Deliverance From the Traps of the Birdcatcher
“[Jehovah] himself will deliver you from the trap of the birdcatcher.”—PSALM 91:3.
1. Who is “the birdcatcher,” and why is he dangerous?
ALL true Christians face a predator, one with superhuman intelligence and craftiness. He is referred to at Psalm 91:3 as “the birdcatcher.” Who is this enemy? Since the issue of June 1, 1883, this magazine has identified him as none other than Satan the Devil. This formidable foe cunningly endeavors to mislead and trap Jehovah’s people as a birdcatcher tries to trap a bird.
2. Why is Satan likened to a birdcatcher?
2 In ancient times, birds were captured for their beautiful singing, for their colorful plumage, as well as for food and for sacrifice. However, birds are naturally cautious, skittish creatures, difficult to trap. Therefore, a birdcatcher in Bible times first carefully studied the peculiarities and habits of the type of birds he wished to ensnare. Then, he devised cunning methods to trap them. In likening Satan to a birdcatcher, the Bible helps us understand his methods. The Devil studies us as individuals. He notes our habits and characteristics and sets hidden traps in an attempt to catch us alive. (2 Timothy 2:26) Being caught by him would mean our spiritual ruin and could lead to our ultimate destruction. Hence, for our protection, we need to identify various schemes of “the birdcatcher.”
3, 4. When do Satan’s tactics resemble those of a lion? a cobra?
3 Using vivid imagery, the psalmist also likens Satan’s tactics to those of a young lion or those of a cobra. (Psalm 91:13) Like a lion, Satan at times makes open, frontal attacks by means of persecution or legislative action against Jehovah’s people. (Psalm 94:20) Such lionlike attacks may cause a few to stumble. More often than not, however, these overt attacks backfire and result in a unifying of God’s people. What, though, of Satan’s more subtle, cobralike attacks?
4 The Devil uses his superhuman intelligence to launch treacherous and deadly strikes like those of a poisonous snake from a hidden place. In this way, he has succeeded in poisoning the mind of some of God’s people, deceiving them into doing his will rather than Jehovah’s, with a tragic outcome. Happily, we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs. (2 Corinthians 2:11) Let us now consider four of the deadly traps that are used by “the birdcatcher.”
Fear of Man
5. Why is the snare of “trembling at men” so effective?
5 “The birdcatcher” understands the normal human desire for acceptance and the approval of others. Christians are not callously indifferent to the thoughts and feelings of those around them. Knowing this, the Devil would like to exploit their concern for what people think of them. For example, he throws some of God’s people off balance by using the snare of “trembling at men.” (Proverbs 29:25) If because of fear of man, servants of God join others in doing what Jehovah forbids or refrain from doing what God’s Word commands them to do, they have been ensnared by “the birdcatcher.”—Ezekiel 33:8; James 4:17.
6. What example illustrates how a young person may be trapped by “the birdcatcher”?
6 For example, a young person may cave in to pressure from schoolmates and smoke a cigarette. Smoking a cigarette may have been the farthest thing from his mind when he left for school that day. Soon, though, he is doing something that is both harmful to his health and displeasing to God. (2 Corinthians 7:1) How was he enticed? Perhaps he got involved with the wrong sort of peers and was afraid to incur their disapproval. Young people, do not let “the birdcatcher” lure and trap you! To avoid being caught alive, guard against even small compromises. Heed the Bible’s warning to shun bad association.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
7. How might Satan cause some parents to lose their spiritual balance?
7 Conscientious Christian parents take seriously their Scriptural responsibility to provide materially for their families. (1 Timothy 5:8) However, Satan’s aim is to make Christians lose their balance in this regard. Perhaps they habitually miss meetings because they give in to pressure from their employers to do extra work. They may be afraid to ask for time off to attend all the sessions of a district convention to worship Jehovah with their brothers. The protection against this snare is to “trust in Jehovah.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Additionally, remembering that we are all members of Jehovah’s household and that he has obligated himself to watch over us will help us to maintain our balance. Parents, do you have faith that Jehovah will in one way or another care for you and your family when you do his will? Or will the Devil catch you alive and get you to do his will because of fear of man? We entreat you to consider these questions prayerfully.
