The temptation of our Lord has a number of links with the Old Testament. We can see a correspondence between the first temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and the temptation of our Lord in Matthew 4. Matthew highlights the link between the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness and the testing of Israel in the wilderness, as emphasized in the early chapters of Deuteronomy. But there is another link between our Lord’s temptation and Deuteronomy that I had not noticed until this study, the link with these words regarding Israel’s king in Deuteronomy 17:
14 When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, “I will appoint a king over me like all the nations surrounding me,” 15 you must without fail select over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king—you may not designate a foreigner who is not one of your fellow Israelites. 16 Moreover, he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so, for the Lord has said you must never again return that way. 17 Furthermore, he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold. 18 When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this instruction on a scroll given to him by the Levitical priests. 19 It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this instruction and these statutes in order to carry them out, 20 so that he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens and turn from the commandment right or left, and so that he and his descendants may enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).101
Through Moses, God looks forward to that time when Israel will ask for102 a king. He sets down several qualifications for this king:
(1) The first qualification is that Israel’s king must be an Israelite, and not a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15). Jesus certainly met this qualification and more, as we see in Matthew’s genealogy. Jesus was both a “son of Abraham” and a “son of David” (Matthew 1:1).
(2) The second qualification for Israel’s king is that he must be divinely chosen (Deuteronomy 17:15). This is precisely the situation with Jesus. Initially, John the Baptist did not know for certain who the Messiah was (John 1:26-34). Jesus was divinely designated as the Messiah. Initially, this was done through the angel of the Lord, speaking to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23), and then later through the star and the testimony of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12). At His baptism, Jesus was divinely designated as the Messiah, Israel’s King, through the witness of the Spirit and of the Father and the designation of John the Baptist (Matthew 3).
(3) The third qualification has to do with the accumulation of things: horses, silver, gold, wives. Horses, silver, and gold are things which give one the false impression of power and control. Wives were often the seal of a political alliance. While it is not clearly stated in Deuteronomy 17, I believe that the king was to trust in God for military victory and not in “the arm of the flesh.”
A horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory is from the Lord (Proverbs 21:31).
1 Those who go down to Egypt for help are as good as dead,
those who rely on war horses, and trust in Egypt’s many chariots and in their many, many horsemen.
But they do not rely on the sovereign king of Israel and do not seek help from the Lord (Isaiah 31:1).
In addition, foreign wives would turn the heart of the king from God to other gods (Deuteronomy 17:17). This was certainly the case in the life of Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:1-8).
Our Lord could never be accused of accumulating anything. He did not accumulate money, nor clothes, nor houses, nor land. He had to be buried in a borrowed grave. Jesus had His trust in the Father alone. Jesus surely met this qualification regarding the accumulation of worldly goods.
(4) A fourth requirement was that the king was to write out for himself a copy of the law, which was always to be with him (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Since the king could not carry the law with him as he went about his daily affairs, and certainly not when he went to war, he could only have the law “with him” if he had it in his heart. Several qualifications emerged related to the Old Testament law. The king must observe “all the words of this instruction” (17:19). Furthermore, the king must not exalt himself above his fellow citizens, “turning from the commandment right or left” (17:20). I take it that this means the king must not see himself as “above the law,” and thus exempt from its requirements.
How obvious it is to Matthew that our Lord met these requirements! Jesus certainly “had the law with Him” in the wilderness. Each time He was tempted, He responded by quoting from the law. Jesus rejected Satan’s temptations because by doing as he suggested our Lord would have disobeyed the law.
All of this is to say that our Lord, and only our Lord, precisely fulfilled the requirements for Israel’s king as set down by God in Deuteronomy 17. Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
In the first temptation, Satan sought to prompt our Lord to act independently of the Father, and contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit, saving His life by commanding stones to become bread. Satan seems to have believed the saying, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” After forty days and nights in the wilderness without food, Jesus’ life seemed to be fading away. Following God’s leading seemed to be leading to our Lord’s death. Jesus had the power to convert stones into bread, so why should He not do so? Such was Satan’s reasoning.
Jesus knew better. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God told the Israelites that He was testing them in the wilderness to see what was in their hearts:
1 You must keep carefully the entire commandment I am giving you today so that you may live, multiply, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised to your ancestors. 2 Remember the whole way by which he has brought you these forty years through the desert so that he might, by humbling you, test to see whether deep within yourselves you would keep his commandments or not. 3 So he humbled you by making you hungry and feeding you with unfamiliar manna to make you understand that mankind cannot live by food alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).
