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“Our Revanchist Foe” by Stephen Hutchins

I like words.  Words help me communicate more accurately.  They also help me understand and gain a better grasp of what is being said or written by others.  The more words you know, the greater your capacity will be to communicate and appreciate what is being said back to you.  Think about how the words “propitiation” and “justification,” as you’ve come to learn their meanings, have deepened your own appreciation for your salvation.

I met a new word.  I like learning new words.  When I encounter them, I usually look up their definitions, which is a habit induced by an uber-zealous English teacher deep in my past.  Recently I encountered a word heretofore unknown to me: “revanchist” or “revanchism.”

If you follow the news, you may have noticed that some media outlets have dusted off this dormant term to describe the hostile initiatives of Vladimir Putin in the Crimean Peninsula and eastern Ukraine.  Without turning this into a history lesson, the word is derived from the French word “revanche” (revenge) and generally has been applied to refer to a country’s will to reverse previous territorial losses via hostile acts of aggression (i.e. war).  If you’re a student of world history, consider France and Germany’s tug of war over the territory of Alsace-Lorraine as one example of revanchism.  A biblical example might include the Philistines and the serial battles they fought against Israel and (later) Judah from almost the time the Israelites entered the land of Canaan to just before their captivity to Babylon.

Another biblical example?  How about Satan and his war with God.  I would suggest that all of biblical history, from the Fall to his ultimate fall, could be understood as Satan’s revanchist attempts to regain lost territory.  The Old Testament is replete with the wreckage of lost souls, spiritual failure, and ruined lives, the casualties of the enemy’s revanchist war against God’s plan.

It’s hard not to view Herod’s slaughter of untold innocents in the aftermath of our Savior’s birth as a direct, frontal assault of Satan on the Kingdom of God and His plan to redeem a people for Himself.  Satan’s M.O. in this regard is not only wholesale; it’s personal as well.  Remember Jesus’ ominous warning to Peter that “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat…”?  Sounds revanchist to me.  Peter was “lost territory” that he wanted back.  Fortunately for Peter, and despite his subsequent spiritual defeats, he knew the Savior who would seal Satan’s demise within hours.

Maybe Peter recalled this experience when, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote to us to “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)  If you belong to Jesus, you have a target on your back.  You’re actually “lost territory” to him and although you’re forever lost to him, he wants you back and his tactics aren’t for the feint of heart if Peter’s metaphor is to be fully appreciated.

Notwithstanding my visits to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I’ve never seen a lion in action in the wild.  I have seen our cat Xerxes in action in our backyard, though, stalking his prey and attempting to upset the whole ecosystem of Sctiuate, RI with his murderous ways.  I don’t think a lion’s methodology is all that dissimilar to Xerxes’ and that’s how Peter describes Satan’s approach towards you.

The good news (and without segueing into a lengthy discussion about the Christian’s weapons in spiritual warfare which would surely send me over my 1000 word limit) is that Jesus has already secured our victory and has given us the power in His Holy Spirit to combat our enemy, the evil one.  Peter reminds us that we not only need to be aware of the danger of Satan’s revanchist ways but to resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9) also; and James adds on to that promise that when we do (i.e. resist him), he will flee from us.  Sounds like a plan.

Another benefit of learning new words is that they enhance your ability to worship.  The hymn writer longed for “…one thousand tongues to sing [his] great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of [his] God and King, the triumphs of His grace…” Well, I don’t think any of us will be learning that many languages in this life but 1000 words?  That’s somewhat more achievable.  New words, whether in your native tongue or some other one, can help you towards that goal of expressing yourself in fresh ways in worship.  And worship is a great way to resist our revanchist foe.