On Friday, I attended a Bible study led by a friend who comments here from time to time. This friend knows the Scriptures because he dedicates himself not just to reading but to comprehending all their rich meaning.
The text covered Genesis 15. This section caught my attention:
And [the LORD] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me powerfully while reading this, the kind of kick in the head, “sit up and pay attention, son” shaking that led me to understand that if no one commented on the part of the passage that drew my attention, then I had to—or else I’d explode. That’s how it felt.
Fortunately, my friend ably covered the topic for me.
In this classic passage that all of us know, God makes a covenant with Abram concerning an heir and the numberless nature of the man’s descendents. Abram believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. So God makes a covenant with Abram, tells him how the necessary covenantal sacrifice must be prepared, and Abram obeys.
Then something happens to the offering:
And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
That passage gripped me.
Here was Abram in the midst of this most important covenant with God. He’d been obedient and done what God asked. He carried out the task of butchering the sacrifice as he’d been told.
And the birds of prey descended to snatch away his offering to God, threatening the blessing.
In Leviticus 11:13-19, God pronounces these same birds unclean. In this passage of Genesis they do not serve the function of God, but they serve another master. They are the hell birds.
In the midst of Abram’s faithful response to God, the hell birds descended to wreak havoc. They smelled the sacrifice from afar and came winging in.
So it is that all of our faithful responses to God’s requirements of us attract the wrong kind of attention. Much truth exists in the old aphorism, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The Enemy opposes by his nature, and so he must oppose the saints when they obey God.
The Enemy will attack any work that advances the cause of God. The Enemy will attack any person who responds to God in obedience. This explains why a child acts up and distracts us at the most inopportune time in the midst of ministry. Why the car won’t start right as we are going to visit prisoners in jail. Why we get sick on the day we are to share our testimony with others. Why people who live simply so they can give their money to the needy end up hit with a massive, unforeseen expense they cannot pay.
I’m old enough to have seen this routinely in my life. I have shared my conclusion on this before, but it bears repeating:
If you are not experiencing active and relentless opposition from the Enemy in your life, you’re probably ineffective for the Kingdom of God. The hell birds don’t come a-swarming without a worthy offering to rend and devour.
Abram chased them away from his offering.
How are we to do the same when faced with the hell birds?
Satan has no authority over the believer. Christians have been rescued from His dominion, translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light.
Too many believers let the Enemy rend and savage their offering because they do not stand on the authority granted them at the cross by Christ.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Some Christians don’t even try to resist. They perpetually let the hell birds descend and make off with the blessing. Then they fall into a series of excuses, which leads to perpetual defeat.
But Abram chased off the forces of evil that threatened the covenant.
Don’t let the hell birds rob you! Do everything possible to stand on your authority as a believer, as one who is no longer under the thumb of the Enemy. Claim what Christ bought for you. Stand on the Lord’s promises. Fight back. He gave you the weapons:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints….
I like that last line because it calls each of us into a community where you watch my back and I watch yours. Abram may have had to drive off the hell birds alone, but the Church exists to do so together. Band together, saints! God has given you everything needed to drive off the hell birds. Start doing so!