My brother and I could scarcely contain our laughter, anticipating the look on Dad’s face the moment he had his first taste of that morning’s breakfast. Just imagine it; salted coffee, salted grapefruit, salted corn flakes, all topped off with sugar-sweet fried eggs.
What’s was so funny about watching Dad get taken by surprise?
I suppose part of it was the fact that Dad was all set to experience something of sensory delight. What he got was just the opposite. It did him no real harm, but salt on cornflakes and sugar on eggs isn’t something that most people would choose to experience. To us kids, the funny part was that the surprise wasn’t a good one.
Someone’s in the Business of Bad Surprises
On a more serious note, Satan is in the business of dealing in bad surprises and has been since the beginning of time. We read at the beginning of the Bible: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1 NIV).
Yes, in fact, God had said so, and he had given a consequence with his command. But Satan told Eve that God wasn’t serious about his warning (v. 4), and he promised her the knowledge of good and evil in return for her disobedience (v. 5). Taking the bait—or fruit—and sinning against God cost Eve her life and incurred God’s judgment on the whole world, just as God said.
That’s how Satan works. Satan makes false promises that tempt us to sin, knowing that our sin will destroy us and others. He plans bad surprises with every prompting to do what God has forbidden in his Word. And he uses all sorts of people and circumstances to prompt us to disobey God’s Word.
What Satan Promised Amnon
Jonadab came to Amnon, the eldest living son of King David, with a Satanic, sugarcoated offer of happiness. You see, Amnon was love–sick—literally—because of his feelings for his half-sister Tamar. We read about his story in 2 Samuel 13. “In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her” (vv. 1-2 NIV).
Here comes the set-up.
“Now Amnon had an advisor named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, ‘Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?'” (vv. 3-4 NIV).
Translation: “Why aren’t you happy?!”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister” (v. 5 NIV).
Here comes the lie: “This will make you happy.”
“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, `I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand'” (v. 6 NIV).
Amnon did as Jonadab suggested and the foil worked. Tamar was sent to him just as he had hoped.
Amnon’s Bad Surprise
What followed is not pleasant.
“And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.'”
“Don’t, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her” (vv. 10-14 NIV).
The bait was set, the trap was sprung, and Amnon learned the bitter truth about Satan’s sugarcoated offers.
Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” (vv.15-17)
The door was slammed shut and bolted, leaving Amnon alone to deal with the awful consequences of his sin. Where was the happiness he was promised?
Satan Is Out to Deceive and Destroy
Satan is the great deceiver. Amnon was deceived into thinking that the very act which would destroy him would somehow make him happy, and so he sinned. In the end, it was Amnon who was destroyed, and Tamar deeply disgraced. He was murdered at the order of Absalom, and Tamar lived with a horrific wound.
Amnon’s story has been preserved to warn us. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV).
The Deceiver is truly an enemy, but seldom does he warn us with his roar. He lures us with a momentary sweetness knowing that if we see disobeying God as desirable, we will reap destruction. God’s Word tells us: “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15 NIV).
Escaping Satan’s Bad Surprises
How do we escape Satan’s bad surprises? When he makes promises that would tempt us to sin, we must hold them up to God’s Word and take a moment to think about whether his offer contradicts what God says in his Word.
Are you seeking happiness in something that God has forbidden? If so, flee to Jesus, asking him for forgiveness and escape, and turn from the trap Satan has set for you.
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 NIV)
Let us learn from Amnon and commit to obey God’s Word. True happiness is found as we obey God, whose loving commands are for our good.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ESV)