Scripture: And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:3-4 ESV
Observation: Baptized to fulfill all righteousness and led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to observe a forty-day fast, Jesus now faces his first temptation: satiate hunger pains by commanding stones to turn into bread. The text does not specify whether the tempter (Satan) appeared in physical form or spoke to the mind of Jesus. Regardless, Jesus is fully aware of the enemy’s presence and machinations. And as D.A. Carson contends, the devil does not question Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. Instead, he tries to trick Jesus into exercising his divine prerogative to satisfy his needs miraculously rather than identify with humankind’s plight. But Jesus wisely rebukes Satan’s temptation by quoting Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:3b. Matthew does not tell us whether the conversation continued but merely that Satan changed tact and led Jesus to a second test (to be discussed tomorrow).
Regarding the historical context of Jesus’ quote of Moses, the patriarch urged Israel’s leaders to learn from their parents’ folly and take possession of the Promised Land after four decades of wandering in the wilderness. Initially, after escaping Egypt, within months, Israel grumbled over the lack of food, so God provided manna. Then they complained about the absence of meat, so the Lord provided quail with a disastrous outcome (click here to read more in the September 4, 2022, Daily Focus). Thus, Moses told the next generation to remember how God tested and humbled their fathers and mothers with hunger pains but relieved their anguish with manna (Deuteronomy 8:2-3a).
Takeaway: Unlike ancient Israel, Jesus, the nation’s archetype, would continue to resist hunger pains and feed others with his Gospel of hope by finding nourishment in obeying the Father’s words (John 4:34). But most importantly, at his life’s end, the Son of God would resist Satan’s last temptation hanging from his cross using our one weapon of the armor of God: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesian 6:17b). Matthew records that those who passed by Jesus unwittingly echoed the devil’s taunt, saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (27:40).
Indeed, because Jesus is the Son of God, he could have called upon a legion of angels to end his suffering (26:53-54), but he died a sinner’s death to atone for our sins. Soon, however, our victorious Lord would rebuild his temple (resurrected body) in three days, rising from the grave and ascending to his place of authority over all creation. And his successful resistance to this first temptation in the wilderness would set the tone.
Our takeaway? By the grace of Christ, who is our bread of life (John 6:35), and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit through Scripture memorization, prayer, and the community of believers, we will gain victory over the temptation to seek immediate relief from life’s hunger pains, whether caused by ourselves or others. So while it may take years to establish healthy habits to replace our destructive coping mechanisms, the Holy Spirit will, in due time, mature the fruit of patience and self-control in us to bring about restoration. And our Lord’s grace will be sufficient to cover each setback.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who resisted exercising his divine prerogative to satiate his carnal hunger pains. Would you please help us follow his example and memorize Scripture that speaks to life’s hunger pains and lean on prayer, the Holy Spirit, and the community of believers so that we might bear the fruit of patience and self-control? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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