Consider these passages from the New Testament:
“And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all” (Lk 13:11). After healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus said, “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 13:16). Jesus ascribes this woman’s illness to Satan himself.
“And they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an evil spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. And constantly night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones” (Mk 5:1-6). Jesus healed the man by driving out what turned out to be a multitude of evil spirits. When the townspeople came to see what had happened they were stunned to “observe the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’ [of evil spirits]” (Mk 5:15). Mark ascribes this man’s insanity to Satan’s minions.
“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3). Peter ascribes Ananias’ lie to the influence of Satan himself.
“For we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, more than once – and yet Satan thwarted us” (I Thess 2:18). Paul was thwarted by Satan himself.
“Be sober of spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 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” (I Pet 5:8-9). Given the context and sentence structure, could the exhortation to “resist Satan” be directly tied to Satan, the roaring lion, being responsible for their suffering?
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:…’Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days’ ” (Rev 2:8,10). The trip to prison and the suffering that goes with it is directly controlled by Satan himself.
Paul referred to his “thorn in the flesh” – thought to be an illness or malady – as “a messenger of Satan” (II Cor 12:7).
Did God prescribe eighteen years of sickness for the Jewish woman? No, Satan did. Did God prescribe insanity for the Gerasene demoniac? No, Satan did. Did God thwart Paul’s plans to take the gospel message to Thessalonica. No, Satan did. Did God throw his followers in the Smyrna church in jail as some kind of a test? No, Satan did.
Do you see the pattern? In each case, evil and suffering are the handiwork of Satan. His fingerprints are all over it. So where is the God we worship in all of this? Where is the God of love, goodness, and omnipotence? The short answer: God is not the author of evil, but is moving out in front of Satan’s evil intentions, and is actively, powerfully, and passionately turning what Satan meant for evil into good. We will take up this topic next post.