Today, someone (‘A’) asked this question on Facebook:
Is it really true that praise confuses Satan?
Is it actually possible to confuse Satan?
Here’s an edited version of one of the more helpful responses (from ‘B’):
Phrases like this annoy me. (Church buzz words/phrases). How do you think you can confuse the author of confusion, and with praise of all things? His job was praise. Lucifer was the praise giver of the heavenlies. His chest was like the pipes of an organ, he was entrusted to reflect the glory that shone from The Lord. Just because he got fired and we replaced him you think he or his angels have forgotten their first ministry (Ezek 28). That’s why they are so successful at disrupting Christendom. They know all the rules and regulations. They are fully aware of the purpose and power of praise and of worship. The only confusion is ours.
Now, this point is well made. It prompted this response from ‘A’:
I would also like to suggest that we cannot confuse Satan by just singing and dancing in the name of the gospel. He does not get confused by this. He studies us and is highly intelligent. He was a cherub. He is the last person to be confused. But we must praise regardless though.
At which point, ‘C’ said this:
When someone says, “Praise will confuse the enemy” I do believe they mean [the] true act of worship. Anything to the contrary is not ‘praise’.
And now, we’re headlong into confusion! ‘C’ believes that praise can confuse Satan and has already said so (earlier). ‘C’ is in good company.
So this is an attempt to help clear up that confusion (so help me God). I’ve been meaning to address this very subject in print for a long time..
Two songs in particular come to mind when I think of the phrase ‘praise will confuse the enemy.’ The most obvious is from a beloved Marvin Sapp album from 2007, Thirsty. Track 6, ‘Praise Him in Advance’ contains the following:
I’ve had my share of ups and downs, times when there was no one around,
God came and spoke these words to me, praise will confuse the enemy.
The second is actually from the Fred Hammond album Purpose by Design – one of the strongest albums ever recorded by this artist. The second verse of ‘When You Praise’ is as follows:
Praise will bind, confuse and break the enemy
And cause his hands to be still
So we raise our hands in total victory
We know we triumph in His will
Now, at one point I was attending a church in the SEC and the praise team just loved to sing this song. The pastor loved it too, but he insisted that the praise team never sang the second verse. The comment by ‘B’ points towards the reason why.
One of the reasons why this blog post is being written is because nine years ago I attended some seminars by the distinguished Australian SDA pastor and musician Dr. Wolfgang Stefani. At the beginning of a four-seminar series he said:
“Church musicians have a DUTY to be theologically aware…”
“…if you don’t like what you hear from me today, it is your DUTY to put something better in its place.”
I can tell you that while I disagreed profoundly with Dr. Stefani’s ‘musicology,’ I did not and do not disagree with his essential Biblical ‘theology.’ And that was when I KNEW that somehow, I was going to end up studying theology (although if I’d known how rough that journey would have been, I don’t think I’d ever have started…)
Seventh-Day Adventists are very good at clichés and soundbytes. We know that the crisis in the end times is ‘about worship.’ But Adventist theological thinking in general is not as strong as in other denominations. So we have these amazing truths, but we propagate them and defend them using arguments that a sixth-former should be throwing out (hang on, maybe THAT’s why our young people are very cold on this message!). We’ve never been taught to THINK through faith to faith, and so some of us have turned to TBN and Daystar for help. More and more church members are reading Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen and Noel Jones and Myles Munroe and Derek Prince than could ever be ideal, and you see the evidence in Sabbath School. ‘Mashup’ doesn’t begin to do it justice…
But for those who think I’m now off topic and having a little go on my soapbox, a newsflash: if there is a problem with non-Adventist theology crashing into our church from books, that is NOTHING compared to the unbiblical theology that has well and truly broken down the security systems of the church through music. And the fact that people have sought to defend the idea that praise can confuse the enemy is more proof that we are off the pace completely – which would make sense, given that we are a Laodicean church!
Pentecostal theology has an answer for Seventh-Day Adventists on this one, and it is found in a very specific translation of a passage from 2 Chronicles 20:
20 Early the next morning, as everyone got ready to leave for the desert near Tekoa, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen my friends, if we trust the Lord God and believe what these prophets have told us, the Lord will help us, and we will be successful.” 21 Then he explained his plan and appointed men to march in front of the army and praise the Lord for his holy power by singing:[e]
“Praise the Lord!
His love never ends.”
22 As soon as they began singing, the Lord confused the enemy camp, 23 so that the Ammonite and Moabite troops attacked and completely destroyed those from Edom. Then they turned against each other and fought until the entire camp was wiped out!
You will not find the word ‘confused’ in lots of more standard translations. That does not make it ‘wrong.’ People are going to abuse Scripture no matter what, so there is no safety in the right translation. The only safety is in the Holy Spirit, who can only guide your study if you commit to personal integrity in all things – including Bible study.
