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The Providence of Satan

Providence is a trait that is always associated with God.  In fact, providence is so synonymous with God that the word “Providence” was once used like a name to describe Him.  For example, the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence says, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  The signers of the Declaration recognized that God answers prayers and works in the lives of people through His providence, so they invoked His care by this term.  The word “providence” literally means “foresight” (from the Latin pro, meaning “before,” and videns, meaning “to see”), but it is commonly used to mean God’s care or preparation in advance as the result of His foresight.  God foresees what man will need, and so He provides the means to satisfy those needs by His providence.

While the association between God and providence is universal, there is a sense in which Satan is also providential in his work.  In fact, Satan has often imitated God’s behavior in order to achieve his evil purposes (2Cor. 11:3, 13-15).  In the case of Satan, his foresight allows him to perceive man’s weaknesses and to devise schemes, traps, and deceptions whereby souls may be destroyed.  The Scripture warns us about Satan’s providence, saying in 1Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Satan cannot force anyone to sin, but his providence creates opportunities for temptations that lead to sin.  A good example of this is found in the first two chapters of the book of Job.  Satan foresaw that Job might curse God if he lost his children and his possessions, so God permitted Satan to thus afflict Job.  When that plan failed, Satan foresaw that Job might curse God if he lost his health, so God permitted Satan to smite Job with painful boils all over his body.  This insight into the workings of Satan is helpful for us to understand what he attempts to do to us.  He foresees what may cause us to stumble, and then he providentially uses that against us in hopes that we will sin.  Not only does the devil foresee the objects of our temptation, but he also foresees the opportunity for temptation.  For example, notice how the devil tempted Jesus and then “departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).  The opportune time is as important to Satan’s success as anything, for he strikes when we are weak, when we are alone, when we think no one else will see, etc.  Altogether, the power of Satan’s providence makes him a dangerous foe whom we should take seriously.

Knowing the providence of Satan, let us resist every trap set by him.  James said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you (Jas. 4:7).  Likewise, after Peter described the devil as a prowling, roaring lion, he said, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1Pet. 5:9).  Satan is indeed dangerous, but he is weak when we employ the help of God in resistance.  Truly, God’s help is abundantly available to help us resist Satan, just as Paul commended us, saying, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).  Through truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God (Eph. 6:14-17), we may boldly respond to Satan’s overtures in the same manner as our Lord, who said, “Begone, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10), and, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23).

If we submit to God’s will, then we are assured that God’s providence will lead us away from Satan’s providence.  Satan may provide temptations, but God provides salvation.  Notice 1Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Not only does God’s providence save us from temptations, but He also foresaw that we would succumb to Satan, and so He provided a Savior in Jesus Christ so that “He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).  Satan’s providence may be great, but God’s providence is infinitely greater.  We thank God for that!

Stacey E. Durham



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