I confess that my expectations were low as I reached for my Bible that day. My bookmark was at Revelation 13, which I knew to be about a beast from the sea, a beast from the earth, and the serpent. For centuries, people far smarter than I have argued over interpretations of this chapter in John’s apocalypse. Frankly, I’m not usually edified much by their debates.
I hadn’t slept well the previous night. I had many things on my mind, among them, some harsh words I’d heard the day before. I knew I shouldn’t take them personally, but I had, and they’d eaten at me. I tried to let them go like water off a duck’s back, but they wouldn’t go. Instead, they soaked in and dampened my soul. And I fretted.
I knew needed God’s perspective and encouragement for my heart. But I didn’t expect I’d find what I needed in this particular passage of Scripture. However, I’m a strong believer in systematic Bible reading, so with a little prayer and a deep breath, I plunged in.
You can imagine how surprised I was, then, when only a couple of sentences in, God reached out and grabbed me. What I read nearly took my breath away: “The beast was allowed to speak arrogant and insulting things” (13:5, GWT). Verse 7 says that it insulted God and it waged war against God’s people. The Holy Spirit sure had my attention!
I realized that God was pulling the curtain so I could see behind the scenes of my own situation. I wasn’t just being overly sensitive. But I had a completely wrong focus. The insults weren’t coming from flesh and blood—they were coming from the mouth of the beast. I was experiencing the truth of Ephesians 6:12.
I resumed reading. And screeched to a halt again at verse 8: “Everyone living on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life” (GWT).
“Father, why?” I asked, with genuine amazement. “The beast is ugly! It’s insulting! It’s arrogant! It’s intimidating! Why would anyone ever choose to worship it? I don’t get it!”
I waited for His response—then after a brief pause, I think I heard Him say,
People who don’t belong to Me can’t understand. They only see the beast and its power. They hear its threats. They don’t worship it because it’s beautiful, wise, good, or loving. They worship it because they are terrified of what it will do to them if they do not. They don’t know Me. They don’t realize that I am greater, that I am Lord of all, that it cannot do anything without My permission. So they cower in front of it. They try to please and placate it. Their worship is not love and adoration, like the worship I receive from My children. It’s sycophantic groveling.
As I reflected on all this, God helped me understand. The enemy’s end goal isn’t to insult me—after all, who am I in the Grand Scheme? The enemy’s end goal is to steal worshipers from Almighty God. The enemy wants me to worship him instead of Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. And when I focus on hurt feelings, when I fret over other people’s words, when I waste energy trying to find a way to avoid being insulted in the future, I have shifted from the holy fear of the Lord to an unholy fear of the enemy.
It’s subtle and so perversely twisted—but isn’t that exactly how he works? The very thought makes me shudder. It prompts me to repent. And it makes me eager to read more in Revelation to discover what else I’ve been missing!