Accusation, an Abuse of Love
And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.—Zechariah 3:1
According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the Hebrew word translated Satan ..means an adversary. It is so used in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4, 2 Samuel 19:22, 1 Kings 5:4, 1 Kings 11:14,23,25, and Psalm 109:4. “Satan” is the Hebrew term meaning “adversary” in a law court.
This original sense is also found in our Lord’s application of the name to the apostle Peter: “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23, ASV).
The word “Satan” is used with the article as a proper name or title only four times in the Old Testament (Job 1:6,12; 2:1, and Zechariah 3:1). Once, it is used without the article (1 Chronicles 21:1).
“The personal existence of a spirit of evil is clearly revealed in Scripture; but the revelation is made gradually, in accordance with the progressiveness of God’s method. In the first entrance of evil into the world, the temptation is referred only to the serpent. … [In the book of Job we find] for the first time a distinct mention of ‘Satan’ the ‘adversary’ of Job. But it is important to remark the emphatic stress laid on his subordinate position, on the absence of all but delegated power, of all terror and all grandeur in his character.”—Smith’s Bible Dictionary, defining the word Satan.
We are told in Revelation 12:10 that Satan is “the accuser of our brethren.” The word “accuse” is defined by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “to charge with a fault or offense.” With that in mind, let us examine some Scriptures to learn more about the nature of Satan’s charges.
Satan vs. Job
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”—Job1:6-12
In these same verses the Rotherham translation substitutes the word “accuser” for “Satan.” Hence we are given a strong clue as to Satan’s character and motivation.
Verse eight indicates that Job was a special servant of God. No one on earth could compare with his character. Rotherham’s translation states that Job was “blameless and upright, revering God and avoiding evil.” But Satan begged to differ with the LORD’s assessment of Job’s character. In effect, Satan likened Job to a “fair-weather friend.” According to Satan’s accusation, as long as everything was going well, Job responded positively. However, Satan’s implication was that Job’s attitude would not be as noble and outstanding if his circumstances were challenging and harsh. Satan implied that Job served God for selfish reasons and stated that Job would ultimately curse God to his face if his circumstances were reversed.
“It is not strange if those that are approved and accepted of God be unjustly censured by the devil and his instruments; if they are otherwise unexceptionable, it is easy to charge them with hypocrisy, as Satan charged Job, and they have no way to clear themselves, but patiently to wait for the judgment of God.”—Matthew Henry Commentary
Not only should we exercise patience at such times, but we should also exhibit a kindly attitude that is perhaps easier said than done. This calls to mind the words of Peter: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
The feeling with which Satan looked on Job was similar to that with which he viewed Adam in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps bolstered by his earlier success in the case of Adam, Satan may have deduced that Job, who was part of the fallen race, also would not stand the test. Indeed, it appears that Satan wanted Job to fail and it gave him pleasure to contemplate such an outcome.
Satan’s behavior is in direct contrast to the apostle Paul’s statements in Ephesians 4: 29. There Paul indicated that no corrupt speech should proceed out of our mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear. He continued in verse 31 by saying that all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away, with all malice.
Further insight into Satan’s accusations is found in Job chapter 2. In verse five, Satan demanded that the LORD put forth his hand and cause Job to suffer physical harm. Satan predicted that Job would then renounce the LORD to his face.
“Satan, that sworn enemy to God and all good men, is here pushing forward his malicious prosecution of Job, whom he hated because God loved him, and did all he could to separate between him and his God, to sow discord and make mischief between them, urging God to afflict him and then urging him to blaspheme God. One would have thought that he had enough of his former attempt upon Job, in which he was so shamefully baffled and disappointed; but malice is restless: the devil and his instruments are so. Those that calumniate good people, and accuse them falsely, will have their saying, though the evidence to the contrary be ever so plain and full and they have been cast in the issue which they themselves have put it upon. Satan will have Job’s cause called over again. The malicious, unreasonable, importunity of that great persecutor of the saints is represented (Revelation 12:10) by his accusing them before our God day and night, still repeating and urging that against them which has been many a time answered: so did Satan here accuse Job day after day.”—Matthew Henry Commentary
Satan vs. Joshua, the High Priest
Satan is again revealed as an adversary in Zechariah: “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1,2).
“Joshua as high priest (Haggai 1:1) represents ‘Jerusalem’ (Zechariah 3:2), or the elect people, put on its trial, and ‘plucked’ narrowly ‘out of the fire.’ His attitude, ‘standing before the Lord’ is that of a high priest ministering before the altar erected previously to the building of the temple (Ezra 3:2,3,6; Psalm 135:2). Yet, in this position, by reason of his own and his people’s sins, he is represented as on his and their trial (Numbers 35:12).”—Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, A Commentary.
The “he” mentioned is the interpreting angel. “Jerusalem’s [Joshua’s] filthy garments” (Zechariah 3:3) are its sins which had hitherto brought down God’s judgments. The “change of raiment” (verse 4) implies its restoration to God’s favor. Satan suggested to the Jews that so consciously polluted a priesthood and people could offer no acceptable sacrifice to God, and therefore they might as well desist from the building of the temple. Zechariah encourages them by showing that their demerit does not disqualify them for the work, as they are accepted in the righteousness of another, their great High Priest, the Branch (Zechariah 3:8), a scion of their own royal line of David (Isaiah 11:1). The full accomplishment of Israel’s justification and of Satan the accuser’s being “rebuked” finally, is yet future (Revelation 12:10).” (See Jamieson, Fausett, Brown).
“Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.”—Psalm 109:1-6
Standing at one’s right hand is the usual position of a prosecutor or accuser in court, as the left hand is the position of the defense attorney. So here again we see Satan fulfilling his roles as an adversary and accuser. “Satan … [uses] superhuman intelligence and … superhuman powers, to inveigle our fallen flesh, through depraved appetites … [and] frequently uses the worldly … as unconscious instruments [to oppose] righteousness and truth, and those who are of the Truth” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 6, p. 612).
Sifted as Wheat
Luke 22:31-32 (Rotherham Bible) illustrates for us another scenario in which Satan acted as an adversary. During the Last Supper in the Upper Room, Jesus said: “Simon! Simon! lo! Satan hath claimed you, to sift as wheat; but I have entreated for thee, that thy faith may not fail. And thou, once thou hast turned, strengthen thy brethren.”
Here is an allusion to Job, whom Satan solicited and obtained that he might sift him as wheat, insinuating as “the accuser of the brethren”... that he would find chaff enough in his convictions, if indeed there was any wheat at all. Likewise, this was a difficult time for the Lord’s followers and Satan was right there trying to separate Peter from his loyalty to Christ and discourage him from discipleship. Whenever a sifting experience occurs, it is likely that Satan or his companions are part of it, exerting their influence in a divisive way.
The word “antithesis” means “the direct opposite” or a direct contrast to the original proposition. And we find Satan consistently acting in this capacity throughout the ages.
For example: “And Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Jehovah, who appeared unto him” (Genesis 12:7, ASV). But in the twentieth chapter of Genesis, indication is given that Satan tried to get Sarah contaminated so that she would be unfit to bear the seed.
Satan did all he could to destroy the ones whom God had chosen as Abraham’s seed, the nation of Israel. Bible history illustrates many examples of Satan’s attempt to induce the Israelites to sin and his bringing other nations against Israel.
Satan may have felt successful when the king of Babylon took Jerusalem, overturning the rulership of King Zedekiah, who was of the line of David. God’s physical temple was destroyed and Jerusalem and Judah made desolate. This is detailed in Ezekiel 21:25-27.
Satan undoubtedly recognized Jesus as the Son of God, the one predicted to bruise his head (Genesis 3:15). Satan did everything he could to destroy Jesus. Yet his efforts to kill Jesus as an infant were unsuccessful (Matthew 2:1-20).
Satan vs. Jesus
After his baptism, Jesus was confronted by Satan in the wilderness, where Satan put forward three different strong temptations. In one of Satan’s appeals, he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, claiming they belonged to Satan. But this is directly opposite the Scriptural declaration which assures us of God’s supremacy: “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, Satan used human agents to oppose him and either tempt Jesus into stumbling or to kill him. In addition to these attempts, the people tried another tactic, planning to seize Jesus to make him king. But when Jesus perceived their intentions, he withdrew into the mountain knowing that it was not according to God’s due time or plan (John 6:15).
Jesus asked, “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26). This tells us that Satan’s ways are not God’s ways. Satan divides, God unites. Unity is God’s standard!
We find this to be the case in the Scriptures: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21, ASV). “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6, ASV). God and Satan are polar opposites!
The parable of the sower in Mark 4 gives us additional insights into the nature of Satan and further contrasts God and Satan: “And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15).
Satan, the great divider, does not want men to reap the benefits of God’s Word, which is God’s means of restoring men to himself. Satan is afraid of losing a victim by his believing to salvation (Luke 8:12). And Satan has been very successful setting traps!
On the other hand, the Scriptures assure us that God desires all men to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). They also reveal that God’s sanctifying Word is truth (John 17:17). Furthermore, we know that God will win out in the end, because Isaiah prophesied of the time when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
The apostle Paul declared that “love suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Corinthians13:4, ASV). That describes God. On the other hand, Satan is cruel and takes pleasure in seeing others suffer. Here is one of many examples: “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day” (Luke 13:16). In attributing the infirmity to Satan, Jesus acknowledged the action of the demon as Satan’s agent. Disease was also ascribed to Satan and the demons in Acts 10:38 and 2 Corinthians 12:7. Sickness is traceable either directly or indirectly to sin and the author of sin, Satan (Reprints, p. 2133).
Satan’s Power Widespread
Satan’s power has been widespread as an opponent to the Lord’s people. The following Scriptures give us additional insight as to how Satan has operated in a variety of different situations:
“And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to [or: to deceive] the Holy [Spirit], and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3).
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).
“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
“Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
“Even him, whose coming [presence] is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
“Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20).
“For some are already turned aside after Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15).
“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9).
“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan‘s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Revelation 2:13).
“But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden” (Revelation 2:24).
These texts describe the power and the influence of Satan. Beginning at Matthew where he appears as the personal tempter of our Lord, through all the Gospels, epistles, and the book of Revelation, Satan’s power is many times asserted or implied as a reoccurring and dominant theme.
Satan’s Days are Numbered
The good news is that Satan’s days are numbered. We have the assurance of Revelation 20:10 that Satan will one day be removed from earth’s scene. Satan’s accusations will finally be stopped.
God’s kingdom on earth will be fully ushered in and nothing shall hurt nor destroy. At that time, the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isaiah 11:9). The former things, including Satan’s devices, shall have passed away. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”—Isaiah 55:10-13
For this we wait and earnestly pray!