There are not very many people who are not afraid of a lion. I’m sure that we would not open the door if we were aware of the presence of a vicious lion that was waiting there to devour us. And yet, from the spiritual point of view, we are in exactly that danger. There is a roaring lion, who continually walks about seeking to devour us. The apostle Peter warns us against this lion in I Peter 5:8. when he says, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.’’
You will notice that the apostle uses figurative language when he speaks about the devil. He borrows a figure from the animal world and pictures to us the lion, the king of the beasts, as he goes about seeking his prey. This particular lion is a hungry one, for he seeks to devour. Therefore, as he goes about, he roars. On the one hand, his roaring is an indication of the fact that he is aware of his superior strength, while on the other hand, it is his purpose to frighten his victim by his roar in order that he may pounce upon him and devour him.
So also the devil walks about.
He is a roaring lion. No, he does not always manifest himself as such. He does not always appear as a roaring lion. Sometimes he comes as an angel of light and seems to have your best interests at heart. He is very friendly and “helpful’’ from all appearances, but actually he is all the while seeking to deceive and to lead you astray in order that he may catch you in his trap and devour you. Tear away his mask of “an angel of light” and you will discover this roaring lion in his true character. Always he is the lion that goes about to devour you, no matter how he may manifest himself.
At this time, in which the apostle was writing, the devil manifested himself in his true character. The people of God were suffering persecution at the hands of wicked Nero, emperor of the great Roman empire. Terrible indeed was the roar of this depraved tool of the devil. He had the Christians in his power; he tracked them down and hunted them out and ruthlessly persecuted and tortured them to death. The lion, the devil, was walking about seeking whom he might devour.
The apostle calls him our adversary. An adversary is one who opposes with the intention to do one harm. It is his purpose not merely to withstand but to destroy. Now, the devil is our adversary; his name, Satan, means literally, adversary or opponent. The name, Devil, means literally “slanderer, false-accuser”. The apostle therefore presents the devil to us in his true character. He is both devil and Satan; he falsely accuses and opposes.
He is first of all the adversary of God. Not in the sense that he actually possesses power over against the Lord. The devil is also a creature and possesses no power in himself; he is utterly dependent upon God for all his strength and he is not able to move except the Lord give him the power to do so. He is therefore not an opponent of God in the sense that he has power independent of God, so that he can set his power against the power of God. We must be careful that we do not subscribe to such a dualism which is nothing less than a denial of the omnipotence of God. But from the devil’s own personal point of view and from the point of view of God’s truth and righteousness, he is the adversary of God. He hates the living God and seeks to dethrone Him; yea, if it were possible, he would destroy God and usurp His place. Always he opposes the work of God. He sets his “no” over against God’s “yes” and his “yes” over-against God’s “no”. He has set himself to oppose the Lord in all His works and to put them to nought.
And because he is the adversary of God, he is also our adversary. He is the adversary of God’s people, not of the world. The world is his, the wicked are his servants; he therefore has no difficulty with a view to them. It is the people of God, the Church of Jesus Christ, that he seeks to destroy and devour. He hates them because of the testimony of God and of Christ in them. He does not hate them simply as people but he hates them because they are God’s people, witnesses of the living God who manifest His virtues as children of light in the midst of the world that lies in darkness. He goes about seeking to devour them. That does not mean that he is simply intent upon killing them for he cannot be satisfied with that; he purposes to destroy their souls, to draw them away from the Lord and bring them to hell. Not the body but the complete destruction of the soul is his chief interest.
Beware of that roaring lion!
You must not regard this danger lightly. You must not make fun of him and begin to play with him. He is very clever and deceitful; he is very strong. And he loves nothing more than that you will deny this, for then you will not regard your danger seriously and he will be the more able to pounce upon you and devour you. Be careful, for this devil is indeed very clever. He has so much wherewith he can entice and tempt you; all the pleasures and the treasures of the world are at his disposal. And he can make your unfaithfulness seem so innocent. He does not ask that you renounce your faith and deny the whole truth: he merely wants you to let it slip a trifle, to be a little more broad-minded. He does not attempt to make you go all the way immediately; he desires that you will take only one little step. First one step and then another, until finally without your realizing it, he has you where he wants you. But he is not only clever, he is also very strong. He can take away your life in this world impossible except you deny the faith and acknowledge him. And he will surely do that. Scripture tells us that in the last days there shall be terrible persecution. The devil will not rest; he walks about continually, always intent upon devouring the people of God.
Beware of the lion!
He is always near you. He is always watching you, ready, when you are least aware of him, to pounce upon you.
Therefore, be sober, be vigilant!
Watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation!