God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:8 The roaring lion
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 25, 2022
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)
Peter touches on the natural concern and fear that mankind has for Judgment Day. For the typical Christian, the mention of the Judgment produces (1) fear, the natural reaction of every conscience to the condition of sinfulness that we live in (“Terror and pit and snare await you, O people of the earth!” Isaiah 24:17), but when we remember that Christ died for us and that our sins are paid and atoned for, we have (2) comfort and joy that this life will end and the next will soon begin (Isaiah 35:4). In the mean time, Christians meditate on the second coming of Christ to produce the very sober, self-controlled attitude and behavior Peter urges upon us. We want to avoid drunkenness, intoxication, getting high, and the loss of self and loss of control that comes with using and abusing drugs, alcohol, and other things.
Meditation on the second coming also drives away the worry over possessions that becomes greed. When we remember that Christ will surely come, we see our possessions as nothing more than assets, things borrowed from God for a few days, and we can even begin to judge for ourselves, “Did I use this mina for the benefit of my Master’s estate (Luke 19:15-16)?”
Third, meditation on the second coming drives us from bullying, ruthlessness, and cruelty. “If on judgment day,” says Gerhard, “there are numbered among the goats those who did not feed the hungry [Matthew 25:33,42], all the more will those who cheated their neighbor and took his bread away have to be counted among (the wicked).” The same can be said about driving us away from injustice, and hypocritical slyness. Christ read the hearts of his enemies while on earth and in the courts of his Father’s temple (Matthew 9:4; Luke 11:17, 16:5). He will certainly do the same thing on the pavement of his own courtroom.
Peter calls the devil “your enemy.” This is the word antidikos (ἀντίδικος). This antidikos is no ordinary enemy, but an “enemy at law,” an opposing lawyer; another way of translating “Satan,” which means “accuser.” The word is used of any opponent; whether informal (Isaiah 41:11) or formal (Esther 8:11), spiritual (1 Samuel 2:10), physical (Jeremiah 50:34) or legal (Proverbs 18:17; Luke 12:58). The devil takes on every one of these roles, always lashing away at us and trying to find a place for attack. Luther says:
“He is not in your sight when you are armed; but he looks in front and behind, inside and outside, for a place at which to attack you. When he attacks you here now, he soon rushes there and attacks you at another place. He hastens from one side to the other and employs all kinds of cunning and trickery to make you fall. And even if you are well armed at one place, he pounces on you at another place. If he cannot knock you down there either, he attacks you somewhere else. Thus he never ceases but goes all around and gives no rest anywhere. But we are fools and pay no attention to it. We go our way and are not watchful. Thus it is easy for him to gain ground.” (LW 30:141).
So here Peter calls in both of the Enemy’s titles, “Accuser” (enemy) and “Liar” (devil), which demonstrates the devil’s two roles, or hats. First, he lies in order to tempt a person to sin, and as soon as the person sins, he changes his role and accuses that person, “How could you?!” in order to cause despair, and perhaps by bullying the person enough, to cause that person to diverge from thinking of sin as a bad thing at all, from thinking of God as righteous and the one to be obeyed, and to think of themselves as having a choice that they can make in the way that they will live. The devil is never your friend. The devil is always your opponent, your enemy. To fall in line with the devil’s will is to be transformed into an enemy of God.
Peter’s Greek text here is picturesque. “Roaring” is a middle participle; the Greek middle voice sometimes shows active self-interest, which means he is roaring because he is hungry or just wants to do damage. “Prowls around…looking” is walks searching, with the verb “walking” modified by the participle “searching” to answer the question, “walking around doing what?” “Devour” is a poetic way of saying “swallow.” Maybe less poetry would be more graphic and eye-opening: the devil wants to swallow spiritual prey, making his victims into… what? They don’t become his allies, but his slaves. When he gains control over a person, he does not easily let go. He caused the whole world to fall. When one of God’s lost sheep is rescued by the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; Luke 15:5), the snarling lion and his wicked bride, the fallen world, try to bring them back into their old captivity so that they will share in his damnation (2 Peter 2:20). It is hell that swallows the devil’s prey.
But we have an even more powerful ally in our Savior Jesus. The devil could hurt our Lord, but our Lord crushed the head, that is, the power of the devil (Genesis 3:15). “He will crush the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4); “Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies” (Psalm 68:21). How does he do this crushing? With the same weapon he always uses, the weapon which is at the same time our medicine: his holy word. And we are to make the same twofold use of his word, “as both bread and weapon,” Luther preaches, “for feeding and for resisting; in peace and in war. With one hand we must build, improve, teach, and feed all Christendom; with the other, oppose the devil, the heretics, the world. For where the pasture is not defended, the devil will soon destroy it. He is bitterly opposed to God’s Word.”
Run to the word! Run to the sacrament! Be filled up with what nourishes and armed with what defends. The word of Christ is your weapon against the devil, and the very name of Christ, spoken in faith, is the “one little word [that] can fell him.”
Pastor Timothy Smith