If you handle God’s Words like the Devil does, then you are probably doing something very wrong.
The Bible has much to say about Satan; in fact, theologians have derived an entire doctrine of Satanology, which is a subcategory of the doctrine of demonology, which itself is a subcategory of the doctrine of angelology. Of all that the information that the Bible gives us regarding Satan, there are only a few instances where the Bible gives us the actual words of Satan himself. Interestingly, The first book of the Bible that God gave to us in written form was Job, which begins with a couple of conversations between God and Satan. Job was entirely unaware of these conversations throughout his trouble, so it should be no surprise that today we are also ignorant of most of Satan’s words and deeds.
Temptation in the Garden
Of Satan’s conversation that are on the Biblical record, two stand out for demonstrating his hermeneutics.1 As dispensationalists, we believe that God revealed His Word to us plainly and without error, so we adhere to grammatical-historical hermeneutics, which is a fancy way of saying that we take the Bible at its word, as opposed to writing off passages as being errors or searching for hidden meanings, etc. Satan does not like the grammatical-historical approach. He wants to twist people’s view of the Scriptures so that they misapply them or throw them out altogether. The first example of this is in the Garden of Eden:
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Gen 3:1 KJV)
Satan asked if God really said that Eve couldn’t eat from every tree in the Garden and the answer should have been an emphatic “Yes. There is one forbidden tree.” Now, I’m actually ok with questions that drive people back to God’s Word, so long as people actually go back to the Word. Unfortunately, Eve gets a bit off track. God said that she may not eat of the tree (Gen 2:17). Notice that she adds a bit of legalism by adding that she may not even touch the tree:
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Gen 3:2-3 KJV)
Eve is a leaky dispensationalist. She is off balance and Satan uses this to his advantage by explicitly denying what God said and offering an idea that is in direct conflict with truth:
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:4-5 KJV)
You know the rest of the story. Eve eats of the tree, shares with Adam, sin enters, there’s a curse and a promise, they are expelled from the Garden and to this day women have difficulty deciding what to eat.
Temptation of Jesus
So, that is one example of Satan’s hermeneutics: just deny what God said. It worked with Eve because her hermeneutic was already compromised. It was easy for Satan to bring the first Adam to ruin, but he would need to be a bit more sneaky when he faced the Second Adam, that is, Christ. Luke tells us:
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (Luke 4:1-4 KJV)
Satan tries telling Jesus what to do, but to no avail. Jesus replies with Scripture; in fact, He replies with a Scripture about the Scriptures. And since John calls Jesus, “The Word,” in John 1, I had to make this confusing “Yo Dawg” meme:
Satan is persistent, so he messes with Jesus again:
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Luke 4:5-8 KJV)
Yet again, Satan has an idea that is in direct conflict with God’s Word, but instead of conceding to Satan like Adam and Eve, Jesus just sticks with the plain, boring, grumpy-fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture.
Having failed twice, Satan changes his game plan. This time, he uses the Bible against Jesus. The idea being that perhaps if Satan applies a slanted hermeneutic to the Psalms, then Jesus will recognize it as Scripture and follow suit:
And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Luke 4:9-11 KJV)
The grammatical-historical hermeneutic demands that we take words plainly in their contexts. Satan has picked a passage out of context to strip it of its plain meaning. While being cautious not to inflict Genre Override on a verse, we can look at the context of Satan’s quote to see if it is really talking about guaranteeing physical safety for people jumping from temples. The passage is from Psalm 91. It is a short psalm, so here it is in its entirety:
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. (Psalm 91 KJV)
There is certainly some poetic language here: “the shadow of the Almighty” “He is my refuge and my fortress” “the snare of the fowler” “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings” …Does God have literal feathers? Is there a fowler who is out to get you? Common sense would say, “no, this is poetic language.” Now, before I go forward, I should note that this does not mean that we are seeking a deeper or spiritual meaning that is hidden in the text. It just means that to derive the plain meaning of the text, we need to read it as poetry. That doesn’t mean that every poem is void of literal meaning or that other genres strip texts of their literal meaning. We won’t get into all that today, instead, we will just leave it as Jesus said it:
And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (Luke 4:12 KJV)
All Scriptures are equally authoritative, but not all Scriptures are equally clear. Satan threw out a hard verse (well, not hard for Jesus), and instead of arguing about hermeneutics and poetry, Jesus just came back with an easy verse (Deut 6:16a).
So, all that to say this: Be like Jesus, not like Eve and Satan. Do not try to change God’s Word like Eve, nor turn it into a prosperity Gospel like Satan. Instead, just stick to the plain meaning like Jesus. Also, if you have one of these calendars, then please throw it away: