeredness. The devil and his demons are not the cause of all ill in life. We need to be mindful of and beware of his devices, but we do not, and should not give him more credit than he deserves. We need to focus on Jesus and as we focus on Jesus the power of the Holy Spirit will be so great in our lives that the devil and his demons will have to beware of the disciple of Jesus. 

 

In the 70s a popular phrase taken from comedian Flip Wilson’s comedy show was, “The devil made me do it!”  This little comedic phrase became the half-joking comment habitually used in daily conversation. It made a joke of a being who is no joke according to the word of God. The devil is out to destroy and defeat God and anything and everything associated with Him. The devil is a devious enemy of the disciple but it would be wrong to elevate him to equality with God. The devil is a fallen angel. He is closer to Michael the archangel in authority and power than He is God. God and the devil are not in the same ballpark. God is infinitely superior to the devil. The devil is a fallen angel, created by God. God is eternal and has no beginning or ending. We need to remember that.

 

But the devil is a formidable foe. The devil is the one who tempts and twists the Scripture (Matthew 4:1,5,8,11). He is the one who sows tares amongst the wheat, or those cooperating with Satan amongst those following God (Matthew 13:39). It is Satan who tries to divide and disrupt disciples in their following Jesus (Matthew 16:23). It was Satan who entered Judas and led him to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3). But we need to remember also; the destiny of the devil and those who cooperate with Him is eternal fire (Matthew 25:41).

 

While the devil can sway and influence the unsaved, he cannot force people to act against their will. People in the world who have yet to receive Christ as their personal Savior are susceptible to the influence and use of the devil (or Satan) because they are not spiritually minded and are more easily deceived and manipulated by Satan. In Christ, the disciple has the means of victory over anything the devil would bring their way. Outside of Christ a person is at the mercy of the devil who desires to deceive, divide, destroy and devour people.

 

In Matthew chapter two while we do not have the specific mention of the devil it can hardly be doubted that the devil is the one working behind the scenes attempting to destroy Jesus in his youth. Let’s take a look at the ambition of the devil and how God directs and protects His disciples.

 

The Divine Design For Disciples – Worship Jesus.

 

Matthew 2:1- “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,”  [1]

Matthew chapter two takes place some time “after” the birth of Jesus. It is likely that by this time in the Gospel Jesus was between one and two years old. “Herod the king,” (73 B.C. – 4 A.D.) was known as Herod the Great, the son of Antipater who was an Edomite, a descendent of Esau. Herod became king of the region of Judea in 43 B.C. He did so by way of military victory, political intrigue and bribery of Roman officials. Herod, whose name means “mount of pride,”[2] was 4’4” tall and it appears his short stature led him to a attempt to compensate for it with a tremendous proliferation of building projects such as the magnificent Temple rebuilding project, Masada and the Palace of Herod. He was also very paranoid and murdered his wife and a number of his own children for fear they were against him. Caesar commented, “It’s safer to be Herod’s pig than one of his sons.”

Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” refers to a group of seekers that have been much embellished upon. “Wise men,” is translated from the Greek term MAGOI which was the designation by the Persians for those who were experts in the study of the stars. They were more like astronomers than astrologers even though we derive the English term “magician” from this word. Notice also that it doesn’t say there were only three wise men; there may have been three hundred. There is no Scriptural support for the tradition that there were three wise men. The KJV Bible Commentary notes:

“Wise men were originally the priestly caste among the Persians and Babylonians. These Magi from the east were experts in the study of the stars. Tradition claims there were three royal visitors who were also kings. However there is no real historical evidence to verify this. All we are told in the text is that there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.”  [3]

Matthew 2:2 – “saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  [4]

The wise men were looking for the “King of the Jews.” They had seen a star in their studies and this had led them in some way to seek out this “King.” It is very possible that these wise men were following up on the word of God that had been left with them by Daniel the prophet who spoke in Daniel 9 of “Seventy weeks” and a “Messiah the Prince” of the Jews would come (Daniel 9:24-27). Perhaps the ministry of Daniel had left a lasting influence on the Persian wise men and they had been waiting for the fulfillment of this prophecy spoken by Daniel, who in the book of Daniel was noted as one who accurately spoke for God. Now, after centuries of waiting the LORD had caught their attention with a star and the appearance of that star was in direct correlation with the prophecy of the prophet Daniel. These wise men knew this was not just a coincidence; they had to check it out. And so they came saying, “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Just as God designed and led these wise men to come and worship Jesus, His design for disciples is that they worship Jesus.