The Snare of Materialism
8. In what way does Satan use the lure of materialism?
8 Satan also uses the lure of materialism to entrap us. The commercial system of this world often promotes get-rich-quick schemes that may even beguile some of God’s people. At times, individuals may be urged: “Work hard. When you reach a comfortable position, you can take it easy and enjoy life. You can even pioneer.” Such words may be the unbalanced reasoning of some who take financial advantage of their associates in the Christian congregation. Think carefully about that incentive. Does it not mirror the thinking of the “unreasonable” rich man of Jesus’ parable?—Luke 12:16-21.
9. Why might some Christians be ensnared by desiring things?
9 Satan operates his wicked system in such a way that it induces people to desire things. That desire can eventually make inroads into a Christian’s life, choking the word and making it “unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19) The Bible encourages us to be content with sustenance and covering. (1 Timothy 6:8) However, many get ensnared by “the birdcatcher” because they do not apply that counsel to themselves. Could it be that pride makes them feel that they must adhere to a certain lifestyle? What about us personally? Does our desire to possess things cause us to push the interests of true worship into second place? (Haggai 1:2-8) Sadly, during hard economic times, some have sacrificed their spirituality in order to maintain the standard of living to which they had grown accustomed. Such a materialistic attitude delights “the birdcatcher”!
The Trap of Unwholesome Entertainment
10. What self-examination should each Christian make?
10 Another tactic of “the birdcatcher” is to undermine people’s natural sense of what is good and what is bad. A mentality similar to that found in Sodom and Gomorrah has come to control much of the entertainment industry. Even news reports on television and in periodicals highlight violence and pander to a lurid interest in sex. Much of what appears as entertainment in the media blurs people’s ability “to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Recall, however, Jehovah’s words through the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good!” (Isaiah 5:20) Has “the birdcatcher” insidiously affected your thinking with such unwholesome entertainment? Self-examination is essential.—2 Corinthians 13:5.
11. What warning about TV soap operas was given in this magazine?
11 Nearly a quarter of a century ago, The Watchtower lovingly warned the household of faith about TV serials. * This observation was made about the subtle impact of popular soap operas: “The search for love is used to justify any conduct. For instance, one unwed pregnant youth says to a friend: ‘But I love Victor. I don’t care. . . . To have his baby is worth everything to me!’ The soft background music makes it hard to consider her course to be so bad. You too like Victor. You feel sympathy for the girl. You ‘understand.’ ‘It is amazing how you can rationalize,’ stated one viewer who later came to her senses. ‘We know that immorality is bad. . . . But I realized that mentally I was taking part.’”
12. What facts indicate the current appropriateness of the warning about certain TV programming?
12 Since those articles were published, this type of heart-corrupting programming has become increasingly available. In many places, such programs are broadcast 24 hours a day. Men, women, and many teenagers frequently feed their minds and hearts on such entertainment. We, though, must not deceive ourselves with false reasoning. It would be wrong to reason that depraved entertainment is no worse than what is seen in the real world. Can a Christian really justify choosing to be entertained by the sort of people he would never dream of inviting into his home?
13, 14. How did some express how they benefited from warnings about TV?
13 Many benefited when they took to heart that warning provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) After reading the straightforward, Bible-based counsel, some wrote to tell how the articles had personally affected them. * One confessed: “For 13 years I was a soap-opera addict. I thought that I was safe simply by attending Christian meetings and being semiregular in the field service. But I adopted the worldly soap-opera attitude that if your husband mistreats you or you feel unloved, adultery is justifiable—he brought it on himself. And so when I felt ‘justified’ I took this bad course and sinned against Jehovah and my mate.” This woman was disfellowshipped. Eventually, she came to her senses, repented, and was reinstated. The articles warning against TV soap operas gave her the strength to refuse to be entertained by what Jehovah hates.—Amos 5:14, 15.
