Understanding and Overcoming the World – Part 1

When we look at the book of Exodus we see the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. They are the bondservants of Pharaoh, just as unbelievers are slaves to Satan. In order to understand what role the World plays in temptation and bondage we must again consider the situation of the ancient Hebrew people. Just as Pharaoh ruled Egypt, so Satan rules the World.

Pharaoh was not omnipresent; he wasn’t all over Egypt at the same time. He was limited to being in one place at a time just like any man. Even his henchmen couldn’t see all and be in every Hebrew home. But from his throne he created a system of slavery that continually reinforced his lordship throughout the land.

When a Hebrew man woke up in the morning, he set about working on the task given to him by Pharaoh. He had never met Pharaoh, and likely had never seen him. But from childhood he was instilled with a knowledge of what was expected of him. As far back as he could recall he remembered being a slave. As a child he was unaware of the hierarchy in place that kept his people working, but he instinctively knew what was expected of him as a member of the Hebrew people.

As he grew into a young man he walked in the path marked out for him. One could say that Pharaoh made him do it; but then again he probably did it more to please his parents than Pharaoh. He knew that his family and community expected everyone of working age to work. Maybe his father got him into picking the straw that was needed for making the bricks, or maybe his cousin taught him how to form and bake the bricks. Either way he followed the path Pharaoh had determined for him.

It is possible that the “blasphemous” thought came to him one day, “Why do we do this?” If he expressed it to his family, they would likely say, “This is just the way it is, don’t think too much.” This counsel would come out of a lifetime of observation. They had heard others ask similar questions, and had seen the result of such “independent thinking.” They could tell stories of people being beaten within an inch of their lives. They could share stories of whippings, insults and death. When someone started to question the path marked out for the Hebrews, swift reinforcement of Pharaoh’s absolute rule would come in the form of a good lashing!

The Hebrew’s path was not invented by his community or his parents. They too had followed others into this life of labor. The system they lived under was the special creation of Pharaoh himself. He was the one that required the labor of every man, and he was the one that sent out his messengers to insure that his desires were carried out. He proclaimed himself ruler over the Hebrews. They grew up bowing to him and acknowledging his place as lord. When this right of kingship was questioned, his representatives came to put out the sparks of rebellion. From the cradle to the grave the Hebrew knew that Pharaoh was king, and that was that.

It is interesting to point out from the situation described above that the Hebrews were not just the subjects of his kingdom, but also the builders of his kingdom. Pharaoh designed all the roads, aqueducts and memorials to his glory, but it was their hands that actually made his visions a reality. Not only did they make his kingdom, but the Hebrews themselves were better at reinforcing the system of slavery than any of the taskmasters they had over them. Out of concern for their families, and out of the desire for the status quo, they made sure that everyone in their communities didn’t get out of line. They were at the same time both the victims and the aggressors. Through the lie of Pharaoh’s lordship, and through the fear of retribution, the Hebrews kept themselves in line. Pharaoh designed a system of slavery that would run all by itself! It was a system founded on a lie, and maintained by intimidation.

 The World

In 1 John 2:15-17 we are told that believers are not supposed to love the World, or the things in the World. We are further told that the things in the World refer to the lusts, passions and values of the World. This command to “not love the World” is strange when we notice that John 3:16 says, “God so love the world that he gave his only Son…” This is indeed a paradox if we imagine that John 3:16 and 1 John 2:15-17 are referring to the same thing when they use the word “world.” But in reality they are not. John 3:16 is referring to the earth with a particular emphasis on the people that inhabit that planet. But 1 John 2:15-17 is speaking of the system of values infused into the hearts of men who do not know God.   

Once Satan turned men from God he was able to lead them around by the desires of their body and mind (Eph 2:3). They no longer had direct access to God and no longer saw clearly what God wanted for their lives. The only thing they could see clearly was what their earthly nature desired. Satan strengthened his position of control over men by leading them further and further into corruption. The desire for control over their own lives, led to a desire for control over the lives of others. Their desire for wealth led to the practice of oppression. The infatuation with beauty led to a lust for all forms of immorality. Men became ensnared by their own desires, and Satan used this insatiable appetite for sin to control the actions of men.

Instead of the Spirit of God leading and guiding men, the Prince of the power of the air was there to lead the destiny of mankind (Eph 2:2). He had become the maker of a new society. He began to form the culture of the World into his own image. He decreed what was desirable and what was not. He decided what was valued and what was despised. He went about dismantling what God had ordained for men by calling light, darkness; and darkness, light. Soon his “lordship” was unquestioned. It became “obvious” to mankind that getting was more desirable than giving; that being served was better than serving; that lies were more powerful in achieving one’s desires than honesty; and that beauty was more important than character. Satan’s values became the guiding principle behind all the thoughts and actions of men. The “present evil age” had begun (Gal 1:4).

Omnipresent Influence

Satan and his henchmen (demonic spirits) are limited in where they can be at any given moment. Like men, they are not omnipresent, but can only be in one place at a time. This limitation would seem to keep the Devil from building such a vast empire. But his kingdom, like that of ancient Pharaoh, is built on deception and intimidation. He has the God-like power to “lift up and put down” (Ps. 75:7). Those who follow his principles seem to excel. Those that resist satanic values seem to wither like a seedling before the scorching sun. He built the lie of his lordship on the simple system of reward and punishment. He intimidates resisters and rewards the submissive.

But Satan doesn’t need to be personally present to reinforce his values and commands anymore than Pharaoh did. Pharaoh didn’t need to have enough taskmasters to keep eyes on every Hebrew home in his kingdom; and neither does Satan need to have a demon for every human on planet earth. The demonic system of the world is built on the earthly desires of men. The hearts of men have wholeheartedly swallowed the lie that what Satan offers is the best thing for them. The Flesh of Man has declared the Devil the uncontested ruler of the World. It has become obvious to all worldlings that fame, power, wealth and unbridled pleasures are to be more desired than modesty, humility, contentment and self-control. If anyone seeks the values of God’s kingdom the whole society of men is unanimous in declaring him a fool. Everything around him reinforces the values of Satan and seeks to draw him back into the fold. Just as the family and community ensured that every Hebrew would follow Pharaoh’s commands, so every child of the World will defend the kingdom of Satan.

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