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14. The Year of the Snake

The Year of the Snake

by Pastor Eric H.H. Chang, April, 2001

A Chinese New Year sharing on 28th January, 2001

Last Chinese New Year’s Day, I shared something from my heart which the Lord had spoken to my heart. I started out by talking about the Year of the Snake, that we are now in the Year of the Snake, or ‘the Serpent’ in older English. We know that the Devil is called the Old Serpent. He is also called the Dragon (“the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan” Rev. 20:2), a symbol familiar to us in Asia. I will summarize one or two more points from that sharing before I go on further today.

The More Attractive the Snake, the More Dangerous

I pointed out that one of the characteristics of the snake is that the more beautiful, the more attractive the snake is, the more dangerous it is. That is the most elementary thing you need to know about snakes. If you see a snake that is all black, [it is a less dangerous type]. Generally speaking, it is best not to take any chances with any snake. Do not say, “Oh, this one is all black, it’s not multi-colored, so I can go and pat it on the head.” Whether it is black or not, it still has teeth, and whether it is poisonous or not, it can still bite. It is still dangerous. And of course there are some non-poisonous snakes which are very dangerous, like the python. It does not kill by poison but it kills by crushing its prey to death. Anyway the point is, that when a snake is poisonous, it does not have to be big. It can be very small but it is still extremely deadly. I think those from Laos and Cambodia, those places, know about these little snakes, which can be very small but their poison is deadly. Yet they look very nice - sometimes very bright green, or they have yellow stripes or different colorings. Remember, again, that we are now in the Year of the Snake, so you had better be clear about whose territory or ‘time-zone’ you are working in this year. The principle about the snake is that it has this characteristic: the prettier it looks, the brighter its colors, the more attractive it appears to be, the deadlier it is. That is one very basic thing to know about snakes. That is what we saw the last time.

We notice, too, that the world (which is Satan’s domain) and all its powers try to make themselves very attractive to us. That is why I reminded you that in Genesis, it said that the snake was very beautiful or attractive, and the woman was very attracted to it. You are not attracted to something ugly, but to something beautiful. I have never been able to imagine myself finding a snake attractive, but the spiritual meaning is clearer now. The attractiveness of the serpent in the Garden did not, of course, consist primarily in its outward colorfulness, but in its exceptional and unique subtlety or craftiness or shrewdness (cf. the various translations of Gen. 3.1. The LXX* uses the word ‘phronimos’ - wise, smart, skillful, etc. This is precisely the same word which the Lord ascribes to serpents in Mt. 10.16). People (especially of the world) tend to find these qualities attractive. Moreover, I suppose that one must be pretty smart to get people to believe a lie. The lie must be made so attractive, appealing, or convincing to the extent that people would be willing to believe it.

Snakes Are Quiet and Hidden Until Ready to Strike

What was the other thing we talked about the snake? Do you remember? It remains quiet and hidden until it is ready to strike. The snake can move very quietly; it can remain hidden until it is very close to you that you do not even know it has come right up close to you. That is the other dangerous thing. You can be caught unprepared. Its preferred mode of action is the surprise attack.

Anything that comes with a lot of noise, you know it is there. This is also said about dogs: dogs that bark a lot are not dangerous; it is the dog that does not bark that is very dangerous. Like this dog next door (here in Nam Shan Road), he barks and barks. I talk to him and he barks back. I talk to him some more and he barks some more. There is so much noise. This kind of dog only bullies. These are bullies. They bully small dogs; they bully children; and if you show fear, they attack you. If you walk up to them, they retreat. But the dog that does not bark, like the snake that does not make a sound, is very dangerous. If you notice a dog that makes no sound, you had best be careful.

I used to have dogs. I understand dogs very well. Once I had a dog like that. He never made a sound. He was not my dog; somebody else went on holiday and asked me to look after their dog and I agreed. Wow! It was huge! It never barked. And if I opened the door to some stranger, you would just hear a growling sound. That dog was very dangerous. I had to hold it back because it would be at somebody’s throat the next minute. It was a guard dog.

