From the opening of Peter’s first epistle, there is no doubt that he is writing primarily, although not solely, to believers amongst the Jews who had been scattered through the world. When he preached in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost there were Jews present from three of the areas: Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia, mentioned by Peter in his greetings, and it is likely that some of those who heard had believed the message and brought the gospel back to their “home” area. This scattering had been taking place since Jerusalem fell to the invader. Note that he refers in closing to “The church that is at Babylon” (5:13). There are differing views as to what he meant by the use of that expression (the present writer believes that he wrote from Babylon) but he obviously considered those who were “scattered” as the successors of those who had been “dispersed” since Babylon triumphed.
He exhorts his readers to be “obedient children” (1:14) just as Daniel and his three friends in Babylon had chosen to be obedient in not eating the king’s meat, probably because it had been offered to idols (Dan 1:8-16). The instruction to be “honest among the Gentiles” (2:12) also brings to mind the conduct of these four. When he writes that his readers must “fear God, honor the king” (2:17) that is exactly how these four captives acted. The “fiery trial” (4:12) is what three of the Hebrews endured (Dan 3:1-30).
As he comes to the close of the epistle, however, he warns of the danger of the work of the devil. In so doing he writes of him as the “roaring lion” (5:8), the only occasion when the devil is called a “roaring” lion. Just as Daniel faced the lions in their den, so his readers have to face a lion, not one docile and held in captivity, but one that is free to roam and roar. This danger is still faced daily.
The previous verse (5:7) encourages us to cast our care upon God, but it may be that we fail in this and consequently allow the burden of care to so exhaust us that we drop our guard. Perhaps we also do not heed the exhortation that immediately precedes the warning and, therefore, are not sober and vigilant.
Take heed to three facts. First, this “lion” is our adversary, one who is opposed to us and always seeks our harm. He is the very opposite of an advocate, one who draws near to support us. The Lord Jesus is our advocate (1 Jn 2:1); Satan is our adversary. Second, we note his activity. He walks about ceaselessly. The world is the sphere of his activity and he is never negligent in his constant determination to do evil. Every word he speaks is a lie and every act he performs is for the ill of those who are the object of his interest. Third, we must remember his appetite. He is seeking those whom he may devour. The roaring lion is one who is seeking prey, as Isaiah writes, “They shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe” (5:29), and as Amos confirms, “Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?” (3:4). There are some animals that do not devour the prey they catch, perhaps because they are domestic animals and their appetite has already been satisfied. Not so this hunter. His objective is to devour what he catches; to ensure that his prey dies. Satan cannot rob us of eternal life, but he can destroy our testimony and will do so if given the opportunity. Let all take heed! The roar of the lion is as strong as ever; the saints are the objects of his interest, they are still the prey that he seeks to devour.
David the shepherd knew what it was to deliver the flock from the lion. “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; And I went after him and smote him and delivered it out of his mouth” (1 Sam 17:34-35). It is, therefore, fitting that the mind of Peter turned to the lion as he wrote of the responsibility of shepherds to “feed the flock” (5:2). There is a responsibility given to shepherds to ensure that the lion does not get amongst the flock and if, despite their vigilance, he does so, to make every effort possible to deliver the lambs or sheep that have been caught by his evil designs.
But it is also incumbent on each of us to resist the devil. James writes, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7). Peter tells us how this has to be done, not in our own strength, but “steadfast in the faith” (1Pe 5:9). This is the only successful way to combat the devil. Our own devices will not do. Steadfast is an old adjective for “solid,” like a foundation. Faith gives the necessary strength. Trusting in God alone will cause the adversary’s retreat. The Scriptures never say that combating temptation is easy, but they do say that it is possible. We can be victorious! With such resources at our disposal, no believer can assert that a temptation was so overpowering that it could not be resisted.
Let us never consider, therefore, that we are safe from this hungry lion. We must be vigilant and wide-awake, constantly on our guard. At any time, in any place, the lion may roar. Let us ensure that his hunger, the hunger to make us sin, is not satisfied. In the den, Daniel found that the mouths of the lions had been stopped. Today the lion’s mouth may not be stopped but we have the resources to ensure that we are not consumed.