In a previous article we saw that Satan is not yet eliminated. He is the opponent, who comes against all things that God works out. Many believe that God’s omnipotence and His sovereignty place Him far above the enemy in such a way that God is not bothered at all with the evil one. Others presume that God will finally eliminate Satan and the powers of darkness. And if this were true, why does God not do it?
Most of the time people teach that God permits all things because He has a purpose in all things to educate or chastise us.
My first question, which I would like to answer, is related to our insight on God and what He would allow. If God determines everything, then why should I come against it? I would go against God’s plan! If God decides to test me for a while, what can I do to change that?
There are many people who apply the concepts of righteousness and justice to punishment and judgment in order to destroy the defiled man. This creates a negative image of God, which is contrary to the Scriptures. The opposite is true though: God is the One, who is full of grace and love towards mankind and who presents a solution to him in order to free him from the burden of sin, which the enemy had laid onto mankind. God does not allow evil and does not even give permission to the evil one to teach us things; God does not need Satan to educate us, His word is clear enough to teach us.
Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6: 10 when He teaches on prayer that the will of God must come on the earth. This shows that not everything, which happens on the earth, is according to God’s will. The world is still under Satan’s power and it groans in order to be delivered from it, like Paul mentions in Romans 8: 19-20. It is important to make a note here of the h of Him in verse 20 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of (H) him who subjected it…” God did not subject the world to futility but mankind; Adam did that because he submitted himself to Satan. Since the fall of man, creation is subject to futility and therefore Satan could rightfully say to Jesus when he showed Him all the kingdoms of this world “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me”. Satan had received the right of possession of the earth because Adam gave him this right by submitting to him and Jesus did not deny this. The h of him in verse 20 is thus a small h and not a capital H. In the Greek there is no capital letter. Hence, the translators have added this! H with capital points to God, h without capital points to man. Scripturally it is correct to state that Adam subjected the earth to futility.
There is all kind of evil and evil doing that happens on the earth without God’s permission. The evil one does his work, yet not without limits! God watches over His creation and has put some parameters to the works of Satan. Therefore God says to Satan in Job 1: 12 “And the Lord said to Satan: behold, all that he has, in your power, (not is in your power) only do not lay a hand on him”. All that he has, in your power; there is no verb. A Hebrew sentence without verb is neutral and means here that God states a fact; He does not give permission. The translators have added the verb “is” to the sentence as if God gave permission to Satan, but that is not what it says. God watches over the life of His servant and puts limits to Satan’s works. Thank God for it, or else the world would be unlivable.
Hence we must realize to answer the first question that not everything comes from God and we must discern what comes from God and what does not come from Him. Many things that happen on the earth are linked to misery, destruction and disaster. It comes directly or indirectly from Satan and his powers. We must come against these; we must fight against it and conquer. “Resist the devil steadfast in the faith knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by our brotherhood in the world”. These sufferings are the result of Satan’s onslaughts on our life. The contrast is shown in the next verse, starting with “but may the God of all grace…”. Satan is opposed to Satan’s attacks and gives grace to the one suffering. Read 1 Peter 5: 9 and also James 4: 7 “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”.
A second question is related to God’s manner of dealing with His enemy. Why does God not eliminate Satan at once? How long will it take before anything will change on this earth?
God’s character produces life and goodness. God is not the author of destruction but He works according to a fixed plan in order to bring the enemy to his ultimate destination. He uses His own wisdom to do so and He first sent His only begotten Son, to demonstrate who the opponent clearly was. Jesus exposed the enemy. He has made a public show of him and He has brought a clear separation between God and the works of the enemy. When Jesus died on the cross, Paul says that the powers of darkness did not realize what they did otherwise they would have never crucified the Lord of glory. Read 1 Corinthians 2: 8. The devil has no insight in God’s plans and does not know everything. God’s wisdom goes far beyond that of the evil one. Jesus’ death was an unrighteous dead of Satan and by doing this, God created room for mankind allowing him through Jesus to receive eternal forgiveness of sin and to be restored in his original mandate, which Adam lost. God’s sons will bring the enemies of Jesus under His feet. God will help them to do this. The whole creation is waiting for this… see Acts 3: 21 and Hebrews 10: 13.
It is clear from these verses that everything waits on mankind to arise and learn to fight in God’s methods pushing back the enemies and bringing them as a footstool under Jesus’ feet. Mankind, as part of the church of Jesus Christ, has to do this because Paul declares in Ephesians 3: 10 “to the intend that now by means of the church the manifold wisdom of God must be declared to the principalities and powers in heavenly places…” Hence, we must rise and begin to declare in the heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God. This is among other things Christ and Him crucified! As we begin to declare, we provoke the enemy’s camp. We begin to rise and to stand in the offensive. Everything waits on it… and as soon as men begin to realize who they are, God will also rise together with mankind in order to scatter the enemy.
Understanding God’s character
God is different than any other being on the earth. He is unique and the Bible declares that there is “none like Him”.God is the Creator and He characterizes Himself with some special attributes, of which He cannot depart. He cannot deny Himself. This is what Paul states in 2 Timothy 2: 11-13. He remains eternally faithful to whom He is.
This is a very important characteristic of God, which we must understand correctly. Even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful! He holds onto His agreements, His promises and His character. Therefore He always continues to seek mankind, even when mankind is unfaithful in many ways.
The fact that God holds on to His principles, also mean that He will never be unrighteous. The enemy, Satan, acts in an unrighteous manner, but that does not change God’s character. God remains the same, even towards His enemy, His opponent and therefore He cannot destroy him.
