1Peter 5:8-10 is a classic teaching on dealing with our old enemy, the devil. As believers, we battle the evil one every day. His mission is to discourage and defeat us at every turn. Our mission is to resist him, but how do we do that? Hundreds of years before Peter wrote his letter, Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (emphasis mine) We definitely don’t want that last option! Thankfully, Peter’s got our backs. 🙂
If we examine 1Peter 5:8-10 we’ll see that in only a few words Peter gives us quite a lot of useful information about our enemy and ourselves. Armed with these truths, we “need never fear the result of a hundred battles.” Victory can be ours every time. However, Peter also lets us know that even if we suffer a temporary defeat, we can be restored.
If you’ve been in church or Bible study awhile, you’ve probably heard someone quote or teach on 1Peter 5:8-10 (or part of it) many times. But have you ever thought about why Peter describes the evil one as “like a roaring lion”? What is significant about that simile? And what, exactly, are we supposed to do with this information? 🤔 [For those of you who don’t want to relive high school English, a simile is a figure of speech comparing one thing with another to make a description more vivid or colorful.] Let’s take a close look at this familiar passage to see what we can glean.
Does One Colorful Phrase Really Matter?
Before we get all deep here, let’s discuss if these are even legit questions to ask or answer. Isn’t this phrase “just a stylistic choice” or “a little bit of color” that Peter is using to spiff up his letter? It’s just one little simile, right? Does one little simile even matter?
Yes, yes it DOES matter! There are no wasted words in the Bible. In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul tells us that every word in the Bible is inspired by God and useful to us for teaching, correcting, and training (2Timothy 3:16). Every word! And Jesus Himself affirmed that Heaven and Earth will cease to exist before even the smallest word in Scripture passes away. (Matt 5:18) That means this little simile paints a picture we need to stop and look at.
The Significance of “Like”:
Because 1Peter 5:8 is such a familiar verse, people often unknowingly paraphrase or misquote it. Since every word is precious, we don’t want to add any, change any, or leave any out! I myself have heard people paraphrase or outright misquote this verse as “Your enemy the devil IS a roaring lion…” Please note that Peter does NOT say that! He says the evil one prowls around LIKE a roaring lion. The Apostle does not say the evil one IS a lion – prowling, roaring, or otherwise.
Contrast this point with what the Bible says about Jesus in Revelation 5:5, “weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Jesus IS the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Whatever Jesus is, you can be sure the evil one will try to pretend that he is too.
A Prowling, Roaring Lion? Does that Even Make Sense?
Next, let’s look at how Peter describes this counterfeit lion. I think he’s actually poking a bit of fun at the enemy here and he’s making a valuable point. He says the evil one is prowling around and roaring. That’s significant because with cats, “prowling” and “roaring” don’t go together, and this is useful information to have.
Cats are amazing creatures, simply amazing. Whether you are talking about a lion or a housecat, they exhibit consistent behaviors. Cats prowl when they are hunting or stalking their prey. Picture in your mind a cat stalking a mouse or a lion skulking up on a gazelle. Got that image?
Okay, how much noise is kitty making? Not. One. Peep.
Not only is kitty not making one peep, but she’s moving as quietly as possible. Obviously, kitty is counting on the element of surprise to help capture her prey. A real lion on the prowl is a silent lion.
An Example From a Real-World Lion
My husband recently showed me a video of a hiker being stalked by a mountain lion. For about half a mile this guy tries to back away from this lion and plead with him to go away. Because you know it ends well, this guy’s useless antics are pretty amusing. The hiker never (and I mean never) shuts up the whole time, while that lion just silently pursues him. Even tho he had lost the element of surprise, Mr. Mountain Lion was in prowl mode and he was silent.
When DO lions roar?
Lions roar to sound an alarm to the rest of their pride, to establish their territory, to warn off a rival, or when they feel threatened. Our little kitty cats are the same way. A growling, hissing, screaming cat is primarily a frightened cat. It sounds scary and aggressive to us, which is why it’s a great defense mechanism.
This is a strange turn of phrase Peter uses. A prowling lion is not a roaring lion. A lion who roars when he’s prowling is a lion who’s going to go hungry. Peter is painting a picture for us of a predator who has no ability to kill his prey. The evil one can stalk, threaten, and terrify with his roar, but he lacks the ability to make the kill. He lacks the element of surprise; he is dead obvious in his presence. And he knows it. And Peter wants to make sure WE know it. Know your enemy.
