The Lord in the Wilderness (part 2)

Click here for The Lord in the Wilderness (part 1)

In part 1 of this article it was discussed that the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness was not a test to see whether or not he would succumb to the devil, but rather, it was to demonstrate to us that He wouldn’t. In part 2, we’ll look at the three temptations in order and the Lord’s response to each.

Temptation #1

Matthew 4:3-4
And when the tempter came to him, he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'”

If you think about it, the devil or the “tempter” here is really trying to appeal to the humanity of the Lord Jesus, as though He were a sinner, but with the perfect knowledge that He is, in fact, God the Son. If He can be corrupted as Adam was, then we’re finished.  See this post.

The tempter asks, If thou be the Son of God…” This was a challenge to the Lord Jesus to “prove it,” A temptation a macho man (as opposed to women, in this case, perhaps) is likely to fall into. But note also that the devil had no doubt that He was God the Son as He claimed to be. Let me say that even if I were without food for forty days as the Lord Jesus had been, it would never be a temptation for me to turn stones into bread. I don’t have the power to do that so no matter how hungry I was or how badly I might want to prove my own greatness, I could never be tempted by such a challenge. But this was a temptation for the Lord Jesus and the devil knew it. He could actually change the stones into bread and then immediately satisfy his great hunger. But He didn’t. Rather, He answered by quoting the written Word of God. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 4:3. And think about the words. The Lord Jesus had been without food for forty days and He had been led there into the desert by the Holy Spirit (Mat 4:1). How much longer could He, as a man, go on without dying of hunger? Forty days is a long time. But here’s the key. What makes a man live? Bread alone? No way! God spoke man into existence (Genesis 1) and in a word He can speak men (or a man) out of existence. It has nothing to do with bread and the Lord Jesus knew it! And from the written Word of God we know it, too. So here’s the question for us. Do we obey the Lord even when the circumstances are difficult? Or do we do something against His written Word, believing we must in order to stay alive? Tough question, isn’t it? Hopefully we will never be faced with such a temptation.

Temptation #2

Matthew 4:5-7

Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto Him, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, ‘He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.'” Jesus said unto him, “It is written again, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'”

“Ahh,” says the devil when the Lord Jesus quotes the written Word of God. It’s as though he says, “I know the Word of God, too. Here’s a Scripture for you.” And then he quotes from Psalm 91:11, “He shall give His angels charge concerning thee … they shall bear the up … .” In other words, the devil is saying, “you trust in God, then prove it. Jump from the height of this temple. If you believe the written Word of God and you are who you say you are then you believe nothing bad will happen to you. Let’s see it then.”

And again the Lord Jesus quotes the Scriptures in response. He says, “It is written again, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:16. And think about this one. It’s not our place to “tempt” or test God. Understand that for us to test God is an attempt to control Him, to force His hand, as it were. And this is NOT our place. Don’t even go there.

In my younger days (much younger days) I had this crazy notion that God would do anything for us that we wanted Him to do. We just had to have enough “faith.” Well, one day for some reason I decided I had enough faith to put soap in my eye and I believed God would keep it from hurting. So I tempted God. This was a mistake. I was very wrong to tempt God because it hurt real bad (or maybe “I just didn’t have enough faith”). Anyway, as stupid as this sounds, this was a very important lesson for me. What on earth would make me think for one second such a ridiculous idiotic thing? I had no Scripture at all on which to base this moronic belief, nothing from the written Word of God to back up such an imbecilic thing to do, only some emotional desire to “prove” God could do anything I wanted Him to do. Well, I was really wrong. God does NOT have to do anything we want Him to do. And even in cases like the one above where the Lord Jesus had actual Scripture to back the belief that He would be kept safe, He refused to “tempt” God by jumping off the temple pinnacle. (Take note those of you who handle snakes because you read Mark 16:18 – It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deut 6:16) ). You don’t tempt God. Period.

Temptation #3

Matthew 4:8-11

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Now the devil pulls out all the stops. No more messing around. The devil is for now, according to the Scriptures, the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). And this same story as recorded by Luke says, “And the devil said unto Him, ‘All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6). The devil genuinely offers to give all the glory and power of ruling the entire world to the Lord Jesus if only He will bow down and worship him. That’s it. That’s all He has to do. Just bow down to Satan and there’d be no need for Him to go to that horrible cross. Oh yes. Satan knew about the cross and what The Lord Jesus would have to do. And the Lord Jesus also knew all too well what He would be facing when He bore the sin of the world and faced the separation from and the judgment of God that we deserve. He knew (see Matthew 26:39). Would this temptation from the devil entice Him to take all the glory with none of the cross? Might sound good. After all, isn’t He going to inherit the world one day anyway (Psalm 2:8)? Why not just get it now without all that suffering?

No way! Not Him! As stated in part one of this post, He could never sin! And this proves it beyond all doubt. Knowing what He would endure – the horrendous of the cross – something our words could never express and our minds will never comprehend, He had an out, and He wouldn’t take it because it would mean He would have to rebel, that is, He would have to sin against the Godhead of which He is “all the fullness” bodily (Col 2:9).

He speaks again to the devil and again He quotes from the written Word of God, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:13 & 10:20.

With this triumph and demonstration of His perfect obedience, God sends angels to His relief. The Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly without sin! And we can rely completely on Him to save us! How encouraging, also, to note that in resisting the devil (as we are told to do in James 4:7) the Lord of glory Himself used no resource beyond what is available to each and every one of us: the written Word of God.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 -J Wilbur

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