Falling Under the Charm

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
The image of the snake charmer playing his flute as the hooded cobra slowly rises and sways to his command is one of the most recognizable symbols of the exotic East. Tourists love to take his picture, and even the native people are fascinated with his skill. Part of the allure is the paradoxical horror/attraction in which humans hold reptiles, especially large, dangerous snakes. Part of it is the mystery of the power that the charmer wields over his subject. And part of the fascination to Westerners may be the strange, unfamiliar sounds and sights of the music, the clothing, and the other trappings of the craft.
India’s snake charmers are not the first or the best at the task of beguiling and enslaving subjects. This is a craft that Satan has mastered from the beginning of creation. Just as the flute player first captivates the snake with his tunes, then directs his behavior, so Satan entices only to control. There are other things which the snake charmer has in common with the master deceiver.
First, there is the method of deception itself. I don’t know that the snake charmer actually deceives his primary subject, the snake. But it is certain that he often deceives his human audience. Much of their awe is because of his apparent risk in handling such deadly reptiles. The truth is that in most cases the snakes have been de-fanged and are not actually dangerous. In Satan’s case the deception is usually the reverse of this. He persuades us that what he invites us to do is wholesome and not dangerous at all, when it fact it is deadly and destructive. He uses “all power, signs, and lying wonders” to entice us to our doom.
Secondly, the snake’s trance before the music of the flute is illustrative of the hypnotic power of sin. James describes this power in the following words,
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).
Sin is addictive, with the power to enslave us. But, unlike the snake, humans must first consent to be enslaved. Satan can only entice us -? he cannot take us captive against our will. We first entertain the idea of sin (desire), then sample the product (sin), then succumb to the power of Satan (death).
Finally, the snake charmer illustrates the disdain and contempt for his subjects that Satan displays in full measure. Researchers have discovered that the average life-span of a cobra in captivity to a snake-charmer is only a few weeks. The charmer obviously knows this and spends much time in acquiring replacements. When a new snake is captured, his imminent death is sealed. By looking on from afar, the observer might conclude that there is an affinity, a partnership between charmer and subject. That is delusion. The charmer is killing his captive, and shows no regret or sorrow for his actions. So Satan entices mankind to its doom, knowingly and deliberately. It is not for our benefit or even pleasure that he offers his “treats.” Rather it is for the express purpose of alienating us from God and eternal life. He is “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Unlike the snake, however, we may resist and escape through the grace and power of God and the blood of Jesus.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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