In the closing chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses once again points out that true life comes from obedience to God’s Word:
46 He said to them, “Instill in your mind all the things I am testifying to you today, things you must command your children to observe, all the words of this law. 47 For this is no idle word for you—it is your life! By this word you will live a long time in the land you are about to cross the Jordan River to possess” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47).
God led the Israelites into a situation where they would be hungry and where they would thirst to see if they trusted in Him. God fed them in a miraculous way103 so that they would come to understand that life is much more than mere physical survival; life is found by trusting in God and obeying His every word. How, then, could our Lord fail to trust the God who had led Him into the wilderness, who had caused Him to hunger and perhaps to thirst? He must trust in God and not seek His own solutions.
The first temptation was about life and faith. Satan wanted our Lord to doubt God’s goodness and guidance, fearing that He might die if He trusted and obeyed the Father. Satan wanted the Lord to act independently of the Father, saving His life by making bread from stones. Jesus knew that true life came from trusting God’s Word; it came by faith.
Satan takes his cue from our Lord’s words. He learns that Jesus is committed to trusting in God’s Word. He sees that Jesus has entrusted His life into His Father’s hands. Satan now seeks to twist our Lord’s trust in the Father by tempting Him to act in a way that will put His Father to the test, all in the name of faith. We might paraphrase Satan’s second temptation in this way:
“So, you have entrusted your life to God, have you? That’s good. I can see that you really are a man of faith. I know that you have purposed to live by faith. I can also see that you have a deep respect for God’s Word. You trust in God and in His Word. That, too, is good. So let me call your attention to a Scripture of particular relevance:
11 For he will order his angels to protect you in all you do.
12 They will lift you up in their hands,
so you will not slip and fall on a stone (Psalm 91:11-12).
“This Scripture says exactly what you believe, that God will protect your life. I know you believe this passage and that you would stake your life on it, just as you have entrusted your life to God with regard to your hunger and thirst. You have every assurance that God will employ His angels to protect your life, so why not put your faith to the test? Why not show just how much you trust God and His Word by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple?”
Before we consider our Lord’s answer, let me point out that the setting has changed. Our Lord is not in the wilderness at this moment of testing. He is in Jerusalem, at the temple, on the pinnacle of the temple. I will not attempt to explain how our Lord got there, but I do believe that Jesus is actually there, in Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the temple. Otherwise, how could Satan challenge Jesus to jump?
The setting is very strategic to the temptation, in my opinion. Just as the wilderness and our Lord’s hunger was foundational to Satan’s solicitation to turn stone into bread, so Jerusalem and the temple are vitally important to Satan’s second temptation.
So what is the connection? In what way does Jerusalem and the temple serve to buttress or support Satan’s temptation? Bear with me here. In the first temptation, Satan was seeking to persuade Jesus that God was far off. He tried to convince Jesus that He would die because He had no food. Even today we call places like that wilderness “God forsaken.” In that “God forsaken” wilderness, Satan argued that our Lord would die unless He acted on His own to save Himself by making “stone bread”. Now, in the second temptation, Satan is not arguing that God is remote and that Jesus must therefore act on His own; Satan takes Jesus to the place where God has chosen to dwell. Over and over in the Old Testament law, God spoke of the place where God would choose to dwell. In time, we saw that this place was Jerusalem, and more specifically, the temple:
13 Certainly the Lord has chosen Zion;
he decided to make it his home.
14 He said, “This will be my resting place forever;
I will live here, for I have chosen it” (Psalm 132:13-14).104
Satan takes our Lord to the one place where God could not (in Satan’s mind, at least) be nearer to Him. If Satan could not prompt Jesus to act independently of God’s Word by thinking God had abandoned Him (in the wilderness), then Satan would try to prompt Jesus to act presumptuously, convinced that His Father was ever so near. How could God let Jesus fall to His death right there at the temple, in Jerusalem? Thus, Jerusalem and the temple were Satan’s props, which he believed would give credence to his assurance of divine deliverance.
As I was thinking about this passage and this temptation, it occurred to me that “angels” seem to play an important part in our Lord’s temptation. Satan himself is an angel, a fallen angel for sure. The text which Satan cites from Psalm 91 is about angels. God’s angels will protect the one whose trust is in Him. And when this period of testing and temptation is over, the angels are again involved:
Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs (Matthew 4:11).
