Over and over again, we hear that our greatest spiritual enemy is not the "Devil," but the "Deceiver." And we assume that these two spiritual beings are one and the same. After all, the serpent in the garden was quite deceptive, twisting words until Eve was not sure what exactly God had said any more.
Maybe it is that easy. Maybe this Deceiver really is the just the devil, Satan, the fallen angel. Maybe we all, like Job, are caught in the middle of a cosmic supernatural tug-of-war between Truth and deception, between life and death, between God and Deceiver. Maybe.
But what if we're less like Job and more like...Jacob?
Jacob has an interesting story. He's a twin, having come out of the womb clutching the heel of his older brother, Esau. God had already told his mother that although he was the younger child, he would be the more favored of the two. He would be the one to inherit the nation. He would be the one most blessed by God. He would be leader over his brother. It appears that God chose what today we would call "the evil twin."
Esau was righteous. He was the quintessential responsible, respectful first-born. When his father, Isaac, prepared to bless him, Esau went out to hunt his father's favorite food and prepare a meal for him first. It was during this hunt that Jacob, at his mother's prompting, costumed himself as his hairy brother and took a deliciously prepared dish (prepared by his mother, no less) in to his ailing father to steal the blessing of the firstborn.
No wonder Jacob is called the deceiver. His name became synonymous with the description.
No, I'm not proposing that this deceiver we war against is Jacob himself. We have to go further into Jacob's story to get to where I'm going.
On one of his many encounters with God, Jacob begins to wrestle a man in the wilderness, a man he does not know (and specifically, does not know is God). The two wrestle all night and in the wee hours of the morning, the mysterious stranger awards Jacob the victory. Jacob demands a blessing. Here, the stranger reveals himself as a Man of God and changes Jacob's name, which has come to mean deceiver, to Israel, "for you have wrestled with God and you have won." And Israel, of course, goes on to become a people of God, a high priesthood, set apart, holy.
So what does all of this mean for us?
It means that maybe our greatest spiritual enemy, the Deceiver, is not God's fallen angel, but our own fallen heart. Maybe this Deceiver we so battle against is our very self which has not yet claimed victory with God. Maybe our adversary is our unstruggled self who has not yet become a person of God, a high priest, set apart, holy.
Maybe our answer to the Deceiver is not simply to choose God, but to wrestle with Him.
I know it's true in my life. My greatest enemy is not some sinister voice whispering in my ear; it's some powerful ache echoing in my empty heart. I don't struggle with the fallen angels nearly as much as I struggle with my fallen flesh. Sometimes, I get the chance to meet with God and there is this mysterious stranger in the dark, but after a good bout of wrestling, come to find out, I am the stranger.
We are, indeed, engaged in a spiritual war, but maybe our greatest enemy is no phantom in the night. Maybe our greatest enemy is the man in the mirror, the Deceiver himself. Myself. Your self. Our self.