Setting of Prayer: Life is War - 1
According to Luke 11, the disciples once witnessed Jesus speaking to His Father in heaven. When Jesus finished praying, one of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray." The disciples had trouble with prayer, didnít quite know what to say, felt they had problem getting through to God. Jesus complied with their request, taught His disciples how to pray. Said Jesus: "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your kingdom come." With this second petition Jesus instructs His disciples to speak to their heavenly Father from the context of their daily existence Ė which is war.
"Your kingdom come." Those words imply that Godís kingdom is not here yet; if it were here, one would not need to pray that Godís kingdom may please come.
Here we need to bear in mind two realities. On the one hand, the Bible portrays God in Christ as being sovereign Master of the universe. I think of Ps 24:
"The earth is the Lordís, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein" (vs 1).
I think also of Jesusí words to His disciples:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Mt 28:18).
And Peterís words on the day of Pentecost:
"Ölet all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
OT and NT alike agree: God is king today over all the world.
But there is a second reality. In this fallen world, not all in Godís kingdom acknowledge God as king. That is: within the perimeters of Godís kingdom (thatís all the world) are those who rebel against God, who deny His kingship, who seek to dethrone God. Within Godís kingdom are dissidents, and they battle against God, they engage in both open warfare against God as well as in guerilla activities in their efforts to claim the kingdom for their chief.
I speak, of course, of the revolt against God begun by Satan in the beginning. The Scriptures speak of "angels who sinned" (II Pet 2:4) under the leadership of the angel Satan; those fallen angels are now known as demons. Satan was not content with his place under God, he wished to dethrone God and claim Godís glory for Himself. After His rebellion against God, Satan tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise, with as result that the first man and the first lady of the world joined Satan in his rebellion against God; Adam and Eve refused to acknowledge the kingship and authority of God their Creator (Gen 3:1ff).
God, though, did not rest content with this rebellion in the world He created for His own glory. He sought out the man and his wife in Paradise, and came to them with the gospel. Said God to Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve:
"ÖI will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel" (Gen 3:15).
That is: God declared war on the rebel Satan. Though the devil had managed to get the world for himself, God was not content with such a state of affairs. God declared war, God placed "enmity", hatred, strife, contention between Satan on the one hand and the woman on the other. More, God promised that in this strife, this enmity, bruising would occur, bruising that would even cause death. Life on earth would not be sweat and idyllic; life would be warfare, battles, hatred.
So it happened. By the grace of God, Adam and Eve were returned to Godís side, delivered from the clutches of the devil. Their first born son, however, had no desire to serve the King of kings; Cain allied himself with Satan against God. Such was the hatred and the strife of this mortal life that this first-born rose up against his brother and killed him. That is life: bloodshed, hatred, strife, jealousy, murder. Life is war, civil war; brother rises up against brother, children against parents, parents against children. Here is in practice what God decreed after the fall in Paradise: life is enmity.
The OT is full of examples of that enmity. The apostasy in the days of Noah, the doubts in Abrahamís mind about the child God promised, the jealousy amongst the brothers in Jacobís tent, the bondage of Godís covenant people in Egypt, Israelís murmuring and grumbling in the desert, their readiness to give themselves to the idols of Canaan, Saulís hatred against his anointed successor David Ė on and on goes the OT, pointing up the bitter reality that enmity, strife, warfare characterises this life.
Christmas: war continued
In the fullness of time God sent His only Son to earth. Yes, the angels sang in the fields of Bethlehem of "glory to God in the highest" Ėthe first petition!Ė sang also of peace on earth (Luke 2:14). But their intent was not to communicate to mankind that warfare had come to an end, that life was strife no longer. Said Jesus to His disciples:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to Ďset a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawí; and Ďa manís enemies will be those of his own householdí" (Mt 10:34ff).
No, Christmas has not meant an end to the warfare that has characterised life on earth since Paradise. In fact, the Lord is emphatic that the warfare of the OT has become even more brutal, more sinister, more subtle in the NT dispensation. The apostle John is shown a vision relating to the victory of Christ on the cross of Calvary. He says it like this, Rev 12:
"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (vs 7ff)
We read that, and we say: yes, thatís triumph for God in Christ against the enemy Satan; heís cast out of heaven, defeated Ė Hallelujah! Thatís the victory of Calvary!
Up the Ante!
But we would be so remiss if we concluded that herewith the enmity proclaimed in Gen 3 has come to an end! For Satan, though indeed cast out of heaven, has not yet been cast into hell. Says John further:
"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (vs 12).
John is shown too what the devil does on earth:
"Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child" (vs 13).
"the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent."
But that doesnít mean Satan knows no hatred anymore, doesnít mean that Satan does not continue to fight God and His kingdom. Vs 17:
" And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
That is the reality for the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the NT dispensation: that Church is hated fiercely by the devil, and Satan makes war with those who keep the commandments of God. The enmity and strife proclaimed in Gen 3 continues even till today. Though God in Christ has triumphed over the devil, defeated him, Satan does not admit defeat; he continues his attacks on the kingdom of God. Frontal attacks, guerilla activity, terrorist attacks: nothing is below the belt as far as the devil is concerned.
Danger is to us!
And notice, dear reader, who it is that Satan attacks. That last verse of Rev 12 spoke of his making war with "the rest of her offspring." Who are they? They are those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." You see: Satan does not send his demons against those who want nothing to do with God, doesnít attack the unbelievers and the heathens. In his sights are the believers, you and I! We who claim to love the Lord, we who have made profession of the faith, and the children of God by covenant whom God has entrusted to us: we are the persons targetted by the devil today. Let there be no mistake in our minds: we are hated by the devil and his demons, and that devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (to quote from I Peter 5:8), and he wants to devour us and our children. Hence the instruction of the apostle Paul to the church of all ages:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:10ff).
The demons are here, attacking Godís own now in cruel rage, attacking us. That is the tragic reality of life in this fallen world; life was and still is warfare, cruel, hard, bitter warfare.
If we donít experience it that way, thatís not because the Word of God is not accurate on this point, nor is it because the devil is concentrating his attacks elsewhere; if we donít experience it this way itís rather because we are too sinful even to notice Satanís attacks Ė and too sinful too to notice (possibly) our collapsing in the face of his attacks.