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The Ever-Watchful Restrainer

Posted Jul 31 2009 10:17am

Practical_Christianity column

Despite living in the city, there is a surprising amount of wildlife in my backyard. There is a snake family headed by Adam and Eve, complete with children. We have a variety of birds that build nests and multiply the bird population every season. And recently, my husband captured a curious mole rat who ventured into our bedroom via a doggie door; two nights later a hapless skunk made an early morning detour through our yard. I love wildlife, but nothing prepared me for the unannounced guest that visited last summer.

Back patio One afternoon I decided to ignore chores and read on my back patio. Relaxing in the middle of the day is out of character for me, but I was feeling rebellious. As I read, the birds behind me started chirping. A quick glance over my shoulder convinced me that some fledglings had taken their first tentative flights and were catching a much needed rest on the ground; I continued reading.

The birds kept up their cacophonous squawking while the bushes to my right rustled. The noisy antics were getting annoying and I wished that all the hoopla would die down. It eventually did, but then a new interruption took center stage . . . a four-foot rattlesnake was slithering in the grass about six feet from where I sat. Being fairly low-keyed, I stared at the snake for a few seconds and then my thoughts raced to my three terriers. No doubt, they would see this deadly intruder either as a wacky and wonderful new toy, or as a serious threat to them and their humans. Either way, I could see them pouncing on Mr. Rattler.

Driven by concern for my furry babies, I ran through the house to close the doggie door. As I passed my husband, I mentioned the snake and, being quick to react, Warren flew into action. (Our dogs never knew of the danger lurking in our yard.) I hated that Warren ultimately killed the undulating creature, but under the circumstances, that was our best option.

When the excitement subsided, I pondered the situation and realized that the Holy Spirit had been working behind the scenes throughout the entire ordeal. The Spirit's ministry comprises many things. He guides us and provides understanding. He is the Comforter, our Advocate, a Teacher, and Counselor. He also provides Christians with the spirit of knowledge and the appropriate fear of the Lord. He does a lot for us, but He is also the Restrainer.

In 2 Thessalonians 2, we learn about the Holy Spirit's role as Restrainer. The context of this section of Scripture focuses on the coming "lawless one." It isn't my intention to discuss that, but rather to shine the spotlight on the restraining nature of the Spirit.

"Do you not remember that I told you these thing when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,but only until the one who now restrains it is removed" (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7 NRSV).

These verses unveil the restraining power of the Holy Spirit and I am confident that He was working that day in my backyard. First off, my dogs are always outside when any of us are. They bask in the sun, explore the grounds, or try to get us to play fetch with them. Where were they that day? I am convinced that the Spirit kept them in the house, because it was completely out of character for them not to be outside.

Rattlesnake I also believe the Spirit orchestrated my desire to be outside that time of day. I never, ever sit outside in the middle of the day. Had I not been outside when I was, our dangerous visitor could have quietly lurked in our yard until one of our dogs happened upon him; I shudder to think what could have happened if he'd gone unnoticed. Another possible scenario involved the neighbors who share our back fence. They are grandparents who frequently babysit their young granddaughters. Had the snake slithered into their yard, one of their precious girls could have been bitten.

Another amazing thing was the path the snake took. Remember, I heard bushes rustling? The only place the snake would have encountered vegetation was between a raised flowerbed and a storage shed; passing there, he was headed straight toward me. I am sure that an unseen Force caused that snake to veer in a direction that caused him to slither away from me. No telling what I would have done had he crawled across my feet. As it was, at his closest point he passed within three feet of my chair.

Lastly, we discovered it was a prairie rattler instead of one of the more aggressive varieties inhabiting our area. That provided a less dangerous situation for Warren to confront. Yes, I'm certain the Great Restrainer was at work. I'm not saying Satan sent that snake into our yard, but anything is possible. I figure that snake was just being a snake. However, had Satan (the lawless one) intended to use that snake for wicked purposes, the Spirit thwarted the devil's plans in many ways.

Have you ever wondered why there is so much evil in the world? I have; I'm only human. But, I also realize that without the restraining power of the Holy Spirit, evil would be out of control. There would be more catastrophic events orchestrated by Satan. Accidents would run rampant. The relief of discovering dangerous situations that never came to pass (like a bald tire that should have blown 500 miles ago, but instead kept on going) would be non-existent because they would happen without the Restrainer. The Spirit is working hard these days so look for the quiet miracles He produces every day.

The Bible says that one day the Great Restrainer will be removed from our world and the lawless one will run free. I don't know when that day will come, but I do know that until then, we are in the sights of the ever-watchful Restrainer.


(c)2009 Shona Neff

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