After being baptized by John, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the same Holy Spirit that had descended upon Him. There is no doubt as to why the Holy Spirit led Him this way. It was for the sole purpose of being tempted by the devil. Because of the mention of 4 scriptures in this story, I include it in The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. Examining how Jesus quotes the scriptures will be insightful for the rest of our studies, even if the prophetic scriptures are not the subject here.
Let me say up front, this is true spiritual warfare. Jesus heads into the wilderness because the devil will be tempting Him. He goes without food for 40 days as a fast unto the LORD. Then the battle begins. Matthew includes this story, not to portray Jesus as a rabbi quoting the scriptures, but as the Son of God using the scriptures with power to defeat the devil. The quotation of scripture was not simply to reveal information, but to demonstrate power. The prophets had spoken long ago and many of these prophecies had been written down. Moses as a prophet had preached a series of sermons on the law before Israel entered into the promised land. These sermons are contained in the book of Deuteronomy and this is where Jesus quotes from three times. The truths contained therein were not for that generation only. Each time He quotes the scriptures Jesus states, “It is written,” with confidence. Jesus asserts the authority of these words as not merely spoken words, but written for the benefit of generations to come. Let’s examine the power of God through the written word.
By Every Word of God
Jesus has been fasting for 40 days. Throughout the law and prophets, fasting occurred at times of repentance, I Samuel 7:6, Nehemiah 9:1, humility, Psalm 35:13, 69:10, and seeking the LORD, Daniel 9:3 and Joel 2:12. Here the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to fast in preparation for His confrontation with the devil himself. It should be no surprise that the devil’s first temptation is for Jesus to break His fast. If Satan can get Jesus to break His fast, then His mind will be on fleshly things instead of spiritual things. The tempter appeals to His identity as the Son of God which makes Him able to produce bread from stones.
Jesus remembers how God provided bread in the wilderness for the Israelites. Yes, bread from heaven could happen and be within God’s will. However, what was the purpose for the provision of bread in the wilderness? Deuteronomy 8:2-3 holds the answer as to why God did what He did. First, God allowed the Israelites to come to a place where they were hungry and without food. In Exodus 16, it was not a sin for the Israelites to call out to God for food, but only in grumbling against Moses and Aaron did they sin. God wanted them to call upon Him in the midst of their hunger. The reason why God brought them to a place of hunger was for them to learn the lesson that they must depend upon God for everything. There is more to life than just eating bread. They were brought to a place of dependence upon God for eating each meal. This was to encourage them to look to Him for everything, food, water, clothing, and His Words for instruction. So when Moses preached, “Man does not live by bread only, but by every word of God,” this was a principle of establishing God’s Words and instructions as being more important than our physical food.
As Jesus quoted this scripture to the devil, He was essentially saying, “I don’t need to turn stones into bread, I have the Word of God.” How appropriate this scripture is for us today! In our culture in the United States, we are bombarded with advertisements for food constantly. Many of us are overweight and out of shape. We eat when we don’t need to and gluttony is still a sin. If we were to apply this scripture to our temptations we could overcome the devil and be more concerned with God’s Word than we are for our next meal.
Next the devil demonstrates a little supernatural power by carrying Jesus to the top of the temple setting Him upon a pinnacle. Then the devil quotes scripture by saying that Jesus could jump off the temple and be saved because the angels will rescue Him. The quotation is from Psalm 91 which talks about God’s protection over those that trust in the LORD. They have God as their refuge so no enemy can trap, terrorize, plague, or harm them. The devil takes the portion of verses 11-12 out of the context of the enemy coming at those that God protects. Only quoting that portion makes it seem like God will protect them in all circumstances. Instead of Jesus going back and giving a full exegesis of the passage, He pointedly puts His finger on the nature of the sin that would be committed if He yielded to the temptation.
