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Lenten Devotion for February 21, 2024 "According to His Word"

[Read Matthew 4:1–11]

“Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Don’t add to his words, or he will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5–6, CSB

Matthew gives this rich account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Preceding the encounter, Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, and He was very hungry. The tempter confronted Jesus believing that he might have mastery over Him. He said to Jesus, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3, CSB) At first glance, nothing seems inappropriate in this “advice” for meeting the Lord’s hunger. In fact, Jesus disciples when hungry picked grain from the grainfields on the Sabbath when they were hungry (Matthew 12:1).

But look at the opening words of our text: “…Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil…” Jesus fasted as He was led by the Spirit that He might be prepared to face the tempter. Now, the tempter makes the eating of bread an act of obedience to himself but disobedience to God. We see the words of challenge: “if you are the Son of God.” Desire does not dictate the actions of a child of God, but faithfulness. “He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”” (Matthew 4:4, CSB)

Next, the devil then took Jesus to stand on the pinnacle of the temple.

“[he said] to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will give his angels orders concerning you, and they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”” (Matthew 4:6, CSB)

Notice, this second temptation begins again with the challenge of His Messiahship. The devil then goes on to quote scripture, in fact a Messianic psalm (Psalm 91). Throw yourself down, force God to act. This is the sin of presumption—seeking to have God serve self instead of our serving God. Jesus once again answers the devil with scripture: Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”” (Matthew 4:7, CSB) Those words (Dt. 6:6) were originally spoken in response to Israel’s sin of presumption at Massah.

Finally, in the third temptation, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. …he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:9, CSB) Now we see the temptation that underlies all others—the same temptation from Genesis 3.  The temptation to serve self is always to serve the devil and his kingdom.

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”” (Matthew 4:10, CSB)

This text is an account of Jesus’ own temptation. But it provides lessons for us as we are tempted. First, fasting prepares us to face temptation; it focuses our hearts and minds on God’s will, keeping in-step with the Spirit. Second, it shows us that God’s word is sometimes twisted into a lie; the devil added his word to God’s making it into a mockery. Finally, knowing God’s word accurately and allowing it to speak authoritatively is the antidote to the devil’s deception.

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