A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 4:5-7
Last week we looked at the first temptation Jesus faced in Matthew 4:1-4. Satan came to attack Jesus’s identity. “If you are the son of God . . .” Jesus had just received his Father’s loving approval at the Jordan River. He had been given the full measure of the Spirit to fulfill his ministry, and now surrounded by incredibly difficult circumstances Satan tries to make him doubt his sonship by questioning God’s word in this first temptation.
Though he suffered with weariness, and hunger Jesus knew this was God’s plan because this is where the Spirit led him. But Satan wanting to ruin God’s plan of redemption tempts Jesus to ignore his Father’s will and feed himself. “If you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. You’ve just spent forty days and nights fasting, and where’s the food your Father should be providing? If he hasn’t provided it for you then take care of this yourself. It’s perfectly legitimate to want food. You’re human and you can’t live without it. Surely the Lord doesn’t want you to go hungry.”
Satan attempts to get Jesus to fail as Adam failed by questioning God’s care. He is the God who can turn stones into the sons of Abraham and this is how he treats you? He provided manna for rebellious people in the wilderness, are you less than them? If you really are the son of God, prove it! Make this stone into bread.
Behind this deceitful counsel is Satan’s true motive; “You can be the son of God without having to suffer. You can have the crown without the cross.” All Jesus had to do was use the divine authority he had over nature and turn a stone into bread, but if he did his Father’s plan of redemption would be completely ruined.
Thankfully Jesus didn’t cave like Adam did. Adam, surrounded by the glory and abundance of Eden, gave in to the temptation to eat the food he didn’t need. But Jesus weary and hungry in the wilderness refused to eat the food he desperately needed. He did not allow his humanity to be an excuse for disobedience. Fully human and genuinely suffering he did not lose sight of his father’s will nor of the cross where he would suffer his greatest agony. Secure in his identity as God’s son he fought back with the greatest weapon of all – scripture. No debate, no discussion, just the will of God revealed in the word of God. “It is written…”
[Read Matthew 4:5-7]
Undeterred and having failed to tempt Jesus to use his divine powers to serve his own self-interests and rebel against his father’s will the devil immediately introduces another temptation that again attacks Jesus’ identity as God’s son. He takes Jesus to the Holy City, Jerusalem, and to a high point of the temple where he challenges Jesus to throw himself down.
Insidiously he uses Jesus’s own words and tactic by quoting Scripture; “It is written . . .” Satan then quotes Psalm 91:11-12, “For he will command his angels concerning you…On their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Satan is saying, “If you are the son of God prove it. Prove that God loves you.. Prove that he is watching over you. Prove that he cares for you. Throw yourself down!”
“You claim to be God’s son and you claim to trust his word so why don’t you demonstrate your sonship and prove his word by putting him to the test—a scriptural test! If you won’t use your own divine power to feed yourself, let your Father use his power to protect you. Why would he not?” You can almost hear the sarcasm dripping from Satan’s voice as he quotes Scripture to try and trap Jesus especially with this Psalm.
Satan taunts Jesus: “If you really are the son of God and you really dwell in the shelter of his wings you should never worry about pain, suffering, or not being protected by your Father.”
Satan uses Psalm 91, which is a powerful message addressed to every believer that they can “live in the shelter of the Most High, and abide in the shadow of the almighty.” It describes in vivid detail how God protects and cares for his people.
But the Devil’s use of Psalm 91 is to test God’s promise of protection by trying to create a situation in which he would be obligated to act to save his son’s life, and not one as a result of Jesus’ obedient service. By making his Father act to save him, Jesus in his humanity would in a sense act like he was Lord by compelling God to act. It would be as if God was there to serve the Son rather than the Son serving the will of his Father.
What I find strange in this passage is why would Jesus be tempted to “throw himself down?” What sane human being would be tempted to throw themselves off of the Washington Monument? Is he really tempted?
He is genuinely tempted, not to throw himself down, but to test the truthfulness of his Father’s word. He was already tempted to test his Father’s will to turn a stone into bread, and now he is truly tested here to see if his Father really cares for him.
