Posts tagged ‘Satan’

Tornadoes and Satan

Moore TornadoCrises have a strange way of calling people to faith.  In a day and age where many are bemoaning that our nation is becoming increasingly secular, the devastating EF 5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma on May 20 gave rise to an abundance of prayers and cries to God.  Ed Stetzer paints the scene well in his article for USA Today, which is worth quoting at length:

Times of grief reaffirm our identity as a religious nation. Shortly after the horrific news of the tornado devastation in Oklahoma, “#PrayforOklahoma” quickly rose to the top of Twitter’s trending list as millions shared their prayers for the people who lost loved ones and had their homes destroyed.

In times of prosperity, far removed from tragedies, many people in our culture reject expressions of faith. In the moments of hopelessness, however, the desire to reach out to a higher power is an instinctive reflex.

Some may say, “But that’s Oklahoma – it’s the Bible Belt.” Yet, after the Sandy Hook tragedy, I was struck by the comment made by Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy referencing our collective religious heritage:

“In the coming days, we will rely upon that which we have been taught and that which we inherently believe: that there is faith for a reason, and that faith is God’s gift to all of us.”

Many are embarrassed by this national identity – until it is time to grieve.  Then, politicians, celebrities and reporters can unashamedly say they are praying for those affected.  News networks will show church bells ringing in memory of those lost.  Nightly news shows feel the need to broadcast excerpts from sermons delivered by pastors in the area.  Journalists interview religious leaders about how God can help us through.

And yes, that is where the discussion often begins. We consider why this would happen. Some people representing faith groups may speak quickly (and unwisely), assuming they can connect the dots between something in our culture and the most recent tragedy.

Others simply ask the question, “How could God allow this to happen?”[1]

Tragedies of the sort that struck Moore, no matter how supposedly “secularized” our nation has become, call forth faith.  And, as Stetzer duly notes, they also call forth questions.  Most often, tragedies like the one in Moore call forth the question that Stetzer poses:  “How could God allow this to happen?”  But in the wake of the tragedy at Moore, I received another question that, though less common, is certainly worthy of a moment of our reflection:  “Can Satan cause a tornado?”  When a tragedy strikes, most people wonder about God’s power to prevent tragedies and His ultimate purpose in allowing them.  But it is also worth asking what kind of prerogative Satan has to wreak havoc in our world.

Satan does seem to have some power to cause trouble in our world.  One needs to look no farther than the story of Job.  In nearly an instant, Job’s life goes from riches to rags.  A quick sequence of four calamities, instigated by Satan himself, robs Job of nearly everything he has.  The fourth of these calamities is especially instructive for our purposes:  “Yet another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house.  It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you’” (Job 1:18-19)!  Notice that it is a windstorm that Satan sends to destroy Job’s family.  Satan, it seems, does seem to have limited power to incite natural disasters.

It is important to note that, as the story of Job clearly delineates, Satan incites calamities on a person not because a person is somehow particularly sinful or deserving of such calamities, for Job was “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  No, Satan incites calamities out of depraved delight – he enjoys watching people suffer.

Certainly we cannot know, nor should we speculate on, the transcendental cause of Moore’s devastating tornado.  The most we can say is that natural disasters are part of living in a sinful, fallen world and Satan takes cynical delight in the effects of sin on our world.

But there is hope.  For even if Satan can incite calamities, his ability to do so is severely – and blessedly – limited.  Jesus describes Satan as a “strong man” whose fate is sealed:  “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man” (Matthew 12:29)?  Satan may be a strong man.  But Jesus is the stronger man.  And He came to tie up Satan by defeating his favorite calamity – death – on the cross.

Ultimately, then, no matter what the spiritual causes of the natural disasters that plague our world may be, in this we can take consolation:  no matter how much strength sin and Satan may have for ill, Jesus is stronger.  He’s so strong, in fact, that “even the wind and the waves obey Him” (Matthew 8:27).  He has things under control.  And He holds Moore’s victims in His heart and hands.  May we hold them in our prayers.


[1] Ed Stetzer, “We still cry out to God when tragedy strikes: Column,” USA Today (5.22.2013).

Advertisements

June 3, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

When A Little Is A Lot

Mustard SeedIt has long struck me how God can do so much with so little.  A little bit of water and the name of God spoken over us in baptism – and we are brought into the family of Christ.  A little bit of bread and a little bit of wine – and we receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  It doesn’t take much for God to do great things!

I was reminded of this point once again as I was teaching Daniel 10.  In this curious chapter, Daniel receives a vision of “a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around His waist.  His body was like chrysolite, His face like lightning, His eyes like flaming torches, His arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and His voice like the sound of a multitude” (Daniel 10:5-6).  The characteristics of this man are strikingly similar to those used to describe Jesus in Revelation:

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.  And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:12-15)

Daniel, it seems, is having an encounter with the pre-incarnate Christ.