So in the same way, the serpent makes no sound, but is more dangerous because it can come right up close to you without your even knowing it. I am told that in the jungle sometimes they drop on you from above. That is the way they attack. They drop down. You do not even know it is there. You cannot see it; it blends in with the trees. The next moment it is there and gives you a deadly bite. These are the things you need to watch out about the snake.

The Deadly Poison of Snakes - Lies and Slander

In this year, then, we need to be exceedingly cautious. Watch out for temptations! Watch out for the hidden enemy that waits for the opportunity to strike at the deadliest time, that is, when it is close to you and can inject that poison into you. And there are poisons, as you know, for which antidotes may not be available. Or, if available, may not reach you in time. If so, you are finished. The poison destroys your nervous system. Watch out for things that really get on your nerves. The Enemy, Satan, attacks your nervous system quite literally, confusing you. One of the things you will experience when you are attacked in the nervous system is that you will begin to notice confusion, anxiety and stress. You get very nervous and tense. When that happens, sometimes you cry, sometimes you laugh. Your whole nervous balance is upset. So when you feel your whole nervous system (I mean your physical nervous system - I am not talking about some spiritual nervous system) being affected, watch out! The poison of the Enemy is working.

If you are a Christian and you walk with the Lord (as I trust you all are) and you lose the joy, watch it, the poison has gone into your system already. Watch it! One of the first things that happens when Satan attacks you is that he takes your joy away. You have no more joy! You feel heavy. You feel miserable. You feel you do not know what life is for, even though you once knew but now you do not know anymore. You are confused, depressed. The poison is working! Call out to the Lord! The snake poison has hit you.

What exactly does the snake poison represent here? What does it portray in Scripture? The first step that the serpent took was to try to confuse Eve by questioning what God had said, quoting the first half of what He had said (Gen. 2:16) without quoting the other half (v17). When Eve correctly remembered the Lord’s words, then Satan flatly, daringly, and unashamedly contradicts it. In Gen. 2:17, the Lord said: “ shall surely die”, but in Gen. 3:4, Satan said: “You will not surely die”. How brazen can he get?

But he has not finished yet! There is more slander yet to come. He is about to reveal secrets to Eve known to nobody but himself! The real reason why God did not allow them to eat of that tree was that He was afraid that they “will be like God” Himself (Gen. 3:5). They would become a threat to Him! He would surely not allow that to happen, would He? The further implication of Satan’s words was this: if you, through eating of this tree, become equal with God, then, being equal with Him (i.e. equal in knowledge, immortality and power), what have you to fear from Him? What can He do to you? This was evidently how Satan wanted “like Him” to be understood. How else would he cause Eve to overcome her fear of God and thus to dare to disobey Him? Thus Satan (remember, the word means ‘adversary’, ‘enemy’ especially of God) is true to his name: the Devil (the word means ‘liar’, ‘slanderer’). What then is the poison of this Serpent? Lies (often, as here, presented as hidden truth revealed by him) and slanders resulting in doubting, confusion, disobedience, and finally spiritual death.

Watch carefully! All these things are true all the time, not only in this particular year. These are the fundamental principles, but they are especially true now when a year has been assigned to the snake, the Old Serpent, and you have to know his tactics. Paul says, “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), but many Christians are ignorant. You do not understand how Satan works - that is why he gets you! He can in this year get you in many, many ways, such as through BGR (boy-girl relationship) problems. How many people have been left confused, depressed, frustrated, upset through these problems? Before, they were very happy, very cheerful, and then they got bitten by the snake.

Beware Even of Seemingly Small Lies and Subtle Slander

I also reminded you on New Year’s Day that snakebites make very small holes because it does not depend on a big bite; it depends on the poison going into your blood system. So when it bites you, you can see only two or three small holes. That is all there is. It is not like a dog bite where you have a big wound. Or if a lion bites you, your whole arm disappears! The snakebite shows very small and apparently superficial wounds. It is a very small external injury, but the internal hurt is maximum; that is, it kills you. So watch carefully! Beware of apparently small lies, small slanders. They are no less poisonous than big ones. Be alert! Do not lose the joy of the Lord no matter what the Enemy wants to do with you. Because he knows that once you lose your joy, what happens? You surrender to the Devil because you have no more energy or motivation to fight. You are depressed; you are weak; you are confused. Keep the joy of the Lord!