 

Worship God Only.

 

The wise men came first to Jerusalem, as this city was the royal capitol of Israel. God always divinely directs us to worship His Son. The Bible teaches that only God is worthy of worship. The first of the Ten Commandments indicates that God alone is worthy of worship:

 

  • Exodus 20:1-3 – “And God spoke all these words, saying:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  [5]

The LORD indicates in Scripture that He will not share His glory:

  • Isaiah 42:8 – “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.”  [6] (See also Isaiah 48:11)

We see this in the words of Jesus Himself who stated:

 

  • Matthew 4:10 – “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”  [7]

But what is interesting is that we see Jesus worshipped in the Gospel of Matthew and He does nothing to prevent it! Read the following passages:

  • Matthew 8:2-3 – “And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”  [8]
  • Matthew 9:18-19 – “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.”19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.”  [9]
  • Matthew 14:32-33 – “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”  [10]
  • Matthew 15:25-27 – “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  [11]
  • Matthew 28:9-10 – “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”  [12]
  • Matthew 28:17 – “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.”  [13]

What does this mean? If the Bible states that only God is to be worshipped, but in the Gospels we see Jesus worshipped, and not only that but He allows it, what does that mean?  It means Jesus knew God only was to be worshipped (Matthew 4:10), and because He permitted worship of Himself, He also must have been aware of His own Divine identity. Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:1-3,14; 8:48-59 etc.).Therefore, that Jesus is worshipped is by God’s design.

The worship of Jesus is further stated as the Divine design in the following verses:

 

  • Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  [14]
  • Hebrews 1:6 – “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”  [15]
  • Revelation 5:12 – “saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”  [16]

God directs disciples to worship Jesus; it is His design to do so.

The Deceitful Devilish Determination.

Matthew 2:3-8 – “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 1 Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”   [17]

The news of another “King” on Herod’s turf “troubled” him. Interesting, the “chief priests and scribes,” knew of the prophesied location of Messiah’s birth according to the prophecy of Micah (Micah 5:2); but they were not interested enough to travel the short distance to check it out. This is really incredible when you think of it, those who should have been looking for the Messiah, didn’t care enough to travel the short distance form Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah King had been born, while the Persian wise men were willing to come from a far distant land to seek the King of the Jews. There is no indication that the religious leaders of the Jews were at all interested in the birth of Jesus. This indicates undoubtedly that they were comfortable and set in their position and weren’t interested in anything spiritual that would bring about revival or change. Here we see the first incident (of which there will be many more) of the contrast between those who are religious and those who are disciples seeking spiritual answers from God.

Herod’s only interest here is to use the sincerely seeking wise men for his own political ends. He “secretly” calls them aside to get more information about this “star”  and it’s significance. He then directs them to, “Go and search carefully for the young child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” We will learn of course that Herod has no intention of worshipping Jesus; He wants to destroy this Messiah King. But this despicable deception by Herod is not only fueled by his own paranoia or political fears.

What the Devil Despises – Worship of Jesus.

As we mentioned earlier, Herod was a paranoid king who met every challenge to his throne with violence. But there was likely another who was troubled by these prophetically fulfilling developments; the devil, Satan, was troubled and determined to squash in its infancy, the salvation plan of God through Christ.

The portrait of the devil we are given in various place of the Bible indicates that it is very possible that he played a prominent role in the worship in heaven. The devil, Stan or Lucifer as he is called, was created a beautiful being with gifts that seemed perfectly suited for worship. In Ezekiel 28 it states:

Ezekiel 28:12-15

  • 12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created.14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.”  [18]

 

In Ezekiel 28:13 the reference to “timbrels and pipes” has been taken by some commentators to refer to actual built in organs in Lucifer to equip him to worship. God created Lucifer as a beautiful being tailor made to lead worship in heaven. But Satan became enthralled with his own beauty and rebelled against God as Ezekiel and Isaiah go on to prophecy:

  • Ezekiel 28:17 - “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.”  [19]
  • Isaiah 14:12-17 - “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.16 “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying:Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms,17 Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’”  [20]

Satan rebelled against God seeking to usurp the throne of God and God cast him to the earth and will ultimately cast him into a lake of fiery judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

