“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”
Corrie Ten Boom
This is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ in the Bible. All the prophecy that will follow are to be interpreted through this statement first. It’s like getting a fishing pole outfitted with a line. It’s threaded from one eye to the next until that same line goes through them all.
Hatred. There would be an ‘enmity’ between the serpent and the woman. We hate being held in ‘chains’ as much as Satan hates us. There will be no end to hostilities until his final destruction comes.
This verse is focused on the future. Note the term, ‘offspring.’ There will be no peace treaty between humans and the demonic A compromise only means that one is assimilated over the other. Either we lay down our weapons, or he does. There are some who have done this, with tragic consequences. They are being held hostages in a spiritual battle. They are ‘prisoners of war.’
Although Satan is powerful, he is not omnipotent. There are limits on what he can do. He bruises, but we crush. In a real accurate sense, this describes Jesus destroying the enemy. The baby lying in a manger is really a hammer, that pulverizes the darkness. It is experienced in our lives, as we declare Satan’s defeat in our own hearts.
Satan bruises; but ‘in Christ,’ we crush his head. Jesus leads us in a ‘victory parade.’
“Prayer is repeating the victor’s name (Jesus) into the ears of Satan and insisting on his retreat.“
In the 16th century, London’s mentally ill were often kept at Bethlem Royal Hospital. The conditions inside the hospital were notoriously poor. Patients were often chained to the floor and the noise was so great that Bethlem was more likely to drive a man crazy than to cure him. The conditions were so infamous that the nickname locals gave the hospital—Bedlam—has come to mean any scene of great confusion.
Unfortunately five hundred years later, we’re still treating the mentally ill more like prisoners than patients. Fifty years ago, more than 550 thousand people were institutionalized in public mental hospitals. Today, only between 60 and 70 thousand are, despite a two-thirds increase in the country’s population.
Since there’s no evidence that the incidence of mental illness has dropped precipitously, the mentally ill who previously had been institutionalized had to have gone somewhere. While some are being treated successfully in their communities, at homes and groups homes, but for many that “somewhere” is behind bars. This last part shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Five years ago, the Washington Post told the story of “Leon,” a one-time honor student, who had 17 years in and out of jail on various drug-related charges. It was only after several suicide attempts, including drinking a “bleach-and-Ajax cocktail,” that Leon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Leon’s story was a microcosm of a larger problem: “Prisons and jails are increasingly substituting as mental hospitals.”
As one advocate for the mentally ill told the Post, “a lot of people with mental illness are charged with minor crimes as a way to get them off the streets.” In effect, they are behind bars for “being sick.” Fast forward five years and little, if anything, has changed. A few weeks ago, another piece in the Post discussed the same problem.
Psychiatrist Marcia Kraft Goin told readers something that should shock and outrage them: “The Los Angeles County Jail houses the largest psychiatric population in the country.” As with the earlier Post piece, the conclusion was inescapable: “People with [untreated] mental illnesses often end up with symptoms and behaviors that result in jail time.” You don’t have to be a “bleeding heart” to understand that this is an injustice—any kind of heart will do.
Not only are the mentally ill not getting the help they need, they are as lambs to the slaughter in our crowded and violent prisons. They are being victimized twice over. They’re not the only ones being victimized.
At a time when most state prisons are unlawfully overcrowded, there are better uses for prison beds than as makeshift mental hospitals. As Goin wrote, “treating” mental illness as a criminal justice problem costs “more than treating patients appropriately in their community.”
As part of its ministry to prisoners and their families, Prison Fellowship supports community-based alternatives to incarceration. Not only because it makes “financial sense” but because it’s what Christ would have done. In Matthew 25 he called the ill and the prisoner his “brothers” and he expects us to offer them something more than bedlam.
“There but for the Grace of God go I…”–Bryan
From BreakPoint®, August 6, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship.
1What if the Lord had not been on our side? (Let Israel repeat this.) 2 What if the Lord had not been on our side when we were attacked? 3 When they were angry with us, they would have swallowed us alive. 4 They would have been like a flood drowning us; they would have poured over us like a river. 5 They would have swept us away like a mighty stream.
6 Praise the Lord, who did not let them chew us up. 7We escaped like a bird from the hunter’s trap. The trap broke, and we escaped. 8 Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
We can play “the what if game.” We can think backwards, and hit replay, and pretend alternate realities. What if, I didn’t join the army? What if I died on that last drunken binge, choking on my own vomit? Date that particular girl, go to a Bible college? These events could have happened. (But didn’t).
