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The Deceptive Devil

When we imagine our spiritual warfare, we often see it in very grandiose imagery—big explosions, loud noises, and roaring lions; that is how Satan will attack us in our minds. Satan is certainly a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and frequently makes use of extravagant attacks; it is important that we raise our shields against these attacks. However, Satan is not stupid; he knows that we expect his advances and plans accordingly.

From the very beginning, Satan did not open with an extravagant attack. He opened the door with subtlety. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent is described as being “crafty” or “cunning,” and it’s very interesting that the King James Version translated this word “subtil”; in his “cunning” and “craftiness,” Satan takes a quiet and subtle approach until he can get his foot in the door.

After the text introduces us to Satan in this manner, notice how he phrases his question to Eve: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Certainly, Satan knew exactly what God had commanded, but by refraining from repeating God’s words, he forces Eve to give thought to what God had said.

Upon giving it thought, it seems that Eve questions the command of God: she looks at the tree containing the fruit she was forbidden from eating and sees that it was (1) good for food, (2) a delight to the eyes, and (3) to be desired to make one wise (Genesis 3:6). Upon seeing these things, perhaps she wondered what was so bad about eating from this particular tree—there didn’t seem to be anything bad about it. At this point, Satan has subtly pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Now he roars: “You will not surely die.” No more subtlety; no more craftiness—the door has already been opened, and Satan is free to speak as he wishes. He directly contradicts the commands of God, and we know what happens next: Eve listens, and Satan has succeeded.

What does this mean to us, though? It means that we are familiar with how the devil works and must give heed accordingly (2 Corinthians 2:1). It is essential that we pay attention and learn from Eve’s mistake; we must be “sober-minded” and “watchful” to see the lion, not only as it roars and attacks, but also as it subtly stalks us (1 Peter 5:8).