Now, in light of the purpose Satan was created for, worship, it is very interesting that it is the context of the worship of Jesus by the wise men that Herod devises his deceitful plan to assassinate and annihilate Jesus, the King of the Jews. The devil, Satan, Lucifer, or whatever name you desire to refer to him with, he hates the worship of Jesus. I think there is probably nothing he hates more than seeing the disciple of Jesus pouring out their heart before Jesus in praise and worship. I think too that because of this, and because of the devil’s background and familiarity with worship, that it is the worship ministry in the church that often becomes the first area of attack. Satan seeks to stop or at least hinder the worship of Christ in any way he can. He will get worshipers to be focused on themselves, how they are singing, how they sound, how others next to them sound, and so on. He will distract the worshipers with the music itself and get the focus on those leading worship or worshipping. He will do anything to get the focus off of Jesus in worship. He will tempt those leading worship to become proudly puffed up with their own talents and creativity. He will tempt with petty jealousies and envy in the worship. He’s a deceiver and there are many ways to corrupt the worship of Jesus in the body of disciples.  But the bottom line for the devil is o keep disciples form worshipping their Messiah King Jesus.

The Divine Direction To Worship.

Matthew 2:9 – “When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.”  [21]

The wise men at this point are not aware of the mischievous plans of Herod and as they leave Jerusalem, God miraculously directs them to Jesus. God is directing the wise men to worship Jesus. Remember, the devil hates the worship of Jesus. Now look at what characterizes the worship that God leads these wise men into.

The Exceedingly Great Joy of Worship.

Matthew 2:10-11 – “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”  [22]

When we look at these verses and the effect of God on the wise men that is described it’s as though God is saying, “Devil, you don’t like worship of My Son; take that!” Then God just overflows these wise men with “exceedingly great joy.” And they weren’t even at their final destination yet! What a contrast these Persian wise men are to the religious leaders who didn’t even care enough to travel the few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to see Jesus. These wise men were disciples of Jesus in the making.

There is a joy that God gives that cannot be imitated by anything in the world. Joy is not necessarily the same as happiness. Both involve the emotions but joy is deeper and more reliable than happiness. Someone has said Happiness depends on happenings; Joy depends on Jesus. Joy is that heaven sent assurance and presence of the LORD in a disciple’s life that steadies them in the storm and settles them in the certain trust that God is in control. Joy is that sense that even though things appear lost on the surface, or tragedy has entered life, still, God is on the throne, God is in control. Joy transcends circumstances. That’s why when Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippians from a prison, he was able to repeatedly exhort them to rejoice such as in the following inspired words:

  • Philippians 4:1,4-7 – “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. . . . 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  [23] (See also Philippians 1:18; 2:16,17,18; 3:1,3).

In the Old Testament there is a great account of the worship service held by Ezra to praise God for His faithfulness in bringing the exiles back to Jerusalem. Ezra simply had all the people stand as he read from the Book of Moses. As he read, God’s word was explained to them and as the people heard and understood God’s word they began to weep as they worshipped the LORD. And the joy of God descended upon them in this worship and we are given insight into the importance of the joy of the Lord. It states:

  • Nehemiah 8:1-12 - “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.4 So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”  [24]

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength,” and that is the key and the reason the devil hates worship. Worship of God is a means to infill the disciple with the joy of the LORD and that joy strengthens the disciple. That joy comes with a sense of God’s presence and assurance that buoys the disciple through any storm or trial. Satan is jealous and wants people to worship him, but he is more concerned that he will never even get close enough to tempt us to do so if true worship of God starts up in the life of the disciple.

 

True Worship.

 

Before we continue we need to note what “true” worship is. True worship is not entertainment or a show, true worship focuses on God in the Holy Spirit according to the truth of God’s word. That is what Jesus means when He describes worship in the Gospel of John. In John Jesus defines worship in a discussion with a Samaritan woman He is witnessing to at a well and states:

 

  • John 4:22-24 - “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”   [25]

Now note the following: Jesus said that this woman did worship, “you worship.”  But He says, “you worship what you do not know.” This tells us it is possible to worship the wrong thing. How many people go to church and do what they think is “worship” but really are not worshipping at all, or are worshipping the wrong thing. Jesus says there are “true worshipers.” “True worshipers,” according to Jesus, are sought by God and are those who, “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” True worshipers realize that they must worship in spirit and truth.” To worship in “spirit” is to worship God in the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes into the heart of the one who had repented of their sin, sought forgiveness from God and accepted Jesus as their Savior (John 3:1-21; Romans 5:5; Titus 3:5). But worship in the Spirit does not mean simply an emotional high; it is to be “in truth.” Worship “in truth” is worship that is guided by God’s word. You saw how God poured out His joy on the people when Ezra taught them from the Scriptures; God always guides us into true worship via His word of truth (John 17:17). The disciple needs to worship the LORD in Spirit and truth.

