I am preparing notes for a three week course on angels for the Grace Bible Institute, and was working through the fact that angels (both good and evil) express the characteristics of personality. In particular, they possess what is generally considered to be three basic aspects of personality: intellect, emotion, and will. As I examined the characteristic of emotion, I was reminded of James 2:19:
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
The verb “shudder” is φρίσσω and it is used only here in the New Testament. The standard Greek lexicon (BDAG) notes that it means to “tremble from fear,” or in other words, “to shudder.” This idea is present in classical Greek literature as well in both the verb and the noun form φρίξ.
Two uses in the Septuagint confirm this sense. In the book of Job, Eliphaz declares that in a dream he suffered great “dread,” the kind associated with “trembling” that made his “bones shake” (4:14). He then said,
Then a spirit passed by my face;
The hair of my flesh bristled up.
We have all experienced a similar kind of this dreaded shaking.
The second use is in Jeremiah where God calls on the heavens themselves to respond to something. God declares,
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the LORD (Jer 2:12),
What is the reason for such shuddering with fear? God gives the reason in the next verse and its the sin of his people:
For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
That can hold no water (Jer 2:13)
Here in James, demons are said to believe that God is one, a cardinal doctrine of Old Testament (Deut 6:4). That belief in who he is, the One True God of Israel who sent his Son to die for the sins of the world, has an effect. It causes demons to shudder in fear.
So it got me thinking. If demons can be confronted with the truth of God’s existence and shake with dreaded fear, what ought to be my response to even simple things like preparing for worship on Sunday, or giving attention to Scripture, or any other activity every day? I’d like to think that I know better than a demon, but I suspect that I and many others, do not.