“So what’s in this for Satan?” I asked myself. What does he hope to gain? I think it is safe to say that Satan believes he will prevail if he can somehow kill Jesus. This is what he will seek to do through Judas. Satan did not understand that our Lord’s death (and resurrection) would be his downfall. Jesus’ death, then, seems to be Satan’s victory. How, then, could Satan expect to kill Jesus?
Here’s where I climb way out to the end of the limb. I’m warning you, this is something you won’t find in any commentary – none that I’ve read at least. But it does make sense to me, as I think it did to Satan. Satan is a fallen angel, and he has at his beck and call a host of fallen angels who do his bidding. Satan cites a psalm that promises angelic protection for the one who trusts in God. Surely this promise of protection would apply to the Lord Jesus. So how does Satan think he can bring about our Lord’s death?
I was reminded of this text in Daniel that has to do with fallen and unfallen angels:
1 In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel (who was also called Belteshazzar). This message was true and concerned a great war. He understood the message and gained insight by the vision. 2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three whole weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine came to my lips, nor did I anoint myself with oil until the end of those three weeks. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month I was beside the great river, the Tigris. 5 I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen; around his waist was a belt made of gold from Upaz. 6 His body resembled yellow jasper, and his face was like lightning. His eyes were like blazing torches; his arms and feet had the gleam of polished bronze. His voice thundered forth like the sound of a large crowd. 7 Only I, Daniel, saw the vision; the men who were with me did not see it. On the contrary, they were overcome with fright and ran away to hide. 8 I alone was left to see this great vision. My strength drained from me, and my vigor dissipated; I was without energy. 9 I listened to his voice, and as I did so I fell into a trance-like sleep with my face to the ground. 10 Then a hand touched me and set me on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “Daniel, you are a treasured person. Understand the words that I am about to speak to you. So stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up shaking. 12 Then he said to me, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel, for from the very first day you applied your mind to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard. I have come in response to your words. 13 However, the prince of the kingdom of Persia was opposing me for twenty-one days. But Michael, one of the leading princes, came to help me, because I was left there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to enable you to understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to future days” (Daniel 10:1-14, emphasis mine).
Here it is, proof that Satan’s fallen angels can resist and oppose God’s angels, resulting in a delay. Did Satan thwart God’s purposes here? Not at all! Had the timing of the angel’s appearance been crucial, God could easily have employed various means of getting the angel there immediately. But from Satan’s point of view, he believed he was able to oppose God’s (unfallen) angels in such a way as to delay them.
Satan sits there on the pinnacle of the temple, looking down as much as several hundred feet (opinions as to just how many feet down it was may vary, but most all would agree that a fall from this height would have been fatal). I can see him looking at his stopwatch as he casts a stone over the side, timing its descent. Suppose that it took four seconds for the stone to make its descent. I believe Satan was convinced that if Jesus jumped and God’s angels attempted to come to His rescue, he and his angels could delay them just long enough to bring about Jesus’ death. Fanciful? Perhaps, but remember that Satan is a schemer, who seeks in any way possible to bring about our Lord’s death.
A very common explanation of this temptation goes something like this: The Jews expected the Messiah to appear in some very dramatic way. By leaping from the pinnacle of the temple and then being rescued in a spectacular manner, Jesus would fulfill Jewish expectations and thus convince those who witnessed this dramatic display of power that He was the Messiah. In other words, Satan was tempting Jesus to act in such a way as to gain a following by forcing God to save Him.
While there may be an element of truth in this explanation, I do not find it satisfying. Its basis comes not from the Bible, and certainly not from the context, but from a perception of Jewish messianic expectations in those days. I see the explanation being more simple and direct than that. In the first temptation, Jesus refused to save Himself because He trusted in God, and in His every word. Jesus knew from the law that life was far more than mere physical preservation. Life came from God, from trusting and obeying His Word. Picking up on Jesus’ response to the first temptation, Satan modifies his approach, tailoring his temptation to Jesus’ strengths.
Jesus did not fear physical death as the most dreaded possibility. Satan thus tempted Jesus to live dangerously. Jesus trusted in God’s every word. Satan calls Jesus’ attention to Psalm 91:11-12, which speaks of divine protection. Jesus proclaimed His faith in God. Satan challenges Jesus to put His faith to the test. From Satan’s grasp of what Jesus had already spoken, he felt that this temptation would be truly tempting: Jesus should prove His faith in God, and in God’s Word, by leaping from the pinnacle of the temple. If He was God’s Son, surely God would save Him, especially right there where God chose to abide, in His temple.
