In that great council meeting in heaven between God and the holy angels recorded in the opening chapter of the book of Job, Satan comes into the midst of the meeting apparently uninvited. In verse 7, God says to him: “Whence cometh thou?” that is, “Where have you been?” Satan’s answer: “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
There may be several meanings implied here. One is that Satan’s answer may be meant to be sarcastic—“You know where I’ve been, ‘God’: for you had me cast out of heaven, and you know I have no dwelling place. So I just wander about looking for a place to dwell!”
Another possible implication is that it describes the affect of sin on angels as well as on men; for the person infected with sin tends to wander aimlessly through life. Take away the object of heaven and spiritual life in Christ in this present world, and all that is left is a superficial existence. Sinners at best set goals that have no profound meaning. Thus says the apostle, “If in this life only we have hope, we are above all people more miserable”—or “most to be pitied!”
Now this is especially true of one, like Satan, who had once been enlightened and had known the way of peace and righteousness! In regard to both fallen men and fallen angels, there is no true peace for the backslider. He fits in nowhere. He does not feel at home in the church nor in the local tavern or brothel. He is no longer in fellowship with the saints, and the haunting knowledge of his once glorious life in Christ prevents him from truly enjoying himself even with other sinners.
Those who have never known the way of righteousness, however, may find some pretense of peace and happiness in a superficial existence—and even “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season!” For they have been blinded and deceived from the womb, and know not their end. It has been said that “ignorance is bliss!” So in their blindness and confusion, sinners live under the delusion of a false hope; preoccupying themselves with careers, jobs, carnal ambitions, and temporal pleasures: which end finally in sorrow and judgment! Because they are spiritually dull and dead in sin, they have no sober consciousness of eternal damnation—no spiritual insight that destruction lies ahead of them! So they go “straightway, as the ox to the slaughter, or a fool to the correction of the stocks” (Proverbs 7:22).
Certainly we can see that Satan is a restless wanderer. The apostle says, he “fell from his first estate” (2 Peter 2:4). In the beginning “[Satan] was perfect in his ways, till iniquity [mysteriously] was found in him” (Ezekiel 28:15). Like Satan, rebellious men are “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13). These “wandering stars” are a reference to what we call “shooting stars.” They have no fixed place; are out of order. Unlike the sun and moon and the planets in our Milky Way galaxy, which are fixed in their orbits; these “wandering stars” are without government and lawless. They symbolize disobedience and disorder!
Sinners, born with the fallen nature inherited from Adam, and who fail to repent, are also like “clouds without water, carried about of winds” (v. 17), that is, they are blown here and there. Peter says they are “clouds carried of a tempest” (2 Peter 2:17). They lack spiritual substance! Paul said, they are “Tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind . . .” (Ephesians 4:14). They do not have control of their lives; are unstable and despise the moral government of God. They are under the power of the “old man,” their sinful nature rules them! “They walk according to the flesh in the lusts of uncleanness.” Concupiscence and lasciviousness reign over their wills and affections. They cannot stop sinning! “Their eyes are full of adultery.” “They love the wages of sin!” “Every imagination of the heart is only evil continually.”
Like Satan, they “roam about!” because they are infected with the same malady—sin! They are under the government of sin—in bondage to it! The evil principle within them will not let them rest! And so they just wander– -wander in their thoughts; wander in their lifestyles; wander from one denomination to another; from one corrupt habit to another; from one addiction to another; and from one fleshly desire and passion to another!
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no rest [or peace] . . . to the wicked!” (Isaiah 57:20-21).
Again, the wicked are like “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame” (Jude 13)—whose their God is their belly . . . who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
Solomon wrote, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For [the wicked] sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fail . . . Their way is darkness, they know not at what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:14-21).
Sin transformed Lucifer—the “bright one”—into Satan “the dark one.” Lucifer had not always been the devil; he had not always been “the accuser of the brethren,” “the liar,” “the tempter,” “our adversary.” His rebellion against God, his resistance to the authority of God, changed him—transformed him into the world’s first sinner; his disobedience and rebellion mutated his original beauty and holiness into despicable ugliness and moral and spiritual filthiness. Once clothed in glorious light, his brightness was turned into darkness, and his loveliness into vileness. Created in peace, he became violent; created in holiness, he became corrupt; created good, he became evil!
