Let’s take a fresh look at the Dark Side, shall we?
Take a moment to refocus your awareness in your heart-mind. Get a good grip on the moral anchorage of your convictions, because we need to face some stormy truth. The storms have their place in life, and that’s precisely the point. We need to view things from the perspective of our Creator.
Most people try to evaluate the Bible from their cultural biases, instead of letting the Bible judge their culture. It’s not as if you and I could transport our natural lives and our human minds into the culture of the Bible, but we most certainly can develop an awareness of the Bible culture so that we understand the Scriptures in their own context. No two of us will assemble the exact same model in our minds, but we can share some of our individual discoveries. The idea is that truth is God, a living Person, and we all encounter Him individually.
We get that image of God by grasping the sometimes shocking difference between how our society looks at reality against how the people in the Bible viewed it. Once we take seriously the radical differences, we are better prepared not only to discern some measure of their different approach, but we can begin to mine that approach for a higher moral awareness of what faith should look like in our context — “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In the meantime, we take on a blended vision that is neither what our culture produces now nor precisely what the culture of the Bible was. We seek a far higher realm of existence that is alien to our society.
In the Bible, we are offered two major characters whose occupation is translated as “jailer” — Potiphar in the narrative of Joseph (Genesis 39) and then the Roman official in Philippi as recorded in Acts (ch. 16). Could you study the ancient historical background in which these two men lived, you would find a surprising degree of similarity. Both serve at the convenience of some greater power in a feudal milieu. Both were largely free to do as they wished with the prisoners remanded to their custody, so long as they were able to produce them on command. There’s more to it than that, but we need not wallow in the details here. Whatever use or abuse jailers had for the prisoners in the meantime was nobody else’s business; the prisoners were their slaves. That’s because the ancient world hardly differentiated between prison and slavery. Whatever talents a prisoner/slave could offer were the property of the jailer for the duration of confinement.
What may not be so obvious is that Satan is portrayed under the same terms. If you can capture the image of what an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) jailer was as a feudal noble serving his lord, you will find it’s a perfect match for how Satan operates. So we meet him in the Book of Job and he answers to exactly the same protocols as any ANE jailer, but serving God in this case. Gathering this information into the bigger picture with various references to Satan in the Bible, we see that he is in some ways bound under the restrictions of our realm of existence here. This world is his prison-realm; he was “cast down to the earth” (Revelations 12:7-9) and compelled to “eat the dust” (Genesis 3) in the same passage where God said we are dust.
So the point for us is that we are born under Satan’s dominion. This realm of existence is a prison of sorts and we are Satan’s prisoners and slaves by default, for we are born into this fallen realm. But his dominion rests on God’s sovereign dominion as the Lord Satan must serve. Whatever it is the Devil can do to us is limited by the moral laws of God. Those laws were exemplified in at least two Law Covenants, Moses and Noah. By studying what those covenants meant in their context, we can reduce the authority of Satan in our lives. Ignoring the study of those covenants will make it extremely hard to escape his authority. All the promises God made to bless us under those moral laws are consumed by Satan as our slave master.
Nor should you imagine this in binary terms. We who become aware of this situation spend our entire lives exchanging bits and pieces of our slavery for moral freedom and God’s provision. We take back our shalom little by little, as if struggling to occupy and reclaim the fallow land of our lives. We strive to occupy our soul-turf according to the revelation of God coming into our awareness through our hearts. This is a tall order and the task is never done.
We got into this fix through our natural tendency to trust our human talents and internal resources over revelation. That’s the essence of the Fall, a choice to let human reason and talents to take the throne of dominion in our souls. This requires usurping the place of the heart-mind and its instinctive reliance on the revelation of the moral character of God. The heart reads the living Presence of God in Creation, but the intellect is utterly blind to it. So the darkness descended on humanity and we became slaves of the Devil. His primary power and function is deception. You remain his slave only because you surrender to the temptation to let your mind rule over your heart. Once you learn to trust the convictions of truth living in your heart, and subject your mind to those convictions, Satan can’t do much to you. It doesn’t eliminate his authority, but curtails his dark influence. We begin to see the light of truth through the eyes of our hearts.
This is what we hope to cultivate. We are made for better things, but we are naturally (it’s our nature) inclined to trust our human capabilities without the heart-mind. God allows the Devil to consume our blessings if we choose that slavery; that’s His feudal law. We can also decide to exercise the freedom God offers by moving our awareness back into the heart-mind. Then we operate in God’s Kingdom as one of His children, not as a slave/prisoner.