Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
Thoughts inspired by chapter 7 of the book, God Had a Son Before Mary Did.
Ezekiel said that Satan was “full of wisdom” (Ezek. 28:12). With this information, we can understand that when Satan doubted righteous Job’s strength to remain faithful to God in adverse conditions, he was not being simple-minded. He was basing that opinion on many years of careful observation of human behavior. Satan had no doubt seen many righteous people over the centuries become discouraged and turn from righteousness when hard times came. Other heavenly creatures probably felt just as Satan did; that is, if God caused Job to suffer, then Job would turn from righteousness and “curse God to his face.”
In the Old Testament, Satan is depicted as having the disposition of an unbending prosecutor. He regularly acted in God’s court as the accuser of those who did wrong; as in the case of a high priest in Israel named Joshua (Zech. 3:1–2), and even with Judas (Ps. 109:4–8; Acts 1:20). Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren”, but what most people miss is the fact that in Old Testament time, what he accused people of, they had usually actually done! Satan was unrelenting in his determination to see to it that transgressors of God’s law were tried and punished to the fullest extent. But he was proud, and unlike God, he did not rejoice in showing mercy to those who turned from sin and repented.
When Jesus condemned certain rulers in Israel as being “sons of the Devil”, he was condemning them most of all for being like the Devil in their attitude toward sinners. Those highly respected elders in Israel demanded, with merciless vehemence, strict obedience to their law and their traditions, and they did not rejoice in mercy. They were, indeed, exactly what Jesus said they were: physical representatives of the invisible personality of Satan.
In one case, those elders brought to Jesus a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They quoted Moses’ law, which condemned her to death for such a sin, and they demanded that Jesus concur with their condemnation of the hapless woman. Ironically, Jesus did agree with them, and with the law they claimed to stand for, which held that the fallen woman was worthy of death. But Jesus went beyond that. He didn’t merely agree with the law God gave to Moses; he agreed with God, and he did so by reminding those elders that those who execute God’s righteous judgments must themselves be righteous. When Jesus did that, he rested his case, and left the defenseless woman to her cruel accusers. But her accusers, elders in Israel and prosecutors of the law, were condemned by their own conscience and drifted out, one by one, leaving Jesus alone with the adultress.
The humiliated, humble woman stood there, silent, amazed that she had not been dragged out to be stoned. Jesus gently spoke to her and mercifully sent her home, with this one commandment: “Go, and don’t sin any more.” What love! What mercy! That is something Satan has never felt to say to anyone. Prosecutors don’t do that.
God does demand obedience, and He warns us of the dangers of disobedience. But He is not proud. He is merciful, “not willing that any should perish.” He can be stern, and He will certainly condemn the guilty if they do not repent, but His heart is more like that of a defender than a prosecutor. His first choice is always that sinners turn from sin. And if any sinner does repent and begin to do what is right, God has promised that his past sins will never be mentioned against him again (Ezek. 33:14–16).
Satan, on the other hand, and those who are like him, cannot stop talking about the past sins of people. He is obsessed with prosecution. He is proud and cold-hearted, able only to live by the letter of the law, the same “letter” that Paul says kills men. Satan cannot feel as God does toward the fallen because he is proud of how right he is. He judges by the book, and he knows it well, but he cannot judge by the holy Spirit of God because God is more concerned with being good than he is with being right.
Every wise person takes advantage of the mercy that God offers those who have done wrong. They, like God, rejoice in mercy, but they rejoice not only in receiving it, but they also rejoice, as God does, in showing it to others.