One of the most powerful anecdotes in the Bible of how God communicates with man is found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. You and I would know it as the wilderness temptation. Jesus, is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. After forty days, Jesus became hungry. He was fasting. Then, at His weakest moment, the tempter came to tempt Him with three different temptations we humans face.
The tempter goes to work on his first temptation. He exploits Jesus’ current predicament. Jesus had a physical need. Jesus was hungry.
The tempter said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3. The tempter told the truth. Jesus could have turned the stones into bread. However, as the Son of Man, Jesus only did what the Father said to do.
Notice Jesus’ response to the tempter, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word [RHEMA or utterance from God] that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Deuteronomy 8:3.
God enlightened Jesus to respond to the tempter and the temptation with a Bible verse.
Just because someone tells you the truth, it doesn’t necessarily mean God is in it.
The temptation was to let hunger lead Him. Instead of physical bread, God gave Jesus spiritual bread to overcome temptations and the tempter. The lesson to Jesus and us from this encounter is, “I’m not moved by what I feel, I’m only moved by the Word that’s real.”
Now comes the second temptation. Satan took Jesus into the holy city, into the temple, and to the top of the temple. Satan quoted parts of Psalm 91:11-12. He was trying to appeal to Jesus’ desire to obey the bible and to fulfill religious requirements. Most all Christians fall for this at one time or another.
“…for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning you; And on their hands, they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Matthew 4:6. The tempter told Jesus, “You can jump right of this high building and God will rescue you. See, it’s in the Bible.” However, this verse was specifically for Israel back in the Psalm 91 days. It wasn’t a verse for everyone to use for all time, all the time. A text, out of context, is pretext.
Out of God’s mouth came the answer to the temptation.
God spoke truth with light to a listening Jesus from another verse in the Bible, Deuteronomy 6:16. Jesus responded, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Where did Jesus get that verse? It was spiritual bread right from the mouth of God. Jesus heard the voice of God. That’s how humans were meant to live, especially is temptations and trials.
Now, the third temptation.
The tempter took Jesus to a very high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. The tempter would give Jesus all these kingdoms riches and glory if Jesus would fall and worship him. The tempter spoke truth. The world and all its riches had been handed over to him by Adam after Adam’s fall. The tempter could give it to whomever he wanted.
The tempter attacks Jesus’ identity. The tempter played on Jesus’ (and our) need for significance and acceptance. Jesus could be the center of attention, find a place to shine, be worshiped and adulated. He could sing, “I am, I cried.” Many are falling for this one right now. “It’s all about me…worship me.” Using their God-given gift or talents to be the center of attention, to be worshiped and become rich and famous.
Whose voice was Jesus going to listen to, God’s or the tempter’s? “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Deuteronomy 6:13. Notice three times, in three different temptations, Jesus lived by hearing God first before He did anything. That’s for us too.
Matthew 4:11 concludes this ‘transformational’ lesson for us.
“Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him” God had Jesus’ back the whole time. The same is true for us. God’s got our back if we will listen and say, “It is written.”
And this, dear readers, is how Jesus, the Living Word, lived the word by living the word. With God’s help, you can too.
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