“The Wiles of the Devil” series: (post #9)
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (Luke 13:16, N.K.J.V.)
Can you imagine having to remain stooped over for eighteen years because you couldn’t straighten your back? Welcome to the life of the unnamed Jewish woman of Luke 13:10-17. Luke is the only gospel writer who records her story, and surely it isn’t a coincidence that he was a physician.
Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on a Sabbath day, and this woman is in attendance. Let me just stop right there and ask, “If you had spent the last eighteen years stooped over because of a debilitating physical condition, would you still go to church?” I dare say that most of us wouldn’t, and yet there she is, present and accounted for on the Sabbath.
I suppose it’s possible that she only attended that day because she knew that Jesus was going to be there, but it’s more likely that she was there every Sabbath. I say that because even Jesus made a point of describing her as “a daughter of Abraham.” You see, she was a devout Jew, and devout Jews regularly attended synagogue. Also, it should be noted that the woman didn’t ask Jesus to heal her. The healing only took place when He saw her and called her to Himself. She certainly didn’t attend that day with the intention of badgering Jesus until He cured her.
Verse 11 informs us that her condition was “a sickness caused by a spirit” (N.A.S.V.). That means that her physical affliction wasn’t caused by hereditary factors, lifestyle choices, an accident, or bad luck. It was caused by a fallen angel (a demon) that Satan had permanently assigned to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week to prevent her from being able to stand erect. You talk about scary!
You might ask, “But does Satan (either personally or working through his army of fellow fallen angels) really have the power to cause physical affliction and disease?” The Bible’s answer is, YES. Consider these passages:
- Satan afflicted Job with painful boils that covered him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet (Job 2:7).
- A demon (a fallen angel, a spirit) afflicted a boy who was brought to Jesus. Ever since the boy’s childhood the demon had come and gone inside him, periodically taking possession of him and then departing him after a while. Whenever the demon was possessing the boy, the demon would create a muteness in him and cause him to foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, fall on the ground stiff, suffer epileptic seizures, and sometimes plunge himself into fire and water (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-20; and Luke 9:37-42).
- Jesus gave His chosen 12 apostles the power to cast out unclean spirits (demons) and heal all kinds of sicknesses and diseases (Matthew 10:1,8). Note the close relationship between demons, sicknesses, and diseases. This same parallel was on display in Jesus’ healing and exorcism ministry (Luke 6:17-19; Acts 10:38).
Still, with all this in mind, we must not go to the extreme of thinking that every sickness, disease, and affliction is caused by Satan. Many of them are simply the byproduct of the aging process. Others are the result of our own shortcomings in regards to diet, exercise, and taking good care of ourselves.
And then there are those sicknesses, diseases, and ailments that are caused directly by God to accomplish His purposes. In Exodus 4:11, God says that He is the one who makes the mute, the deaf, and the blind. In John 9:1-3, Jesus says that a certain man was born blind from birth so that the works of God should be revealed in that man. It was God who struck Miriam with leprosy (Numbers 12:1-10). He did the same thing to King Azariah, who was also known as Uzziah (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:19-23). It was also God, working through an angel, who rendered Zacharias mute until the birth of Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-23).
In the case of this Jewish woman, however, it was clearly Satan, working through one of his fallen angels, that was causing the affliction. It isn’t surprising then that Jesus laid His hands on her and healed her. Since Dr. Luke makes no mention of the demon spirit being cast out to create the healing, the indication is that the demon was simply tormenting the woman from the outside rather than actually indwelling her. If that was indeed the case, her condition was similar to the way Satan afflicted Job without actually possessing him.
Okay, so what lesson does this story teach us about the wiles of the devil? It teaches us that Satan does have the power to strike us with afflictions, sickness, and diseases that affect our physical body. Not every sniffle, sneeze, chill, spike in temperature, or form of cancer is caused by him, but we must be aware that he does have such arrows in his quiver. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a full-fledged demon possession for a person to be afflicted by Satan. The stories of Job and this Jewish woman prove that he can do a ton of damage to a person physically even from the outside.
And what should we do if we ever suspect that we are suffering from a condition that is somehow being caused by the devil? We should pray, pray, pray and ask God to help us. Recruiting others to help us pray wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. For that matter, neither would fasting (Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29).
The point is that such a situation is a battle ground for high-level spiritual warfare, and the battle can only be won through the power of God. Being a devout Jew couldn’t cure that woman’s condition. Faithfully attending synagogue couldn’t do it either. It took the power of God to cure it, and that’s what it will take in your life or mine if Satan ever strikes us with some kind of affliction, sickness, or disease that is especially designed for us.