Jesus knew the answer to that question. He knew why he had com— to be the suffering servant in order to be the Savior of the world. He knew he needed to trust his Father’s will no matter where it led, and it did not lead to the place Satan wanted him to go.
Even as he suffered these wilderness temptations and overcame them for our sake, his battle against the Devil did not end here. More temptations would follow.
Jesus needed to live by faith. He needed to trust and believe God’s word in the way the writer of Hebrews defines faith: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the evidence of things not yet seen.” Jesus didn’t need signs and wonders to test his Father’s care. He already had a word from his Father, a word which made signs and wonders unnecessary. Rather than bow to the temptation he responds with God’s Word and will in Matthew 4:7. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”
He uses Deuteronomy 6:16 in order to draw out the implications of such an act. It would be an attempt to put God to the test and demonstrate a lack of trust in his dependability. We are all too familiar with this temptation.
This is what Israel did at Massah in Exodus 17:1-7 where their thirst in the wilderness drove them to demand a miraculous provision of water, provoking Moses to respond, “Why do you test the Lord?” And he called the place Massah because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” “How can he be present among us when there is no water?”
The temptation Jesus faced was very similar. “Why would he not protect you? You’re his Son. He’ll prove his love is real if he does this miracle.”
We are all tempted to test God, especially when we’re in a wilderness of suffering, and weakness. We ask the same questions; “Lord, you say in Hebrews 13:5 that you would never leave me nor forsake me, where are you in this worst moment of my life?” “You say in Philippians 4:19 you will ‘supply all my needs,’ well, I don’t see them.” And just like Israel at Massah we doubt his care in our sufferings and demand a sign to prove his love. “I’ll know you really care for me if you . . .” Some of us long for healing for our children. For others for a restored marriage. Perhaps you face significant needs. Maybe you have a wayward child or a rebellious family member. You may fear contracting sickness or the outcome of the current election. We can look at any of these circumstances and want to test God: “God, I will know you love me if you do this for me.”
Jesus, in resisting this temptation shows a trust that readily accepts God’s will for his life, whatever it brings upon him because he came to suffer and die on a cross.
Did God rescue him at the cross in a miraculous way? No. The way of the cross was to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. It was the way of suffering learned here in the wilderness. He learned in these temptations to trust completely in his Father’s will and not demand or complain, “This is too hard!”
Psalm 91 was more real to Jesus than the Devil could ever know. He knew his Father would keep him as he remained obedient to the Father’s will. He knew the Father’s love would still be real in the midst of suffering, judgment, wrath, and death by remaining obedient to the father’s will especially when he was tempted to come down from the cross. Matthew 27:40.
When Jesus hung on the cross and those who passed by taunted him saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40), Jesus experienced the promises of Psalm 91, not by jumping down, but by having an unshakeable belief that according to his Father’s word he was in the shelter of the Most High. He knew he had no reason to test his Father because he was secure in his Father’s word. And so are we if we are in Christ, because Jesus never forgot his Father’s words: “You are my beloved Son.”
He has said the very same to us, “You are my beloved children.” John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John again writes in 1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”
Trials do bring temptations, but we abide in the shadow of the Almighty, and we do not face them alone. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Jesus assumed our humanity that he might suffer for our sake by living a life we could not live, dying our death, and winning a victory over the Devil, not for himself but for us who are now united to him by his righteousness. He came to this fight to rescue us, and to make us aware we have to fight as well.
We have a real enemy who is evil, dark, the ruler of this world, and who is hell-bent on our destruction as he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). We must take his reality seriously and know how to battle him wisely never underestimating his power or hatred.
Jesus came for us, lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, rose from dead for us, and will return for us, but we must not miss in this passage that he was also tempted for us and overcame Satan for us that we might stand against this powerful enemy who is intent on our destruction.
Like Jesus, “It is written” is our greatest weapon. God’s word affirms our identity in Christ, and our ultimate victory over the evil one. Thanks be to God.
Song of Response
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays