“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #5)
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude verse 9, N.K.J.V.)
The death of Moses is recorded in Deuteronomy 34:1-7. He died in the land of Moab, and God buried him somewhere in a valley of Moab. Why did God Himself see to the burying? It’s likely that He knew the Israelites would be tempted to make a shrine of Moses’ tomb, possibly even worshiping the body itself as an idol. After all, they would later on go to do this very thing with that bronze serpent that Moses had once erected in the wilderness (2 Kings 18:1-4, Numbers 21:4-9).
Perhaps such idolatry is what Satan planned to produce when he got into his dispute with the archangel Michael over Moses’ body. Whatever sinister purpose Satan had in mind, Michael wasn’t about to let it happen. We are left to imagine what this encounter between these two awesomely powerful angels must have looked like. It was the two mightiest angels that God ever created (one unfallen, one fallen) going at it, and the prize was the body of Moses.
There is just so much about the story that we can’t know because scripture doesn’t tell us. Was Michael attempting to take the body to the burial site so that God could do the burying? Did God use Michael to actually do the burying? Since it seems that Moses was alone with God when he died, did the Israelites wonder what happened to him? Deuteronomy 34:8 says they mourned Moses’ death for thirty days, but how did they know he was actually dead? So many questions, so few answers.
What we do know is that the encounter between Satan and Michael wasn’t a hand-to-hand-combat type of deal. It was, instead, a conversation. We aren’t told what Satan said to Michael, but we are told what Michael said in response. He said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Isn’t that interesting? Even the great archangel Michael wouldn’t get into a argumentative debate with Satan in which he “trash talked” Satan and cast aspersions at him. Our text verse even says that he dared not bring a reviling accusation against Satan.
Jude uses Michael’s response as a stark contrast to the behavior of certain apostates in the days of the early church. Those apostates thought nothing of speaking harsh words against authoritative figures such as apostles, angels, and even God Himself. Their audacious words showed their rejection of all authority, even God ordained authority. They were rebels to the core, having the same basic spirit as:
- Cain, who refused to bring God’s mandated type of offering (v.11)
- the “sons of God” angels of Genesis 6:1-4, who refused to abide by the lines of distinction between angels and humans and instead took earthly women for their wives and produced children through those wives (v.6)
- the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, who refused to abide by God’s natural laws for men and women (v.7)
- the first generation of Israelites, who refused to obey God’s command to take possession of Canaan (v.5)
- Korah, who led 250 of the most prominent Israelites in a rebellion against Moses’ leadership (v.11)
- Balaam, a wicked prophet who advised the king of Moab to corrupt Israel by having the idol worshiping Moabites intermarry with the Israelites (v.11)
But to get back to the point, what lessons can we learn from Satan’s dispute with Michael in regards to how Satan tries to bring us down? I’ll mention two. First, the dispute shows us that Satan has evil plans. We don’t know what he planned to do with Moses’ body, but the goal surely wasn’t anything good. Sad to say, the same holds true for our lives. Whatever plans Satan has for us, they definitely aren’t good.
Second, the dispute shows us that Satan won’t let God’s work be carried out unencumbered. If there’s one thing that’s for certain about the devil it’s that he isn’t lazy. Wherever God is at work, he is as well. What this means for us is that whatever good work God is doing or wants to do in our lives, Satan will come against it. It could be that he will come against it personally. On the other hand, he might dispatch some of his fellow fallen angels (demons) to come against it. Then again, he might work through people to come against it. But somehow, someway, someday he’ll come against it. You can bank on that.
And what should our response be when he does? Like Michael, we should let God handle him. You and I are no match for Satan, and if you think you are then you are already easy pickings. God doesn’t expect you to attempt to exercise your authority over Satan. He doesn’t expect you to out debate him. He doesn’t expect you to outdo him. What He wants from you is a discernment that you are dealing with the Satanic and a quick transfer of the problem to Him. That’s what Michael did when he said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you!” and it will work for us as well.