Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Stumbling Block

.... The principle of the stumbling block was introduced by Balaam the Son of Beor, the wayward prophet who plagued the children of Israel in the wilderness (Rev 2:14). In the beginning, he was summoned by Balak, King of Moab, to curse Israel (Numbers 22-24). But in attempting this, he found that he was unable to do so. He had no power against God’s people for he was unable to curse those whom God had blessed (Num 22:12). .
... Because he could not work against Israel in a power sort of way, Balaam counseled Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel. This stumbling block would come through the non-powerful avenue of temptation.
.... ‘If we tempt them, and they succumb to the temptation,’ Balaam had basically counseled them, ‘then God Himself will be moved to destroy them! So even if we don't have any power against them, He does, and by casting a stumbling block before them, we can throw them up against God Himself.
.... So the 'powerful proxy' in this case became God Himself:

.... "Then Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel."

(Num 25:1-3)

.... As a result of this provocation, as the Lord's punishment upon Israel, twenty-four thousand Israelites were slain in one day (Num 25:9). And Satan took careful note of this. Later, when he found that he, too, was unable to work against Christians in a direct power sort of way, he would use the same principle effectively:

.... 'But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.'

(Acts 5:3-6)

.... In this particular case, Satan modeled his assault after Balaam’s, in that he used the principle of the stumbling block to throw them up against God Himself. Thus, Satan worked in a non-powerful way of temptation. If Ananias and Sapphira had not listened, nothing would have happened to them; but since they did listen, the actual power that destroyed them came from God.
.... Later, Satan would learn to use this principle in additional ways, to throw us up against other powerful proxies. Let’s say, for example, that he tempts a man to commit adultery. If the man shuns this temptation and humbles himself before God, nothing bad will happen to him. But if not and he falls, power could come against him from several other directions:
.... First, God Himself would be angry with him, and would probably punish him. In addition, the man’s wife would become angry and might divorce him. The disillusionment might cost him the respect of his family, friends and co-workers, and do irreparable harm with his kids.
.... Furthermore, from the woman in question, he might contract a sexual disease. Financially, he may be burdened with courtroom costs, with alimony or a patrimony suit or both, and for healthcare costs. And that may only be the beginning.
.... In this example, Satan’s non-powerful weapon of temptation threw him up against a spectrum of powerful foes, and the actual harm in his life came through them.
.... Further examples would abound. If Satan tried to deceive a Christian, for instance, his deception would be a non-powerful tool. But through it, he would seek to throw them up against something else that was powerful. The Christian might listen to bad financial advice, for example, and find that he was soon impoverished. Or in a worse scenario, Satan may deceive him with false doctrine. If the error was severe enough, it could cause him to fall out of his relationship with God (as in Gal 5:1-4).
.... Satan also uses the non-powerful tool of condemnation. If we don’t listen, nothing bad will happen to us. But if we do, the episode may lead to stress induced illness, or even to suicide. Through these and so many other example, he uses a non-power approach, and tries to throw us up against a powerful proxy.
Perhaps the most powerful proxy that Satan uses in the church today is our own faith. As we have seen, he has no direct power over Christians. But if we believe he has such power, that belief is powerful, and he could use it to his own advantage in many ways.
.... If Satan says ‘Jump!’ and we believe we must, we may very well do it. Or if we believe we must wage warfare against him in a certain manner, which turns out to be unbiblical, we will find that we have locked ourselves out of truly effective warfare.

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