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Speak of the Devil


Job 1:6-12
And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

During the Second World War, C. J. Auchinleck, the commander-in-chief of the Middle East Force on the Allied side, put out the following order: "There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a king or a magician or a bogeyman to our troops who are talking far too much about him. He is by no means a superman, although he is undoubtedly very energetic, and able. Even if he were a superman, it would be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers. I wish to dispel by all possible means that idea that Rommel represents something more than the ordinary. The more important thing now is that we do not always talk of Rommel when we mean the enemy in Libya. We must refer to the ‘Germans' or ‘the Axis powers' or ‘the enemy' and not always be harping about Rommel. Please ensure that this order is put into immediate effect, and impress upon all commanders that, from a psychological point of view, it is a matter of the highest importance."

That is an order that needs to be adapted and applied to every soldier of the Cross engaged in spiritual warfare. While our adversary the devil is formidable, intelligent, crafty, and resourceful, he is not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. We must not play into his hands by making him a greater villain than he is. We must be sober, and proportionate in our judgment of him, which involves recognizing what he can do, but also what he cannot do (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is an angelic being, an awesome being, an adversarial being, but he also is an accountable being. The opening chapters of Job set before us this revealing and refreshing truth that the devil is not autonomous or sovereign. He is not running amuck across the earth with no one to rein him in, impede his devilish schemes, or challenge his existence. He is not above God as he once wished, but before God as a subject before his king. His limitation is to be seen on a number of fronts: one, in his summons to appear before God with the rest of the angelic host (Job 1:6; 2:1), two, in the fact that he cannot touch or harm Job because of God's protection (Job 1:10), and three, in the reality that even when he is given permission to mess with Job there are boundaries set by God (Job 1:12; 2:6). The biblical text is clear that Satan is on a leash, and that leash is in the grip of God's sovereign hand. As Martin Luther said, "The devil is God's devil." Think about it! The opening chapters of Job show us that even in his acts of disobedience Satan must obey God. While Satan can act outside the moral will of God, he cannot act outside the sovereign will of God. There is no dualism in the Bible. God and Satan are not duking it out to see who comes out on top. God rules and overrules (Psa. 115:3; Dan. 4:26)! Jesus was victorious on the cross (Col. 2:13-15). Satan's doom is sure (Matt. 25:41; John 16:11; Rev. 20:10).

When speaking of the devil, let us make God great, Jesus preeminent, and the devil small. To make Satan more than he is, is to diminish God before men, is to weaken the gospel's triumphant message, and is to bring undue fear to the ranks of God's people. Make it your habit to get up each morning mindful of the fact that there are two great forces at work in this world: the unlimited power of God, and the limited power of Satan!