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Witchcraft, black magic and curses are some of the things some Christians live in fear of, and whenever things go wrong which they cannot explain, some ‘well-wishers’ suggest that perhaps it is some such thing that is at the back of the problem! Then there are ‘pastors’ and ‘experts’ who are willing to oblige and start the process of breaking these ‘influences’ by asking for fasting, special prayers and planting ‘seed money’! It is the general lack of the knowledge of the Bible on the side of the general public that nurtures this industry!
A curse is usually only a malicious ‘wish’ someone expresses against another person. We human beings do not have any power to curse and make things happen. The one who has such supernatural power is God Himself, and demons to some extent. But demons can only exercise this power subject to permission from God or the victims.
God said that He would Himself curse those who disobeyed His commandments under the old covenant. Deuteronomy 28 describes the kinds of blessings He would give to those who obeyed Him and the curses that would come on those who disobeyed Him. As God knew already, it turned out that no one was able to keep the Law entirely, and naturally everyone came under the curse (Rom.3:9,10). Then God brought out the new covenant of grace (undeserved favour) under which the curse that we deserved was placed on Jesus when He hung on the cross in our place (Gal.3:13,14). Instead, we were granted blessings similar to Abraham. The ultimate blessing he received was that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That happened when Jesus was born in Abraham’s family. Now in Jesus’ name and as children of God we are to be a blessing to the world around when we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and also when we stand witness to the grace of God in our dealings with people.
Now that God has placed us under His blessings, how can He also curse us at the same time? Balaam said concerning Israel as he prophesied, “Behold, I have received a command to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it. He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; nor has He seen trouble in Israel; the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them” (Num.23:20,21). If this was true of Israel, the chosen nation of God, how much more for His children? No witchcraft, black magic or curse can work against us, “For there is no omen against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel” (v.23).
This should assure us and give us boldness to stand without fear about what the Devil or people can do against us. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom.8:31). Whatever happens around us or even to us, when we cannot figure out why it is happening, we must hold on to the confidence that God is with us to bless, and no curse or evil power can work against us. There must be some other explanation for what is going on. If we waver on this point we can become more and more confused and even play into the hands of evil spirits who are waiting to deceive us. The Devil may roar against us like a lion, but we must remember he is chained, and cannot attack us.
One heretical teaching that came up towards the end of the twentieth century is that of generational or ancestral curses. This says essentially that if we notice a common problem that is occurring in a family line, such as a proclivity to cancer, diabetes, etc., or a hot temper or laziness that runs in the family, it could be a curse from God on the generations of one of our ancestors who had sinned against God. Another way it is supposed to work is that if we are facing a problem that refuses to be resolved no matter what we try, it could again be due to a curse because of ancestral sin. According to a Bible verse they quote, a curse like this could run to three or four generations, and any of our 30 ancestors in the earlier four generations could be the culprit!
But isn’t this unfair, especially when we don’t even know most of these ancestors? How can God punish innocent people for someone else’ sins? If this was true, why didn’t Jesus or the apostles teach us about it?
The proof text for this doctrine comes from, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exo.20:5). This is the last part of the second of the Ten Commandments. What does this mean, to visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children? It is easy to assume that it means children would be punished for their fathers’ sins. Sad to say, a few English translations of the Bible have done this. But Hebrew scholars do not all agree. For us, when we know that God cannot contradict Himself, and He says in Ezekiel 18:10 and Deuteronomy 24:16 that children shall not be punished for their fathers’ sin (or vice versa), we know this is not what the verse in Exodus means. Many scholars believe that visiting the iniquity means that the natural consequences of one’s sins may be felt by succeeding generations, in the way they affect their upbringing, reputation, financial conditions, relationship with others, opportunities for growth, etc., that we can all see happening.
But then, how do we explain diseases and behavioural patterns coming down generations? As we have seen in an earlier chapter, diseases are the result of the presence of sin in the world and the general curse on the earth that makes things degenerate. A part of sickness is that it may affect our genes and get passed on to the next generations. It cannot be taken as the result of one ancestor’s specific sin and the curse of God upon him. Secondly, behaviour patterns can be learned by observation, as it happens when children learn to imitate their children. This is what may have happened between Abraham and Isaac, both of whom lied about their wives being their sisters in order to avoid getting killed. This cannot be explained as God cursing Abraham (who was blessed by God!) and then Isaac getting that curse.
How can we explain the curses Noah made on his grandson Canaan and Elisha on the young boys who insulted him? Starting from the point that we human beings can only ‘wish’ and have no power to make things happen to others, we can imagine that it was God who made these curses to work by His intervention that He would have considered as special cases. We know that so many people curse, and nothing happens, even though those who believe in what they call ‘the power in the word’ want us to think that once words are spoken, things will happen accordingly. One proverb points out that if someone curses us for no fault of ours nothing will happen (Prov.26:2). This cannot be true if spoken words would automatically accomplish themselves!
Witchcraft, black magic, voodoo etc., work directly with the power of demons with whom people are in allegiance. Since we know that demons have supernatural powers, we must recognise that these things can work, and they do work in many ways. But what we also need to remember is that we have God as our heavenly Father and we are under His protection. He protects us by placing hedges around us just as He did for Job, and demons have to get special permission from Him before they can do anything to us. So, witchcraft and black magic cannot work against us, however much people try to do things against us. If we notice people doing such things against us we should not allow fear to grip us, but we must hold on to God and stay close to Him.
When it comes to people who are not children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, there is no protection to the level we enjoy. We can assume there is some minimal level of protection God offers to all people against demons (otherwise all of them would have been destroyed!), but the fact is that such people do not have any hesitation towards sin or anything else, as long as they provide them some advantage. For some people, demons are also to be worshipped for the power they will give! So, it is only natural that such people may suffer a lot from demonic intervention in their lives depending on how much access they give. But as long as we keep ourselves close to God and avoid giving access to demons in our life, the great protection of God will surround us on every side.
Problems come if we open our lives towards demons, as we mentioned in an earlier chapter, through continued sin, occult practices or idol worship. Then we allow demons to cause trouble in our lives. If we do not believe in God’s protection but continue in fear, that can also provide a foothold for the Devil to start working in our lives.
So, let us not allow ourselves to get preoccupied with curses or witchcraft. Our privilege is to have God as our Father, and it must be our goal to get closer to Him, become more pleasing to Him and to enjoy all His blessings.
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