“Lo, This Only Have I Found, that God Hath Made Man Upright; but They Have Sought Out Many Inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
This article written by Rev. John Witvoet was published in the January/February 2020 edition of “Insight Into” and is posted here with the author’s permission.
Friends, we live in an uncertain, fast-changing world, but what hasn’t changed is what is found in God’s Word as admonition and instruction. This is also true relating to our use of modern media and our devices. The Word of God is never outdated, not even in this postmodern era. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
I think it can be safely said that much of the time when we are using our “devices,” we are treading on, or dangerously close to, enemy territory. The modern media has become the modern means the devil uses to subtly trap and ambush, or blatantly bombard both the wary and careless user alike. Although the means the devil uses are new, his devices are not, as we can see from God’s eternal Word. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul admonished the church in the progressive city of Ephesus to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We read in Acts 19 that many of them from that congregation that used the media of the day (books) came together and burned those that were evil. Since then the devil has become all the more crafty and men all the more corrupt. In these modern times we can no longer simply destroy and be rid of all the means that the devil uses to infiltrate our eyes, ears, minds, and ultimately our hearts and souls.
We live in a world inundated by modern digital media! Infinite pieces of data abound, all accessible to us by over three million apps and nearly two billion websites. This does not even include digital personal files or proprietary business systems. We have become so dependent on modern media and modern digital technology to operate our businesses, to keep us efficient in our work, and for record keeping. It is an integral part of all of our modern lives. We use it in our studying, buying, selling, communicating, and in nearly every aspect of our lives. It has become impossible to function in the modern world without the use of this “new media.”
Paul also writes of the devil’s tactics to the Corinthians, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11); in other words, his wide range of subtle and blatant attacks. And are these things not written in God’s Word for our “admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are to come” (1 Corinthians 10:11)?
First, what a brazen onslaught he wages against us! Every day, nearly at every moment, a barrage of attacks comes at us by way of the media that has become so much a part of all of our lives. It need not be proven that a vast majority of the content that comes to us every day by these means is blatantly wicked and contrary to God’s Word. It is feared that much soul-destroying content is being searched out or “stumbled across” by many of us on pornographic and lewd sites, but far more prevalent, and maybe equally as dangerous, is the endless searching and filling our minds with thousands of meaningless pieces of information. Even when it is not movies, videos, music videos, gaming and the like, surfing digital media has become a modern form of entertainment. With an endless supply, our precious time is not only wasted, but we have become addicted to consuming information.
Secondly, and more subtly, with the greater influx of modern media, printed and audible forms of media are being replaced. Reading and listening are becoming more and more difficult for the modern generation. We are constantly bombarded by texts, tweets, notifications, ads, Facebook posts, emails, and more. Our brains get hooked on all this stimulating content. We crave more and more new information, and it can be difficult to pay attention to any one thing for very long. On the other side, it also makes it difficult to hold anyone’s attention for very long. A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (or around the time smartphones hit the scene) to eight seconds today. In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.
What does this mean for us? The devil cannot destroy God’s Word, but it becomes evident that this subtle undermining by the devil is a tactic whereby he seeks to keep us from reading and concentrating on even a short portion of God’s Word. Is it not to be feared that this is affecting our ability to sit in church and listen with concentration and participation for an hour-and-a-half worship service? Satan not only seeks to undermine the stronghold of God’s Word itself, but also the means of grace by destroying our concentration in God’s house, if by nothing else than keeping us up late on our devices the night before. Not to mention using it unceasingly on the Lord’s Day.
Nothing new under the sun
No, there is nothing new under the sun; the devil’s modern device is to use our devices! Let me illustrate this further. Psalm 37:7 speaks of “the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” The original uses a word that means “a plan, or witty invention, usually evil, sometimes good, or a wicked or mischievous device or plot.”
How about what the Lord says of mankind in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Again, let’s consider the meaning of the original word, only found in two places in Scripture, which is “any contrivance, art, device, or invention; a warlike machine or engine, or mental plot to break down a stronghold.”
Therefore, it makes sense that the other place we find this word used is to describe King Uzziah’s invention in 2 Chronicles 26:15, “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal.” These were machines that could hurl many arrows or stones at once, or continuously in a thick barrage against a stronghold or enemy.
The application that can be made to our modern time is clear. Do these not coincide with the modern day invention of both computer hardware and software? What a barrage of deadly arrows and crushing stones can come at us with every click of a mouse or every swipe or tap of a screen! Not only has the devil gained such an advantage by this new technology to captivate and destroy our never-dying souls, but we have become victims of our own inventions! We are destroying ourselves, and the devil gladly helps us along both boldly and subtly. For he, too, has become much wiser after 6,000 years! Is this not seen today? How the devil seeks to destroy the stronghold of the Lord’s institution of marriage! Thousands of divorces are related directly to the misuse of the Internet, viewing lewd content, pursuing online relationships, social media connections, and so on. The misuse of modern media is destroying personal lives, marriages, families, and ultimately souls.
“The whole armour of God”
Friends, God’s Word has not changed, neither has His admonition and instruction. We are commanded to “put on the whole armour of God.” In the first place, this must be spiritual armour, because we have no might against this powerful enemy and his spiritual wickedness. But also practically we must take up the shield to protect ourselves and our loved ones in this unceasing conflict. We cannot pray for keeping if we do not implement the available filters and means to protect ourselves while using all of our devices. Furthermore, let necessity alone dictate the use!
Finally, let us realize that the great danger lies in the sinful and susceptible nature that we all possess. The devil has a great advantage in this war since he has very willing accomplices in us! What we need above all is a hatred for sin and a love for the Lord and His law. Oh, that we may be granted the fear of the Lord in our heart and receive grace for our soul! Pray the Lord to supply this by His Word and Spirit! Even then, the Lord must keep it in exercise, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A true, Spirit-wrought conversion is by far the best filter; a true prayer is the best defense; and the true and mighty Saviour is the only Stronghold that will stand, not only in our modern times from the attacks of a defeated but angry devil, but ultimately from the eternal wrath of a righteous, all-knowing, and sin-punishing God. No, there is nothing new under the sun, also in the way the Lord teaches and gives His people all these things.