40 Days to Jerusalem
The New Exodus Begins ‚Äì Day 16
Weekly Theme: The Exodus ‚Äì From Death to Life
Today‚Äôs Meditation: Tempted in Every Way, But Without Sin
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‚ÄúCome, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don‚Äôt know what has happened to him.‚Äù 2 Aaron answered them, ‚ÄúTake off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.‚Äù 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‚ÄúThese are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.‚Äù 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‚ÄúTomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.‚Äù 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 7 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‚ÄúGo down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‚ÄòThese are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.‚Äô (Ex. 32:1-8)
In our Scripture for today, we see that the Children of Israel gave in to temptation when Moses did not return promptly from Mount Sinai. Rather than wait on the Lord and Moses, they fashioned a golden calf and bowed down to it. By worshipping this idol, summoned from the old way of life in Egypt, they betrayed God and turned their back on their deliverer. Their desire for instant gratification caused them to succumb to a lie. There is no doubt that this temptation was placed before them by the same slippery snake that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Dr. Simon Perry, a Baptist pastor from England tells us that shortcuts and instant gratification do not fit very well in God‚Äôs plan. What God desires from His people is obedience. Some churches will do just about anything to draw a crowd. They will even distort the Gospel and capitulate to the culture. Dr. Perry says, ‚ÄúMany churches want the blessings of obedience without walking the path of obedience.‚Äù Satan tempts us to ‚Äújust add water‚Äù to the program we bought. How we live really doesn‚Äôt matter ‚Äì as long as the numbers are good. As we will see in Luke 4:1-13, Jesus teaches us that walking the path of obedience, not taking a shortcut, is how we receive the blessing of obedience ‚Äì even if we have to delay our gratification.
In Luke 4, Jesus‚Äô had just come up from the waters of the Jordan River. Jesus‚Äô baptism demonstrates to everyone that Jesus is God‚Äôs beloved Son ‚Äì marking Him as the Promised Messiah. Further, the Scriptures record the Spirit descending and resting upon Jesus. In effect, the Spirit was anointing and empowering Him for His life‚Äôs mission. When Jesus walked out of those waters, did he immediately commence His earthly ministry? Was Jesus ready to begin the work that God had uniquely called him to undertake? Surely the needs were great‚Ä¶and Jesus was there, dwelling among them‚Ä¶but was he ready? What more did he need? Luke 4 records that there was a 40 day period of preparation necessary for Jesus before He was ready to inaugurate His earthly ministry. These 40 days in the wilderness serves as the Scriptural basis for the season of Lent ‚Äì also considered a time of preparation and introspection for the Church. Let‚Äôs look at verse 1 of Luke 4.
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
First, notice that Jesus was primed for God‚Äôs plan for His life. The Spirit led Him through the waters of baptism and into the wilderness for testing. Does this scenario sound familiar? It reminds me of the Children of Israel who passed through the Red Sea and then went on to Mount Sinai. As Moses ascended the Mountain for a 40 day period in which God gave Him the law, the Israelites were tempted to move on in their own power. They wondered if Moses would ever return. Instead of waiting on God‚Äôs timing and provision, they fashioned a golden calf to worship ‚Äì they gave up on God and chose to go it alone. For their unfaithfulness, God directed that they must wander in the wilderness for 40 years before fulfilling their purpose to enter the Promised Land.
Satan‚Äôs temptation has always been the same. He tries to convince humanity that God is not necessary‚Ä¶that we can be our own God and go it alone. It is the same scheme, from Adam and Eve, to the Israelites, and as we will discover, so too with Jesus. What Satan uses to entice Jesus, Jesus will receive from the Father anyway ‚Äì in due time. But, Satan offers Jesus instant gratification‚Ä¶ ‚ÄúJesus, you can have it all right now.‚Äù But what will Jesus do? Look at the end of verse 1. Not only is Jesus primed for God‚Äôs plan, he is prepared for Satan‚Äôs provocation.
He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"
Adam and Eve and the Children of Israel both failed when confronted with temptation. Could Jesus‚Äô temptation be necessitated by God‚Äôs desire to set the record straight? Satan could defeat men, but not the God-man, the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus must have been desperately hungry. It was ‚Äúat the end‚Äù of the forty days. Remember, the devil will attack us where we are weakest. Jesus‚Äô identity has been established at His Baptism ‚Äì ‚ÄúYou are my beloved Son,‚Äù must have been ringing in Jesus‚Äô ears through those days of meditation in the wilderness. Yet, Satan subtly questions this fact‚Ä¶almost goading Jesus into making a mistake. ‚ÄúIf you are the Son of God‚Ä¶then surely you can tell this stone to become bread.‚ÄùCome on, ‚ÄúLord‚Äù, can‚Äôt you do it? Huh? Can‚Äôt you do it?
Jesus uses the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3 to put Satan in his place. Moses said to the unfaithful Israelites, ‚ÄúAnd you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.‚Äù
By quoting this passage, Jesus is saying to Satan, I know better, for I have studied the Word. You can not fool me, because my heart is tuned to God‚Äôs heart and I will keep His commandments. Though I am the Lord, the bread I desire is ‚Äúevery word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Whether I am hungry or not, I will wait for this bread.‚Äù
After man‚Äôs previous failures, Jesus sets the record straight, delays gratification, and takes a step down the path of obedience. Jesus is prepared for Satan‚Äôs provocation ‚Äì He knows the Scriptures and uses them to fight back. So far we have seen that Jesus is primed for God‚Äôs plan, and prepared for Satan‚Äôs provocation, now we will see that He is propelled by God‚Äôs Purpose. Look at v. 5.
