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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 22 : Be Wise as Serpents | Day 151

Learn the Wisdom of Serpents!

In many ancient cultures, the snake was a symbol of wisdom. Snakes have keen perception and cleverness that are used to avoid confrontation with potential predators and to catch prey. By using its tongue to collect particles of dust from the air, a snake is able to sense danger and hide, or to sense food and proceed. Given a choice between attacking or retreating, a snake will usually make a hasty exit.

Demonstrating the wisdom of serpents means that we should use our spiritual senses to discern potential dangers around us and avoid provoking conflict with "wolves" whenever possible. If a conflict is unavoidable, we should learn how to respond to the situation in a way that minimizes the ability of the wolves to succeed in an attack against us.

“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).

Foreseeing evil does not require firsthand experience. It is all too tempting to search out evil with our eyes and minds, and in so doing expose ourselves to the corruption of the world and defile our spirits. This is the very same trap that Satan put before Adam and Eve--the desire to know good and evil by experience.

Rather than filling our natural minds with the details of evil and leaning on our own understanding to determine what is right and wrong, we must rely on discernment from God's Spirit to ascertain evil. This enables us to know what approach to take in responding to wolves so that God's ultimate purposes can be accomplished. (See Romans 16:19.)

The ability to perceive and avoid danger requires that we learn God's wisdom and are attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

In the mid-1700s, an angry mob surrounded the house where a controversial preacher was visiting. Pounding on the door, they demanded that he come out immediately. His hosts urged the preacher to seek safety by hiding, but he declined. Suddenly, the door opened and the small man stepped out into the midst of the crowd. His boldness shocked them and for a moment they were silent. During that moment he calmly made a few remarks that turned the mood of the crowd from vehement anger to rapt attention. With carefully chosen words, John Wesley diffused the attack of the "wolves" and gained an opportunity to preach.

To develop the wisdom of serpents, let's purpose to become lifelong students of God's Word so that we can grow in our knowledge of Him and His ways and discern when we should combat the wolves and when we should avoid confrontation.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard