[May 29]--Tempter

Matthew 4:1-11

Of all Satan’s “jobs,” the one for which he’s probably most famous is that of tempter, someone who influences us towards sin. The first time he’s presented in Scripture is in the Garden, lying to Eve and drawing her into disobedience. He hasn’t changed his modus operandi since then, and why should he, as long as it works?

Today’s reading is the other famous passage about temptation, and it holds a lot of valuable lessons for us. In fact, a lot of biblical scholars (and I agree with them) see this as the “New Eden,” in which Jesus (as the new representative of humanity) does what Adam should've done in the first place. Adam was put to the test, and utterly failed. Our Lord was put to much harsher tests, and passed with 100%. Adam was in a beautiful garden, and had experienced absolutely nothing but God’s goodness and blessings since he was created. Jesus, on the other hand, faced the Enemy after 40 days of hunger, tiredness, exposure to the elements, and no companionship for support.

Let’s briefly examine what were the fundamental issues in each of these temptations. Basically, it appears that Satan was trying to tempt Jesus into taking shortcuts with the Father’s plan. It was obviously not the Father’s plan for his Son to starve to death out in the wilderness, so he was going to get food eventually. The second temptation was to publicly display his power in a showy exhibition--notice, it would've been from the temple, where everyone could see and be amazed. And finally Jesus was tempted to gain all the world’s power and authority in return for one moment’s submission. In both the second and third temptation, Satan was offering to give to Jesus now what would be given to him later at the end of human history: the adulation of the public and absolute authority over them.

Do you see the pattern here? Were any of these things bad in themselves? No! But what was wrong was the timing. Satan does not--and cannot--offer us anything that’s bad in itself. Money, power, sex, pleasure, are all good things. What he does is offer them in the wrong way, the wrong time, or with the wrong person. He takes something good that God's provided and perverts it and twists it.

And how did Jesus counter this? Before answering this question, let me point out something obvious: He’s God, so he can do anything he wants. He could've simply dismissed Satan with a word, but he didn’t. He countered the Enemy with Scripture, namely the book of Deuteronomy. That’s right, every verse that Jesus quoted was from Deuteronomy, the book that most Christians avoid like smelly socks. Also notice that Satan can quote Scripture as well, but he does so out of context. Do you know the Bible as well as the Devil does? If you’re going to counter his lies, do you think you might want to learn how to use the main weapon our Father's given us?

Father God, your word is the sword you’ve given me to counter the Enemy’s lies. I don’t know it as well as I should. I don’t live on bread alone but on every word that comes out of your mouth. Help me to listen.

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