Photo Credit: Owner – Thai National Parks – www.thainationalparks.com/phu-hin-rong-kla-national-park
I hate and fear snakes, because if you look into the eyes of any snake you will see that it knows all and more of the mystery of man’s fall, and that it feels all the contempt that the Devil felt when Adam was evicted from Eden. Besides which its bite is generally fatal, and it twists up trouser legs.
– Rudyard Kipling, The Return of Imray
Snakes…ask any ophidiophobe and he or she will tell you that the sly, subtle, and slithery serpent is simply the most contemptible creature on planet earth. In fact, a little known tidbit about me is that I myself am dreadfully terrified of snakes. It’s a funny thing, really…my childhood home was centered in a tangled forest out in the country, where many a snake dwells. Yet even though snakes were not an uncommon sight in my youth, I never grew a fondness for the creature. To this day I shudder at the very thought of seeing (or being seen by) a serpent…so it is with no small fear that I am inspired to bring this article before you.
Now before any reptile lover takes offense at what I am about to write, let it be known that I don’t hold any silly superstitions about snakes. I will (be it ever so reluctantly) acknowledge that the serpent is one of God’s creatures. A snake is as innocent as the next creature of any evil, being that animals do not possess spirits. However, while not actually being evil…snakes are even to this modern age a symbol and a type of evil…having been chosen in the garden as host to the greatest “serpent” of all.
By learning about snakes in a physical sense, we can unveil truths about our own enemy serpent in a spiritual sense. Today, we are going to consider how a snake methodically takes hold of his victim. Perhaps in so doing, we will learn how to successfully combat a few of that old serpent Satan’s tricks…
1. The Serpent Stares
Photo Credit: Steve Kharmawphlang
A hungry serpent spots his victim from a distance. A movement from afar, be it ever so slight, has captured his full attention. He patiently lies in wait, hidden among the foliage. He stares at the desired object of his appetite, observing his soon-to-be prey…
Now the serpent was more subtil* than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made… Genesis 3:1a
[*subtil; from hebrew root “arum”: to be crafty, shrewd, sensible]
Satan roams unseen in the garden of Eden…looking for a tasty morsel to satiate his lust. Alas, a woman! An easy target – every predator’s dream. This battle will not last long, he knows he has it in the bag. All he has to do is get her away from her husband’s watchful eye long enough to make a carefully planned, unexpected move.
Notice a stark similarity between a serpent and the serpent? They are both hidden…unseen. This advantage alone provides quite the upper hand for a serpent. An inconspicuous predator will always have an easy go at his victim. Surely we can not defeat what we can not see.
A man [or woman] surprised is half beaten. – Thomas Fuller, M.D. (1732)
In the same way spiritually, it’s what we don’t see that will surely be the death of us. Sins that we know we struggle with we can more easily defeat (if we have a mind to), for we have identified them and seen the harm that they bring to our lives and the lives of others. Yet there can be areas of sin in our lives that we fail to detect; sins deep in the recesses of our minds and hearts. These sins go hidden and unnoticed if we do not dig deep and examine ourselves continually. Satan will always use our unawareness for his advantage.
Look before you leap, for snakes among sweet flowers do creep. – German Proverb
Consider this: would it be more difficult to spot a serpent coiled in a rainforest tree, or a serpent sprawled out on a tile floor? This is a no-brainer. Of course it is harder to see the snake in the tree. It is hidden among a myriad of vines and branches (that appear to be harmless)! Likewise, we have parts inside us that are so tangled…so wild and unkempt like a rainforest, that what seems harmless may in fact be a serpent right before our very eyes.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober… 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8a
Most parents who live in a small community have no problem letting their children play freely around the neighborhood during the light of day, but under the darkness of night it becomes a different story. Why is this? We all know that as a general rule, baddies do their business under the coverings of darkness. Satan works in much the same way as a kidnapper or sexual predator would…he is not stupid enough to parade around in the daytime, but he’ll not pass up the chance to snatch anyone naive enough to wander around alone in the night. Like a serpent hidden under foliage, Satan hides in the darkness of night. Those who wander away from the light of God’s ways will soon become his prey.
In whom the god of this world [re: satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. – 2 Corinthians 4:4 (clarification added)
We all learned in elementary science class that snakes don’t have eyelids. Consider what this scientific truth reveals about Satan in a spiritual way. He never blinks – his eyes are continually open. This is not good news for us! Satan is constantly aware of us, which in turn means we should be constantly aware of him. He is on offence, which logically neccesitates our being on defense. If we try to close our eyes and just wish a serpent away, it won’t do an ounce of good. In the same way, we can try to close our eyes to Satan, but it won’t make him go away. Rather we must resist the devil, causing him to flee from our presence! (James 4:7)
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 11:3
- Might Satan be watching you and finding you a prime target because you “can’t see the forest for the trees” (or serpent for the trees, as it were)?
- Could there be a sin in your life that you are missing because of it’s “tangled” and “coiled” nature?
- Do you allow yourself at times to drift into darkness, or close your eyes to the truth because it’s “just too hard to accept”?
