CS Lewis famously said, ‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.’
On the one hand, there are those who dismiss the Greek and Canaanite pantheons as imaginary—despite the words of Paul about principalities and powers and despite the actions of Jesus in His relentless attacks on their claims. If you don’t know classical mythology, you won’t recognise when Jesus wars against it.
On the other hand, there are those who endlessly multiply demons, naming them for their functions—lust, anger, jealousy, pride, religion—or alternatively after a human being in the Bible: Jezebel, Athaliah, Ahab, Benhadad and so on.
Now I’m not particularly keen on either approach, whether it’s naming by function or for people. It’s easy to miss, if labeling spirits by their functions, that just one major player can be responsible for a whole raft of issues. The tactics of Python, for example, can include constriction, intimidation, seduction, jealousy, illness, divination, silence, ambiguity, flattery. It might seem a wide variety of demonic forces is ranged against us, when it’s just one threshold guardian.
As for naming for people—Jezebel, Athaliah, Ahab or Benhadad—we fall into the trap of forgetting these were men and women beloved by God who, if they’d been redeemed and had come out of complicity with the various spirits oppressing them, would have been like Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Joseph of Egypt and the centurion Cornelius.
We need to remember who the Enemy is, and it’s not people. It’s all too easy to dishonour people when we categorise them as a ‘Jezebel’ or an ‘Ahab’ instead of becoming conscious that their behaviour is influenced by one of the fallen threshold guardians. And when we do dishonour them, we actually fall into the trap of becoming complicit with Leviathan.
The spirits of the threshold use us as their hands and feet, mouthpieces and watchers in the world. They can’t be everywhere. But they can use the alliances they’ve forged with our families. A covenant doesn’t just end because the people who agreed to one passed away. It remains in force from one generation to the next as long as the family exists.
If anyone in our family line, and there’s no distinction here between bloodline and adoption, has ever raised a covenant with a spirit, it remains intact until it’s revoked. Our complicity with the threshold spirits doesn’t need to be active allegiance, it can be passive loyalty—that is, it’s our default situation because we haven’t asked God to cancel the covenant our ancestors have undertaken.
But, many believers ask, isn’t it all ‘done at the Cross’? And what people mean by this question is: when I asked Jesus into my heart, weren’t all these covenants nullified? And the answer is: they would have been, had you asked Him to do that. So, did you ask? And did you repent? That is, did you ask Jesus to empower your words when you told God you wanted to change and turn to Him?
Asking Jesus into your heart is not the same as going, by faith, to the Cross and asking for the annulment of an ungodly covenant.
Now every so often my theory that there are seven threshold guardians—seven, to mimic the sevenfold Spirit before the throne of God—undergoes a serious bout of testing. I’m looking at the work of Jesus healing history and, suddenly, I realise He’s confronting a spirit I’ve never heard of previously. But, so far at any rate, all of these ‘new’ spirits have turned out to be another guise for one of the old enemies, another head belonging to one of the same monstrous bodies, another face of one of the ancient foes. This would disconcert me at first but then I realised that the threshold spirits were also throne guardians. They are the cherubim and seraphim who protected the holiness of the heavenly court. So, of course they can have multiple heads or more than one face. That’s how such entities are described.
Now this long explanation is by way of introducing a surprising entity, a Canaanite goddess of violence, dispossession and a sudden, swift sacrifice to seize the moment of opportunity. She makes Wonder Woman look wimpish. When her brother, the storm-god Baal-Hadad invents a weapon called lightning, she’s baffled. What does he need that for? After all, she’s defeated all his enemies for him. She’s slain the Sea, annihilated the River, muzzled and thrashed Tannin, the sea monster, killed Lotan, the seven-headed coiling serpent, snuffed out heaven’s darlings, Fire and Flame, dispossessed the Flood, and ground Death down into a smashed pile and buried the bits.
Her name is Anat and it’s related to the appointed time—to the opportunistic moment to strike and bring others down. Now her claims are so much of an affront to the sovereignty of God and the pre-eminence of Jesus that you’d expect Him to have met her challenge. And of course, He does—not in a general sense, but in a very specific way. Throughout John’s gospel, there’s a repeated statement by Jesus or about Him: ‘the time has not yet come.’ When He’s at Cana, before He performs His first miracle, He says just this, but then He goes ahead anyway. He does not allow the appointed time to rule Him; He commands it as His servant.
There’s a lot going on in the background to this miracle that alludes to Anat, the dispossessor of mankind. It’s no coincidence that Jesus makes new wine, a word that in Hebrew is related to both dispossession and the return of inheritance.
Anat is allied with Rachab the spirit of wasting, and Kronos, the spirit of abuse and time.
Jesus has already defeated her. However, it’s important to remember a defeated spirit is not a dead spirit. Not yet, anyway.
How do we become complicit with such a ferocious, violent goddess? When we completely lose faith that Jesus can overcome Leviathan for us, or any other guardian, we sense the claims of Anat that she’s conquered all the monsters of earth and heaven and we seek an alliance. We then become victims of the appointed time.
Once again, it’s all about unbelief in the atonement. We can’t convince ourselves that Jesus is the all-sufficient sacrifice for the threshold we’re about to face. And we aren’t willing to surrender ourselves into His hands, so He can carry us across. But that’s what He wants to do.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May your appointed times be in the Lord’s hands.