By Henry Mobley
Simon Peter, the apostle to the Jews, apparently addressed his first epistle to the Jews who were scattered throughout Asia and Asia Minor. However, his writings also comprehended the Gentile believers across what was then the “known world,” (I Peter 2:10). It is not clear whether or not the location where this first epistle was written was the city of Rome or the actual Babylon located on the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq. He metaphorically used the term, “Babylon,” revealing the depth of suffering to which the early church was subjected.
In verse ten of our text, Peter teaches us that perfection will come only “after that ye have suffered a while.” (1 Peter 5:10). The theme “suffering” probably occurs at least fifteen times in this short book; hence the word “suffering” is the key word in the epistle. This theme alternates between the suffering of Christ Jesus and the suffering of the believer. According to Peter, suffering was beneficial to the believer in that Jesus is glorified in the patient suffering of His saints, I Peter 4:16, and he teaches that suffering is disciplinary, I Peter 4:17-19.
The source of our physical suffering and our mental and emotional suffering, is that our sinful inclinations derive from the fact we have an adversary, the devil. It is interesting that Webster’s Dictionary defines the word, “adversary,” as, “a person who opposes or fights against another; opponent; enemy; “the adversary Satan!” Here, a secular source cites a spiritual element as being the adversary of mankind.
Using a simile, Paul likens the devil to a roaring lion. God’s servant, Job, paints a picture of Satan, “going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Job 2:2. Satan wanted to be like God but he is not God. He can’t be everywhere at the same time; although I’m sure each one of us feels that he lives where we are, at all times! He doesn’t know everything and he can’t read our minds, i.e., separate the thoughts from the intents of the heart. He wanted to be like the Most High and sought to set himself on high and make himself equal to God. This got him cast out of heaven and he was cast down to the Earth.
In his workings on the earth and among mankind, Satan uses people to accomplish his will, which is to drag humanity down to the pit of hell. There are many examples in the Bible that could be used but I want to cite a couple of explicit illustrations.
In the book of Esther, we find the exciting story of how God spared the Jews from the destruction that was plotted by Haman. The casual reader will identify Esther as the central character of the book that bears her name. The Bible student will recognize that this book is as much about Mordecai as it is about Esther.
All Satan asks of you and me is that we bow down and worship him, i.e., recognize him as if he has all power and authority or that he deserves to be worshipped. Haman’s conflict was with Mordecai, not with Esther or the Jews. Look at Esther 3:5-6, “And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that [were] throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, [even] the people of Mordecai.” Notice that it was Mordecai against whom Haman had a gripe. Every day, Mordecai sat at the gate and when Haman passed by, everyone bowed to him except Mordecai. Haman had risen high in the Babylonian kingdom. This was despite the fact that he himself was not a Babylonian. Esther 3:1 identifies Haman as an Agagite. He was a descendent of King Agag, king of the Amalekites, the pagan king who was supposed to have been slain by King Saul. However, Saul spared King Agag. Apparently some of the Amalekites survived as well because it was an Amalekite who took credit for taking the life of King Saul and brought word to David. Samuel fell on King Agag and took his life.
Haman was tormented by the fact that Mordecai would not bow before him. God was working for the preservation of the Jews by the simple fact that he caused Esther to become queen. Notice that “he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone” However, when he realized Mordecai’s genealogy, all of the hand-me-down stories of his own ancestry were awakened in his heart. Haman saw this as his chance to avenge the destruction of his forefathers. In verse nine, the scripture indicates that “they had shewed him the people of Mordecai–wherefore Haman sought to destroy all of the Jews.” It was not until he realized that Mordecai was a Jew that he sought to kill all the Jews.
Without question, God used Esther, as well as Mordecai, to preserve the Jews. Haman’s wife and friends encouraged Haman to build an immensely high gallows upon which to hang Mordecai. However, it was she who, with astute perception, realized Haman was not fighting against Mordecai and the Jews; he was fighting against God. When this reality became apparent to Zeresh, Ha-man’s wife, she told Haman, “If Mordecai [be] of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.” Esther 6:13.
A second example given in the Bible where Satan demanded only that righteous men bow down before him is found in the book of Daniel. Three Hebrew captives served at the pleasure of King Nebuchadnezzar. His personal command to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was, “fall down and worship the image!” Daniel 3:15. Of course, they refused to do so and were cast into a burning, fiery furnace out of which they emerged victorious without even the scent of smoke on their garments. What the enemy meant for evil, God turned it to good. They previously held positions “over the affairs of the province of Babylon,” Daniel 3:12. Afterwards, they were promoted even higher in the kingdom!
It was the appearance of the Fourth Man in the Fire that led to the progression of King Nebuchadnezzar’s apprehension of the True and Living God.
In II Kings, chapter five, we find a classic example of a beautiful story with a tragic ending. Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria. In this lofty position, he was held in high esteem and was accustomed to being obeyed and catered to in every instance. The Bible describes him as a mighty man of valor, but, he suffered from the horrible disease of leprosy. Naaman’s wife was waited on by a “little maid,” a Hebrew girl who had been brought away from Israel as a cap- tive and put into slavery. She had confidence in her God and in her prophet. It was her testimony that brought Naaman into Israel with a letter from his own master to the king of Israel, seeking to be healed from his affliction.
From our earliest days, we have enjoyed Sunday School lessons and evangelistic messages about how Naaman was healed of leprosy. We can visualize his having dipped in the Jordan river seven times and coming forth from the river completely healed, his skin being like that of a newborn baby.
Naaman was thankful to God and to Elisha for his healing and tried to give an offering to the man of God. This offering was refused and Naaman departed to his own country taking two mule’s burden of earth; just enough dirt with which to build an altar.
The tragedy is found in verse eighteen. “In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, [that] when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.”
With all of the goodness and mercy that God had shown to Naaman, he never received enough faith to believe that God would really deliver him from the power of his earthly king.
Satan tried the same trick on Jesus. His suggestion was, “Fall down and worship me!” Matthew 4:8. He was appealing to the humanity of Jesus Christ and hoping to benefit from any perceived human weakness, of which there was none.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
This temptation was the third of three efforts that Satan used to try to turn aside Jesus. First, he knew that after forty days of fasting, Jesus was very hungry; hence, the suggestion to turn stones into bread. This appealed to the flesh. The second try was the admonition for Jesus to cast himself down from the highest point of the Temple Mount. This would have appealed to the pride of life, i.e., “Look what I can do!” The first two attempts were leading directly to the third; which was, “Just bow your knee to me!”
Satan’s goal was to tempt Jesus to take the world as a political ruler, right then, without carrying out his plan to save the world from sin. Satan was trying to distort Jesus’ perspective by making him focus on worldly power and not on God’s plan. Solomon fell for this very scheme.
Throughout the scripture, there are many cases where men were told to not bow before any entity but God. The angel told Daniel to rise up and stand on his feet. After a mighty miracle of healing in Acts chapter fourteen, Paul was scarcely able to restrain the people from worshiping him, thinking he was Jupiter.
How easily people today will bow to any new fad or passing whim. Computers have consumed people. Being lovers of pleasure, it no longer matters whether or not revival breaks out; when vacation time comes, they are gone. It’s time to stand up on our feet and worship Jesus and Him only!