Although the spirit of Python isn’t the only sentinel stationed on a threshold, it’s the one we usually recognise first. It’s a constrictor: it tries to squeeze us so tightly we feel forced to surrender to its agenda. Its goal is to block us so we’re never able to access our divine calling.
It’s likely our English word python is directly related to ‘pethen’, an ancient Jewish word for venomous serpents like cobra, asp or adder. In addition, ‘pethen’ is also the origin of the Biblical term ‘miphtan’—one of the words for threshold discussed back in Session 10. This particular word specifically denotes a threshold that has been defiled.
It’s clear that, because ‘miphtan’ is derived from ‘pethen’, the Hebrew people recognised the spirit of Python as a threshold guardian. While Python is explicitly mentioned only once in Scripture (in the Greek wording of Acts 16:16), its presence cannot be overlooked whenever ‘miphtan’ or ‘pethen’ appear in the text. More subtly, Python often rears its head when words for choking or strangling, doorways or gates, openings or stumbling-blocks appear at critical moments in Biblical history.
Many people, on recognising a temptation set up by Python, just want to have done with it by ‘binding and silencing’ it or ‘binding and breaking’ it or simply casting it out as quickly as possible. But when Jesus encountered it, He didn’t do any of these. In fact—incredibly—the Holy Spirit cast out Jesus into the wilderness specifically to meet with Python. And while Paul did indeed cast it out, I believe he came to realise what a mistake he’d made—his ministry in a threshold city, the first location in Europe where the gospel was preached, was over then and there.
The reason Jesus didn’t challenge Python but rather went through with the test is because this spirit has legal rights given to it by God. So binding or silencing it is often counter-productive and may even be cause for backlash if this is done in a dishonouring way.
In Genesis 3:13–15 NASB, we discover the origin of these legal rights. Adam and Eve are responding to God’s questioning about what happened:
The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.’
Now, that last word, heel, is also Hebrew for if. It tells us that God granted to the serpent the right to strike our choices, those moments when we are considering the pros and cons of ‘if’ and ‘if not’.
In both Hebrew Scripture and Greek religion, the word ‘if’ is an iconic symbol of Python. Whenever we face a significant ‘if’ in life, Python has an unassailable right to be there.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May Jesus, the overcomer of Python, help you today.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.