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The fact that God turned all the water in Egypt into blood during the first of His ten plagues sounds extremely impressive until we come across this disturbing comment:
“Using their tricks, the magicians of Egypt did the same thing.” (Ex. 7:22)
What is this? God is letting Satan duplicate His fantastic miracle? Doesn’t He realize how the people will react?
“So the king was stubborn and refused to listen to Moses and Aaron…” (Ex. 7:22)
Well, duh. Now that God’s grand miracle has been reduced to a parlor trick, no one is going to keep applauding. Humans are impressed by originality and rarity. Once a pattern develops, they quickly lose interest.
Why on earth did God allow Satan to duplicate not just the first plague, but the second one as well? This is the third time God has allowed demons to steal His thunder. The first was when Moses made his grand entrance in Pharaoh’s courts. When Aaron threw his staff onto the ground, it became a snake. Pharaoh called in his demon worshiping sorcerers and they did the same thing. That was an awkward moment. It’s a little hard to continue with the “my God is all that” presentation when demons are looking like His equals.
Today God allows Satan and his evil companions to perform real healings and miracles in front of people. He allows them to give accurate fortunes, appear as angels of light and give the illusion that dead souls can be raised from the grave to speak to their loved ones in séances. This makes us Christians very uncomfortable. We want the actions of God and Satan to be easily distinguished from one another, but in reality they are not. Satan is such a good forger that many Christians have been led astray by holy looking servants of Satan who quote the Bible and say nice things about Jesus.
When it comes to trying to discern who is real and who’s a forgery, the tests we find in the Bible simply aren’t enough. For example, God tells us that anytime a prophet predicts that something will happen by a specific time and that event doesn’t happen, we can know he’s a faker. Not really. Jonah prophesied that in forty days, Nineveh would be completely destroyed by God for their sin. Forty days passed and nothing happened. According to God’s own test, Jonah was a false prophet who ought to be killed.
“If what a prophet says in the Name of Yahweh does not happen, it is not Yahweh’s message. That prophet was speaking his own ideas. Don’t be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:21)
“But if a prophet says something I did not tell him to say as though he were speaking for Me, or if a prophet speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must be killed.” (Deut. 18:20)
So, according to the Bible, Jonah should have been killed for misusing the Name of Yahweh. But also according to the Bible, Jonah was a legitimate prophet who spoke with God’s Authority. How can we sort out this mess? We can’t. Today we have no manual we can refer to in order to sort out who is legit and who is faking in the Christian Church. When a prophecy doesn’t come true, we don’t know if it’s another case of God changing His mind (as He does throughout the Bible) or if the prophecy was never from Him in the first place. Our one and only resource for discerning truth from lies is the Holy Spirit, and He chooses not to explain every single situation to us.
Whenever we find ourselves feeling threatened by something God allows—like Satan imitating Him—we must remember that the only reason that something occurs at all is because God wants it that way. If God was as threatened by Satan’s copycat tactics as we are, He wouldn’t allow Satan to get away with so much. But clearly God isn’t threatened by magicians imitating His miracles or false prophets delivering convincing messages. He’s also quite comfortable with making His real prophets look like liars by not always fulfilling His predictions. No doubt Moses and Aaron were rather dismayed when the magicians threw down their staffs and more snakes appeared. But then God’s snake ate up all the other snakes, proving His mastery over the situation. After allowing the magicians to imitate His first two plagues, God blocked them from being able to copy Him again, further demonstrating His ultimate control over the supernatural realm.
“But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” (Ex. 18:18-19)
God wants human beings to be well aware that there are two forces warring with each other in the spiritual realm so He gives Satan plenty of opportunity to showcase his power on earth. God also wants us to have a healthy respect for demons—understanding what formidable enemies they are so that we won’t slip into thinking that we can take them on ourselves. There’s no swifter way to get cocky Christians back in line then to let them experience a demonic visitation. Getting scared out of our wits by Satan’s forces will send us swiftly running back to the Holy Spirit with an acute awareness of our need for Him to protect us. But while God wants us to learn that our only safe position is hiding behind His back, He also wants us to know that demons are no match for Him. He is the One who determines the length of leash they are allowed to have down here: He preapproves all of their dirty work and none of their schemes get off the ground without His help. This is why we can say with confidence that God works all things together for the spiritual good of those who trust in Him. If God wasn’t the One ultimately controlling demons, such a promise would be impossible to make for there would always be the chance that demons could spring something on God that He wasn’t prepared for or do damage that He couldn’t fully repair.
While many Christians feel it is somehow irreverent to suggest that God has anything to do with demonic activity, the Bible clearly teaches that He does. Nothing God creates in this realm or any other can operate independently of Him. All things were made by Him and for Him. Demons are just as dependent on God to sustain their existence as we are. This is extremely comforting news, for once God accepts us as His children, He assures us that nothing He has created will ever have victory over us.