David asks an enormous “what if.” And this trip down ‘memory lane’ examines what would of (or could have) happened if God would have taken His hand off Israel as a nation.
V. 1- 5,King David poses this question. He wants Israel to understand what he is saying. He asks the people to repeat after him. He then re-frames the question in V.2. “What if God had not stepped into the situation?”David wants his nation to think through this,
I truly believe that we should do the very same today. Take a moments pause to reflect on His grace and attending care. To understand that it was God’s hand holding us in place. All that He does for us is very good.
The malevolent forces of the enemy have a ministry. And that ministry is to ‘steamroll’ and crush out the light. As a boy I remember having the same vivid dream, (especially when I was sick and would have a fever.) It was always the same, I was on a conveyor belt, and I couldn’t move. At the end of that belt was huge ‘lugged’ rollers. I was going to be crushed to death. I can still remember the terror of being frozen to the moving belt. Now I realize that Satan wanted to destroy me– even as a child. (He hates children.)
There is also can be a sense of being overwhelmed by your enemies. The chosen metaphor is ‘an intense flood,’ irresistible waters sweeping us downstream. Does Satan have this much power? I think he does. But if we focus on these first five verses we see that they are merely potentialities… what could have happened… if God had let us go.
V. 6, “Praise the Lord, who did not let them chew us up.” David is a very vivid writer, he had a flair of choosing the best images. We see God intervening, of wading into the flood, and preventing Israel from becoming a snack.
V. 7“We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!” I love this verse. “Escaped” is emphasized twice, the bird catchers have collected many small birds, snared by a little food and a strong net. But something has just happened, and the birds somehow escape! Growing up I once went fishing with my grandpa. He would catch some beautiful fish, but I would sneak them back into the water to set them free. (Somehow I think this is God’s heart.)
V. 8, is the ultimate lesson of this psalm. It sums up everything wonderfully. There is help. The Creator who cares for us. He has ultimate strength. Put your heart in His hands.
Sometimes, I feel like a tour guide for believers that are walking through hell. I point out the different strugglers, and urge each one not to linger too long but to keep moving. We look on those trapped (they have no hope within them) but we hope that they are yet to reach out for the Savior. It is distressing, and yet somehow we understand them just a little bit.
Our journey out and down each sad corridor can be painfully disturbing for us. There are so many different types of prisons and chains used to confine and control. Dante wrote his “Inferno” (Italian, for hell), and somehow he in some curious way walks through the different levels (varieties) of hell with us. Virgil (Dante’s own tour guide) takes Dante through some pretty hairy stuff, and they pass through the very gate, which bears an inscription, of the infamous phrase “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate“, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Our own rescue from this dreadful place is based on that singular word, “hope”. Somehow, hope has distilled inside us, and that alone can enable us to walk out as the freed. We have chosen not to abandon hope, but to use it as our passport out of the bottom of hell itself. We show it to each guardian, and then pass through without any hinderance.
And so at last the poor have hope. (Job 5:16)
Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. (Job 11:18)
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. (Ps. 10:17)
All day long I put my hope in you. (Ps. 25:5)
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. (Ps. 33:22)
O Lord, you alone are my hope. (Ps. 71:5)
Your word is my source of hope. (Ps. 119:114)
“Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance— all who seek the Lord!” (Isa. 51:1)
And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matt. 12:21)
Even when there was no reason for hope, “Abraham kept hoping.” (Rom. 4:18)
We, too, wait with eager hope. (Rom. 8:23)
Rejoice in our confident hope. (Rom. 12:12)
The Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait. (Rom. 15:4)
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love. (1 Cor. 13:13)
That you can understand the confident hope he has given us. (Eph. 1:18)
Our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all. (1 Tim. 4:10)
In order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. (Heb. 6:11)
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. (Heb. 6:19)
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm. (Heb. 10:23)
They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. (Heb. 11:35)
You have placed your faith and hope in God. (1 Pet. 1:21)
If someone asks about your Christian hope. (1 Pet. 3:15)
I suppose we must say (it’s clear) that hope is what sets us free from the difficulty that rests in our minds. Whatever DSM-IV has branded us, whatever a psychiatrist has declared us to be, and whatever our therapist has told us– our hope, that’s in Christ, will open all doors that are closed and locked.
Hope really is the Christian’s freedom from hell. Those of us who have been freed from our incarceration from our mental illness are amazingly liberated. I know the lostness of being very much lost. But hope is everything. When our hope somehow connects with Jesus, our souls are set free. We walk out of hell, with our souls soaring clean.