Sometimes we are most tempted to sin after experiencing spiritual high points. Elijah’s hardest moment was after the victory of Mt. Carmel. We think, if we can just overcome the setbacks and get past the failures we will have great victory. Then that victory comes and nothing changes. The hearts of the people of Israel were no closer to repentance even after the prophets of Baal lay dead on the mountain and their idol completely discredited. That is when he became depressed.
And sometimes we think that the existence of temptation in our lives is itself a weakness or immaturity. But this is not the case. If you are not struggling with temptation to sin it is likely because you have capitulated to it. Jesus himself was tempted in every way that we are and yet was without sin. After his baptism, where God’s prophet, word, Spirit and voice all declared his value and worth and work, that very same Spirit fills Jesus and drives him into the wilderness for the purpose that he would be tempted by the devil.
Mat 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (4) But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (7) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (8) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (9) And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (10) Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (11) Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Having gone out by the Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus fasts for forty days and nights. This is an incredibly spiritual time. Turning from food and finding his joy in his communion in the presence of the Father. Seeing the opportunity of hunger Satan, the devil, comes to tempt Jesus. He questions God’s word. The last words Jesus heard spoken by the Father were “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” But now he is forty days hungry and thirsty and isolated. It does not seem as if he is the Son of God at all and especially that the Father is pleased with him. If those things were true, why would he be so hungry and needy. No, he is forgotten. Neglected by God. If he will have his own needs met, he will have to do it himself. “command these stones and command them to be loaves of bread.”
There is a lot at stake here. Israel had wandered hungry and thirsty in the wilderness for forty years and were unfaithful. Jesus has come to connect to them, to us, and bring us out of the wilderness through his obedience and faithfulness. He goes to the word of God, at the very point where his people had failed. They were hungry and they grumbled and God was teaching them that they needed him and his word more than they needed food. Jesus has learned the lesson and he stands on that truth. “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Satan is not easily deterred. If you will find strength and solace in the word of God then he will attempt to skew it’s truth. He would have you question God’s word and his character, just as he did with Eve in Eden. (5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (7) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Jesus restates the true teaching of Scripture rightly discerned. So the Devil moves to offer Jesus the end product without the cost. The end of the gospel is not merely forgiveness of sins, but through forgiveness of sins all things being redeemed and brought back under the good and righteous rule of King Jesus. The devil offers this to Jesus now, with a short cut. “No cruel cross. No shame. No pain. Just worship me.” This is of course a lie. Satan is the prince and the power of the air, temporarily, but this is God’s world. Worship of Satan would prove to be as fruitless as worshipping the golden calf or biting from the fruit forbidden by God.
Jesus does not give way to the deceitfulness of sin but again finds solace and strength in the word of God. Worship is reserved for God alone. His faithfulness has been displayed. He had succeeded where all others had failed. It would not be the end of temptation in his life but he has won the day. Resist the devil and he will flee from you, Scripture says, and the devil did leave Jesus. Then the angels came to minister to his needs.
May you find strength in the word of God today. Stand in it. Rightly divide it. Walk in it by faith and trust. Win the battle against temptation today.