Spiritual Battles and the Finger of God

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Key Observation: We have been entrusted with both the gospel and its expansion on earth. Spreading it means taking risks, crossing into enemy territory, being bold and courageous.

  • Take some time to read Luke 11:17–22.
  • Using only this passage, make notes about everything it teaches
    you about Satan, about the kingdom of God, and about the struggle between them.
  • Jesus uses two names for Satan in this passage—Satan and Beelzebul. Using a Bible dictionary (or a search engine), look up the word Beelzebul. What do you learn?

There is an interesting phrase in this passage: “the finger of God” (v. 20). What is accomplished with the finger of God? Why do you suppose it is worded this way? That phrase is found in two other places in the Bible (Ex. 8:17–19; 31:18). Read these references and compare them. How is the finger of God used in each of these instances?

I can’t help but notice that in Luke 11:21, the verse that follows the “the finger of God” phrase, Jesus described the Enemy as “a strong man, fully armed” guarding his own house. Jesus went on to say, “But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted” (v. 22). On one hand (pun intended), we have a finger. On the other hand, we have a fully armed strong man. According to Jesus, the finger wins! That ought to tell us something about the difference between the power of God and the power of our Enemy.

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In the transfiguration story of Luke 9, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are brought together into one scene as a testament to the continuity of the Bible from cover to cover. The message of the whole Bible is a message of restoration. But we are forgetful people. As this story of the snakes was passed from generation to generation, its healing point got lost. The snake on a stick that used to be a testament to the miraculous power of God was reduced to mascot status, or idol status, for the Israelites. It should not surprise us to find out that eventually they named it and began to worship it. Once the point was lost, God ordered the king of Israel to smash the serpent. But Jesus, who sees the big picture, will draw on this story multiple times to help a Jewish world hear that God did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Let’s keep reading.

It reminds me of how my daughter experienced my presence on a playground when she was little. Often, when I would pick her up after school, she’d be happily playing with friends on the playground and not ready to go home. When I walked onto the playground, she’d ignore me to buy time. I’d call out, but she’d deflect. Eventually, when she didn’t come to my calls, I’d hold up one index finger. Claire Marie knew what it meant. It meant I was a third of the way to three fingers, and three fingers as far as she was concerned was Armageddon.

Never mind that she never once let me get all three fingers in the air. Never once did she experience whatever wrath she imagined would be unleashed when I reached three fingers. Just that one finger was enough to snap her into high gear.
She would be by my side, smiling up at me with that bribery smile, like all she wanted in the world was to leave with me.

One finger had that kind of power. I suspect I’m not alone in that way. I suspect most moms have some kind of sign language in their arsenal that wields that kind of power. So when I see “the finger of God” in Scripture and read about its power to hand down laws and induce plagues and stop the Enemy in his tracks, that’s what I think of. I think of a one-finger motion that carries incredible influence. God has more power in one finger, in one gesture, than Satan has on his best day with all his armor on. Keep that in mind when you’re quaking in fear or when you’re assigning every wrong move or motive in your life to the Enemy of your soul. He only has the power you give him.

As John has so wisely written, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Never forget that.

  • Read Luke 11:23
  • To what do you think Jesus was referring to when he talked about gathering?
  • What does this teach you about what it means to be “with” Jesus? Is it a matter of belief or a matter of action, according to this passage?
  • Compare Luke 9:50 with Luke 11:23.
  • What is the context of each verse? Are they saying the same thing?

These verses give us a clear choice. In Luke 11:23, Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” We find this line right in the middle of a conversation about spiritual warfare, so it is pretty clear what is being communicated here. Pick your side, Jesus said. When he said, “Whoever does not gather with me scatters,” he’s talking about gathering as a spiritual work and as a participation in the spiritual battle. Gathering is an active involvement in the process, not a
sideline activity.

Meanwhile, when Jesus says in Luke 9:50, “Whoever is not against you is for you,” he is inviting his followers into risk-taking ministry. Here’s what I believe about the call on those who follow Jesus. I believe we are called to take some risks. We push back against the darkness, knowing we have the power of God behind us, the finger of God poised and pointed toward the Enemy. We fight because we’ve been given the commission to cast out demons as we proclaim the kingdom of God. We fight for the souls of people and the values of Jesus.

Paul wrote, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). This is our trust. We have been entrusted with both the gospel and its expansion on earth. Spreading it means taking risks, crossing into enemy territory, and being bold and courageous. This kingdom-advancing, kingdom-exposing work is the work of a warrior. It does not mean pulling up a chair and watching the battle but requires getting in there to fight it.

Clearly, if we are not fighting the battle, the Enemy is gaining territory.

So fight, people. Fight for the gospel. Don’t sit passively by and hope for the best or assume it will happen without you. You’ve been given a trust, and Christ is counting on you. Where are you invested?

Listening to the Word

Reflect for a moment on two words found in Luke 11:23: gathering and scattering. By kingdom standards, where in your life are you gathering? Where are you scattering, perhaps unwittingly? Where are you investing time and energy?

There’s no substitute for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Maybe you’ve grown dissatisfied with the weak distractions offered both by our culture and, oftentimes, our churches. When it all sinks in, spirituality and ministry without the Holy Spirit is hollow.

Join Carolyn Moore in rediscovering the supernatural! With a biblical basis and practical application, you’ll learn how to work alongside the Spirit, and you’ll become watchful for the powerful in-breakings of God’s kingdom all around you.

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Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore is the founding and lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Evans, Georgia. She serves as the vice-chairwoman of the Wesleyan Covenant Association Council.

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