5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So, if you worship me, it will all be yours." 8Jesus answered,"It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
The irony of this temptation is that Jesus would receive all of this in due time. But, Satan was offering Jesus a shortcut. Imagine removing from the Gospel story of all the pain‚Ä¶No betraying kiss, no arrest, no mock trials, no scourging, no crown of thorns, no crowd chanting for His death, no nails, no cross, no spear, no blood, no tomb. What if all of it could come to Jesus without the price and the pain? Ah, that‚Äôs the question isn‚Äôt it? Jesus could have it all for one easy payment‚Ä¶all he had to do was bend a knee‚Ä¶attend a little worship service‚Ä¶and it would all be His. How did Jesus respond to this?
Knowing that Satan is a liar, Jesus again responds with the words of Moses. Listen to these words in context from Deuteronomy 6:13. ‚Äú‚Ä¶ Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 13 Worship the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 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.‚Äù
Satan offers a shortcut to success. Jesus was offered everything that he would later suffer to attain. Yet, without walking the path of obedience, even to death on a cross, Jesus‚Äô mission would be sadly unfulfilled. Remember, ‚ÄúWithout the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.‚Äù Jesus was PROPELLED BY GOD‚ÄôS PURPOSE for His life ‚Äì even if it meant His death. No shortcut was acceptable.
So far we have seen that Jesus was primed for God‚Äôs plan, prepared for Satan‚Äôs provocation, propelled by God‚Äôs purpose, and last, Jesus was poised for progress. Let‚Äôs look at verse 9 and the final wilderness temptation.
9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" 12Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Do the words Satan used in this temptation sound familiar? Using Scripture is a favorite tool of Satan to bring confusion and division. In this case, Satan seeks to divide Jesus from His Father, and to stop Jesus‚Äô ministry before it ever begins. Like the first temptation, Satan throws that mocking doubt into the fray. ‚ÄúIf you are the Son of God,‚Äù he sneers,‚Äúthrow yourself down from here. Surely God will keep His word and send His angels to catch you‚Ä¶you do trust God, don‚Äôt you?‚Äù This misapplication of Scripture is recognized by Jesus who demonstrates again that He is PREPARED FOR THIS PROVOCATION. He knew what God‚Äôs Word said because He had studied it and feasted on it.
Jesus returns to the words of Moses spoken to the Children of Israel just before they are to move into the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 6 says, ‚Äú1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess‚Ä¶(and then in verse 16,) Do not put the Lord your God to the test‚Ä¶‚ÄùThe Children of Israel stood at a cross roads‚Ä¶just ahead lay the Promised Land ‚Äì any unfaithfulness now would be fatal to their future.
Jesus also stood at a cross roads. Satan wanted Jesus to take the plunge ‚Äì to end his ministry before it began. In quoting this passage, Jesus is saying to Satan‚Äôs challenge, ‚ÄúNot a chance, Devil! Nothing will stand in my way.‚Äù Jesus must have realized that jumping off the Temple would draw great attention to Himself as a miracle working leader. He would have become an immediate hero! But that was NOT God‚Äôs plan for Jesus. And Jesus knows that when He is lifted up, it will not be by angels, but by soldiers who will place Him on an old rugged cross. In rightly applying the Scriptures, in NOT being satisfied with a shortcut, Jesus takes another step down the path of obedience.
What can we learn from this amazing passage of Scripture as we are now sixteen days into our own 40 day wilderness season and as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter?
First, like Jesus, we need to know who we are. God declared of Jesus, ‚ÄúThis is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.‚Äù Do you realize that we are also God‚Äôs children ‚Äì we are sons in the Son? Until we know who we are we will never be primed for God‚Äôs plan ‚Äì we will never fulfill our God given calling. Once we know who our family is, then we also know who our adversary is.
And that brings us to the second point, the same tempter, the same adversary that approached Adam and Eve, the Israelites, and Jesus also comes after us ‚Äì He wants to convince us that we don‚Äôt need God. He will confuse us with offers of a better deal. He will try to give us shortcuts to happiness and joy telling us that we can have immediate gratification. What is the answer to his evil enticements? The fact is that all of us will be tempted, and we had better be prepared for the devils provocations. Jesus knew the Scriptures and the writer of Hebrews tells us, ‚ÄúHe was tempted in every way, as we are, but without sin.‚Äù We must know the Scriptures so that we, like Jesus, will remain faithful when we are attacked.
Third, we must be propelled by God‚Äôs purpose for our lives ‚Äì individually and as the Church. What is God calling us to do? What does God want you to do?
Finally, as individuals and as the Church, as Dr. Perry said, we must walk the path of obedience if we expect the blessings of obedience. There are no programs to purchase that will take the place of obedient Christians who are led by the Spirit. We must live our lives for the cause of Christ and to the glory of God. Instead of a church interested only in immediate gratification, this means a ‚Äúlong obedience in the same direction.‚Äù Even if the results are not instantaneous. We are poised to make great progress‚Ä¶but our successes must be Godly successes ‚Äì lives changed, souls saved, Christians discipled, families solidified, and knees bent in humble worship of the Lord God.
Prayers for Today
Praise God for not giving up on us ‚Äì though we have all sinned
Give thanks to Jesus for overcoming Satan, death and hell, thereby making a way for us, if we are united to Him, to be reconciled with the Father
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin - Repent, confess and ask the Lord to forgive you - Receive His forgiveness
Ask the Lord to strengthen you against the temptations that will inevitably come your way
Ask the Lord to provide you with an accountability partner with whom you might pray and gain or give council when temptations are present
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are‚Äîyet he did not sin.(Hebrews 4:15)