The Deception of Misdirection
Bait and switch, duped, tricked, got the wool pulled over my eyes, bamboozled, swindled, cheated, smooth talked, shafted, etc. - sounds like a vocabulary word list used for training would-be advertising and marketing scammers. Our world is full of predators looking for hapless victims who get lulled into a story line for a product that promises one thing and very definitely delivers another thing - if it is delivered at all! I must say that I have been on the non-receiving end of some of these scams and it is not fun. Besides losing money we walk away with a deficit of dignity and feel violated that someone could control our behaviors to get us to do what they want at our expense. Our loss is their gain.
Deception in its simplest form is the intentional introduction of false information wrapped in enough truth to entice someone to look and listen. It is in the looking and listening that the deception takes hold of the mind of the beholder and weasels its way into our will with the intention for us to act on the purpose of the deception, which is to get us to do what the deceiver wants us to do. Not many of us would pick up a big black ant and shove the crispy little critter in our mouth and eat it. However, if that ant was to be covered in thick, creamy, milk chocolate and put in a bowl with other plump “Raisinets” it would look just like all the others. Upon eating it we may believe that the raisin inside was just a little old, and therefore, crunchy. You just ate an ant.
As believers in and seekers of truth this deception potential is ever-present. Jesus said that truth sets us free and therefore, non-truth will put us in bondage and captivity. It is a big deal to recognize deception and reject it before we begin to entertain it, otherwise we will find ourselves eating chocolate covered lies by the handfuls. If we eat enough of them we will eventually ignore the crunchy little centers and just pass it off as the way it is supposed to be. These lies are toxic and if we ingest enough of them they will eventually become terminal.
Humanity was born into a battle for truth. As God’s viceroys on planet Earth, part of our commission was (and still is) to bring the transforming power of truth to every dark corner of the globe. This truth would dispel the darkness that was covering the earth (see Genesis 1) and bring the glorious light of God’s heavenly kingdom to Earth. This commission was immediately met with resistance in the form of a rebel spirit-being known as “Nachash” (that is its Hebrew name, better known to us as Satan). We don’t know much about this being except that at one time it was in God’s presence with a very lofty position as a mighty angelic guardian (see Ezek. 28:14). At some point it was filled with jealousy, corruption, and a consuming passion to be as God was. This arrogant assault on the throne of God was incompatible with the holiness of Heaven and the great angelic guardian was cast down to the earth (see Isa. 14:12-13).
We are not given many facts concerning the coup d'état but we are given the central intention of the leader of the insurgency. Here are the 5-points of the takeover plan:
“I will ascend to Heaven”
“I will raise my throne above the stars of God”
“I will sit on the mount of assembly in the North”
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds”
“I will make myself like the Most High”
Wow, talk about delusions of grandeur! This being was so internally corrupted and self-deceived in thinking that a created being could usurp the Creator and actually become “like” God. This absolute internal deception would become the greatest single threat to the purpose of people on the planet. Satan is so self-absorbed and maniacally motivated that it will stop at nothing and spare no one in pursuit of becoming God. Satan’s greatest power is also its greatest weakness, for if this plan were ever to work, Satan would destroy itself, as the universe and all that is created would cease to be if God were not on the throne. Be that as it may, Satan is still forging ahead with the plan.
When humans were created “in God’s image and likeness” it must have sent Satan into a ballistic orbit of rage and jealousy. Nachash wanted this “image” and now these humans start their invasion of the earth as the image of God in flesh and blood. One might think that Satan would initiate an all-out war, unleashing the hoards of demonic angels that followed its rebellion to crush this tiny little army of two. But we see another tactic deployed by Nachash. One that is still being used. One that God’s image bearers are still being duped by.
There are many forms of deception but none is probably more powerful than what is called misdirection. This is a common tactic used by magicians to pull off their tricks in plain sight of the observer. Misdirection is used to draw the audience’s attention to one thing to distract it while another thing (the magic) is happening unnoticed by the audience. It usually consists of 3 elements: get the audience to look away for a brief moment, reframe the perception of those watching, and to influence the mind with what the magician wants the audience to think about. The goal is to wow the crowd, create a following, get a reputation, and then have your own show. Sounds like a perfect business plan for a being that wants center stage in everything.