From the Book of Deuteronomy,105 Jesus knew that He, like Israel, was being tested in the wilderness. God was testing His Son, the Messiah, to see whether He would obey His commandments, as given in the law (see Deuteronomy 8:2). Jesus responded to Satan by citing a text from Deuteronomy 6:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah (Deuteronomy 6:16).
Just how did the Israelites “put the Lord to the test” at Massah? Let us take a look at that incident to see just how they “tested God.”
1 And all the community of the Israelites traveled on their journey from the Desert of Sin according to the instruction of the Lord, and they pitched camp in Rephidim. Now there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So the people strove with Moses, and they said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you strive with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and they murmured against Moses and said, “Why in the world did you bring us up out of Egypt—to kill us and our sons and our cattle with thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What will I do with this people?—a little more and they will stone me!” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go over before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your rod with which you struck the Nile and go. 6 I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in plain view of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the Israelites, and because of their testing the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7)
The Israelite’s situation was much like that of our Lord in the wilderness. They lacked water to drink. They failed to trust God and concluded that God had led them into the wilderness to kill them (Exodus 17:3). They were about to overthrow Moses, God’s appointed leader. Our Lord was now in the wilderness as well, and He lacked food (I’m not really sure whether He lacked water as well).106 Satan sought to convince Jesus that He was about to die. He challenged Jesus to act independently of the Father and create food (bread) from stones. Jesus refused to believe that God had led Him to the wilderness to die, but was willing to entrust Himself to the Father, in obedience to His Word. He believed that obedience to God’s Word was the deciding factor between life and death.
Now in the second temptation, Satan urged Jesus to put His faith and God’s Word to the test by leaping from the pinnacle of the temple. Satan’s use of Psalm 91 was a clear case of “Scripture twisting.” The psalm assures the one who trusts in God of divine protection, but from what? It assures the faithful believer of God’s protection from the attacks of those who are determined to destroy him:
1 As for you, the one who lives in the shelter of the Sovereign One,
and resides in the protective shadow of the mighty king—
2 I say this about the Lord, my shelter and my stronghold,
my God in whom I trust—
3 he will certainly rescue you from the snare of the hunter
and from the destructive plague.
4 He will shelter you with his wings;
you will find safety under his wings.
His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.
5 You need not fear the terrors of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
6 the plague that comes in the darkness,
or the disease that comes at noon.
7 Though a thousand may fall beside you,
and a multitude on your right side,
it will not reach you.
8 Certainly you will see it with your very own eyes—
you will see the wicked paid back.
9 For you have taken refuge in the Lord,
my shelter, the Sovereign One.
10 No harm will overtake you;
no illness will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you in all you do.
12 They will lift you up in their hands,
so you will not slip and fall on a stone.
13 You will subdue a lion and a snake;
you will trample underfoot a young lion and a serpent.
14 The Lord says, “Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he is loyal to me.
15 When he calls out to me, I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him honor.
16 I will satisfy him with long life,
and will let him see my salvation (Psalm 91:1-16).
This psalm promises protection from the destruction that others would bring on us. I am inclined to think that it assures the true believer that he or she will not undergo the outpouring of God’s wrath upon sinners (verses 3-7). The believer is protected, while others suffer (verse 7). In fact, the believer will look on as God’s wrath falls upon the wicked (verse 8). The righteous are protected because they have taken refuge in God (verses 9-10). God tasks His angels to watch over His own. They will intervene, even to the point of preventing one from stumbling and falling upon a stone. He will enable the saint to subdue dangerous foes. (Isn’t it interesting that God promises victory over the lion and the serpent, both of which are symbols of Satan? See 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 20:2.)
Satan seems to gloss over the fact that God’s protection is for those who are devoted to Him, who are loyal to Him. God’s protection is for those who trust and obey. Satan urges Jesus to step out on His own, out from under divine protection. Satan would have Jesus disobey Deuteronomy 6:16 by putting God to the test. I would suggest that Jesus could have refuted Satan by simply expounding Psalm 91, but instead He turned to Deuteronomy 6:16, which forbids men from “putting God to the test,” as the Israelites did at Massah. Satan’s temptation was, once again, deceptive. It was not our Lord who was putting His faith to the test; by following Satan’s suggestion, our Lord would have put God to the test, something no man is to do. God has every right to put our faith to the test; we have no right to put God to the test, especially in the manner Satan suggested. Testing God is not trusting God.