How to Resist This Prowling, Roaring Lion
Well, what are we supposed to do with this prowling, roaring lion? Peter helpfully tells us, in the very next verse, exactly what to do: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (1Peter 5:9). James also instructs us in his letter to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
I bet you’re wondering what happened to that hiker. Well, about 5 seconds into the video I noticed that he was hiking on a dirt road covered in thousands of small, sharp rocks. I immediately asked my husband “why doesn’t he just start throwing some of those rocks?” I shouted at the screen, “Dude! Pick up a rock!” But no. He spent half a mile in pure terror, uselessly backing away from and trying to reason with his stalker.
Finally, this terrified hiker picked up a rock and tossed it at the lion. I don’t think the rock even hit him, but that lion immediately took off in the opposite direction. I don’t mean trotted off – I mean RAN!
Do you see the spiritual parallel here? This guy is stalked by a lion for half a mile. The whole time he is literally surrounded by thousands of highly-effective weapons in the form of rocks. Instead of using the weapons he has at hand, the hiker tries all sorts of other laughably ineffective ways to scare off (resist) his pursuer. Finally, he picks up one rock and employs it to great effect.
There is an important lesson for us in this story. When the enemy is stalking you, don’t forget who you are, Whose you are, and what weapons are at your disposal. Actively resist the enemy. Don’t reason with him. Don’t back away. Know him, and know yourself. And he WILL FLEE.
What are the Weapons at Our Disposal to Resist him?
We have numerous weapons with which we can resist the evil one. First, we have our faith. Our faith tells us who we are – we belong to Jesus and no counterfeit lion can snatch us out of His hands. Second, the Word of God is sharper than any sword. It is full of promises we can stand on to resist our enemy. Third, we have prayer – we can talk to our Heavenly Father and ask for His help. Fourth – we have other believers who can pray with and for us, share a word of encouragement from the Bible, or simply stand with us.
What if We Don’t Resist him and We Fall for the enemy’s Tricks?
There’s one more thing I want to point out from this passage. Peter says that this prowling, roaring lion harasses all believers – we will all suffer from his constant attempts to terrify and defeat us. He encourages us that we are not alone in these trials, and we can be victorious if we stand firm in our faith to resist the enemy. However, none of us are perfect. Some days we’re all like that frightened hiker, forgetting that we have weapons at our disposal, and we get knocked down by that lion. Even when we fail, Peter reminds us that there is grace to get back up again, heal, and move on.
Wrapping Up with a Lesson from Peter’s Life
Peter wraps up this section on dealing with our enemy by stating in verse 10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Note the phrase “will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
I think Peter wrote this passage out of his own personal experience. Perhaps he was thinking back to a Spring evening when a roaring lion (in the form of a teenaged girl) terrified him into denying that he even knew Jesus. Never mind that he’d been hanging out with Jesus for 3 years and had been appointed to be the leader of the new Church formed in Jesus’ Name!
Perhaps Peter vividly remembered the shame and regret he felt for days after that. How he walked around in self-condemnation, hearing those false lion’s roars over and over in his mind. And then one morning, our God of all comfort in the Person of Jesus Christ made Peter some breakfast and took him for a walk. On that fateful walk Jesus did four things:
- Restored Peter to fellowship with Him.
- Confirmed Peter’s calling not only as His personal disciple but also as His Apostolic ambassador to the world.
- Strengthened Peter for the path of martyrdom that call would entail.
- Established Peter once for all as the Rock on whom He would build His Church.
Applying 1Peter 5:8-10 to YOUR Life
Peter clearly reveals to us that our enemy is just a prowling, roaring lion. He sounds and looks scary, but he has no real power to destroy us. Make no mistake – the evil one knows he can’t destroy or kill you. He knows you are no longer his prey. But he can run around you roaring. He can distract, discourage and frighten you so badly you just keep backing away, forgetting about all the weapons you have to resist him.
Peter doesn’t want us to make the mistake he made. He’s telling us to stop backing away from the devil, stop trying to hide from him, or hide who we are in Christ from the world. Peter encourages us to pick up and use the weapons all around us, and our enemy will FLEE.
Peter also knows that like him, we all stumble. We all get knocked down and fooled by that crafty, counterfeit lion. Praise God, because the REAL Lion of Judah knows us, loves us, and wants us to be with Him. When we come to Him for help and forgiveness, He will restore us, confirm us, strengthen us, and establish us, just like He did with Peter.
We belong to the Pride of the Lion of Judah, and we are no one’s prey.
Know your enemy. Know yourself. Win the battles.
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