To be sure, Satan is not just practicing parlor magic tricks and sleight-of hand. Satan is a supernatural being that has access to the realm of spiritual powers that can manipulate the natural world in ways that can astound us. However, because it is a spirit, it needs access into our realm through a willing (or unwilling) host to do its bidding. All throughout the biblical account we see Satan working through people to prosecute its plan. The magicians of Egypt who opposed Moses (God works through people, too) were able to duplicate many of the miraculous signs Moses performed before Pharaoh. There were all manors of witches, soothsayers, fortune tellers, false prophets, conjurers, etc. that all opposed the truth and tried to lead people astray into darkness. The Apostle Paul had an encounter with one such individual magician named Elymas who was trying to undermine the message of the gospel- [Acts 13:10 NASB] And said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?”
The names and faces change but the tactics still remain the same - deception through misdirection. How did Jesus encounter Satan? The first encounter Jesus had with Nachash was a face to face showdown in the wilderness (Luke 4) where Jesus begins the process of ripping the earthly authority out of Satan’s grip that had been extracted from Adam & Eve through the most diabolical misdirection deceptions ever. At the end of the encounter Luke mentions that Satan left Jesus alone, but would come back at a more opportune time. And I might add, in some opportunistic ways.
Jesus leaves the wilderness encounter having won the right to reestablish righteousness on the earth and heads back into civilization to expose and destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). So where did Jesus head first? Where did Jesus start with this exposing of evil campaign? Right into the epicenter of ungodly, pagan, idol-worshipping Rome, right? Nope. Jesus looked right into the eyes of a religious system that was doing more damage to God’s will than the deep darkness of a sin-infested world. Rome was the misdirection. A corrupt religious system was what Satan really wanted. Remember, Satan wants to be God.
Here is one such encounter Jesus had with Satan working through the religious leaders of the day: [John 8:44 NASB] "You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature,] for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Satan doesn’t stop there with its misdirection agenda. It shows up in the form of an insider, Judas, who betrays Jesus to His face and in Peter, who confronts Jesus to His face about Jesus’ unwise plan of going into Jerusalem (Matt 16:23). Jesus was able to see right through all of these misdirection deceptions and stay focused and on track to complete His mission.
If history has shown us anything about the workings of evil it is that its greatest power is deception. If Satan and its demon hoards can keep humans busy looking in the wrong direction, then it can continue to forge ahead with this devilish plan of steal, kill, destroy.
Jesus is no longer on the earth in physical form but He is here in the form of His Body, the Church. The Church is now tasked with finishing what Jesus started in the uncovering and destruction of Satan’s plan. The Church MUST have the same discernment that Jesus had. Right from the get-go, the fledgling band of believers faced the full-on assault of misdirection. Here is how the Apostle Paul described it:
[2 Cor. 11:13-15 NASB] For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”
The times, names, and faces change, but the tactics of our enemy remain the same. In our present global circumstances there are horrible evils being perpetrated that are being masqueraded with outward forms that even to the most hardened skeptic would attribute to a diabolical being like Satan. Many sectors of the Church are so fixated on the outward expressions of this evil that they look to the scriptures for proof texts that this is the end of the world and it is time to gather in huddled masses of fearful evacuees waiting for Jesus to come and take us out of this mess.
All the while when the world and the Church are looking at the show on stage, Satan is behind the scenes working its misdirection as an angel of light. It is working through people and structures that seem so good and altruistic on the outside with plans to save the world, when in actuality, the plan is to destroy the world. Satan does its most destructive work through the appearance of light knowing full well that light is more attractive to humans who were created to live in the light.
The account of the first Fall of humanity states that when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make [one] wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Gen 3:6). It is time for the Church of Jesus to look away from the shiny fruit with all of its obvious attributes and put on our mantle of discernment. The heart of Satan’s plan is not in the obvious. It is time for the Church to take a cue from Toto, who, while Dorothy and her three fear-struck companions stood quaking at the sight of the awful wizard, gallantly marched over to the curtain and exposed what was really going on.
by Pastor Jim Anan