Posted 09 Mar 2015
The joy of the Lord overcomes the distractions of the baited hooks of the Devil
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“The joy of the Lord [*1] will arm us against the assault of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” – Matthew Henry (Puritan pastor & Bible commentator)
This quote explains how the joy of the Lord helps us. It can seem a strange idea that joy itself could be so potent a weapon against our sinful behaviour. But Matthew Henry explains that the Devil bates his “hooks” & dangles them in front of us. Then, if we “bite” one of those juicy looking baited hooks, then the Devil accuses us to God, effectively saying “Look! Aren’t your Christian children awful!” The Devil is described as the accuser of the brethren (Christians) in the Bible.
But God knows the Devil has baited & set the hooks in the first place, in order to catch us out & God has shown us his joy, to counteract the Devil’s baited hooks. Of course, we have to choose to select God’s joy (which has no hook in it! It is for our good) & NOT choose the baited hooks of the enemy.
What might the “baited hooks of the Devil” actually be?
The bait could be almost anything, it rather depends what an individual finds appealing. You can be sure that the Devil knows what will entice any particular individual. For some it might be a dodgy TV program, for someone else it might be eating food to unhealthy excess, to another it might be an apparent fool-proof money-making scheme (that actually ends in poverty!) to another it might be the lure of fame, or over indulgence of purchasing (maxing out the old credit card!) or sex (pornography is a powerful temptation for Christians as well as non-Christian), or an apparently helpful website which actually has unhealthy adverts.
The Devil is shrewd enough to know that it’s pointless trying to tempt us with something that we can easily say no to. He will use something to “bait his hooks” which we find appealing & (almost) irresistible. When you go fishing, that’s the kind of lure your want to use.
Putting our mouths out of taste.
God is for us. He is not against us. He wants none to fall into sin. He wants none to bit on the Devil’s baited hooks & become ensnared. But the choice of whether we bite or not is ours. The Lord will not force us to avoid evil (baited hooks) but He hopes we will choose His ways – the way of Joy, instead.
As Matthew Henry says, WHEN we choose to follow the Lord & to seek this mysterious sounding “joy of the Lord”, one of the unexpected benefits to us is that this joy subtly changes our “spiritual tastebuds” – such that we no long crave the dangled delicacies which are actually the barbed hooks of the enemy. The way to avoid those barbed hooks of accusation & sinful behaviour is to focus on the joy of the Lord & to seek the safety of that. Even then, the Devil will try to slide thoughts into our heads – “Oh the joy of the Lord will be really dull!” he insinuates. Well, how about trying it for yourself, rather than listening to someone who is determined to kill you; who is actively trying to destroy you… after all, the Devil is not an impartial or reliable source of (your own) opinion!
Nehemiah 8:10 New International Version (NIV)
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.”
[After Ezra the teacher of the Law had read the Bible to the Israelites in Jerusalem].
Proverbs 10:28 New International Version NIV
28 The prospect of the righteous is JOY, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
1 Peter 1:8-9 New International Version NIV
8 Though you have not seen him [God], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
[emphasis added – MY]
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