If you know the word of God, you know that Scripture is clear that there is a very real devil who is our enemy. The devil is not as powerful as the Lord. He is not omnipresent. Neither is he able to accomplish anything beyond the will of the Lord. After all, the devil had to ask for permission to test Job. But the devil is a very real, spiritual person who hates the things of God and who wants to lead people to destruction.
The devil has certain go-to tricks that he tries on people. I suppose that is not a surprise. After all, if you’ve been doing a thing as long as he has, you would figure out fairly quickly what seems to work, and you would stick with it. Let me show you one from the beginning that is a clear trick, but it still works.
Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The opening salvo in Genesis 3 is an old favorite of the devils. He asks a question. HE does so with a lie. And he does so with a particular attitude.
The question begins, “Did God really say?” In this instance, the devil is not questioning the presence of divine revelation. That tactic comes later in human history. Eve had no doubt that God spoke with her husband with commands. So the idea of God speaking, even what God had said, should not have been a problem for the woman.
But then the trick rolls in. The devil asks if God really said something that God in fact did not say. He asks if God forbad the people from eating the fruit of any of the trees in the garden. Remember, God had given Adam and Eve freedom to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except one. Thus, the question presents a lie about the command of God.
But the attitude and the purpose behind the lie is what is the real trick. You see, when the devil asks the false question of Eve, he is asking another question that is not in writing, but it is one we can all hear. The devil is getting Eve to question whether or not God is good. The question, “Did God really say,” is very close to asking, “How could he do such a thing?” The devil is getting Eve used to not simply knowing the commands of God, but to evaluating them based on her own perspective.
The devil still asks the question, “Did God really say.” He succeeds in that question when he gets people to begin to suggest that not all that God has said is what God has said. Today, as people believe they can determine what parts of the Bible are true and what parts can be ignored, they are falling prey to the beginning of the devilish questions.
The trick of lying about what is in Scripture is also a popular devilish trick. After all, if the devil can twist the word of God, adding to God’s word commands that God has not placed on his people, he can burden those people. In the New Testament era, the Pharisees added rule after rule and standard after standard to the law of God. They lost the heart of the Lord in their zeal to improve upon the law. And the devil still gets people to take the word of God, make the word stricter than is God, and then apply those man-made standards to others. It is a deadly practice.
And the hidden attitude behind the question, that is a major ploy of the devil’s. He loves to get us to start evaluating whether or not God is good based on how we feel about his commands. Note, if the devil can get you to evaluate the goodness of God based on a strawman, a false depiction of God and his ways, he is doubly happy. Either way, the devil loves to have people look at God’s ways, God’s plan, God’s commands, and then to ask us if we think this is really the right way. He wants us to think, “How could God command such a thing?” And the moment we put ourselves in a position to evaluate the goodness of God’s law, we are putting ourselves in a position above God, declaring that we have the ultimate ability to judge the word and ways of the Lord. This may be the devil’s favorite trick of all.
Christians, it is good for us to see the commands of God and understand their goodness. It is nice when we can look at a mysterious Old Testament regulation, learn about the cultural context, and see how God was helping and lovingly protecting his people. All that God has commanded is rational and perfect, and it is great when we understand why.
But it is not good if we ever allow ourselves to look at the actions of God and evaluate them as if we possibly have the capacity to judge them as bad. God is holy. God is unlimited in his understanding and knowledge and goodness. You and I are sinners with limited knowledge and limited goodness. And the devil loves to get us to think, in our limited and sin-darkened minds, that God should have handled things differently. The devil loves to get us to think that we, if we were running the show, would have never made such a law or let such a thing happen. This is a trick of his that he was pulling on Eve with the first question he asked, and it is a trick he still pulls on us today. Let us remember that our responsibility is to know what God has actually commanded, and to know that the God who commanded is absolutely, infinitely, unchangingly perfect.