Jesus remembered the words of Moses as he preached to the Israelites about an event that occurred in Exodus 17. Moses preached that they were not to test God and gave the bad example of when they tested Him at Massah. At that time, the children of Israel had no water to drink. Instead of asking God for water, or believing that He could provide the water, they took another approach. There are two statements recorded which show that the people were testing God, trying to get a reaction out of Him, rather than trusting God. The first statement is recorded in Exodus 17:2. They were making fun of Moses in saying, “Give us some water” when they knew he had no water to give. The second statement is in Exodus 17:7 where it is recorded that they tested God saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” They tried to get a reaction out of God by questioning whether or not God was really with them. Instead of trusting that He would provide, instead of remembering the manna, instead of remembering the plagues upon Egypt, they tested God. Is God really here? Or better yet, God has to prove Himself to us.
As Jesus quoted this scripture, He was essentially saying, “To jump off this pinnacle would be testing God and that is a sin which God commanded we shall not do.” Even though the sermon originally addressed a situation which pertained to the Israelites, this type of sin where people test God is quite common. It’s the attitude of “God has to do this because He promised.” This is dangerous thinking because it is a sin to test God. The devil prefaced his temptation with “If you are the Son of God,” making it seem like His Sonship needed to be tested. If God really delights in You so much, then of course He will protect You. Prove it by jumping off. Any type of action that would test God instead of trusting Him (whether He decides to protect or not) is a sin. In the midst of the health and wealth preachers, this scripture needs to be applied more often than it is. Trusting God whether He protects or not instead of testing Him to get a desired reaction is what God’s people need to do based on this scripture.
Worship the LORD thy God
The devil again uses the power at his disposal to take Jesus up to a mountain from which the devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of this world. I believe the devil supernaturally showed him everything – all the power, all the military might, all the influence that he possessed – and offered Him everything, every single place where the devil has any type of foothold, all offered to Christ in a moment of time. However, the devil isn’t going to just give up all of his power without expecting a little something in return. The temptation here is for Jesus to worship the devil. Now we can officially refer to him as Satan since Jesus reveals this as an alternate name in His rebuke. If Jesus will place Himself in a position of subservience to the devil, the devil will simply hand over the whole sinful realm over which he has dominion. The issue is that there is only one power that man should be in subservience to, and that is God. Jesus, as a man, is being tempted. He stands as the last Adam. Adam was created, was tempted, and fell into sin. Jesus took on the nature of man, was tempted, and defeated the devil by using the word of God with power. The nature of the temptation is essentially, you’ll gain all this if you will just compromise.
Jesus remembered the words of Moses as he preached to the Israelites about placing God first and foremost in all things. The first portion of worshipping the LORD is probably taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 which is the first commandment. The second portion may be further instruction from the prophet Samuel found in I Samuel 7:3 and 12:24. Perhaps Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 6:13 for both portions where fear would be the equivalent of worshipping. Either way, the underlying premise is “written” in the scriptures as an unwavering principle. The command is for us to worship God only and no one else or nothing else. We worship Him alone by placing Him first in all things. Then we serve Him alone which is how we pursue all things as we go through life. These two, worshipping and serving, are different but closely related.
As Jesus quoted this scriptural principle, He was essentially saying, “The command from God is for us to place God first in all things by worshipping Him. Then as we go through life, we serve God alone and no other cause or person.” While we don’t experience the temptation to bow down and worship the devil in the way that Jesus could have, the temptation for us to demote God is there quite often. Any time we have the opportunity to gain something or get ahead in a certain area but have to compromise our love for God, that’s a temptation from the devil. God must be first as we set aside our pride (which results in rude comments and hatred), our passion (which leads to lust), and our want for material things (which results in covetousness). Let us not worship the devil by moving God from His place of preeminence in our lives.
The overall picture portrayed by the Tax Collector is that Jesus submits Himself to John’s baptism to fulfill all righteousness. Then Jesus submits Himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to be tempted by the devil with three powerful temptations. As powerful as these temptations are, the Word of God is more powerful. Jesus demonstrates the power that the Word of God has over temptation to show us the path to victory over the devil. We should be prepared at all times to say audibly to the devil, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God and Him only you shall serve.’” It will be a short time later that the people will be astonished with the doctrine of Jesus because He teaches the scriptures with true power and not like the scribes, see Matthew 7:29. Preachers have a powerful weapon which should not remain sheathed.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman