As a child, whenever I would see a movie or television show that had a frightening villain, my parents would try to comfort me by saying, “It’s okay. That guy isn’t even real. It’s all just made up.” This explanation worked really well when I was small. These villains could be quickly dismissed once you ascertained that they were not even real. There is no substance there.
When I got a little older and began actually paying attention in Bible classes and reading the Bible for myself, I was shocked to learn that movies are not the only place we can find frightening villains. The Bible is full of them. Even as a child my faith in the word of God was strong. I’ve never doubted the validity of the Bible. So, I knew even then that I could not use my old rationalization of, “These guys are all made up. They aren’t real.” No, these villains had been very real, and some of them were monstrous.
We cannot comfort ourselves by saying, “Well, this isn’t really true. These guys never existed. This never happened.” However, what we can do is take the time to study these individuals and see what they have to offer. God never allowed anything to be in His word that was not going to benefit us in some way. Can these villains teach us anything?
Getting Past Mindless Reading
Before we dive into some of these Biblical villains, I want to take a moment to look at why we always seem to pass over these guys in the first place. There aren’t many sermons preached on the bad guys in the Bible. Often they are a secondary character in the story. The spiritual hero is the one we truly want to focus on, right? Because we don’t want to focus on the negative, our mind plays a little trick which let’s us sort of just skip over the bad stuff. We know it happened. We are reading it, but our mind clicks off for just long enough to skip past it and then clicks back on when we get to the “good stuff.” We often read our Bibles this way. Preachers often plan their sermons this way. We skip over the uncomfortable parts.
We are going to take on the challenge in this study to not do this. We are going to focus in on the characters we don’t like to think about, and we are going to do this for a very important reason.
The reason we need to take a look at these characters is because these villains actually have much to offer us in the way of Biblical lessons. How is it that we can learn from these bad guys? Well, unfortunately, we can learn a lot from them because they are alive and well today. Not in bodily form, but most certainly in spirit. These Biblical villains come at us even today in the form of adversaries in our lives. They can also come at us in the form of Satanic attacks on our minds and emotions. The key to being able to defeat these villains is to be able to identify them.
So often we experience things, destructive things, and throughout the entire experience we are completely ignorant as to what is actually happening. We are very ignorant of spiritual matters, and even our own psychology and how our minds work. This ignorance works against us in a mighty way. God does not want us ignorant. God wants us to understand what is happening in us and around us so that we can meet these challenges in a strong and spiritual way.
This is why we should not read the Bible mindlessly or skip over the parts that make us a little uncomfortable. All of the word of God is there on purpose.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In the Old Testament the word Pharaoh is used to refer to the king of Egypt. Throughout the course of Genesis and Exodus there are several Pharaohs mentioned. The Pharaoh we are concerned with in this study is the Pharaoh found in Exodus 5. The common understanding is that this Pharaoh was Ramses II.
Because Moses was personally connected to the royal family, it is also very likely that Ramses was basically his adopted brother, cousin or uncle since Moses was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. This close connection between Moses and the Pharaoh makes the story in Exodus all the more intriguing.
In Exodus 3 and 4 Moses has an interaction with God which changes his life forever. God manifests Himself in the burning bush, then goes on to give Moses very specific instructions for his life.
Exodus 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
By the end of chapter 4 Moses had committed to this mission, gotten his brother Aaron on board and together they had convinced the children of Israel that God was on their side. Moses would deliver them from Egypt.
Exodus 4:30 And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.
In this story Pharaoh is a wonderful example of the pull that our old lives can have on us. God wanted to do a completely new thing in the lives of the Children of Israel. God was going to completely change their location, their society, their religion, their occupations, and their status in the world. The Exodus from Egypt was literally going to be the beginning of new era.
This is comparable to our salvation experience. When the Lord Jesus comes into our hearts He wants to start something entirely new. He wants to create a new era in our lives. Everything about our existence will be different from here on out.
Pharaoh represents the old way of things. When Moses came to Pharaoh and begins to describe some of his plans Pharaoh responds in Exodus 5:2
Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.
“I know not the Lord.” Our old man did not know the Lord. Even if you have been following Christ for sometime, it is often apparent that there is a part of us that is certainly not saved. Paul speaks of this conflict of the inner man.
Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Do you hear the conflict there? The same conflict arises in Exodus as Moses continues his efforts to free the children of Israel, and Pharaoh continues his efforts to keep them enslaved.
Just like a dictator, our old man wishes to keep us enslaved to our old ways. Those old ways of selfishness, lust, pettiness, greed, laziness, and whatever other behaviors dominated before we were serving God.
Can you visualize the Pharaoh, sitting on his throne? Moses is before him giving him the orders directly from Heaven. “Let my people go.” If Pharaoh is the power of the old man, then I can imagine Christ saying, “Let my child go.” I am the one enslaved to these old ways. Sometimes I find visualizing like this helps bring Biblical concepts to life.
Just as Pharaoh refused stubbornly until God brought down the wrath of the 10 plagues on him, so will the power of our old nature refuse to submit to God’s will at times. Pharaoh did not go unpunished, though and neither will we if we continuously submit to the ways of the old nature.
Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
When you are feeling conflicted between your new spiritual life and the ways of your old life, I encourage you to read Exodus 5 through 12. Remind yourself that your old sinful nature is Pharaoh, a tyrant that wants to enslave you and rule your life. The same stubbornness that lived in this ancient king, this villain of the Bible, lives in you and I as well. But, just as Moses and the children of Israel saw the victory, so will you and I when we submit our will to God.
Romans 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Nebuchadnezzar (part 1)
Nebuchadnezzar is a fairly overlooked character in the Bible. Most people can vaguely identify him as some enemy of Israel. He certainly did his part to persecute the Israelites, but he also has some very important lessons to teach us about our Christian life.
Nebuchadnezzar’s story lies in two parts, but first, who was this guy with the funny name? Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian king during the reign of Jehoiakim, the king of Israel. Around 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar began attacking Israel.
Although Israel had their share of enemies and battles, this siege of Jerusalem turned out to be one of the most destructive events in the kingdom’s 400 year history up to that point.
2 Chronicles 36:5 Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. 6 Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.
2 Chronicles 36:17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:
This was a complete and total destruction of everything the Children of Israel had worked for. Their city was gone. Their temple was gone. Their king was gone. Anyone who had not been killed was carried away to be servants in Babylon. All of this destruction was performed at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
What type of lesson could a monster like Nebuchadnezzar possibly teach us to help us be better Christians? If you look closely in 2 Chronicles 36, you will see that Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Israel all in a day. In fact, he came in little by little.
If you take the time to read 2 Chronicles 36:5-20 (I encourage you to do so now) you will see this was a slow destruction.
- V5-9 King Jehoiakin does evil in the sight of the Lord and so God allows Nebuchadnezzar to bind him in chains and takes away some treasures. He does not destroy the entire country, though, but rather allows Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin to continue reigning in Israel.
- V 9- 10 Jehoiachin ALSO does evil in the sight of Lord. Nebuchadnezzar returns to Jerusalem, takes Jehoiachin prisoner and takes MORE treasures away. But still, the destruction is not complete. Jehoicahin’s brother Zedekiah is allowed to continue to reign.
- V 12-20 We see that Zedekiah ALSO does evil in the sight of the Lord and now God allows Nebuchadnezzar to finish what he started. By the end of verse 20 the destruction of Israel is complete.
Is this not exactly the way Satan often attacks our lives as well? Few Christians fall in a day. I’m tempted to say no Christian ever fell in a day. Slowly, little by little, Satan works at us. There is temptation, which leads to thoughts, which leads to actions. There is one action, which leads to a habit, which leads to enslavement. There is one doubt, which leads to another and another.
Just as we visualized the Pharaoh as a tyrant on his throne trying to keep us enslaved, can you also visualize Nebuchadnezzar? He marches into Jerusalem and takes a few treasures, captures the king then he leaves. But soon he returns, he takes the new king, and more treasures, but still he leaves. Finally, in a full assault he descends upon Jerusalem, confiscating everything of value, killing and enslaving everyone and finally burning Solomon’s beautiful masterpiece, the Temple.
Now visualize this same slow, stealthy destruction when you allow one bad thought, one secret sin to go unchecked. That one attack will lead to others. I’m sure after Jehoiakim was taken captive during Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack, the children of Israel thought, “Well, that was bad, but it’s okay. We still have the king’s son. We still have some treasures. Everything is fine.”
Don’t we justify our sins the same way? “I know it’s not right, but no one knows. I’m not hurting anyone. This is just my one weakness.”
Our Lord is not satisfied with this “good enough” mentality and we should not be satisfied with it either. Satan will not be satisfied with a partial victory in your life. Once it is apparent where a foothold can be taken, it will be taken and then more and more will be taken.
Protect the kingdom of your mind and heart. Defend yourself with prayer and repentance. Stay busy in the work of the Lord so that Satan does not find that first entrance. Don’t allow a Nebuchadnezzar to lay siege to your life.
Nebuchadnezzar (part 2)
Nebuchadnezzar will get two parts in this study, because his story does not end in 2 Chronicles. Later on, after the children of Israel have been serving in Babylon for a while, Nebuchadnezzar has an experience which, at first glance, seems not relevant to us or our Christian lives at all. I believe, however, that Nebuchadnezzar’s strange story in Daniel chapter 4 is actually a very important lesson for Christians. I believe it is a lesson that most people do not want to talk about, which makes it not only important, but also dangerous.
In order to truly understand this lesson, you need to read Daniel chapter 4 in its entirety. I encourage you do so now.
Wow! A strange story indeed, and written by Nebuchadnezzar himself. The most powerful king of his time, cut down like a tree, left to fall alone in the wilderness. But not just left alone, left alone while driven beyond sanity. It is apparent by the description in verse 33 that Nebuchadnezzar had a complete mental health break down during this seven years.
Verse 33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.
How terrifying. Verse 30 gives us an explanation as to why this happened to him.
30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
This was obviously in response to the king’s pride. Ultimately this was all part of God’s plan for freeing the children of Israel from captivity. But for the sake of this study, I believe there are some important lessons we can learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s experience as it applies to mental health and the Christian’s experience.
There is a disturbing trend among Christians to deny the existence of mental health issues in the Christian life. After all aren’t we suppose to have the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts?” Shouldn’t it make us, “happy, so very happy?”
It is true that Christ gives us joy. It is also true that this joy can feel like genuine happiness. However, it is also true that no where in the Bible does it say this will be our default emotional state all the time. Here we see the problem. We have told ourselves that we should be happy, feel happy all the time. When we do not feel happy, we think God has failed us somehow.
The idea that God is failing us only multiplies our feelings of sadness, but now we can also add doubt to our sadness. Now the cycle is really rolling. With doubt the door is swung wide open to all sorts of psychological tortures. From here it is a quick slide to a depressed attitude. But wait, you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t be feeling any of this. Enter a good dose of guilt to add on top of everything else. “I must be a terrible Christian to even be thinking and feeling this way.” In addition to all of this, many Christians share a distorted idea of Christian happiness and mental health, so you know you can’t talk to any of your Christian friends about how you are feeling. Now, the final ingredient gets added in and that is the isolation that comes with mental health problems. “I have no one to talk to. No one will understand this. I am the only one who feels this way. What is wrong with me?”
Does any of that sound familiar? Well, it does for me. I have experienced every bit of that scenario. The cycle does not get better on its own. The only deliverance from this attack on our mental health is truth. Real truth.
Truth: Being a Christian doesn’t mean you feel happy all the time. It is okay to not feel unhappy sometimes. It is okay to feel sad, angry, betrayed, and discouraged.
Psalms 34: 17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Truth: Many great heroes of the Bible got depressed. Elijah, Jonah, John the Baptist. Don’t forget, even Jesus wept.
John 11:33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
Truth: God is still in control even when things aren’t going good. God still loves you even when you feel unlovable. God is working even the worst circumstances out for our good.
Isaiah 55: 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Truth: There is another side. Even if your mental health issues have gotten severe. There is another side. Our good God is still a God of healing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a health problem or depression, or something more serious. Our God is a God of healing and a God of grace for our trials.
Psalms 40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. 3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
Daniel 4:34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
There is another side. The sun will rise every morning and our good God will still be in control and still loving you.
No one likes to focus on the villains. But these Biblical villains certainly have a lot to teach us about our Christian lives. Take some time this week to go back and read these stories again. Do these villains have a lesson to teach you?