Deuteronomy 6:10-19; Matthew 4:8-10 (text)
January 11, 2014 • KSYC 103.9FM (Yreka) • Download this article (PDF)
The temptation of Jesus is a good example of how a Christian is able to avoid sin. The Holy Spirit led him up to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God never tempts anyone to sin (Jas 1:13). But he tested his Son so he would fulfill all that the Law and the Prophets prophesied about him, and to be able to be like us in every respect. He was fully qualified to be our Savior because in his full humanity, he experienced all the weaknesses, sufferings and temptations that we also experience in this life, but did not sin.
Because he was well-acquainted with the Scriptures, he used them to overcome the devil’s lies. He answered each of the three temptations with these opening words, “It is written…” The word of God is the Truth that exposes Satan’s lies, deceptions, and twisting of God’s word.
All throughout Biblical history, the devil attempted to destroy God’s people—from Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, to Israel—through violence, lies and deceptions. Finally, when Jesus arrived, he tried to kill Jesus soon after his birth. And here in the wilderness, he tried to destroy him and his mission to save his people from sin by tempting him to sin.
So the temptation of Jesus is important not only as an example for us to follow when we confront sin, but more significantly, it shows us both the person and mission of Jesus. The devil then challenged both these aspects of the life of Jesus.
Satan’s lies were almost identical to the lies he told Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…”? In three ways, the devil also challenged the humanity and divinity of Jesus.
“Are You Really the Almighty Creator?” As he fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus was also “being tempted” by the devil during the entire period.
After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was hungry, thirsty and tired. Though the full attributes of his divine nature remained in him, here, the full human experience of Jesus is evidenced by his physical limitations.
So the devil, being the “slanderer” and the “accuser” of God’s people, knew at that time what the most effective weapon against Jesus would be: food. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Obviously, Satan knew that Jesus is really the Son of God, so this is better translated as, “Since you are the Son of God…” “Since you are God’s Son, by whose word the world was created, prove it! You haven’t eaten a morsel for the last 40 days, why don’t you just create bread?”
Jesus refused to be deceived by the devil into using his divine power of creation. With one word, he created the heavens and the earth. What is a few pieces of bread for him? We know that as Creator, he multiplied five loaves of bread into thousands to feed 5,000 people.
His response to this first temptation, just as he responded to the next two, was God’s word from Deuteronomy hidden in his heart, each quotation related to Israel’s wilderness experience. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deu 8:3). Such was Jesus’ response to the devil: he trusted that God would supply all his needs. If he doubted God’s providential promises in his word, he would have fallen victim to Satan’s lies.
Life is much more than food, clothing and a roof over your head. Life is about trusting and obeying the word of God, even in times of testing. Jesus was ready for the second test.
“Are You Really the Christ, the Son of God?”: Failing the first time, the devil has a Plan B. He takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. Then he tries to corner Jesus into jumping off the temple and challenging him to call the angels in heaven to save him from sure death (Psa 91:11–12).
Jesus knew the devil was blatantly twisting Scripture for his own wicked motive. Satan was provoking Jesus to think that if God really loved him as his only-begotten Son, then his Father would surely save him from certain death on the valley floor. So Jesus replies with the truth, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deu 6:16). If Jesus surrendered to the devil’s manipulations, he would have violated God’s word. He would have in effect doubted God’s love for him.
Many false teachers today put God to the test. They say, “Test God. Give all your money, because the Bible says that God will give you twofold or threefold.” What blatant manipulation of God! What blasphemy!
Many people today put their trust in signs and wonders. They want to see spectacular healings, speaking in tongues, slaying in the spirit, and such other things to believe. But faith is about knowing, believing and trusting God and in his promises in his word, not about signs and wonders. Jesus would have none of today’s deceptions by false teachers.
Satan failed to seduce Jesus into proving that he is the Almighty Creator. Again, he failed to manipulate Jesus into testing God’s love for him as the Son of God. But the devil did not give up. He had to try to deceive Jesus one last time.
“Are You Really the King of the Universe?”: In this last temptation, the devil challenged Jesus’ kingship. Satan took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, possibly a vision of the whole world “in a moment of time.” Then he claimed ownership of all these kingdoms, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will” (Luke 4:6). As before, in the Garden of Eden, the devil was saying half-truths.
In one sense, Satan was right that he had authority over the kingdoms of the world. He is described as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:3; 14:30), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). The devil is described as having power, a throne and “great authority” (Rev 13:2). But his claim is a half-truth, because his power and authority are not over the whole world, but only over the unbelieving, rebellious world. The citizens of his kingdom are only the ungodly and unrighteous. He has no authority over the citizens of God’s kingdom. And he can only act according to what God allows him to do.
Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At his resurrection, all authority in heaven and on earth had been delivered to him. The Father installed him as the King of Zion and as his Son, and promised to make the nations his heritage and possession. He will break all of Satan’s kingdoms into pieces and rule them with an iron rod (Psa 2:6-9). And all the rebellious kings and nations who will not pay homage to him will be destroyed by the fire of his wrath and by the sword coming from his mouth.
Because Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), what he was offering to Jesus was not his to offer; he was offering the kingdoms of this world to the King of the Universe. He was again enticing Jesus to make a shortcut to establishing the future Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God will not be founded on the worship of the devil, but on the suffering and death of Christ as our sacrificial Lamb of God.
Again, Jesus replies with God’s word, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Deu 6:13). At this last rebuke from Jesus, the devil left. But although defeated and conquered, he still prowls among believers, lying and deceiving as he goes, trying to tempt us into disobedience, ungodliness, and unrighteousness.
Dear Friends: Do not let the devil tempt you into sin. He uses many false teachers in the churches today to deceive you. The gods of this world today are the lies of pluralism, relativism, universalism, prosperity gospel, and Gnosticism, which are also prevalent in many evangelical churches.
Do not be deceived! Your greatest enemies are not false religions or atheists. The greatest enemies are in the churches, those who are wolves in shepherds’ clothing. They are the ones being used by Satan in deceiving the churches. And how do you overcome the devil’s lies and deceptions? By reading, studying and meditating the word of God with prayer and with the sword of the Spirit. By hearing the preaching of the true gospel every Lord’s Day.
LET US PRAY: Almighty and merciful God of the Universe, we worship you and give you thanks for helping us overcome Satan’s temptations and deceptions. In our daily interaction with the world, we are surrounded by sin and temptations, enticing us to its idols of materialism, power and pleasures. Help us to regularly read your Word and pray that we may overcome our enemy with the sword of your Spirit. Through Jesus’ name. Amen.