As I began this year, I wanted to take a more direct approach to my Bible reading in a way I haven’t done in previous years. Many of you may know the impact the books of wisdom have had on me; especially in recent months. The Book of Psalms in particular has been life to my weary soul and a breath of fresh air. I wanted to keep dipping my toe, nay my whole body into those verses in 2023. And I felt a green light from the Lord saying, “Go ahead, do it!”
I also was impressed to read through the Gospels this year: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For some reason, the accounts surrounding Christ had a new draw. Even though I’m often in those books, the emphasis on going slow and only reading a few verses each day drew me in.
So as I start this year, reading Psalms and beginning Matthew, God has been speaking. And from much of that study, I formulate what eventually makes its way into blogs, podcasts, devotionals and so on. The story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4 has had an especially profound impact as I spent some time in these verses in January. I sensed the need to expound upon what’s going on and the takeaways we can have. We learn something about Jesus certainly. We learn how he dealt with temptation as he literally went toe to toe with Satan. And we can learn about ourselves as well and how we can model our response after Christ’s.
Today’s blog focuses on the passage of Matthew 4:1-11. The points that follow focus on both Satan and Jesus: 2 are about what Satan tries to do in tempting us and 2 are about what Jesus does as He responds to the tempter. I’d encourage you to have a Bible handy and ready as we dive in but for sake of discussion, here is the passage in its entirety:
1 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,’
“‘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.
1. Satan tempts us when we are weak
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. Matthew 4:2
This first point should come as no surprise but we often forget just how real this is in our lives. Obviously, Jesus had just fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness. He would have been hungry after this time and most likely, tired as well. If ever there was an opportunity to exploit His humanness, the Devil believed this was it. If the Son of Man had any vulnerabilities, this would be the moment to strike; to go in for the kill. Satan lays the trap and repeatedly tests the Lord. Jesus doesn’t take the bait.
I believe temptations readily come at 2 points in our lives: when we’re at the pinnacle of success and when we’re in the pit looking for a remedy. That second one (being in the pit) is often the moment we’re tired and weak and open to the voice of temptation. It can be subtle, it can be just a small thing…a tiny short-cut in life. But Satan waits until the opportune moment to come and whisper “Hey, wouldn’t be easier if you just did this…wouldn’t you be happier over there…???”. It’s so easy to fall victim but, as we’ll see further, Jesus knows the way to stand firm despite being tired. It’s available to us as well.
2. Satan tempts us to doubt God’s best/God’s design
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8,9
Satan loves to insert doubt into the minds of the believer. It’s been his plan ever since the fall and his temptation of Adam and Eve: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) In each of the 3 temptations, Satan is trying to get Jesus to do something outside of God’s plan. Jesus already had dominion over the kingdoms of the world; why would Satan then offer them to Him? It was in exchange for Jesus to worship Satan.
When Satan inserts doubt, he’s really appealing to our own sense of control over our lives. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are admitting we don’t know what is best. We don’t have it all figured out. We’re messed up, flawed human beings. Before Christ, we didn’t even know the extent of our separation from God. With Christ, we know we have fellowship once again. But the Devil wants us to forget our new identity and by default, fall back into old ways of thinking.
3. Jesus refutes Satan with the truth — God’s word
But He answered, “It is written…” Matthew 4:4
The Enemy thinks he can use Scripture to take down the Son of God. But Jesus refutes him each time. How? By quoting Scripture. In reality, Satan is using Scripture as a means to justify the things he’s asking Christ to do. It’s clear he knows what is in the Bible (side note: we need to know Scripture well in order to discern lies and half-truths). But each time Satan brings a temptation, Jesus is quick to say “It is written…” Ultimately the lies don’t have their effect and Satan has to flee.
What about us? It’s clear that if Jesus used the word to stay free of sin we must also. All the more so. Having just finished a study on the Armor Of God in my AS BOLD AS LIONS podcast last month, I’m convinced the word is our sword and weapon against the Enemy. We must not be content with only a little knowledge here or there to keep our noses clean. No, we must be in it daily and have a desire to know His truth so we can recognize fakes and counterfeits. Each temptation Christ faced clearly had no validity when considering the whole of Scripture. We must understand the word in order to wield it as a sword.
4. Jesus points us to worship only the Lord
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.’” Matthew 4:10
This is one of my favorite rebukes of Jesus in the entire Gospel account: Be gone, Satan! How many of us need to have this phrase ready whenever we face temptation? I know I do. Not only does Jesus cast Satan away, He does so with the truth: You shall worship the Lord only…Him only shall you serve. No other gods. No other “truth.” When tempted to worship Satan, Jesus in essence says “Nope, God is the only One Who deserves worship.” And considering Satan’s fall from heaven (a sin of pride), he has wanted men to worship and bow before him instead of finding the Lord.
Think about what would happen if we truly worshipped the Lord only. What would happen in our homes, families, communities, churches, jobs, and schools? It would be a turning point for many, as the search for self-worth and self-fulfillment turns from within ourselves to something outside ourselves — the Heavenly Father. This is what Satan hopes an unbelieving world never finds out. This is also what he hopes most Christians never fully grasp or understand: God is worthy of worship and praise. He alone deserves the glory.
So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10,11
Here’s the reality: at one point everyone will have to acknowledge and give glory to God the Father. Even the Devil knows this and he will have to bow as well. He knows his time is short. He knows what the future ultimately holds for him. But his goal is to deceive and lead many astray in the time that he has. The truth has not been hidden; it is in plain sight for those who choose to hear it, follow, and obey.
What I take from this passage and what I hope impresses you as well is this: we have the means to avoid temptation in the way that Christ did. He showed us how to defeat the Enemy. God’s word is a powerful tool. Further, we must know the situations in which Satan tries to attack. How do we avoid them, how do we lessen their impact in our lives…in short, how do we steer clear of giving the Devil an opportunity to come against us?
Guys this study has hit home for me as I’ve gone into 2023. I hope it resonates with you as well and as always, I’d love to hear from you. How can I pray for you? We need each other in these days.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17