“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34 NASB)
The beginning of Job is almost as disheartening as the rest of the book (except the ending). We read that, and think, ‘Wow, that guy was setup!’ And we’re sort of left with the unsettling feeling that God was complicit in the setup, after all, He points out Job to Satan! Many of us probably settled into some sense of relief that this is the only place we see God do this…except, for this one.
The wording of Jesus in this passage implies that God gave into Satan’s demand. The context supports that too, but the choice of words and tense support it all on its own. So, God does this thing using His people in some sort of challenge with Satan, still. It’s not just with Job. With Job it was God’s idea, with Peter, it was Satan’s idea. Either way, it happened again. And I suspect still happens.
This is one of those places where we experience a sense of depersonalization in our relationship with God that is very counter to our self-centered culture. Even in those who see themselves as philanthropists, they are generally shocked when they are mistreated and disrespected. There’s just something about human beings that refuses to let us believe that all this is not really all about us. Even in cultures that are more enmeshed in either family or cultural groups, they still think life is all about them (examine modern Japanese culture right now…it’s as if WWII never really happened).
On a personal level, the inconvenient or catastrophic circumstances we encounter about which we have no control we consider personal attacks. But from this we learn that it’s possible it has nothing to do with us at all, and God and Satan are just pushing each other around the “heavenly realms”. It’s a bet, and we’re the one’s being bet on or against. We’re the horses, the greyhounds, the players on the field, and we run, race, and play for the sport of others. It’s gladiatorial combat all over again, and we’re the combatants. The really frustrating this is that we signed on for this.
Here’s the deal. God and Satan argue over us. When Scripture says that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father, we need that for reasons we aren’t even aware. We think it’s to help us in our lives, make us happy, something like that. But now we see that actually it’s to help us survive the game the Father and Satan are playing. That sort of changes how we see this relationship with God which we have given everything to gain. We give up everything to be pawns and gladiators in the cosmic contest in the heavenly realms between the Father and Satan. But it’s okay, because we have Jesus interceding on our behalf with the Father; kind of like “legal cheating”.
If this all sounds like we have been duped, then now is the time to read the end of Romans 8. We win and our victory is inevitable. We cannot be separated from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even a little. We win. To be specific, we are on the winning side when we give everything to be a disciple of Jesus. The alternative is to be on the losing side, just to state the obvious. So the question is how valuable is it to us to be on the eternal cosmic winning side.
But to those of you still stinging from our lack of status, or feeling duped because we’re merely pawns, let me just ask, “So you thought the Maker of the Universe would make you some sort of ‘general’ in a fight you didn’t even know was raging? What are you, some sort of numbskull?” I’m sorry to burst your bubble that this really isn’t about you at all, but it isn’t. It’s about God, Maker of the Universe (and probably a lot more) soundly and embarrassingly humiliating the rebellious pompous narcissistic enemy of all creation. You want in on it, then you get in as a private; not a sergeant, not an officer, not a specialist, or corporal; a private. That’s the deal. Study to show yourself approved a workman rightly handling the Word of truth, and you can be a “lead private”. But seriously, until you actually get there and see the fight, how would you even know what you’re doing?
Trust that God has it all under control, stay the course, fight the good fight you have before you, and hang in there until you finally get to see what’s really going on. You do that, and maybe in the Kingdom to come you gain rank. Until then, just hang in there.
That’s part of my view through this knothole. The other part has to do with the foreknowledge and grace of Jesus’ statement. But that will be for tomorrow.
What’s your view through your knothole?