It will help greatly to step back and up a bit for a fresh look at certain facts that underlie prayer. Everything depends on a right point of view. There may be many view-points, from which to study any subject; but of necessity any one view-point must take in all the essential facts concerned. If not, the impression formed will be wrong, and a man will be misled in his actions. In these talks I make no attempt to prove the Bible's statements, nor to suggest a common law for their interpretation. That would be a matter for quite a separate series of talks. It clears the ground to assume certain things. I am assuming the accuracy of these scriptural statements. And I am glad to say I have no difficulty in doing so.
Now there are certain facts constantly stated and assumed in this old Book. They are clearly stated in its history, they are woven into its songs, and they underlie all these prophetic writings, from Genesis clear to the end of John's Patmos visions. Possibly they have been so familiar and taken for granted so long as to have grown unfamiliar. The very old may need stating as though very new. Here is a chain of six facts:
First:—The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.3 His by creation and by sovereign rule. The Lord sat as King at the flood.
Second:—God gave the dominion of the earth to man. The kingship of its life, the control and mastery of its forces.
Third:—Man, who held the dominion of the earth in trust from God, transferred his dominion to somebody else, by an act which was a double act. He was deceived into doing that act. It was an act of disobedience and of obedience. Disobedience to God, and obedience to another one, a prince who was seeking to get the dominion of the earth into his own hands. That act of the first man did this. The disobedience broke with God, and transferred the allegiance from God. The obedience to the other one transferred the allegiance, and through that, the dominion to this other one.
The fourth fact is this:—The dominion or kingship of this earth so far as given to man, is now not God's, for He gave it to man. And it is not man's, for he has transferred it to another. It is in the control of that magnificent prince whose changed character supplies his name—Satan, the hater, the enemy. Jesus repeatedly speaks of "the prince"—that is the ruling one—"of this world."6 John speaks in his vision-book of a time coming when "the kingdom (not kingdoms, as in the old version) of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ."7 By clear inference previous to that time it is somebody's else kingdom than His. The kingship or rulership of the earth which was given to man is now Satan's.
The fifth fact:—God was eager to swing the world back to its original sway: for His own sake, for man's sake, for the earth's sake. You see, we do not know God's world as it came from His hand. It is a rarely beautiful world even yet—the stars above, the plant life, the waters, the exquisite colouring and blending, the combinations of all these—an exquisitely beautiful world even yet. But it is not the world it was, nor that some coming day it will be. It has been sadly scarred and changed under its present ruler. Probably Eve would not recognize in the present world her early home-earth as it came fresh from the hand of its Maker.
God was eager to swing the old world back to its original control. But to do so He must get a man, one of the original trustee class through whom He might swing it back to its first allegiance. It was given to man. It was swung away by man. It must be swung back by man. And so a Man came, and while Jesus was perfectly and utterly human, we spell that word Man with a capital M because He was a man quite distinct from all men. Because He was more truly human than all other men He is quite apart from other men. This Man was to head a movement for swinging the world back to its first allegiance.
The sixth fact is this:—These two, God's Man, and the pretender-prince, had a combat: the most terrific combat ever waged or witnessed. From the cruel, malicious cradle attack until Calvary's morning and two days longer it ran. Through those thirty-three years it continued with a terrificness and intensity unknown before or since. The master-prince of subtlety and force did his best and his worst, through those Nazareth years, then into the wilderness,—and Gethsemane—and Calvary. And that day at three o'clock and for a bit longer the evil one thought he had won. And there was great glee up in the headquarters of the prince of this world. They thought the victory was theirs when God's Man lay in the grave under the bars of death, within the immediate control of the lord of death. But the third morning came and the bars of death were snapped like cotton thread. Jesus rose a Victor. For it was not possible that such as He could be held by death's lord. And then Satan knew that he was defeated. Jesus, God's Man, the King's rightful prince, had gotten the victory.
But, please mark very carefully four sub-facts on Satan's side. First, he refuses to acknowledge his defeat. Second, he refuses to surrender his dominion until he must. He yields only what he must and when he must. Third, he is supported in his ambitions by man. He has man's consent to his control. The majority of men on the earth to-day, and in every day, have assented to his control. He has control only through man's consent. (Satan cannot get into a man's heart without his consent, and God will not.) And, fourth, he hopes yet to make his possession of the earth permanent.