Can you think of a more idyllic photo subject than a dad, a mom, their young daughter, and the family dog stopping by the roadside to pose for a group photo on a spring day against a lush backdrop of gorgeous south Texas wildflowers and other native flora?
But at the exact same instant that grandma snapped the family photo in 2016, there was something very wrong transpiring in the lower frame of this lovely tableau…
Sometimes, the most placid and seemingly innocuous environments can harbor things sinister and even deadly if we are not both aware and discerning of our surroundings. Imagine Eve in the garden of Eden! Could there have been a more beautiful setting within the protective confines of this harmonious, sinless paradise than beneath the shade, foliage, and luscious fruit of the tree of knowledge? Right now, the world is learning how something as unseen and even submicroscopic as the coronavirus can have deadly consequences for human life.
Today, we speak often of “safe places”; places of quiet refuge where one need not be afraid of physical threats or harm. We may even think of “the church” as always being one of those safe places, at least in a spiritual sense. We know in reality and from scripture that in some cases this can be far, far from the truth. Satan, after all, can manifest himself as a “minister of righteousness” (II Cor. 11).
In particular, the old satanic lie, “you shall not surely die” was with us in the beginning (Genesis 3). It was there when Ahab and Jehoshaphat consulted with the “prophets of the Lord” about their disastrously doomed plan to join forces together in battle (I Kings 22 *Note: these were not Jezebel’s Baal prophets; Elijah had already dispatched those with the sword). The lie, or more accurately, the Laodicean lies, are tragically still demonic traps and spiritual stumbling blocks for many persons who, at least outwardly, profess Christ today. “You say you are rich, and have need of nothing…” (Revelation 3).
It is possible to sit even in a “Bible-based” church for an entire lifetime when you might just as well be ensconced somewhere in a spiritual mausoleum because God’s Word has never penetrated your conscience to the point that sin has become “utterly sinful” (Romans 7), or you have become hardened over years of no real heart change. Paul warned in his epistles about spiritual leaders who have all the right “words” but no “power” (I Cor. 4). Be on the alert then, whether in ornate or unadorned religious settings, where there is no real, life-altering conviction of sin, no crying out for God’s mercy, no sign of anything supernatural outside of human understanding or interpretation. Why? Because we already have everything!
“You shall not surely die…because we have collected scriptures with which we are able to comfort you in the knowledge that Paul’s warnings of apostasy written to the churches do not literally apply to us “true” saints [see Romans 11]; that when you were saved you were also baptized “by default” by the Holy Spirit, even though there has been an absence of any real, tangible evidence (maybe even love itself) in your life; and that the “sign of Jonah” was irrelevant to the understanding of our salvation because Jesus’ human soul [not His spirit] never actually descended as a prisoner of death into the depths of Sheol, only to be released, empowered, and reunited with His glorified body and His spirit [the Holy Spirit] at the thunderous, resurrecting voice of God. [see Psalm 18].”
My brother-in-law was the attending ER physician when the man mentioned in the first paragraph was first admitted to the hospital; obviously he heard the snakebite story firsthand and would later receive an unedited digital copy of the photo (he is not at liberty to share the original version with faces for publication without permission, but on the internet the curious can find the exact same photo with the family faces blacked out).
There is nothing photographically “flawed” about the picture other than the man looking downward instead of at the camera, but if you zoom in to the bottom of the picture, there is a rattlesnake in the act of striking, fangs visible, in the apparent direction of the wife, whose hand is directly above the serpent. Amazingly, the family dog somehow distracted and deflected the strike, but the woman’s husband was envenomated in the leg by one fang, oddly, at the same instant that the dog was stricken in the face by the other fang. The man would be treated and later transferred to an urban hospital. He recovered fully. The faithful dog did not survive.
According to Paul, God has much better things in mind for us than being sidetracked by Satan or shipwrecked in our faith! (Hebrews 6). It is through a love of the truth and the consistent faith exercise of God’s Word that we gain spiritual discernment into things that could otherwise be harmful to us and our families (Hebrews 5). God’s great love is able to keep us and protect us in every circumstance, but He expects us not only to “deflect” satanic attacks, but to defeat the enemy of our souls with the spiritual weapons of warfare He has given us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 6).
The Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is our first, and last, responder!
Must reading for any believer desiring to enter into a deeper faith relationship with God and to learn more about miracles and answered prayer: G.C. Bevington biography / Kingsley Press (compiled in part during the 1918 “Spanish Flu” epidemic).