Therefore God seeks ways to bring His enemy lower in a righteous manner, until he finally will be thrown in his ultimate destiny. Moreover God chose to bring the enemy low “by means of the church”. The man, Adam, failed, the man submitted himself to Satan, who now became the god of this world. Now it is up to mankind to deliver the earth from this subjection… God will help the redeemed mankind to do so. He is with us in the fight against the enemy. God stands on our side; He has chosen for mankind. Mankind is His creation and the earth is His also.
God’s righteousness, the Hebrew word “tsedakah”.
People presume that righteousness is linked to keeping the law. Righteousness is more than just keeping the law. Jesus Himself states the following in Matthew 5: 20 “If your righteousness does not excel that of the Pharisees and the Scribes, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of heaven”. The Pharisees and the Scribes were focused on exactly fulfilling the law, but their hearts were not changed. One can do his utmost to keep the law, but if the Spirit of God does not renew your heart, keeping the law will not profit you anything. Our righteousness must be more than an effort to fulfill the law. Hence God’s concept of righteousness means more than just fulfilling the law as an outward obligation.
God does more than He is obliged to do… He goes the extra mile; He goes one step further. This is what Jesus demonstrated on the Sabbath by healing the lame man. He came to do well and to take man out of misery. It did not matter to Him which day it was… the health or condition of a man was more to Him than the prescription of the law.
Then it says in a beautiful way that God clothes Himself with righteousness when He goes out to war. God first puts on a breastplate. What does that mean? It means that God demonstrates by it that He does not alter who He is. See Isaiah 59: 17 “For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak”. God is going to fight with the breastplate around His heart. He wants to protect His heart against the wiles of the evil one. He also puts a helmet on His head in order to protect His mind. He will not and cannot deny who He is! Hence He will fight against the enemy in His own righteous manner.
Righteousness is also truthfulness. God is true to what He says and who He is. The Hebrew word “tsedakah” also means truthfulness. God does not deviate from truth. He guarantees it; that is how He is.
Righteousness and justice are concepts, which are often seen together. “Misjpat and tsedakah” are the Hebrew words. Misjpat means, justice or putting into place, arranging, giving a place once again or restoring justice.
God’s justice means that mankind is able to accomplish his destiny, back to his original status, back to dominion, back to rulership of this earth.
Psalm 149: 9 states that the glory of the church is “to bind the powers of darkness with chains and to execute on them the written judgment”.
Righteousness means that God stands with us. He stands on the side of man and gives again space to mankind. You are allowed to be the one you were meant to be. He sees your destiny and He wants you to get there. See Psalm 16: 5 “O LORD, YOU are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot”. Another translation says “O Lord you hold onto my destiny”. That is God’s will for mankind. The devil wants to rule over us but God gives mankind authority again.
Tesdakah (righteousness) in the Gospel of Matthew
We read in Matthew how Jesus heals people. In Matthew 12: 9-14, a man is healed on the Sabbath from a withered hand; in verse 22 the man who was possessed by a blind and dumb spirit was set free. By doing so, Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah 42: 1-4 “that is might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet…” God was with Jesus; God’s Spirit was upon Him, He would declare justice to the gentiles.
The word justice is the Hebrew word “misjpat”. In some translations the word is translated by judgment. Judgment sounds like disaster; it has a dark connotation; it brings about fear and destruction. The correct translation is justice, which will be proclaimed. Jesus is going to proclaim justice to the nations.
Jesus did this without raising His voice. He will not quarrel nor cry out…. Crying out or shouting is related to weakness and insecurity. When you start to shout, you have lost before you start. “A bruised reed He will not break”. Jesus does not come to break but to restore. He declares justice. He does not quench the smoking flax but makes it burn again. It is the picture of man, who does not make it, of the man with the spirit of depression like Isaiah 61: 3 says. It is about the man who is restored. It is about the man, who is not able to carry on, who experiences injustice, who is beseeched in an unrighteous manner, oppressed by evil. God comes to help mankind and to give him back his rights.
He watches that justice is performed. Room must be created for mankind. Jesus is God’s Servant, who restores justice.
Jesus demonstrates this restoration of justice amongst other in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15: 11 and 22-24. The prodigal son had squandered his inheritance, he had sinned and found himself feeding the pigs… it is there that he realized that his father’s servants had a better life than him and he decided to go back to his father. He had premeditated everything and knew exactly what he had to say. When the father saw him from a distance, he ran to his son and embraced him. It looks like father did not even listen to the declaration of his son, no, he was happy that his son has returned home. He gave him the best garment. He received his original garment of sonship back. He is a son, not a hireling. The son is placed back in his original place and destiny. This is the way God acts! This is God’s righteousness and justice.
This story pictures Adam and humanity, who walked away from their position of sonship. Jesus came to give back this position of sonship in a rightful manner. Through the suffering and death of Jesus righteousness was fully accomplished. Jesus declared already at the moment of his baptism “for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus demonstrated already at the beginning of His ministry that He came in Father’s commission and Father’s character in order to righteously buy mankind back out of the hands of slavery. He has delivered out of the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. See Colossians 1: 13.
Through Jesus we have been called to walk in His footsteps and to act in the same way as He did. We will have to learn to know God’s thoughts and to walk according to these, even when the evil one attacks us in an unrighteous manner. Even then we will resist him in God’s way but we will never use Satan’s own methods.
God wants us to be clothed with the same garments as He! Paul says also that we should put on the breastplate of righteousness, when we are involved in the battle! The same mentality must be around us, God’s way of acting must become our way of acting even towards our enemies. This is why it says “if your enemy hungers feed him, if he thirsts, give him a drink for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head”. See Romans 12: 20.
In closure, Paul says in Romans 12: 21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. This is walking in the footsteps of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
May God richly bless you.