And Bible study – lots of it – will be very important for some of the readers of this post because having slowly built a basic framework, I need to accelerate.
Read the whole of 2 Chronicles 20. When the Holy Spirit speaks to Jahaziel, the message is that God has already decided to give Israel the victory. That was His will on that occasion. And so when they went out and sang, it was an act of faith that what the Levite had prophesied would come true. Imagine if Jehoshaphat had rejected Jahaziel’s message. How would that story have ended?!
Let’s now go to 2 Samuel 12 and a bit of David’s story that we tend to gloss over:
13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. 14 Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the Lord[a] by doing this, your child will die.”
God spoke through His prophet and made an emphatic statement. Now, according to Hebrews 2:14, Satan does have the power of death – but the story of Job tells us that this ‘power’ does have to be subjected to God’s final authority. On this occasion, God chose to take the life of Bathsheba’s baby.
What did David do?
He prayed. He fasted. For a week.
And the child died anyway.
Now, there are several possible responses to this. For example, it could be said that this was a death God ordained and that in another situation, praise would DEFINITELY confuse and break the enemy. Etc.
In terms of verbal theoretical argument, that is indeed correct. But is it conceptually valid? My point is ultimately a simple one: GOD is the author of life and death and times and seasons. He is the one who has defeated Satan.
If PRAISE as offered up by humans had any power whatsoever to break the enemy, Jesus would not have needed to die such a horrible death on the Cross. A rockin’ praise session would have sufficed. I’m sure the Aramaic speakers of those days had their version of ‘praise songs.’ But the theology of this is actually more serious and complex. Jesus DID defeat Satan by refusing to acknowledge that Satan’s lies were the final story. He continued to believe in God, and He refused the temptation to take back His divinity and destroy his tormentors and vapourise them into eternal non-existence right then and there.
There is a sense in which praise DID defeat Satan, but we really must think more rigorously. Jesus was SINLESS. As one SEC pastor once preached in my hearing, when on the cross Jesus did return to Psalm 22:1. We know those words well. But if you look at verse 3, you see that it is a HOLY God who inhabits the praises of Israel.
The ONLY praise – in and of itself – that could EVER ‘confuse’ and ‘break’ Satan was the praise that the sinless, guilt-free Son of God offered up on the Cross in that moment when He was cut off from His Father.
There are many Adventists who think that no Adventist could agree with the Apostle’s Creed. Alas, more ignorance of historical theology. The phrase ‘he descended into hell’ is trying to achieve more than a simple one-shot statement of what happened when Jesus died for us with all the sins of the world fully on Him. There is a real sense in which he can only have ‘descended into hell’ because He had ‘become sin’ for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
He didn’t just die. That’s the point.
And it’s the point here too. The ONLY way that Satan’s power is broken is through Jesus Christ. Our job is to ‘praise in the good times’ and ‘praise in the bad times.’ When we praise in the ‘bad times’ we recognise that ‘all things work together for good’ and so God may well allow Satan to win a few rounds…
…but there is a bigger picture.
Job held on, praised despite the pain and got a reward.
Paul served faithfully, but God never delivered him from the ‘thorn in his flesh.’ Who sent that? God or Satan? Who had the power to take it away, God or Satan? Should Paul have embarked upon some praise breaks to change God’s mind?
Stephen worshipped to the point of seeing God Himself – and died for it.
But now, slightly tougher theology for those of you still reading.
Satan is the second most powerful being in the universe, and sin has ALL of the power of its author. Satan’s power has been greatly reduced by the events of Calvary, but remember that John 8:44 describes him as the “father of lies.”
The father of lies knows the truth about God better than we do. He’s actually seen God. He’s been there. He knows what we will never know until we’re there. He understands what we may never understand because Gabriel himself could not defeat Satan.
One of the wrongest things Pentecostal Christianity has ever contrived is this song:
I went to the enemy camp and I
Took back what he stole from me (x3)
The sound of our music and of our praise have NO power to do anything to Satan whatsoever. Only God can hold a conversation with the author of sin. Satan is a created being, but one with capacities that exceed ours in ways beyond our language. So the idea that human praise and worship will force God to act on our behalf is a form of witchcraft. Praise is the ‘abracadabra’ that unlocks God to defeat Satan, right? Sing the right songs and whatever problem you have, God will give you the win. And Satan will be broken and confused.
The time for eternal praise and worship is coming. But it is not yet. Indeed, our salvation is both now and not-yet. God may say ‘yes’ to some prayers. He will say ‘no’ to some others. He will protect from Satan today. He may let Satan take a life tomorrow. But HE alone is God.
How dare we….?!