In the next few weeks, we will spend our Mondays looking at the three temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:2-11. We will briefly study the elements of the temptations and also apply what we learn to our own lives. The temptations are rich with application.
In this first temptation we are faced with the foundational question: what is a temptation? A temptation is a test designed to cause the one tested to stray from the Word of God. In this first temptation, and in the other temptations, this was Satan’s goal: make Jesus wander from the Word of God.
The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of His being tempted of the devil (4:1). The devil tempted Jesus saying, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Jesus was hungry; He was famished, not having eaten for forty days and forty nights. This is the context.
What are the elements of this temptation? First, Satan tried to deceive Jesus that the mark of true Sonship was not obedience to the will of the Father, but only the ability to perform a miracle. This was a part of the test: if Jesus could truly turn stones into bread, then the devil would know He is the Son of God. The temptation was this: Jesus could leave the difficult path to the cross, that way full of suffering and tears, and be the Son of God by being a miracle worker.
Here we have the general truth that Satan masks the horrible consequences of sin with a supposed “good.” The consequences of Jesus making stones into bread would have been His leaving the path of obedience to the will of His Father–the cross. Just so, the devil may tempt us in this way. You are sitting at your desk, taking the ACT. You know your score will not be very high, especially in the science section. Jonathan, to your left, is good at science. Perhaps he would not notice if you took some answers from his sheet. The good in it all is a better ACT score, and cheaper college tuition. This is what Satan holds in front of your mind. But the consequences for cheating – possibly being caught, and the guilty conscience resulting from it – are severe. In tempting us, Satan masks the sin and the consequences of sin with a supposed good. How do you see this in your own life?
The second element of the temptation is that Satan wanted Jesus to trust in Himself to supply for His needs, instead of depending on the Father. This was the devil’s temptation: your Father is not providing for you, so you must provide for yourself.
That this is the devil’s intent is clear from Jesus’ answer to the temptation to turn stones into bread: man shall live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (vs. 4). Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy. The point of God’s Word in Deuteronomy is that the people of Israel were made to depend upon and trust in God when their normal means of support were taken away in the wilderness wanderings. They were caused to hunger, so that they might rely upon God. They were caused to trust in God, to live by His Word, by which Word came manna from heaven.
What we learn is that Satan comes to us in our weakest hour. He knows when we are weak. Sometimes we are weak when we think we are strong. Satan’s prime time to attack is when a man is riding the wave of success – from all appearances he is strong. And in the man’s strength, that is, in his reliance upon human strength, he falls. Do you and I feel confident in our strength? Beware! We are at that point vulnerable to the devil!
Often, Satan attacks when we know we are at our weakest point. This can happen when we are physically frail or sick, just like Jesus was physically hungry, or when we are emotionally unstable. It is during those times that we are spiritually weak. Our trust in and dependence upon God wanes. We question His care for us. Are you weak physically, emotionally, or spiritually? Pray to God, for the devil goes about as a roaring lion, and he knows that weakness makes easy prey.
Next time, we will finish our consideration of the first temptation by looking at more of its elements, and making some more applications.