Let me make just one more observation. The assurance of Psalm 91 was that God would not allow His faithful one to stumble over a stone. That is a far cry from leaping from a great height. A stumble is a far cry from a leap.
Satan may have thought that this was a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation. If Jesus jumped from the temple and Satan was successful in hindering the angels who came to His rescue, then Jesus would be dead, and in Satan’s mind, it would all have been over. But if Jesus jumped from the temple and God used His angels to rescue Him, then Satan would have succeeded in prompting Jesus to act in a way that sets aside His submission to the will of the Father. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus emphasized that He did nothing on His own initiative, but rather He acted on the initiative of the Father:
28 Then Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me” (John 8:28).
42 Jesus replied, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come from God and am now here. I have not come on my own initiative, but he sent me” (John 8:42; see also John 5:20; 12:49; 14:10).
Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s will. He did not act or speak independently, but rather He said and did those things which were prompted by the Father. Satan’s fall resulted from his rebellion against God, so that he sought to elevate himself to a position equal with God (Isaiah 14:13-14). Satan also successfully tempted Eve and Adam to act in rebellion to God’s Word in order to be like God (Genesis 3:1-7). Every sin since the fall has involved rebellion against submission to God’s authority. Jesus alone has passed the test and has remained in submission to the will of the Father. Jesus refused to force the Father to act, by which He would have renounced His submission to the Father.
Our Lord’s victory over Satan’s schemes meant that He and He alone was qualified to die for our sins. Jesus would not put the Father to the test by leaping from the temple, but He would obey the Father by going to the cross. He knew that the Father would not keep Him from death, but that He would deliver Him through death, by raising Him from the dead.
What does this second temptation and our Lord’s response have to teach us? There are a number of lessons for us to learn.
First, we should learn that Satan will employ a wide range of tactics in his efforts to tempt us to sin. We should recall that there were many more temptations than just the three that Matthew and Luke have recorded (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). We should also note that the temptations did not end here:
So when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time (Luke 4:13).
If Satan does not succeed with one approach, we can expect that he will simply move on to another. With the first temptation, Satan seeks to attack our Lord at the point of his “weakness” – His hunger and waning physical strength. When this fails, Satan moves on to attack Jesus at the point of His strength – His trust in the Father and His commitment to obey God’s Word. Satan tests us in every point, as He did our Lord:
For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Second, Satan’s temptations almost always promise us some benefit, without really describing the cost. In the first temptation (really first, that of Adam and Eve), Satan promised Eve that they would be “like God, knowing good and evil.” He also promised her that they would surely not die. They did die, and the knowledge of good and evil that they obtained was no blessing. In Satan’s second temptation of our Lord, it seemed as though Jesus’ actions would have no negative repercussions and would produce only good. It was simply not true. As I have said before, sin is like the ride in an amusement part: the ride is short, and the price is high.
Third, the primary incentive for the first two temptations has been self-service. Satan sought to convince Jesus that He was about to die. He inferred that God’s leading was responsible, and thus appealed to Jesus to act independently of God (that is, in rebellion against God) in order to save Himself. The second temptation is similar. Self-seeking leads to rebellion and sin; submission leads to self-sacrifice and servanthood. Satan sought to entice our Lord to make God the Father His servant by forcing Him to come to His aid.
One of the most foolproof tests of our actions is to answer a very simple question: “Who is serving whom?” Am I trusting God and seeking to serve Him, or am I demanding that God serve me? Some evangelism fails the test here. Sometimes people are “tempted” to trust in Christ because of all that He can and will do for them. Some promise potential converts that God will make them happy, prosperous, and popular. That is not what Jesus said, nor is it what Paul preached:
25 Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. 30 They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ 31 Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to face the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions (Luke 14:25-33).
21 After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. 22 They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions” (Acts 14:21-22).
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11 as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all. 12 Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:10-12).
The Christian faith is not about us making God our servant; it is about us becoming His servants. The gospel should be presented honestly. As lost sinners, we are enemies of God, destined for God’s eternal wrath (hell). The work of Christ on the cross of Calvary can save us from our sins, but it does not promise us a life of comfort and ease. If we are faithful servants of Christ, we will suffer persecution. While we look forward to the blessings of heaven, there will be “suffering and groaning” in this life (Romans 8:18-25). There will be peace, joy, hope, faith, love, and much more, but there will also be suffering and adversity. Salvation is not about making God our servant, but about us becoming His servants.