So it is true also with sinful men. Like demons, sinners and lukewarm “Christians” roam about aimlessly; they have no anchor, no Rock under them. Listen to Jesus: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest; and finds none” (Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24). The wise man wrote of the sinner, “whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace”—no rest in his soul! (see Jeremiah 6:16; 45:2-3; Lamentations 1:3; 5:5). The dry places refer to a desert condition—a wilderness where there is no water and refreshment. Seeking rest suggests spiritual torment and psychological disturbance. You know the only place an evil spirit can find rest is in a corrupt soul—a soul that is compatible with himself; a soul that is polluted like he himself is. Like produces like, and misery loves company. Like pigs love mud and mire and a pig pen, so sinners love sin and love to wallow in it! Now observe; if the empty house from whence the evil spirit departed does not get filled with the Holy Ghost, it will become swept [“idle,” “empty”] and garnished [“adorned, decorated”] with silly and frivolous things—the fashions of the world!
We have a saying for people who are walking aimlessly through life: we say they are “lost!” The prophet Jeremiah said, they have forgotten their “resting place.” They may know where they are geographically, but they don’t know where they are spiritually. Sitting Bull, the great Sioux chief who fought with Custer in the battle of the Little Bighorn, is reported to have said, “The white man does not know where the center of the earth is!” Sinners have no place in God; and sin causes them to be disoriented even in this present world. They have not discovered the Rock of life, and therefore are restless and spiritually unsettled! Like Satan, they just go “to and fro and up and down on the earth.” Their spirits just wander; they are like a tree with no roots; clouds with no water!
In disobedience there is no rest! God’s backslidden people once cried out, “We labor and have no rest!” No, there is only real lasting peace in the Lord.
It is true that the wicked may prosper materially for a moment; yet says the prophet: [In] a little while . . . the wicked shall be no more . . . You will look carefully for his place [in the world] but it shall be no more; But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight himself in the abundance of peace!” (Psalm 29: 9-11). And this peace and rest is both now and forever!” Again the Psalmist says, “I was brought low, [but] the Lord saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul. For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” “For You have delivered my soul from death. And . . . I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:6- 10).
Hear the word of the Lord all you sinners and all you “half-baked Ephraims”—you “cakes that are not turned” (Hosea 7:8).
“Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you . . . And you shall find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
God’s Church Provides Order, Government, and Discipline
There is also stability and government and discipline for God’s people in His church. The prophet declared, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder (Isaiah 9:6); that is, the government of Christ is in His body, the church. We see this government operating throughout the New Testament (cf. Matthew 16:19; 18:15-20; Acts 1:13-26; 1-7; 15-16:5).
The church was established by Christ to provide order and stability for believers. Its government helps train us in Christian disciplines.We learn best under the “yoke of Christ,” that is, under the government and discipline of the church. It is in and through the church that we become fully “rooted and grounded in love” and in the Gospel faith (Ephesians 3:17). In the intercommunion and fellowship of the saints, we learn to comprehend the unfathomable depths of Christ (v. 18). And thus the apostle concludes, “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus . . .” (v. 21)
Now observe further; the prophet says, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7); and the apostle says, “But now has God set the members every one of them in the body as it has pleased Him” (1 Corinthians 12:18); and again, “God has set . . . in the church . . . [ministry gifts] and helps and governments” (v. 28).
The officers and governments in the church are for the members’ edification and discipline—to help us all to “grow up into Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-16), to mature, to be perfected in Him (5:24-27, 32; Philippians 3:12-17). Our experiences in the church—the positives as well as the negatives—teach us to be patient, longsuffering, forgiving, and cooperative; and that we should labor together to fulfill the church’s mission in the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19; 6:1; Ephesians 4:11-16; et al.)
We should be especially thankful that there is a remedy for sin and human disorder in Christ and His church- –a resting place for the people of God; a foundational Rock upon which to build a firm church structure, an eternal city for the glory of God! There is no good excuse for Christians to be “wandering stars,” just “roaming about” outside the yoke of Christ. Each believer is called by the Lord to be an “eye” or “ear” or “hand” or “foot” or some other part of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-28); and thus every believer needs to be incorporated into the body of Christ both for his own sake and for the edification of the whole body (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:19).
There is forgiveness and peace and joy in Christ and His church. Thus the plea of the Psalmist: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him . . . For those who wait on the Lord shall [prosper].” And again, And I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6).
Written by Wade H. Phillips, Presiding Bishop, Cleveland, TN
Originally published in Voice of Zion, July, 2015.