If you’re thinking that this scenario is somewhat familiar and harkens back to the Garden of Eden you would be correct. In fact, this is a role Satan has played since the dawn of Creation. The synonymous names of Devil (the English equivalent to the Greek designation in the NT) and Satan (in the Hebrew of the OT) both mean “accuser” or “adversary”, reminding us of the courtroom scene in Job 1. Another name, Lucifer (Is. 14:11-15), means “light-bearer”. It stands to reason then that the adversary in the Garden, the adversary to God in Heaven, and the adversary in Jesus’ temptation would twist the “light-bearing” words of God to accomplish his goal. He was somewhat successful in Heaven (as Scripture notes some angels rebelled alongside him). He was successful in the Garden. But he was not successful in the desert.
Jesus’ temptation not only reminds us of the failure of Adam, but also the failure of Israel when they wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. While Satan’s temptation in the desert with Jesus are aimed directly at the role He would play as the Messiah, Jesus is faced with similar questions the Israelites failed to answer correctly on their journey to their future home. Who will provide you with food? Who will be your guide? Whom will you serve? Like Adam, the Israelites chose to believe the words of the Tester and acted accordingly. But Jesus answered differently. Satan’s crafty challenges are not based on doubt. Many translations read, “IF you are the Son of God…”. But they could also “SINCE You are the Son of God…”. The ultimate challenge then becomes whether or not Jesus will stay true to the course His Father has set for Him. And He does.
Matthew’s account of the temptation of Jesus includes a command the others do not (see Mt. 4:10), but they are echoed in James 4:7 signifying the power of God’s Word in any and every situation where we find ourselves tempted. As we see in this battle the devil is quite capable of quoting Scripture to make sin look even more plausible (2 Cor. 11:14). The Scripture is taken out of context and Jesus puts it into proper perspective with a quote of His own. Jesus, from the very beginning of His earthly ministry and up to its completion on the cross, is portrayed as the “more powerful One” standing guard over His Father’s plan and obedient to the Scripture itself. The use of Scripture to thwart the attacks of Satan is a significant point which James also speaks of in Js. 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”. There is nothing stronger at repelling temptation than the Word of God.
Temptation is a part of life. Most of the temptations will encounter are due to our own short-comings (Js. 1:13-14). But Scripture also reassures us that there is no temptation that we encounter which does not have a route of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). Peter warns that Satan’s attempts to pull us off-track are like a lion on the hunt (1 Pet. 5:8). If he can entice us to follow our own ways, the guilt and shame we will suffer as a result of recognizing our sin can make us ineffective and unproductive in the kingdom of God- something he does not want to see grow (Lk. 8:13). Jesus’ temptation demonstrates to us that we do not have to be weak and ineffective. We are not bound to fail every time we are tempted to stray from the life our Heavenly Father wants for and desires from us. Instead, we have a formidable weapon in the Word. Jesus understands this. He has been where we are (Heb. 2:18; 4:14-16). Therefore, if we are to follow His example, we should immerse ourselves in the Word (Ps. 119:105-112) and wield it as our first line of defense when temptation comes our way (Ps. 18:30; Eph. 6:10-11, 17; Heb. 4:12). Temptation is often a test of purity, much like a metallurgist uses heat to test the purity of gold and silver. If you’re immersed in God’s word, according to James, you’ll be able to take the heat (Js. 1:2-4). Jesus did- and so can you.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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