We can be complicit in the snares of Satan through disobedience. Straying from God’s precepts is straying from the protection and the power of Christ in us.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not strayed from Your precepts. (Psalm 119:110)
From the second we step over into the kingdom of God, we’re soldiers in God’s army. Salvation brings blessings beyond measure, but it also immediately thrusts us onto the battlefield. If we belong to Christ, we’re at war with Satan. There is no ‘spiritual Switzerland’ or neutral territory. Its either or, and we must accept that we have a target on backs – the glorious cross of Christ. God promises both protection and deliverance, but today’s verse reminds us that we must actively participate. We play a part in whether or not the snares of Satan are successful.
Natural characteristics of the snares of Satan.
In the natural world, traps and stares are used for the purpose of obtaining food. Mankind and every creature that relies on prey to survive use these techniques in various ways. These snares usually have certain ‘universal’ characteristics. They are hidden so they cannot be easily seen. Clever construction means that they do not provide an easy way of escape. They are situated where prey would not expect to find them but where prey will be readily found, i.e. an habitual path. Their strength prevents them from being easily broken by the prey. And finally, as our image today so beautifully illustrates, they often use some kind of ‘bait’ to attract the prey. All of these characteristics make it clear, already, that the snares of Satan should be avoided at all costs.
The above characteristics manifest in the snares of Satan, though the purpose and power behind them differs. The enemy desires destruction, not food, which makes them unnatural. But Satan cannot create anything himself. He can only use the things and principles of God to pervert them to serve his purposes. For this we can be grateful, because we can at least form a realistic picture of his methods of entrapment. The driving motive behind snares and traps is to avoid direct conflict and the possibility of losing. Samson is a wonderful example. Rather than try to take him head-on, the Philistines used Delilah to entrap him, saving themselves a lot of effort, blood, and loss of life. The enemy will never launch open attack when deception and entrapment will work. And it does work, because he is, after all, the father of lies.
The snares of Satan are woven to destroy us.
We must keep this simple truth in mind. Our dealings with the devil must always be on a ‘not-negotiable’ basis. Compromise is the beginning of deception, which leads to destruction. While the analogy between physical and spiritual snares is apt and powerful, spiritual snares are driven by supernatural power. Seduction and deception are the warp and weft of the devil’s weaving, and his insidious web is often very difficult to spot before it’s too late. But we need to shake ourselves out of the error of imagining that they are ‘external.’ The snares of Satan use one common bait – self. He will always use something which appeals to our pride or our desires to lure us in. Like today’s flower, it will appeal to self and seem ‘a thing of beauty’ to lull our suspicions. This is the reason why they work.
It’s easy to keep Satan as something entirely separate. We forget that as a spiritual being, he has intimate knowledge of each of us, including our weaknesses. This is the very basis of seduction and deception. The snares of Satan are ‘custom made’ to use our fears, desires, and pride to his advantage. He knows what will appeal to us, and he knows our habits. This means that he knows how and where to lay the snare to achieve his purposes. He will ruthlessly use temptation or twist the words of God, as He did with Eve. His snares are structured to use existing sin to weaken us. He feeds our pride in order to blind us or cripple our discernment. All of these are part of the making the snares of Satan because he is determined to destroy us. His campaign is one of no mercy.
Our complicity in the snares of Satan.
Today’s verse highlights a reality that we often overlook or ignore – we are often complicit in the snares of Satan. The verse contains two parts. Firstly, the snares of Satan are set. They are real, an established spiritual fact. They may be set by the wicked in the world and even in the church. The power behind them, of course, is always that of darkness and wickedness. Satan uses anything and anyone to achieve his purposes. If we wear a spiritual blindfold or pretend that they don’t exist, we’re fools. At the same time, however, we shouldn’t mistakenly look for snares under every rock. Intimacy with God and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us reveals the pitfalls. It’s as easy to give Satan the glory by ascribing every single circumstance to him. This opposite extreme is as dangerous as assuming his snares don’t exist.
