“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.” (Daniel 8:23-24a NIV)

The child spots the candy. Immediately their arm reaches out. Mother intervenes. She takes the child’s fingers and gently says “No, Sweetie.”

Then it starts. The adorable turns horrible. The bottom lip sticks out and eyes narrow. Pouting then whimpering signify a volcano about to erupt. A full-blown screaming episode follows with Mother vainly trying to pacify her little cherub.

Finally, the concession. The desired object is placed in the small hand and the sobbing stops. Peace is restored.

Incidents like this happen constantly–and not just with toddlers. Big people also may act badly when told “No.” Without needed discipline, the spoiled son or daughter becomes a skilled manipulator.

God’s judgment on the wicked is manifest when arrogant, “Don’t tell me ‘No’ ” master-manipulators, take over. When petulant children grow up to become monarchs, enablers, not wise counselors, surround the throne.

In 1 Kings 21:1-2, Ahab set his sights on a vineyard. It belonged to his subject Naboth who denied Israel’s king his property. Ahab did not deal well with rejection. He went home to bed without eating and to sulk like a baby (21:4). Queen Jezebel knew how to return a smile to her husband’s face, “Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth…” (21:7b)

Jezebel’s plan succeeded (21:8-16). Ahab’s wife was crafty as a serpent. When Naboth was falsely accused then executed, the king gained his prized vineyard. As a team, Ahab, the pouter, and Jezebel, the poisonous snake, were master manipulators.

The world’s landscape is dotted with leaders similar to Israel’s royal pair. They will use any means to achieve their ends. Powerful rulers have armies of minions, ready, at the slightest provocation, to do someone harm.

Manipulators are masters of “the politics of personal destruction.”  Those exposing their evil deeds may be humiliated or turn up dead. The opposition’s public embarrassment or untimely demise sends a message intended to discourage others (cf. Revelation 13:4).

In the last days, one group will resist manipulation, even by masters of the art. The saints, or the elect, are wise to the schemes of the wicked (Ephesians 6:11). For that reason, they, like the prophet Elijah to Ahab, will be called the enemy (1 Kings 21:20). As with Naboth who refused to sell Ahab his vineyard, God’s people will be considered sheep to be slaughtered (cf.  Romans 8:36).

The emergence of the Maestro of all manipulators is near. How will we resist the craftiest tomorrow if we don’t keep our distance from current inferior models?

So we must be careful where and with whom we stand. No one can be rescued if they fall for the master of all masters of manipulation.

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