Last week I looked at the account of the creation and fall of man, specifically how Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan. We are supposed to view things through the filter of Scripture, aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and having finished Sense and Sensuality byRavi Zacharias, I wanted to examine a statement he made.
“There are three inclinations Satan appeals to and three steps in every temptation. In understanding this, you’ll see the distortion. The evil one appeals to three basic hungers – food, power and pleasure. He wants all of these met autonomously. He demands the miracle for the wrong reason. He calls upon God for the wrong motive. He offers the world but it isn’t his to give. The hungers are all misdirected.
In falling for that temptation, you exalt power to meet your need rather than surrender in humility to God’s will. This is the way the tempter takes away your humanity and supplants it with the illusion of omnipotence. He takes away the soul and leaves you with the body.”
These items represent the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. This week I am going to look at Jesus temptation in the wilderness, and see how this compares.
In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Bible states:
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’3 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?””
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
The first thing I notice is this fast of Jesus, occurred just after He was baptized by the Holy Spirit in the Jordan. The thing Jesus initially did, being led by the Holy Spirit is to seek God in a time of prayer and fasting before starting his ministry. When God gives you clarity, and reveals purpose for you, what is the first thing you start with? Do you seek God to get direction from Him, waiting to hear from Him? Do you simply come up with your own plan and go out in your own ability?
Forty days is significant in the bible and it often symbolizes preparation and comes with testing. Moses was on Mount Sinai twice for forty days as he was seeking God during times of preparation. Genesis records this account for the first time in Chapter 24:
18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
and for the second time in chapter 34:
28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
There are other events as well. Moses sent spies into the promised land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25, 14:34). Jonah warned Nineveh for 40 days. Ezekiel laid on his side for 40 days (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went to Mount Horeb for 40 days(1 Kings 19:8). We are going to look at Jesus forty days in the wilderness as our focus.
Now Jesus had been seeking God in a time of prayer and fasting for 40 days, and the devil went first after his physical needs. He said to Jesus “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” He did the same thing in the garden, posing a question in an attempt to distort the truth, when he said “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
I find it interesting that on these two specific accounts Satan went after the physical need of food. The thing I notice is in both accounts, the food was more than just nourishment. For Adam and Eve it was about reliance on God as well. God provided for them to eat but he also established a covenant with them through His clear instruction and purpose that God intended for them. He also laid out the consequences for failing to obey. Satan was able to mislead Adam and Eve in their fleshly need, bringing about the fall of mankind.
For Jesus it was a time of deliberately seeking God and bringing the plan of redemption to God’s people. Jesus was hungry, as He had been fasting for 40 days. But Jesus knew that God would take care of the hunger, and God’s will was much more important than any stomach pains He may have been experiencing. He responded by saying that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.“
When God created Man, He knew we had more than physical needs. One of these needs is instruction. God knows that without Him and His word we would fall into depravity. Think of what society would look like without rules, without any sense of Morality? Would it be better to die physically or to die spiritually? We did not come to life until God breathed into us. Our bodies are flesh and bone, but our existence is eternal. If our bodies are temporary as God’s says and our true existence is heavenly, how much worse is spiritual death which is hell? Jesus responded to Satan knowing full well we have physical needs, but those are nothing compared to our need for God. For when our flesh dies, we will no longer be bound by the earth but live eternally. This eternity will be either with God or apart from God.
The next temptation also came with an attempt to manipulate the word of God, as he brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said “If You are the Son of God”, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up”, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Satan was challenging death”, and testing Jesus faith. Go ahead and prove it. Do you really believe what you are telling me? Deceit can be deadly when not contrasted against the truth, so Jesus responded again with truth, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Satan brought Jesus to the very place where God’s people came to seek Him and to offer their sacrifice’s to God. The place where they needed to humble themselves and declare their sinfulness before God. And where God commanded them to perform the sacrificial rites to deal with their sin. Jesus knew His death was necessary, but not just His death, His living God’s law completely and without blame. He knew the Fathers plan for redemption and chose to live according to the will of the Father even unto death. He told Satan, I will not tempt Him.
I also see his refute to Satan. Jesus being fully divine now gave Satan a declaration of truth. The truth of His authority. Do not tempt me Satan. Do not tempt the Lord your God. But also in the sense of the Holy Spirit, as we are to be led by the Holy Spirit. God’s plan laid out, following the path that He has set before us. I will not alter the path I must take. Do not tempt the Lord your God.
Lastly Satan brought Jesus to an exceedingly high mountain. This was an attempt to appeal to power and his efforts to let Jesus see what he could obtain. Not only power but pleasure, for imagine the pleasures of life it was under your command. Without God we would fall so far, that we would perish in our attempts to live as we desire. Attempting to fill ourselves with whatever we wanted. He showed Jesus not only Jerusalem, but the expanses surrounding it, everything as far as the eye can see. He was telling Jesus this is mine and I will give it all to you, if only you will submit to me. Satan said “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” This time Jesus responded with great authority, and commanded Satan “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Jesus said I am done with this cunning of yours. I came here with a purpose, and that is to bring God’s plan to completion. To fulfill the prophecies of old, to fulfill the law and to give us the hope of God’s eternal kingdom. The thing Satan offered Jesus, the world, was perishing. Not only is it going to pass away, but it is not Satan’s to give away. God holds the universe in His hands, and as the words of Jesus state in Romans 14:11:
“As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”
Everyone of us lives in a body that is dying. Yet God tells us to lay down the desires of the flesh. To trust in the hope that God has put in us. Everything that was offered to Adam and Eve, and again to Jesus, was an appeal to our mortality and the desires God put in us, that were intended to be met by Him. Adam and Eve attempted to take things into there own hands and fell into temptation. Jesus said no, God will take care of everything. There was no temptation that could ever give us what God can give us. And not only what God can give us, but what He has given us. And finally everything He promises to give us. We will all be accountable to God, when our body fades and we enter into eternity. Choose this day whom you will serve.
Father, Your Word declares truth. It is the truth for which we are to live and the truth of what is to come. Jesus came in the flesh to pay for our sin. He took your wrath upon Him, so we would not have to bear Your wrath. He died so we may live. He rose from the grave that we may lay hold to the promise of eternal life. That Your Word did not fall empty but is eternal and never perishes. You alone are Lord, and to you alone we submit our lives. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Be our fortress and a lamp unto our feet. Show us Your way. In Jesus name, amen.