So, let’s recap part one: We noted that
- Satan’s question is also the overriding issue that characterizes Matthew’s gospel.
- A lot of the imagery and themes in this story closely echo the events of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai and therefore Jesus proves himself to be ‘the new Israel.’
- Satan is wholly evil and therefore completely opposed to God, and yet Satan is one who is also (as unwittingly as he may be) complicit in and a part of God’s plan.
- He the conundrum: If Jesus uses his power, he disobeys and ruptures the trinity, if he refuses to compromise he remains obedient….but Satan seems to have hamstrung his sovereign power.
- The 1st Test.
I finished the last one by pointing our how hungry Jesus must had been; Matthew 4:3-7 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
So, let’s now look at Jesus’ response: 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Ok,, so the devil challenges or seeks to define Jesus’ sonship, against the words of God’s own mouth back during Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,1 with whom I am well pleased.”
So, Satan is really saying; “how can you be the Son of God if your so-called ‘Father’ lets you starve?” It is critical to remember that Jesus has not simply gotten lost. He wasn’t just driving his camel through the desert when his tom tom, or nav-man broke down. He was specifically led out there by the Spirit of God. Therefore; the issue being attacked here is God’s provision for his beloved in whatever or wherever he calls him to be.
Jesus’ first answer to Satan is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:2-5 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
But the trick is not to simply stop there because Deuteronomy is itself a summary of Israel’s history and the passage that Jesus quotes from references;
Numbers 11:1-6 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them. The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost– also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
So here Israel, failed the test of recognizing the Father’s provision.
Christ, in his response simultaneously remains obedient to the Father and proves his Sonship to Satan by doing the opposite; trusting God’s provision.
Isn’t that cool?
Satan must have thought “I think I’ve got him,” so he poses his meticulously conceived question, and then Christ comes in the back door and wham! Jesus’ response is really this: “it’s because I am the Son of God that I don’t even need to!”
Here’s what this is NOT.
This text not showing us how to resist temptations as if we could only just have enough faith, we could be impenetrable. Away with this legalistic rubbish.
What we see here is purely and only a divine response, and therefore, it tells us whom to fall on our knees and cry out to when we begin to question God’s providence.
When I panic, I need to look to Christ my savior who succeeds where I fail.
2. The second test
Satan is a fast learner.
He takes Jesus (whether physically, or by way of a vision) to a place where he may have more luck and then uses Jesus’ own formula against him. Matthew 4:5-6 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
In this question, Satan takes Jesus’ rebuttal concerning God’s providence and frames his next question around a very similar theme. Satan quotes Psalm 91:9-14 which is all about God’s protection of his beloved. Ever noticed how Satan is pretty good at stacking up a ‘biblical’ argument?
Anyway, this psalm talks about the most high as a dwelling place and Satan quotes it to Jesus from on top of where? The temple; the sign of God’s presence with Israel and where in 1 Kings 8, God makes his presence dwell.
Moreover the Psalm is specifically addressed to those who have ‘chosen to live in the shelter of the most high.’
Also, Satan tests the literal truth of God’s promise of protection therein (in other words, that God is present and mighty to save.) He deliberately creates a situation where God will be obliged to save his Son’s life. In this way, man may become the master of God and compel him to act through the power of his faith.” Thus; Jesus responds; Matthew 4:7 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Again Jesus answers this with Deuteronomy…
Deuteronomy 6:13-16 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.
Now Massah is referred to last in; Exodus 17:2-7 where Israel complained against Moses about not having any water, and Moses struck the rock and water poured out. The crux is really the last part of verse 7 where it says: Israel said “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Anyway, This dispute is over God’s presence. It really is the question isn’t it. Have you ever asked that question? I know I have.
Satan ups the ante in his quoting of scripture, Jesus matches it in his response; not only does he prove he is the beloved of God again by succeeding where Israel failed but as the beloved he carries the very presence of God, within himself.
Satan makes the most fundamental mistake when he fails to realize that God’s presence it is not an external thing and thus Satan’s is question exposed as superfluous. As the second member of the Trinity he is God. Satan’s question is finally exposed in its simplest form; a deception and Satan puts himself under even deeper judgment as he is, in his blindness, at this very moment, putting God to the test.
But hold the phone a minute, did you catch Satan’s mistake: He thought God’s presence was a purely external thing.
Worship leaders and musicians….are we listening?!?
But also, when you are at your Massah or Meribah and you’re asking the question “are you here God, or not?” I say it again, look to Christ, Because God’s very presence is in him and so are you. He is the new temple in him we (on one hand) and God (on the other hand) cleave and combine.
He is in you.
That I why Paul’s constant reference to being in Christ ‘en Christo’ is so important and beautiful. As the new temple, Christ has no closing time, no restricted areas, no dress standards, no sellers at the door, the curtain was torn by grace and we have unlimited access to the very heart of God, and Paul, he just explodes as he proclaims Galatians 2:20 20 it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,1 who loved me and gave himself for me.