What is Christ doing before His incarnation?  What He does after His incarnation:  fighting the forces of evil.   He says, “I will return to fight against the prince of Persia” (Daniel 10:20).  Many scholars take this reference to “the prince of Persia” as a reference to a fallen angel and not to the human leader of Persia at this time, Cyrus.  After this prince of Persia, Jesus says, will come the king of Greece.  And then, Jesus ends the chapter by saying, “No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince” (Daniel 10:21).

It is verse 21 that especially struck me.  It is just the Son of God and His archangel Michael against the many and varied forces of darkness and evil.  Daniel 11 goes into detail concerning those many and varied dark forces.  It’s two forces for good marshaled against a countless number of forces for evil.  It’s a little against a lot.  And yet, good carries the day:

At that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1-2)

Evil is consigned to everlasting contempt.  The redeemed of the Lord enjoy everlasting life.  The seemingly little forces for good defeat the massive forces of evil.

Throughout the Bible, evil constantly seeks to gain power using sheer numbers.  The Psalmist writes about how “the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One” (Psalm 2:2).  But no matter how many forces evil may be able to marshal, evil is no match for the goodness of God.  The quantity of evil foes is no match for the perfect quality of God’s goodness.   As Luther writes in “A Mighty Fortress” of God’s power against the devil and minions:  “One little word can fell him.”  One little word of God can destroy vast army of evil.  And that little word has already by spoken from the cross:  “It is finished” (John 19:30).  From the cross, Jesus sealed Satan’s fate with just a little word.  For “It is finished” means “Satan is finished.”  This little word defeated great evil and saved us.

So never overlook the little things of God.  A little can do a lot.  After all, what the world thought was nothing more than an insignificant execution on a cross wound up offering salvation to all humanity.  From a little cross flows big hope.

February 18, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Temptation of Christ – Matthew 4:1-11

Yesterday at Concordia, we kicked off our Lenten season with a two and a half day fast.  If you want more information on fasting, its theological significance, as well as some of the mechanics of fasting, you can download a pdf of our fasting booklet here.

My guess is, if you are participating in our fast from solid foods, even as you are reading this, your stomach is growling.  Mine is.  And yet, as I mentioned in my message last night, we fast so that we can feast.  For as our stomachs are emptied, our souls are filled as we remember, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

As I was thinking further about the temptations Satan leveled at Jesus while he was fasting in the desert, a few things struck me.  First, I found it striking that Satan didn’t stop at one temptation.  He circled back to tempt Jesus a second and a third time.  When it comes to luring people into sin, Satan’s motto seems to be, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  Thus, this is a temptation truth that we do well to remember:  Fighting temptation is not a battle, it’s a war.  If we resist temptation once, we can be pretty much guaranteed that Satan will come back for another round.  But, then again, lest we throw up our hands in despair, believing it is futile to even try to resist temptation because Satan will simply continue to assault us, I also found Matthew 4:11 to be especially heartening: “Then the devil left Jesus.”  Satan will eventually check out, even if he comes at you for a few rounds.  Jesus’ brother James puts it well:  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  If you, like Jesus, are fighting a battle with Satan, I would simply offer you this exhortation:  Resist the devil.  And keep on resisting.  Even if it takes forty days.  For Satan will eventually check out.

The second thing I found striking about Satan’s encounter with Christ is what one scholar terms as the “descending Christology” of these temptations.  In his first temptation, Satan addresses Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).  Notice that Satan acknowledges Jesus could be the Son of God, but he does not acknowledge he is the Son of God.  But Satan does not stop here.  He dives deeper into heresy until he crassly declares in his third temptation: “All [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).  Satan begins his temptations by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” He ends his temptations by essentially saying, “If I am god…”  He ends his temptations demanding Jesus worship him as a god.  A subtler error turns into a huge and hoary one.

Satan uses the same tactic with us that he used with Jesus.  He begins by tempting us with smaller errors but then tries to drag us into larger errors until he finally destroys our faith altogether.   This is why, whether it be a temptation to tell a little white lie or a temptation to commit murder, we must resist Satan’s every temptation at every turn and on every front.

The final thing I found striking – and really, touching – about Christ’s battle with Satan is the final line of Matthew’s temptation account:  “And angels came and attended Jesus” (Matthew 4:11).  The Greek word for “attended” is diakaneo, a word which describes someone who waits on tables.  This has led many scholars to believe that following Satan’s temptations, angels came and waited on Jesus with food.  And so Jesus finally breaks his fast.  Oh what a relief that must have been for our Lord.  And oh what a joy it must have been to see all of heaven concerned with his hunger and temptations.  And here is comfort for us too:  When we feel hungry or weak or tempted, all of heaven is concerned with our concerns.  And heaven attends to us.  God’s angels and best of all, God’s Son, offer us strength when we are weak and perseverance when we are tired.  And so, as you fast, rejoice that all of heaven watches.  And rejoice that all of heaven cares.  But most of all, rejoice that the God of heaven loves you.

February 18, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,008 other followers


%d bloggers like this: