Yesterday, I saw a picture of diable, French word for devil, in one of my daughter’s French picture dictionaries. He had horns and looked devilish and scary. I said to my wife, “It would have been much easier if that is how the devil looks.” It would be easy for us all and there would be nothing called temptation. We would all know instantly that the enemy was after us and as intelligent beings, we would avoid it like a plague.

The reality is that, yes, as God’s children, we are sent as sheep in the midst of wolves, but the wolves do not look like wolves, they look like sheep. Temptations do not look evil, they are alluring, inviting, harmless, pleasant.

In the garden of Eden, Eve saw that the fruit was desirable, she did not see the vicious cycle the human race was about to enter. It is called an entrapment and it is the same strategy used by the enemy today. No one in their right senses would move near sin if they knew that it was a trap, a bait.

The amazing thing about entrapments is that they do not have to be obvious like adultery. You can be completely chaste sexually and still fall into a trap. A good thing can be a trap. The enemy set a trap for Jesus using God’s own word! It is a serious matter when even the written word can be used as a bait. It may seem like paranoia but Jesus recognized that a trap was being set for him through his very close buddy Peter, when on the face of it, Peter was just honestly concerned about his Master. Jesus addressed the issue immediately, when he said to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan…”

The reality in which we live, work, play and even worship, is such that evil looks good, and at times even godly. Ravenous wolves appear in sheep clothing, princes of darkness appear as angels of light, ways of destruction appear as the right way. All around us are entrapments. The implication is that to survive and to thrive in this reality, we need to be like Jesus, about whom the scriptures say, “…he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears…”

To avoid the entrapments around me, I need to depend on the all knowing Spirit of God. The only way to successfully navigate this field of mines, is to be in constant communication with the one who knows the terrain, who knows that this seemingly harmless situation is a trap, and this business deal on which I have conducted my due diligence and all looks good, is really a bait. Maybe others can, but I am realizing that I cannot afford to be out of tune with the Spirit because my eyes and my mind often tell me something is good when in reality, it is an entrapment. Even the written word requires the Spirit’s interpretation, for “the letter killeth but the Spirit gives life.”

As a sheep among sheep-looking wolves, I need to learn how to hear the voice of the Shepherd, who incidentally is called the Word and is therefore always speaking. If I make it a habit to hearken to the Shepherd’s voice, in the midst of entrapments that are designed to derail, only goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Virtuous or vicious cycles

It has since come to my attention that human beings experience self-perpetuating cycles. Most individuals, institutions and societies experience cycles of failure and defeat that are hard to break out of. The origin of the cycles are at times unknown and that further perpetuates vicious cycles, possibly from generation to generation.

In the same way, a fewer number of individuals, institutions and societies experience cycles of success and blessing. Sadly, virtuous cycles are easier to break out of because decadence is the default tendency in a fallen world. Even then, cycles of blessing can perpetuate for generations until someone stops that cycle of blessing and begins a cycle of failure.

Eli, God’s priest, a descendant of Aaron, who carried a divine promise of everlasting priesthood terminated a cycle of blessing that started generations before him and plunged generations after him into a vicious cycle of defeats and failures.

I am realizing that cycles are a very efficient way of running the affairs of humanity, for good or evil. When I am in a cycle of blessing, it would look to others as though I am very capable and even I may be tempted to think I am responsible when all that is happening is a self perpetuating cycle that has its roots in honor. Cycles of blessing amplify our efforts and make us soar on eagle’s wings.

Just as goodness and blessing can self perpetuate, evil also self perpetuates, from one generation to another, very efficiently, without need for external intervention until someone with spiritual authority in a family, institution or society does something to break out of the negative cycle. Vicious cycles are depletive.

The scriptures are clear about cycles of success or failure. When we are in a cycle of failure, no amount of prayer and fasting can break the cycle if the source of the cycle is not stopped. Our lips can be speaking and praying for blessing while our hearts are far from God.

When we are in a cycle of blessing, no amount of divination or enchantment can stop the cycle if we do not do something to stop it and activate a negative cycle. The enemy knows this and this is why he needs to tempts us, because we cannot be undone except by ourselves. Delilah was the agent but in truth, Samson could not be conquered but by himself.

I am reminded of when a man named Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites. He could not stop the cycle of blessing and he realized that as long as they remained true to the covenant, “there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel…” The cycle of blessing was stopped only when they fell into the trap set by their enemies, to contravene God’s laws. A successful temptation did what divination and enchantment could not do. In essence, the enemy’s best strategies are not attacks from without, through divinations and enchantments, but temptations from within. It is an efficient tactic, less invasive, much more subtle and most effective.

This was also the story of Adam and Eve in Eden. They were seduced into going against God’s instructions, thereby plunging the human race into a cycle of failure that would require God’s death and resurrection to break. What was at stake was God’s heartbeat, the destiny of humanity and yet it was delivered into the enemy’s hands without the use of force. The cycle of failure that Christ died to redeem us from, started when Adam chose to enter into the trap with his eyes wide open.

Intentional or unintentional disobedience of God’s laws and instructions activates or perpetuates cycles of failure. Intentional obedience of God’s laws and instructions activates and perpetuates cycles of success. Honor and obedience are endangered words in the 21st century but they remain immutable keys to breaking into and perpetuating cycles of blessing and good success in this created world.