 

The Focus of Our Worship.

 

Matthew 2:11 – “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  [26]

The focus of true worship is Jesus. Notice, what is not said here. The wise men did not come and worship Mary. They did not come and glorify Mary in any way. If Mary were to be exalted in any way the way some in certain segments of the church do so, it would have been mentioned here. But it is not, all eyes and hearts are on Jesus. And that is the way it should be. A very clear and distinct focus is expressed in this verse. They “worshipped Him.” They worshipped Jesus because they were aware of who He was, God in the flesh. They worshiped Jesus alone, and that is what we should do.

These wise men brought treasures to Jesus consisting of, “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These gifts are significant because they speak to the threefold office of Jesus. Gold is the most precious of metals and most appropriately offered to a king. Jesus is presented as the Messiah King in the Gospel of Matthew. Frankincense is a kind of incense used in worship and therefore refers to Jesus’ office as Priest (see Hebrews 7-10). And lastly, myrrh is a burial oil perfume and therefore refers to the Lamb of God, Jesus,  who as the Prophet from rejected,  would atone for the sins of the world on the cross.

We too are to worship Jesus as our Lord and King (Revelation 19:16), as our Great High Priest who lives to always intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25), and He is the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament who fulfilled all Scripture and brought a New Covenant (Luke 24:25-27). That is the One whom the disciple should worship and Him only.

The Divine Direction Out of Danger.

Matthew 2:12-15 – “Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”[27]

Before Satan can spring his trap to destroy Jesus, God circumvents these devilish strategies and cuts them off. The KJV Bible Commentary states in regards to this verse:

“A special divine revelation in the form of a warning was given both to the wise men and to Joseph in the form of a dream. Thus instructed, the wise men did not return to Herod, and Joseph and Mary fled with the baby into Egypt. It should be remembered that there was a large Jewish population in Egypt at that time, especially in and around the city of Alexandria. The holy family would have been inconspicuous during their stay and would have been welcomed by members of their own race.”  [28]

A young child once was reading this account with his father and asked, “Daddy, what did Joseph and Mary do with all that gold, frankincense and myrrh when they went to Egypt?” The father was stumped and puzzled. The Bible doesn’t elaborate on answering that question, however it is likely that the gifts brought to the parents of Jesus were used to pay for their flight to Egypt, relocation and eventual return to Nazareth.

God is able to defuse and defeat any plan that the devil sets in motion. God is in total control. You’d think that the devil would give up in light of God’s infinite capabilities to see His plans through to fulfillment; but the devil is drunk on power and pride and he won’t stop until God finally stops him. The devil is like a frustrated child who kicks and stomps his feet when he isn’t given his way. I’m sure Satan has broken out in a food number of tantrums and tirades.  God just won’t let him have his way.

And there was good reason for God to direct the wise men and the holy family away from Herod. His desire was “to destroy them.”  

The Devilish Hatred In Herod.

Matthew 2:16-18 – “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”  [29]

Wherever there is anger and hatred, you can rest assured that Satan is at work. The terrible genocide of Herod on the innocents is no doubt fueled by the father of lies and murder, Satan. When we see such hateful acts in life we should remember that our struggle is not against people but primarily against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-18).

This is historically referred to as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” This genocidal act by Herod has the fingerprints of the devil all over it. The Bible describes Satan as a liar and murderer:

  • John 8:44 - “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” [30]

As a murderous being, the devil enjoys destroying human beings because they were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and he seeks to destroy and desecrate that image in any and all ways. He perpetuates the murder of the millions of unborn babies in abortion because they are created in the image of God. He inspires euthanasia to kill off the elderly created in God’s image. He looks to instigate wars and genocide so as to rip up and destroy the vestiges of God’s image in this world. Satan is a destroyer who seeks to destroy anything and everything associated with God. Herod’s slaughter of the babies is a prime example of this.

Disciple, Don’t Despair at Devilish Destruction.