Open your eyes, friends! Our enemy is subtil, but we don’t have to be taken by him. Let us continually be on guard over ourselves lest we become a feast for an insatiable enemy.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. – Matthew 10:16
2. The Serpent Stalks
Photo Credit: By Tontan Travel – www.tontantravel.com
The once still and watchful serpent has imprinted upon his victim. With power in his sleek muscles, he rises from his position and begins the trek towards fulfillment. His mind is on one thing, and one thing only…and as far as he is concerned, nothing will stand in his way…
And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? – Genesis 3:1b
Now that Satan has decided to make his move towards Eve, he considers what manner of woman he is stalking. ‘How can I get her to consume the forbidden fruit? Will she fall for the old “put on this blind-fold, here comes the airplane” technique? Probably not, she seems too smart for that one. Maybe the straightforward method: “hey look at me disobeying God, so much fun…come join the party”. Hmm…no, she seems a bit more loyal to the Creator than that. Ah- I know just the thing…if I can twist God’s word jussst enough to confuse her better judgment, then she will be under my spell.’
Not only is Satan subtil, he’s also a shyster. He doesn’t just watch us from a distance, but he moves in close to us. Why? So that he can get intimate with us. Figure out what makes us tick. Locate our Achilles’ heel, if you will. Instead of having Eve focus on all the numerous blessings she had, all the many trees she could eat from at a whim, the serpent persuaded her to only consider the one thing she could not have. Instead of rejoicing for her abundant liberty, she despaired for this minimal law. Satan is still out performing the same trickery on weak women today. He whispers in a woman’s ear and convinces her that the grass is greener on the other side. That what she has is not good enough. That the cross she bears is far too burdensome. That she would have more joy if she only had more freedom. Will you and I be bamboozled by this same old tomfoolery? It’s time to wake up! The snake does not have our best interests in mind, and that’s an understatement.
The crookedness of the serpent is still straight enough to slide through the snake hole. – Abraham Verghese
Satan will pretend to have our best interests in mind by twisting truth to make it appear that our Lord is unfair, cruel, unreasonable…and the list goes on. Don’t buy the lie! Satan would have himself and his followers look wise by their seemingly logical arguments against God’s ways. Yet we need to filter and examine all such information we hear through the lens of scripture. Whether we are hearing distortion from friends, family members, the workplace, the pulpit, or even most importantly, our own reprobate minds, we need to compare the message to that of the bible to see if it measures up. Only a fool believes all that he (or she) hears without checking sources. Honestly, someone could give us a convincing argument to say that the moon must be a giant cheese because it appears yellow and spherical. If the argument is convincing enough, it must be true, right?! Preposterous…one only needs to check a grade school textbook to denounce such a claim. This example sounds absurd, but in the same way, how can we believe what someone tells us is true of God without checking our source, His word??
He knew for a fact that he was so hopelessly bad at seeing through camouflage that, if left alone in the forest, he might even attempt to make fire by rubbing two snakes together. – Sorin Suciu, The Scriptlings
It is commonly said that Satan favors the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” method when tainting souls. Unfortunately this is so true. Satan knows that most of us won’t actively attempt to follow him, yet will get sucked into following him without even knowing it…by following after false teachers. In the natural world, snakes bask openly on stones…swim through waters…slither through trees…let us consider what this means, symbolically speaking. Often in scripture these three natural resources represent the following:
[Stones are a type of God’s principles.
Water is a type of God’s word.
Trees are a type of God’s people.]
Suffice it to say, the serpent is not afraid to get up close and personal with us. He has no reservations…he brazenly basks upon God’s principles, swims through God’s word, and slithers through God’s people. We have to rightly divide scripture lest we become dazed and confused.
- Are you apt to believe anything that others tell you is true about God’s will, if they make a convincing enough argument?
- Do you allow feelings to cloud your higher reasoning skills?
- Will you blindly follow the masses in order to fit in and be liked?
He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it, and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. – Ecclesiastes 10:8
3. The Serpent Strikes
Photo Credit: By Tontan Travel – www.tontantravel.com
The serpent is mere inches away from his meal. At the prime moment, he springs. His jaw opens wide…exposing two large fangs dripping with deadly venom. His prey lets out an ear-piercing scream as he latches on to her skin with a frightening death grip. Yet it is too late to run. Within moments, his prey will take her last breath…and he, his first taste.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. – Genesis 3:4
Satan’s plan to trick Eve by misquoting God isn’t exactly working out…she has not been tricked. She boldly tells him that she and her husband can in fact eat from any tree except that of the knowledge of good and evil. What’s a sinister fellow to do except sink lower and lower to get what he wants? He then proclaims to Eve the single most heinous lie in the history of mankind.
“Ye shall not surely die”…this is the delusional promise of each and every sin. This lie manifests itself in various ways…from making us believe that we won’t get punished for our sin because we have been led to believe “we can’t fall from grace” (that is a topic for another day)…to making us believe that we won’t get caught in our sin…to making us believe that some sins aren’t a big deal or even sin at all! How sad that there are so many ways that we can be led to believe a delusion…and from the father of lies at that!
I’ve always found hitting a man from behind to be the best way to go about things. This can sometimes be accomplished by dint of a simple ruse. Classics such as, “What’s that over there?” work surprisingly often, but for truly optimal results it’s best if the person doesn’t even know you were there. – Mark Lawrence
One way people get deceived by Satan is by thinking that sins are on a rating system. Most would admit that sins such as murder or rape are worthy of hellfire, but few will admit that gossip, complaining, gluttony, envy, bitterness, unsubmissive attitudes towards husbands, etc. are equally worthy of hellfire! Sins are not on a rating system…simply stated, the soul that sins shall die. (see Ezekiel 18:20a) In God’s eyes, there are only two categories of sin…not “big ones” and “little ones”, but rather: the sin that is repented of, and the sin that is loved and continued in. If we continue unrepentantly in sin, even “little” sins like gossiping and complaining, it is a fact that we will inherit hell.
When the snake is in the house, one need not discuss the matter of length. – African Proverb
God will not count any sin as small that we refuse to repent of. On the other hand, if you will truly become a Christian…that is, a regenerated child of God that is a new creation…it won’t matter if you were previously a murderer, a rapist, a bank robber, a domestic abuser, a hooker, a meth addict, or any other horrendous sinner for that matter. What will make a difference is what you do from this day forward, because that’s all that any of us can control once the past has come and gone.
I’m afraid we often forget that just because we have been saved does not mean that we are invincible. Consider this powerful truth about a snake in the natural world. Did you know that a snake’s head can still bite and inject venom for some time after having been killed? It is the same way with Satan. When we were baptized into Christ, we in many ways defeated the serpent. Yet he can still bite and inject his venom in us if we are foolish enough to go near unto him.
Rejoice not thou, whole Palestinia, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fierce flying serpent. – Isaiah 14:29
In other words, don’t get too comfortable! Do not be so ignorant to think that we can no longer be touched by sin. A fascinating fact about snakes is that they are found on every single continent (except Antarctica). I find this fact to be so fitting – when we are in “Antarctica” – our coldest times – that’s where Satan is the least likely to be present. He is far more likely to show up in our lives in times of sunshine, when everything seems to be going just fine. This is yet another reason to rejoice in times of tribulation, because through the hard times we become closer to God, and Satan shrinks away.
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. – Amos 5:18-19
- Do you deceive yourself into thinking that your sins are inconsequential at best, and understandable at worst?
- Might you be too confident in your ability to abstain from sin, putting yourself in situations that will only serve to tempt?
- Are you willing to put at stake your eternal life in heaven because “the serpent told me it was okay”?
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. – 1 Corinthians 10:9
All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed. – Richard Adams, Watership Down
As a result of my ophidiophobia, most of my life I have experienced a recurring dream. In the dream I have been in various landscapes, but the theme is always the same…
I am standing on one side of a place, and I want to get to the other side. Yet there is always this dilemma…snakes cover the entire ground in between sides and I only have two choices: stay where I am, or run atop the snakes to get to my destination. In every dream I experience paralyzing fear, and I simply weep because [on one hand] I have to get across, but [on the other hand] I don’t want to touch the snakes. I need to get to the other side so desperately that I begin looking around for anything, anything that will get me across without having to touch them. Yet at this point, I am surrounded with nothing but my own person…ultimately I have no choice but to face my fears. I run as fast as I can, stepping on what seems like hundreds of snakes until I have crossed. By the end of each dream I am safe on the other side, the snakes have gone, and I have not been bitten. I am at peace at last.
Let it be known that I do not put much stock in dreams. In this dispensation, God no longer miraculously sends prophetic dreams to people…His message to us is through His word. With that being said, I believe that my dreams are nothing more than my spiritual mind reminding my fleshly mind what I already have learned from God’s word. The truth of my dreams is this: sometimes we have no choice but to go through harrowing scenes to reach our heavenly destination. We can not be so naive to think that our path will be easy…there will always be snakes along the way trying to distract us and send us on a detour. Even so, we must be brave and overcome the serpent, or ultimately we’re not going to make it to the other side.
Chins up. We need to remember that even though Satan is a powerful enemy, ultimately he will answer to God just like the rest of us. We already know the end of the story for him! The Lord created Satan, and we need to keep in perspective that the serpent is part of the plan…
By his [God’s] spirit he hath garnished the heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand? – Job 26:13-14 (clarification added)
In Christ, you and I have power over Satan, his followers and all their wicked devices. It’s up to us to stand firm and face our fears. Satan will inevitably stare at and stalk each on of us at times, yet whether or not he gets the opportunity to strike depends on us. When we truly decide to crush the serpent, even a hundred such beasts can not overtake us. Take heart, for it will all be worth it when we reach our Lord who is standing across the great divide. We will not be shaken or overcome!
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. – Luke 10:19
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. – Isaiah 11:8
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. – Revelation 12:9
For God’s glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.