Impulse to Empire

The great goal, the great focus, the great value that supersedes all others is not the economy, stupid.  It’s love, brother and sister.  The beast says it’s the economy, stupid.  But the Kingdom of Christ is Love one another, little children.  But if we get sucked into that kind of philosophy that everything has to go toward keeping the economy strong, we’ve been marked by the beast.  The Lamb is all about persons.  The beast is all about numbers.  Where persons are being transformed into numbers, the satan is there.

Why do I say  “the satan”?   Instead of Satan?  We see it all the time as Satan.  Capital S….atan.  Like it’s his name or something.  Satan…Jones.  But it’s not a name, it’s a title.  It’s the Hebrew Ha-satan, the satan.   Just like the devil.  But we don’t do that with the devil, even though it’s the exact same thing, except devil is from Greek.  We don’t capitalize Devil as though it’s a personalized pronoun, but we do with Satan.  It’s a weird thing we picked up which we’d do much better without.  

In the Old Testament we have three mentions of ha-Satan.  The devil is never mentioned in the Old Testament, simply because it’s not a Hebrew word. Satan and devil are the same word in different languages.  But they both mean the same thing, “the accuser”.   Ha-Satan in Hebrew, diabolos in Greek.  Only three specific, by name mentions of the satan in the Old Testament.  They can help us understand what we mean by the satanic.

We’ll begin with one you may already be thinking of, from Job.  We have a righteous man, Job, then the satan, the accuser, ha-satan, shows up and begins to accuse Job before God.   “Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!
“But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.””  Job‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭MSG‬.   It’s just because you’ve been so good to him.  He doesn’t really love you.  He just loves the stuff…This is the accusation the satan is bringing before God about the righteous man Job.

Then as Job enters into his trials, where he loses his fortune, his health and his children, the satan seems to disappear from the story, but he doesn’t disappear.  Satan then possesses the three friends of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  They’ve heard of the horrible tragedy that’s befallen their friend Job, and they’ve come to comfort him, and they do sit in mourning with him for seven days.  But eventually they begin to accuse him.  Why do they begin to accuse their friend Job?   

When we as human beings encounter horrific tragedies, and we hear someone has gone completely bankrupt and lost all their material wealth, and not only this, but they’ve lost their health and their children as well, when that happens to someone we can’t help but think “My God, I hope something like that never happens to me!!”  And we want to somehow find a guarantee that something like that will never happen to us.  So Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have to come up with a reason why this happened to Job.  It can’t be just a twist of fate.  It can’t be purely random, it can’t just the vagaries of life.  There must be a reason and it must somehow be Job’s fault.  Job has somehow done something to bring this upon himself.  He deserves this.  This is somehow the righteous judgement of God.

To preserve their own sense of future well being, they find it necessary to increasingly, aggressively accuse Job.  And what is that?  That is the satan, that’s what it is.   They are possessed by the satan.  They have gone from comforting their friend to tormenting him.  In his sorrow they are making it worse.  They have become the satan.

The second story where we see the satan in the Old Testament is shorter and more obscure.  It’s in the prophetic book of Zachariah, involving Joshua the high priest (NOT Joshua Son of Nun).  In a vision Zachariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord, and the satan standing there to accuse the high priest.  There it is again, the spirit of accusation, accuse, accuse, accuse.  To which the Lord simply says “And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”” Zechariah‬ ‭3:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  Now shut up and go away

The third episode is more mysterious still, and it doesn’t totally fit with the first two where it’s very clearly accusation.  These are the only three, by name, specific mentions of the satan in the Old Testament.  There are no others.  The third is the mysterious episode with King David.  He’s the king, and we’re told in 1 Chronicles 21 “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” ‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭21:1‬ ‭NIV.  He was led by Satan to number Israel, to take a census.  This led to a tremendous judgement.  “So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord —days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”” ‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭21:11-12‬ ‭NIV.    So David chose three days of epidemic disease, and 70,000 people died.  

We should pause and say “Wait a minute!  You get that for taking a census?”   But, it wasn’t just a census.  It says that he then put his two generals in charge of the census, and they weren’t just counting the people, but they were counting the men who were able to draw the sword.  In other words David is beginning to think about how large an army he could raise.  If he were to draft soldiers and build an army, how powerful would it be?   It was the impulse to empire.  David is thinking “I could expand this thing.  I could push out a little to the north and the south and the east and the west.  I could have more and more…how much more could I get if I became aggressive and imperial in my desires?”.   That, too, is the satanic.

We could say it this way – the spirit of accusation and the impulse to empire are the primary manifestations of the satan.  That’s all under the heading of The Lamb gives you a name, the beast gives you a number.  What got Israel and King David in so much trouble in this episode was David started thinking about people not as persons but as numbers, as objects he could use for his own ego needs and economic self interests.  He’d gone from knowing person as names to seeing persons as numbers.

The Lamb gives you a name, the beast gives you a number.

John Lewis

2 thoughts on “Impulse to Empire

  1. “The Lamb is all about persons. The beast is all about numbers.” I can see where you’re coming from. But I think about it a little differently.
    The Lamb is all about what is best for us, which is the Lamb.
    The beast is all about keeping us locked up in ourselves so we don’t make it to the Lamb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear ya, and don’t really disagree so much, but here i am really trying to relate it to our everyday lives, in a way (hopefully) that will allow people to see what “the spirit of the age” really looks like in our everyday lives. Everyday we are dealt with as numbers, not so much as individual persons, in so many different ways. Yet, somehow, our God never sees us this way. No matter the 99, or 99 million, he always sees through it to find and save the one.

      Liked by 1 person

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