In Matthew 2:18 a reference is made to a prophecy of Jeremiah. The weeping must have been great when Herod ordered and carried the slaughter of the innocents. Horses stomping, doors crashing, children screaming, swords swooping, mothers weeping and wailing, all the havoc and destruction ringing into the night. What possible good could come from that? This must have seemed an utterly hopeless despairing situation. But wait; look at the context from which this verse is taken in Jeremiah:

  • Jeremiah 31:15-17 – “Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”16 Thus says the Lord: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.17 There is hope in your future, says the Lord, That your children shall come back to their own border.”  [31]

The context of Jeremiah shows us that even though this horrendous genocidal act was perpetuated against the people, God interjects a ray of hope. The murderous demonic foes will not win out. The story does not end with the last gasp and breath of the slaughtered children. God says, “there is hope in your future, says the LORD.” God’s Divine design will overcome the devilish plans of Satan. There is never despair or hopelessness for the disciple of Jesus for with God there is always hope. God is a God of hope as Paul states:

  • Romans 15:4,13 – “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. . . .13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  [32]

God is a God of hope who fills us with joy and peace and abundant hope “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is the presence of the Spirit in us that brings this hope to us:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [33]

That hope poured out in us enables the disciple to worship the LORD even in the hard times of life. Being a disciple is coming to learn experiencially the truth of Romans 8:28 which states:

  • Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  [34]

Whatever the devil throws at us, God’s Divine design will defeat him.

The Divine Defeat of Devilish Plans.

Matthew 2:19-23 – “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”  [35]

God is in control. He directs Joseph and Mary to go to Egypt and then directs them to return at just the right time, Herod’s death. Notice God’s directions were obediently followed by Joseph and Mary. Obedience to the Divine warnings is critically important for the disciple of God. Just think of what would have happened if either Joseph or Mary had disobeyed God’s direction at any point here; we would all likely have been eternally lost in sin. But they obeyed. They continued on in their decision to follow God even if it meant disruption to their lives (see last study on Matthew 1:18-25).

In all of these developments God is simply fulfilling His prophetic word. These attempts to murder His Son do not take God by surprise. He has calmly given a word about them centuries before and is simply fulfilling faithfully the word He spoke through the prophets of old. God is in control.

Handling the Devil.

With God on our side we should beware of the devil but not fear him. Read what the Bible tells us about how to handle the devil.

The first thing we need to understand is that this is a spiritual battle. The apostle Paul made this abundantly clear when he was inspired to write:

  • Ephesians 6:10-18 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints”   [36]

The disciple is a mark for the devil and needs to beware of the devil’s devices. The disciple needs to put their spiritual armor on and be ready for battle.

Secondly, the disciple needs to understand that he or she does  not  defeat the devil, God defeats the devil. In Romans Paul is inspired to write:

  • Romans 16:20 – “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”  [37]

Disciples don’t pick fights with the devil. Rather, as someone has wisely said, when Satan comes a knockin’ on your door, ask Jesus to answer it! Keep Jesus in between you and the devil.

Third, understand that the devil is a defeated foe. Paul again writes about this in his letter to the Colossians where he is inspired to write:

  • Colossians 2:13-15 – “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  [38]

While the devil thought he was destroying Jesus on the cross, God used the cross to make a way for sins to be forgiven and the devil to be ultimately defeated.

Satan will at times try to defeat and discourage the disciple by bringing up past sins. When the devil brings up your past, you just bring up his future! This is resisting the devil, or responding to his attacks with the word of God in the Spirit’s strength. The apostles James and John were inspired to write:

  • James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  [39]

Fourth, rely on the presence of Jesus in you to show you the way to defeat the devils’ attacks. The presence of Jesus in us strengthens us against the attacks of the devil. God gives us faith in Him to help us weather the storms the devil might bring. The apostle John spoke of this when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 John 4:4 – “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  [40]
  • 1 John 5:4 – “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”  [41]

Lastly, don’t rely on your own strength, rely on the strength of  Jesus. The night before Jesus went to the cross He shared the Passover meal with the disciples as well as some solemn words. He spoke of His betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. The disciples, especially Peter were pretty outspoken that they would never forsake Jesus. But Jesus gave them a word that as we look back on it gives all disciples great insight and assurance. Jesus said:

  • Luke 22:31-32 – “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  [42]