The second part of the verse reveals whether or not we are complicit in the snares of Satan. In simple terms, our complicity or non-complicity is defined by whether or not we keep God’s precepts. If we are obedient, the snares of Satan will be ineffectual. We give him no self-material to work with. Our weaknesses, fears, and pride are surrendered to God and the devil cannot use them against us. It doesn’t mean they’re automagically erased, but that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Any power Satan might have had through these is neutralized. The second truth is that by being obedient, we avoid the snare. Living by the Word and in the guidance of the Spirit provides the spiritual discernment we need see the snare and not fall into it. Complicity is, essentially, not being obedient. We are complicit when we ignore His precepts.
Understanding the snares of Satan.
It’s a lot easier to avoid the snare than to escape it. To avoid them, we must know our enemy. This doesn’t mean focusing on Satan to the point where he becomes more important than he really is. God alone must receive the glory, but we need to at least be honest and realistic and see what we’re up against. The power behind every snare of Satan is seduction and deception, with the purpose of entrapment. He will seduce us with what seems desirable and deceive us with twisted truth. Entrapment happens through our responses. In other words, he designs his seductions and deceptions to stir up the desired response that overrides spiritual discernment. We must never forget that self – the old man – automatically sides with the devil. The unsaved self belonged to Satan for a long time and will always resent spirit control which is God-serving, not self-serving.
The harsh reality is that every believer has a very personal enemy ‘in the camp’ which constantly works against us. We can be, in effect, our own worst enemy. As an example, imagine a hare which, all its life, has followed a particular path to find food. The hunter will watch, determine the pattern, and set the snare where it guarantees success. But imagine, now, the hare suddenly realizes the danger of his habitual behaviour and chooses a different route. He avoids the snare. But if he’d persisted in his old habits and patterns and ignored the reality of a possible danger, he would have been complicit in his own entrapment. This is the principle of self. The snares of Satan depend on self – our learned weaknesses and responses – to be successful. In Christ, the new man cannot be ensnared. The old man, however, can and often is.
Avoid and escape the snares of Satan.
The simple answer to the danger we face is obeying God’s precepts. As human beings, we look for the easy way. In this case, we automatically assume that God will do it. Of course, He does promise to protect us from the snares of Satan. He also promises that He will free us from them. We can be absolutely assured that He will be faithful to all His promises, even though we don’t deserve it. But we must participate through obedience. By protecting us, God doesn’t always mean that He will sovereignly move and sweep the snares from our path. We protect our children by teaching them, and God does the same. His precepts are our protection. The more we know and obey them, the more His power works through them to protect us. God’s protection is not an ‘outside’ separate power. It’s often an inside power working through us.
The Word of God is living and dynamic. It contains the power of creation and resurrection – the awesome power of God Himself. God desires to work intimately, not as a separate, distant sovereignty. Jesus is the Word. If we are in Christ and He is in Us, His resurrection life is available. Jesus is our protection, but to access this, we must obey the precepts of God. Obedience is key to enjoying God’s protection. We cannot be in Christ and access all the blessings of the cross if we refuse to be obedient. The new man can only exist in Christ. In Him, we unlearn old responses that weaken us, and allow the Spirit to guide and provide discernment. The new habit of obedience must replace the old habits of self-gratification. Obedience subdues self and protects us by removing the things of self that empower the snares of the enemy.
The snares of Satan cannot triumph.
Our encouragement comes from the truth of the cross. Christ defeated Satan. It’s happened and is already a spiritual reality. Working our salvation is the reality of implementing this victory in our lives. Christ’s victory does not mean the snares of Satan will cease. It means that they no longer have power over us unless we are complicit. The righteous believer who does not stray from the precepts of God will be protected from the snare. We will also be rescued if we do fall, providing we return to the precepts we strayed from. For God’s protection to operate as He desires, we must know His Word and obey His Word. Those in Christ are recognised by their obedience – recognised by God, by the world, and by Satan himself who knows that no one can be snatched out of the hand of Christ.
Thank You, Lord, for the Living Word that indwells us with the victory and power of the cross. Empower us to love and know Your Word and to obedience in all things. Forgive us for foolishly allowing the things of the flesh to control us. Teach us and guide our responses so that we can avoid the snares of Satan. Thank You for the assurance that if we do fall, we can return in obedience and trust in Your promised protection and freedom.