Remember what the Bible says? “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” [Neh. 8:10] We cannot afford to lose it. Do not let any co-working problems or anything else around, such as family problems or whatever, rob you of His strength. Only the Devil takes away your joy. You can be sure of it. When you lose your joy, you know it is from the Devil because Jesus never takes away your joy. He said that His joy He gives to us: “My peace I give to you.” [Jn. 14:27] That is what Jesus does. He comes to me and I have joy; He comes to me and I have peace. When the Devil comes to me, I have only misery. He leaves you broken and unhappy.

I am sure you have all experienced that. Which of us have not been attacked by the Devil? Which of us? If you are on the Lord’s side, the Devil must surely have attacked you, no? If you are on the Devil’s side, you are miserable all the time anyway, so we do not worry about that. But if you are on the Lord’s side, then surely you must have had the joy of the Lord, right? And when you have the joy of the Lord, Satan is mad. He is going to attack you and take that joy away. So you have very clear indicators. We do not live in uncertainty. We must know his devices, and I stress again the words of the Apostle Paul, “we are not ignorant of his devices”. This is more or less the summary of what I said last time.

Satan’s Frontal Attack - Blinding You!

By the way, I should make it clear, too, that Satan can attack you head on. Do not think that he only slips behind you in secret and bites you in secret. He can come out in the open and attack you head on. This usually happens when a serpent is caught out in the open and confronted and is unable to flee. Do you want an example? Have you seen a cobra? When a cobra is confronted, it raises itself up. Have you seen it, for example, in some TV documentary? It can be quite frightening. It coils and stands up. Perhaps some of you who have gone to Burma and India have seen that even in real life. The cobra stands up and then its hood opens out. Now it is ready for frontal attack. It will attack you! And the cobra poison is very dangerous. But do you know what else it can do? There is a certain kind of cobra that can spit its poison! Even though it does not bite you, it can spit its poison at you. That is really something! It can shoot its poison right in your face and hit you right in the eyes and blind you. Its aim is very accurate.

That is what Satan does. He blinds people. Blinded by Satan, you cannot see anymore. You confront him and say, “I’m not going to give in to you.” But, hopefully, you are not going to rely on your own strength and wisdom. I tell you, when you see a cobra, get a pair of glasses and put them on quickly, because if you have a pair of glasses, it will save your eyes. The venom will only hit your glasses. Its aim is so accurate your glasses will all be fogged up, dripping with poison. You will not be able to see for a moment, but at least it will not go into your eyes so as to blind you. That is the other characteristic of Satan. He can hit you secretly, or he can confront you, frighten you, attack you right to your face, spit (poison) in your face. (This also makes me think of what Satan did to Jesus through his minions in Mt. 26:67.)

Have you ever seen a cobra spitting, as recorded on a documentary film? Some of you have seen it, right? I have watched it. Even from some six feet away it can shoot that poison, one shot with accuracy, right into your face. That is Satan’s frontal attack. He has many ways. By contrast, when Jesus comes, does He blind you? No! He gives you eyesight. He gives you perception. When Satan comes, he blinds you. When blinded, you do not know what is what. You cannot see the light properly anymore. You cannot see anything properly anymore. You are in a state of disaster! It is very, very fearsome.

Be alert and watchful, therefore, especially in this Year of the Snake. Do not be ignorant of his devices, his schemes, his tricks. He can use the carrot and he can use the stick. He can tempt you and he can threaten you. That is the nastiness of this particular creature. So, I hope that you get at least some basic understanding of what you have to look out for. If by now you have already lost your peace, your joy, ask the Lord to deliver you because you know you have already been attacked by the poison.

Our Ministry - Liberation - A Battle!