14 Another reader whose life was affected said: “I cried when I read the articles, for I discovered that my heart was no longer complete toward Jehovah. I promised my God that I would no longer be a slave to these serials.” After expressing appreciation for the articles, one Christian woman admitted her addiction and wrote: “I wondered . . . if my relationship with Jehovah could be affected. How could I have ‘them’ as friends and also be a friend to Jehovah?” If such TV shows corrupted hearts 25 years ago, what impact do they have today? (2 Timothy 3:13) We must be aware of Satan’s trap of unwholesome entertainment in all its forms, whether TV soap operas, violent video games, or immoral music videos.
The Trap of Personal Differences
15. How are some caught alive by the Devil?
15 Satan uses personal differences as a trap to cause divisions among Jehovah’s people. We can be trapped this way regardless of our privileges of service. Some are caught alive by the Devil because they allow personal differences to disrupt the peace and unity and the beautiful spiritual prosperity that Jehovah has brought into existence.—Psalm 133:1-3.
16. How has Satan slyly been trying to disrupt our unity?
16 During World War I, Satan tried to destroy the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization by frontal attack, but he failed. (Revelation 11:7-13) Since then, he has slyly been working to disrupt our unity. When we allow personal differences to cause disunity, we have provided “the birdcatcher” a foothold. We could thus hinder the free flow of holy spirit in our personal lives as well as in the congregation. If that were to happen, Satan would be pleased because any disruption of the peace and unity of the congregation interferes with the preaching work.—Ephesians 4:27, 30-32.
17. What can help those who have personal differences to resolve them?
17 What can you do if you have personal differences with a fellow Christian? Granted, every situation is unique. However, while there may be many reasons why problems develop, there is no reason why personal differences should be left unresolved. (Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:15-17) The advice in God’s Word is inspired, perfect. When applied, Bible principles never fail. They always work!
18. Why would imitating Jehovah help us resolve personal differences?
18 Jehovah is “ready to forgive,” and he grants “true forgiveness.” (Psalm 86:5; 130:4) We show that we are beloved children of Jehovah when we imitate him. (Ephesians 5:1) We are all sinners and desperately in need of Jehovah’s forgiveness. Thus, we must be careful if we feel inclined not to forgive someone. We could become like the slave in Jesus’ parable who refused to forgive his fellow slave a debt that was but a fraction of the debt that his master had already forgiven him. When the master was informed, he had the unforgiving slave thrown into prison. Jesus concluded the parable by saying: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.” (Matthew 18:21-35) Meditating on that illustration and reflecting on how many times Jehovah has freely forgiven us will surely help us when we are trying to settle personal differences with our brother!—Psalm 19:14.
Safe in “the Secret Place of the Most High”
19, 20. How should we view Jehovah’s “secret place” and “shadow” during these dangerous times?
19 We live in dangerous times. Satan would certainly have destroyed all of us were it not for Jehovah’s loving protection. To avoid being trapped by “the birdcatcher,” therefore, we must remain in the figurative place of protection, “dwelling in the secret place of the Most High,” procuring “lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One.”—Psalm 91:1.
20 May we always view Jehovah’s reminders and directions as protective, never as restrictive. Together we face a predator who has superhuman intelligence. Without Jehovah’s loving help, no one will escape being trapped. (Psalm 124:7, 8) So let us pray that Jehovah will deliver us from the traps of “the birdcatcher”!—Matthew 6:13.
^ par. 11 The Watchtower, December 1, 1982, pages 3-7.
^ par. 13 The Watchtower, December 1, 1983, page 23.
Do You Recall?
• Why is “trembling at men” a deadly trap?
• How does the Devil use the lure of materialism?
• How has Satan ensnared some with the trap of unwholesome entertainment?
• What trap does the Devil use to disrupt our unity?
[Picture on page 27]
Some have been ensnared by “trembling at men”
[Picture on page 28]
Are you entertained by what Jehovah hates?
[Picture on page 29]
What can you do if you have personal differences with a fellow Christian?