Fourth, we should beware of the spectacular. If Satan was seeking to tempt our Lord to “bring on a spectacular rescue,” we should note that such a rescue would not have been a good thing. I believe that many Christians are attracted to (and enticed by) the spectacular because it has the appearance of success. God does work in a spectacular way at times, but not always. If God wishes to act in such a way, that is well and good. But we dare not seek to force Him to do so by reckless and foolish actions on our part. Elijah seems to have been overly concerned with the spectacular, such as the event on Mount Carmel. But God had to instruct this prophet that He often speaks in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:9-18).
Many foolish things have been done by Christians, who claim to be acting in faith, but who are really seeking to put God to the test. We purchase something we cannot afford, “trusting God to provide.” We make a foolish commitment, knowing that we do not have the means to fulfill it, thereby demanding God to intervene. Let us keep in mind that Satan’s “leap of faith” was really just “jumping to the wrong conclusion.” How often our acts of folly are labeled as acts of faith. Satan seems to take special pleasure in enticing us to sin by appealing to our “spiritual” side.
Fifth, we should learn a lesson in the use and the abuse of Scripture. Satan’s first temptation did not appeal to Scripture, but when our Lord refuted this temptation by quoting Scripture, Satan then resorted to using Scripture. Do not assume that just because someone quotes Scripture they are right. Satan is the master “Scripture twister.” First, we should be certain that our interpretation of any Scripture text conforms to the teaching of the Bible as a whole. Jesus refuted Satan’s use of Scripture by quoting another Scripture. One Scripture, rightly interpreted, will not contradict another Scripture. We should always seek to interpret Scripture with Scripture. Satan used the Scriptures, but only to validate his own error.
Note, too, that Satan’s error was one pertaining to the application of Scripture. Some of the greatest abuses of the Bible are found in the misapplication of the Bible. In Paul’s writings, the expression “God forbid” or “may it never be” (NET Bible renders it, “absolutely not!”) indicates a false application drawn from a proper premise:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2).
God’s Word is never a pretext for sin; it is a preventative for sin.
Finally, we should note that the very passage Satan used to promote sin is one that promises victory over Satan, sin, and judgment. This psalm promises eternal safety and blessing for the one who abides in the protective shadow of the almighty (Psalm 91:1-4f.). As I understand it, the psalm promises the true believer protection from divine judgment upon sinners. It did not promise that God will deliver every saint from danger or even death, but rather from divine wrath. It also assures the believer that God will not allow His enemies (and thus ours) to harm us in any way He did not intend for our good and His glory. In the final analysis, I believe this psalm assures the Messiah and His servants of victory over the arch enemy, Satan. In the life of our Lord, this psalm was not fulfilled by God delivering Jesus from death, but by delivering Him out of death by His resurrection. The very text that Satan misused to tempt our Lord was one that assured our Lord of victory over Satan, sin, and death.
Do you know the Savior, my friend? Do you have this kind of security? It is offered to all those who acknowledge their sin and place their trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. While Satan will always tempt you to sin, Jesus Christ calls you to turn from your sin to His salvation. Will you trust in Him?
100 This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 7 in the Studies in the Gospel of Matthew series prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on March 30, 2003.
101 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
102 “Ask for” is probably too bland; “demand” is more accurate, as we can see from 1 Samuel 8, and even Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 17:14. The Israelites wanted a king for all the wrong reasons. God had Moses warn the Israelites concerning the high price they would pay for having a king, but they would not listen. Even the best of Israel’s kings had their problems. There would be only one ideal king and that was Messiah.
103 Let us not forget that our Lord was personally involved in the testing of Israel in the wilderness. He was the One who provided the water for the thirsty Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).
104 See also Deuteronomy 12:11; 2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Kings 6:12-14; 14:21; Ezra 6:12; Nehemiah 1:9; Psalm 65:5; 68:16.
105 I would not want to say that Jesus knew this only from Deuteronomy, but this would have been a very primary source by which He would have understood and interpreted His wilderness experience.
106 A friend of mine reasons that since Moses went 40 days without food or water (Exodus 34:28), our Lord must have done without both as well. This may well be, but our text does not say so clearly.