For us, what is our ministry? Our ministry is to bring encouragement, bring comfort, bring sight to the blind. Why do I say comfort? Because people are depressed - they have been hit with Satan’s poison! We have also been attacked; we know what it feels like. We have all suffered before, and with the same encouragement the Lord gives us, we encourage others. But may it never be that any of us will work on Satan’s side, either intentionally or unintentionally, to cause hurt and pain to other people. Our mission is exactly the reverse. It is to set prisoners free, to give sight to the blind (cf. the mission given to the apostle Paul, Acts 26:18). Remember, too, Lk. 4:18-19, that is Jesus’ ministry in essence - setting the oppressed free.

In closing I would like to say is: this matter of liberation is a battle, because we are talking about the Serpent, the Devil, Satan, the Adversary, the Enemy. In setting people free from the power of the Devil, you know what will happen. That is why you had better know his tactics. If the Devil is not attacking you, that means you are not doing anything that bothers him. Those of us who serve the Lord will always, always be attacked. Now you are going out to serve the Lord, and some of you have already had some missions, believe me, it is going to get worse as you go out. When you go out to serve the Lord, you will be attacked all the time.

Let me share something with you. You know we are now on the air. We are broadcasting everyday, six days a week. We have not yet taken over program time on Sunday, but at present we have Monday to Saturday. Every day for one hour we are broadcasting the message into China. Potentially, we can reach millions of people. Do you think the Devil is going to sit there and say, “Ah, wonderful! So you can now preach to all of China. I’ve closed the door, and now you can get through the door; you can preach right into the country. And I don’t know how to stop you.” Do you think he is going to be happy?

Just yesterday I received an email which was forwarded to me from our American partners in the broadcasting ministry. They received a report from an international monitor in Shanghai, and the report is that China is trying to block our broadcast to the Greater Shanghai Area where there are some twenty or thirty million people. We have been on the air for how long, do you remember? We have been on the air only six weeks. Within six weeks, they know we are there. They are obviously always monitoring the airwaves. They listen to our message and it seems to frighten them - a message of liberation, a new quality of life, freedom from sin, and so on. They listen to this and think: “This message is very dangerous.”

We never talk politics, not one word of politics. All we are talking about is the Gospel. It is called “Fu Yin Dian Tai”, the Gospel Radio Station. Within six weeks, they have picked up our broadcasts and are trying to jam our station! Then I say, “Praise the Lord!” Because whoever has to jam the station has to listen to the message first before he knows it is worth jamming, right? So he has to listen to the whole message, or the whole group of them have to listen, and then say, “What do you think? Oh, we had better jam this station.” Okay, so we sow some seeds first. Was not Paul at first also a persecutor? But the Enemy, within six weeks, is already attacking. What is more, jamming a station is, I am told, an expensive operation. It is not a very simple thing either. The interesting thing is that the report is from an international observer who monitors these broadcasts around China, not just our broadcast but also other broadcasts, and they said that in spite of the jamming, we are still getting through. In other words, they have not successfully jammed it. You will hear some disturbance, but you can still hear the message or some of it.

So you see, when you go out to serve the Lord, do not think that as long as you are doing the Lord’s will, everything will be smooth and easy. It is exactly the opposite. When you are doing the Lord’s will, Satan is going to attack you very fiercely. The more effective you are, the fiercer the attack. It is an ongoing battle.

In closing I wish to mention something that I experienced on Chinese New Year’s Day and which I also shared on that occasion. On that day I had a great pain in the heel of my right foot. It was such that I had difficulty walking. I did not have this pain the day before. I was not aware of having hurt my heel in any way. Yet the pain was as though I had stamped down on something with great force. I was therefore quite puzzled by this sudden occurrence of pain. Remarkably, too, the pain had disappeared totally by the very next day without any treatment having been applied. As I pondered what this might mean, the Lord brought the words in Rom. 16:20 (a reference to Gen. 3:15, where the word “heel” appears) to my remembrance. This gave me great encouragement and joy in the Lord. With this wonderful assurance I close this sharing: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version

*LXX - The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew

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