Todays readings.. Genesis 3&4, Psalm 3,4&5, Matthew 3&4
Our New Testament reading in Matthew 4 leads us to encounter the word DEVIL for the first time in the Bible. There is special significance in the way this account starts. The first verse tells us, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” [v.1] So the temptation was initiated by God’s Spirit! We must understand the reason.
The particular lesson for us is in the way Jesus resists temptation by quoting scripture. The temptations challenged him to use, for his own benefit, the power he had just received. This awesome event occurred immediately after his baptism. He was baptised because “it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” [v.15] – he set “us” an example. Then “he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [v.16,17]
In John’s Gospel we are told, “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” [3 v.34] – so Jesus had received God’s power without limit. God’s spirit is far beyond our understanding, we read in Hebrews 6 v.5 that it is the “powers of the age to come” and the New Testament shows how the first generation of believers had different “gifts” of the spirit to help them grow and aid the spread of the Gospel.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested in the way it should be used; the lesson is that it should not be used to satisfy his own needs, such as hunger. The special lesson in this for us is how he quoted Scripture to resist each temptation. Jesus answered the devil, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” [v.4]. He was quoting Deut. 8 v.3, so he had absorbed God’s word, it had become part of his thinking – similarly we must aim to make God’s word part of ours.
This reminds us of the words of David in Psalm 119, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Jesus had done this and he demonstrated this in resisting the special temptations that came into his mind. His disciple Matthew who recorded this had not been called at this point in time, it was only later when Jesus was “walking by the Sea of Galilee” [v.18] that Jesus began to call disciples to him.
We conclude Matthew knew of the temptations of Jesus as a result of being told by Jesus. Seeing that Jesus conveyed so much of his teaching in parables, the account of his temptations should be understood in this sense. Some of the temptations were obviously not literal, for instance he could not be literally taken “to a very high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” [v.8] He succeeded, where Paul admitted he had failed, in overcoming the conflict that went on in his mind. (see Romans 7 v.15-18)
Jesus responds to each temptation by – “It is written.” Here is a vital lesson for us in all the varied temptations that we meet. How vital it is for us to read and absorb God’s word every day.
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