Jesus told Peter that Satan was out to get him, but Jesus offered a comforting word in that He said, “But I have prayed for you.” The same is true for us today. Jesus is praying for us, as the writer of Hebrews was inspired to write:

  • Hebrews 7:25 – “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  [43]

The devil is a formidable and sometimes scary foe. But he is defeated. He is like a lion who prowls around roaring in an effort to strike fear and dread in us (1 Peter 5:8-9), but the greater truth is that Jesus has knocked his teeth out! Jesus is praying for us, He’s aware of the danger and will guide the disciple in the Spirit by His Word. In and of ourselves we are no match for the devil, but in Christ we are more than conquerors who strengthens us and is always praying for us (Romans 8). The disciple needs to remember that.

Conclusion

When Hadrian was emperor of Rome he waged a war of persecution against Christians in the empire. And it so happened that a group of 40 Christian soldiers were worshipping the LORD in northern Italy and were surrounded by Roman soldiers following Hadrian’s command to destroy Christians. They proclaimed to the 40, “On order of the emperor, you must stop immediately your worship of this so-called Messiah, King of the Jews or you will be executed. The 40 responded, “do what you will, if it costs us our lives, so be it!”

 

The Roman commander led the 40 to a high mountain lake that had frozen over, as it was winter. He told the 40 that if they would not deny Christ, they would be stripped naked and put out on the lake until they froze to death. When told this one of the 40 responded, “”IT IS BETTER TO FREEZE FOR A NIGHT THAN TO FRY FOR AN ETERNITY IN HELL!”  So they were stripped and put out in the middle of the lake. As the sun went down it became colder and the temperature dropped well below freezing.

 

As they waited on the lake the 40 sang, “”40 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST, 40 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST . . .” The Roman captors mocked and ridiculed the 40. Occasionally they would tempt them to deny Christ and come to the fireside. But the 40 were steadfast.

 

An hour into the night one of the 40 could not take it anymore and rose up, ran to the fireside and shouted, “I deny Christ, I deny Christ” as he was welcomed by the captors. The 39 continued, only now they sang,  “39 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST… 39 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST…”

 

As the 40 soldiers continued their song they shook with the frigid cold. But they stood firm and bore witness to the sustaining power of Jesus. These soldiers naked in the frigid cold didn’t bend and break under the conditions, but instead kept on in their worship of the Jesus Christ. Why not only were steadfast, but they looked even joyful in their song of worship.

 

Suddenly, one of the captors rose up, threw off his army clothes and ran naked to the 39. He was convicted by their strength and wanted what they had in their hearts. He joined in their song, only now they again sang, 40 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST…”

 

You see, the brave worship of the BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST led to the salvation of the soldier who later joined them. Maybe they had been witnessing to that one soldiere for days, weeks, months, years and just couldn’t get through. Then as they were herded to the frozen lake, naked and exposed, perhaps the thought crossed their minds, Lord, what possible good can this serve. We won’t be able to witness to our friend anymore if were killed. Lord, do whatever you have to save his soul. And then, only an hour into their ordeal not only did they hear the taunts and see the warm fire, but one of their own number defected. But this did not deter them; they carried on in Christ, worshiping and praising Him, resting in Him. And soon their hope and prayers were answered the one they had been praying for and witnessing to finally saw the light. The Lord used their persecution to break the hard heart of that Roman soldier and then it all made sense. He had come to see the wisdom in freezing for a night over against frying for an eternity. That was worth the pain and probably fueled a fire of worship within their hearts that would warm these disciples from any cold fate the devil could throw against them.

 

As we saw in our last study the disciple starts with a decision for Christ and that decision will likely bring disruption into their lives. In this case it brought severe disruption and eventual destruction to the 40 BRAVE SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST. But the important thing to note here is that the joyful worship emanating from the hearts of these soldier-disciples strengthened them to be steadfast and true in the face of a devilish foe, and led to the creation of another disciple.

 

The devil may bring persecution and a host of other things into the life of a disciple, he will do his best to destroy us and all that is associated with Jesus, but what we need to remember is, the devil is a defeated foe, and greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Disciple, beware the devil, depend on God and follow His design to worship Jesus.

 

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]Jerome H. Smith, editor, The new treasury of scripture knowledge [computer file], electronic edition of the revised edition of The treasury of scripture knowledge, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1992 by Jerome H. Smith.

[3]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.