Sunday, July 04, 2021

With One Hand Behind His Back

“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.”

It must be very frustrating to be Satan.

Picture this: you are bound and determined to thwart the will of God, to destroy his work, to make null and void his promises, to corrupt his servants and taint everything he touches, to remake the world in your own image and to make your name greater than his.

And God beats you every time. With one almighty hand metaphorically tied behind his metaphorical back.

Hindered from Coming

The apostle Paul writes to Christians in Rome that he had been repeatedly hindered from coming to see them. Why Rome? It was a major Gentile city, and the Gentiles were Paul’s priority. Perhaps, having heard of the work that had been started there by others, it occurred to the apostle to come and help build up these new disciples in their faith. But despite Paul’s best efforts, ministering to the Italian churches directly was never possible, at least not until he went to Rome as a prisoner several years later. He was “often hindered”. Eventually, Paul began to see the wisdom of God in this apparent defeat. It had kept the apostle focused on his own mission, going where nobody else was going and preaching Christ where his name had never been heard. He could have viewed this series of successful hindrances as a victory for Satan, but instead he came to see them as the fulfillment of scripture: “As it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ ”

Somehow, God always gets his way. The Romans were growing, learning and maturing in their faith with or without the apostle: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” How angry that must have made the enemy! Stop one apostolic messenger and God simply sends others to lay a foundation. Stop them all, and before you know it, the Holy Spirit has these new disciples teaching each other.

Publishing the Battle Plan

Worse, God tells you exactly what he’s going to do before he does it. The divine strategy for spiritual warfare was no big secret to be discovered. It had been published. The Almighty shared his plans with his prophets, who broadcast them to the entire world. Why? Because you can’t stop him even when you know what he’s going to do next.


Take, for example, the divine purpose to include the Gentiles in the promises given to the patriarchs, to graft wild shoots into the cultured vine of God’s blessing. That plan was the oldest of old news. God announced it to Abraham a few millennia back. Then he filled the scriptures with the details. David wrote a song about it when delivered from the hand of Saul: “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.” Of course, David didn’t necessarily realize he would not be the only instrument of God’s praise among the Gentiles. How could he imagine the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul, let alone what God has done throughout the world as the glorified Christ has built his church?

Strategy and Tactics

This is strategic more than tactical: it shows the overall objectives of the spiritual war. But Satan could hardly miss it, especially when the prophets kept repeating it. “Rejoice with his people, O nations,” said Moses. A strategic alliance is coming, and all Satan’s power cannot stop it: Jews and Gentiles united to glorify God when he takes vengeance on his adversaries. Or, how about the message of the shortest psalm in the Bible? “Praise the Lord, all nations. Extol him, all peoples.” All nations? When this plan is implemented, the god of this world will have nothing left!

But God is not always content to speak only in broad generalities. So what are his tactics? How will he bring this about? Isaiah tells us, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples — of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” God’s plan hinges on the Son of David. “In him will the Gentiles hope.”

With God’s whole battle plan laid bare like this for all to see, we might think it would give Satan a tremendous advantage. But “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed”. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. As for the church Christ is building, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And he does it all with one hand behind his back.


Well, frustrating for Satan. Wonderful for God’s people.

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