Psalm 91 is a great proclamation of faith in God’s covenantal protection for those who take refuge in Him. But as mentioned in the last session, for many believers across the millennia, even up to the present day, there has been a temptation to turn it into a magic amulet. Trust is put in the words themselves, or in faith infused into the words, rather than looking to the Lord who is the Word as our only true defence.

This is not to say never to use Psalm 91 to reinforce your faith against the enemies of God—but to use it with discretion at His direction. It is to say, however, that anything can be turned into a false refuge—even the Bible. Instead of using Scripture as a springboard to go to God and seek consolation in His presence, we religiously repeat these ancient and inspired words but stop short of facing Him. 

Now I hope you recall that the tests Jesus faced in the wilderness happened on Yom Kippur. The satan whisked Him off to the pinnacle of the Temple. Huge crowds of potential witnesses would have been present down below in the courtyard. It was the Day of Atonement, the one day of the year when the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat—the covering of the Ark of the Covenant, the liminal place watched over by the winged cherubim, the threshold and gateway between heaven and earth.

The mercy seat was the reason Python brought Jesus to the Temple. It was the kapporeth, the covering, the propitiation, the atonement, and it gave its name to kippur in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was also related to kaph, the word for a threshold stone or cornerstone. The kaph was the first stone set in place in the construction of a building and was situated under the doorway. It had a shallow basin carved into it to catch blood dripping down from the lintels or doorposts.

Once the men of Israel had lost the right to be priests in their own household after the incident with the golden calf at Mount Sinai, the mercy seat covering the Ark of the Covenant became the sacred kaph for the nation.

When a host invites a guest to pass over a threshold stone where blood has pooled, a covenant is implied. Both blessing and obligation come with this covenant: hospitality is assured but mutual defence is expected.   

So when the satan tempted Jesus to jump over a blood-sprinkled mercy seat, there were all the nuances of a host and a guest—the devil was claiming the Temple as his house. And we should not be quick to dismiss that claim.  A few years later, Jesus would plait a whip and drive the money-changers out of the Temple—money-changers who took ordinary Judean coins and exchanged them for Temple shekels, the only currency in which the Temple tax could be paid. These coins were silver of the highest quality, minted in Tyre and engraved with the words ‘Tyre, holy and inviolable’ on one side and with a picture of Hercules Melqart on the reverse. Melqart was another name for Moloch, the death-bringer and child-destroyer. The priesthood had made the choice: since the Romans did not allow them to mint their own coins, then rather than use inferior silver without an idolatrous image, they preferred the best quality regardless of its vile symbolism.

The prophet Ezekiel had lamented the corrupt influence of the bejewelled guardian cherub, expelled from the mountain of God and from the midst of the fiery stones, over the king of Tyre. But in Jesus’ day, that defilement had moved from Tyre right into the Temple precincts in Jerusalem.

So, by asking Jesus to pass over the mercy seat, the satan was inviting Jesus to come into his parlour and into mutual defence of each other. More than that, because this action ratified a covenant, and the essential nature of covenant is oneness, then what belonged to Jesus would then belong to the satan.

When Adam fell at the testing ground in Eden, the dominion and stewardship of the earth passed to the serpent. Here at the Temple, the satan was playing for much higher stakes. Inside the Holy of Holies, along with the Ark of the Covenant, was the eben-hashetiyah, ‘the stone from which the world was woven’, the earthly counterpart of the cornerstone of the heavens. Ruling the world and this present age was no longer enough for the satan. It wanted the universe. And had Jesus, the Second Adam, succumbed to the temptation, that is what would have been lost—the entire cosmos, the heavens themselves. 

It looks too trivial a test to be so portentous in outcome, yet wasn’t Adam’s temptation seemingly minor as well? Just about eating fruit—or not.

Had Jesus jumped, He might have been covenanting with His Father to whom the Temple was dedicated or He might have been complicit with the satan who had setup residence in the forecourt. The very ambiguity of the situation is indicative of Python. All too often we don’t spot the snare inside any ambiguity until far too late.

That’s why we need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom on the threshold.

This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. God grant you wisdom to notice the ambiguities designed to cause you to stumble.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.

More on the spirit of Python can be found in the paperback or ebook, Dealing with Python: Spirit of Constriction, Strategies for the Threshold #1.