Intimidation, an Abuse of Power
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.—Isaiah 27:1
Have you ever seen a dragon? Would you recognize one if you saw one? Dragons are mentioned over thirty times in the Bible in ten different books. They are described both as land animals and as sea animals. There is no one creature that fully fits all the descriptions of the dragon.
Some identify a dragon with accounts of pre-historic dinosaurs. Some feel it is a giant lizard and others that it is a whale. Other identifications include the jackal, the hyena, and the crocodile. Both the Greek historian Herodotus and the Jewish historian Josephus describe flying reptiles in ancient Egypt and Arabia.
But there is one place in nature where we do find a dragon: Draco the dragon is in the northern night sky, wrapping itself much of the way around the celestial north pole; its ancient dominant star was a red star, Thuban by name. The celestial north pole was in the constellation of Draco at the time of the Garden of Eden, then shifted into the Lesser Sheepfold (now called Ursa Minor) during the Gospel age; in a few hundred years it will be in the constellation of Cepheus the king. The symbolism is evident.
The only detailed biblical description of the dragon is found in the book of Revelation. As in all of Revelation, it is symbolic and not to be taken literally: “There appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (Revelation 12:3).
No matter what animal, mythical or real, is described by the term dragon, one thing they all have in common is they are fearsome, usually gigantic in size, and to be dreaded.
Isaiah 27 identifies the dragon with leviathan. There is a graphic description of leviathan in Job chapter 41. Here are some of the phrases used to describe it: “None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?” (verse 10). “Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about” (verse 14). “His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth” (verse 21). “He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood” (verse 27). “Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear” (verse 33). Job closes his description of Leviathan by saying, “He is a king over all the children of pride” (Job 41:34).
The dragon is one of the four names of Satan: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:2). Each of these four names describes a different attribute of the great adversary. As the dragon he is the intimidator; as the serpent he is the deceiver; as the Devil he is the slanderer; and as Satan he is the mortal enemy.
Throughout the Bible wherever we see Satan, we see him using the tactics of fear and intimidation to accomplish his goals and spread his influence. Intimidation and fear are abuses of power. Notice, in contrast, the spirit of the Almighty: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15). True power does not seek to assert itself over others but rather to work with them.
The intimidator seeks control. Unable to secure control by gaining the respect of others, he resorts to the assertive position of forcing his way upon others. Thus intimidation is seen as an outgrowth of frustration over one’s inability to achieve domination by any other means.
The contrast between Lucifer, the dragon, and Jesus, the Logos, is marked. Jesus himself says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
While Christ (the Logos) at his second advent can be assertive as the general of Jehovah, his exercise of power is not to intimidate, but to prepare the way for blessing. The use of power by Jesus as a representative of Jehovah is to replace present institutions with a far better order of things. The prophet Isaiah says of his work, “The LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). While the Logos has always been content being subservient to God, Lucifer has had a far different spirit. We read of his boastful spirit: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14).
Nowhere is Satan’s use of intimidation more evident than in the blasphemous doctrine of hell fire which has been so successful in keeping people under control of the church. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian writing in the first century before Christ, says of the Greek religion: “Even the entirely erroneous doctrine of hell has done much good in keeping the people in line.” That doctrine is a club used to beat people into submission. In contrast, the Lord uses a “still small voice” to encourage people to lead a more righteous life, productive of peace. Jesus is not only the all-conquering lion of the tribe of Judah, but the lamb slain from the foundation of the world who brings mankind back to God.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Love is the antidote for fear. There is no dread in love; we do not dread that which we love. Love attracts; fear repulses. Rather than encouraging love for God, fear, encouraged by the commonly held view of hell, makes God an ogre to be dreaded.
True, God is a disciplinarian: “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons” (Hebrews 12:6-8, NIV). In the next verses Paul compares his chastening with that of natural fathers toward their children. While they engender respect for the parents, unfortunately often the chastisement is done by the parents “after their own pleasure” (verse 10). Although God’s disciplines may seem grievous, they are ultimately joyous because they yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (verse 11). As an enforcer of God’s disciplines in the kingdom, Jesus will rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15). Here, the Greek word translated “rule” (Strong’s #4165) means to tend as a shepherd. His rod of iron, however, is not used indiscriminately, but its blows are measured and corrective like a father when spanking his child. “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).
The Lesson for Christians
The Christian, like the Lord, never seeks to intimidate. Though he may be called upon to condemn the wrongs around him, such should always be done in the spirit of love and with a desire to correct. He, like Elihu of old, when speaking with Job said, “I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you” (Job 33:6,7, NIV).
The apostle Paul put it simply. The Christian is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). There may come times when it is necessary to defend truth. Such defense should always respect the other and never seek to impose its views. As the old saying goes, “A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
Because the Christian is imperfect and sees truth “through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), he must allow room for a different opinion. The Lord desires unity for his church, not uniformity. Today it is the “unity of the spirit” that must prevail; only later, when the Church is with the Lord in heaven, will there be the “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:3,13).
Likewise in raising children parents must, while administering necessary discipline, always seek to explain fully the reason for punishment and assure the child that despite being chastised, he is still dearly loved.
In husband-wife relationships, while the husband is the head of the house, his wishes are never to be imposed blindly on his mate. Both should do things jointly through mutual consideration. The Jewish proverb says, “Eve was not taken out of a bone from man’s head that she should be over him; nor out of a bone in the foot that he shall rule over her, but out of a rib from his side, close to his heart and under his arm of protection.”
Those in a position of being employers or supervisors of others should likewise be careful not to use fear and intimidation. Paul says, “Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Ephesians 6:9; see also Colossians 4:1).
Whatever the relationship, we are to emulate the Logos and copy his spirit of sacrifice rather than follow the path of leviathan, the great dragon, who uses fear and intimidation.