Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Will the Devil Use Scripture to Tempt You?

Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”


Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted and prayed for forty days. It was then, in His physical weakness that the tempter came. He tempts Jesus three times but only uses scripture in his temptation once. Why would he expect that Jesus would throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple?

I can't know exactly why but I can look at the evidence. Jesus is physically weak. My experience of fasting has followed a certain pattern. (I have fasted for forty days three times.) The body begins to burn fat after a few days. Normal activity can continue while the body burns this fat. In fact, it may actually feel good. Hunger comes at normal eating times. The body remembers when it has eaten. Hunger is absent during worship. Prayer becomes like meat and bread.

Somewhere during the last seven days the body quits burning fat. It doesn't matter if there is more to burn. The body conserves its energy. Therefore, the body becomes weak. It is difficult to concentrate.

Now, most understand why the devil tempts Jesus to turn the stones into bread but what has His fasting and weakness have to do with throwing Himself off of the temple?

The devil is tempted Jesus at the most basic levels. The weakness Jesus had in His body could make Him question the love His Father had for Him. It could make Him question who He really was. The devil is appealing to His humanity not His deity. The devil is treating Him as if He is merely human rather than fully man and fully God.

I know I have questioned these things about God when I have been weak. I have wondered where God is when I have gone through something especially difficult. I have especially wondered these things when difficulty followed a time when I had served the Lord with all my heart. I have wanted to find a scripture to claim and cause God to act on my behalf. In fact, I have scoured the scriptures to find such verses.

But Jesus didn't give in to His physical weakness. He answered each temptation with a scripture.

The devil is not opposed to using scripture to get us to do His will. He will bring forth preachers who will wave their Bibles in the air and quote scriptures which will put God to the test. They will encourage people to act "in faith" when they are actually acting because of the lack of faith.

I believe that one of the reasons God doesn't act to prove who He is because we would never have faith if we didn't go through the times when God leaves us in our weak condition. (God proves who He is all the time. He just doesn't act because we have tested Him.) It is wrong to put ourselves in dire need simply to see if God will act.

Thus, we are also tempted. Sometimes the devil uses our own physical weakness alone. At other times he may even use the scripture.

5 comments:

Anthony Chia said...

This is one of the earliest and common ways Satan operate with, to tempt Man. It pivots around our failure to understand the words of God. That is why we need to have understanding of the words of God, and so, the need to study the Word. It is common, for Satan still uses this tactic, and in big way even, through lips of careless as well as obstinate preachers.

The text used by Ps Prentis (Matt 4:5-7) showed Satan used it on the 2nd Adam, the Lord Jesus, in the wilderness after His fasting. It was used by the serpent (Satan) on the 1st Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

I will comment on the account on Jesus, before we look a little at the Garden of Eden account. The Matt 4:6’s ““‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”, it came from Ps 91:11-12.

We have to always bear in mind, that God said things to us, as like in His Word, what He said or put down, was for a certain intent and purpose. The intent and purpose is an important element in the context of a scriptural text. When God has it put in His Word (in Isaiah 55:11), “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”, it is telling us just that, we got to get the intent and purpose right.

Verses from Ps 91 are commonly quoted and loved by many, but how many really understand the intent and purpose of Ps 91?! For that matter, many don’t even think about what it calls for! Many like to quote the 1st verse itself, and it is most beautiful, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

But where is the shelter of the Most High? Is it a physical place? How does one get to dwell there? The “goody, goody” promises are all there in the subsequent verses, including the ones quoted by Satan, as we have read in the Matt 4:6 verse. But if one does NOT know how to get to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, how is he to get the “goody, goody” promises to apply to him?!

In fact, it is even more common for people to forget about verse 1, because they don’t know what it calls for, and so, they just drop it, and go on to quote one or more of the “goody, goody” promises, giving the impression that the fantastic promises are “without a frame” or the common term, “without a condition”. Even if one dislikes the use of “terms and conditions”, please, almost all the time, there is a frame or boundary to God’s promises; we should look for that, and teach people to look for that.

It is like: In fishing, we tell a novice, “Now, pull your line!”, and up comes a fish. But we don’t tell the person the “mechanics of how it works (how to detect there is a fish bite, or how to judge the timing of pulling the line), and the fellow is left to luck – he just go through the motion of pull and pull, sometimes, he gets a fish, a lot of the time, nothing! When it is like that, when someone suggests to the novice,”pull”, the novice will likely to do so, for he has no idea himself of how it works. Now, for the one who has the understanding, someone can suggest, “Pull now!”, but he will NOT listen anyhow; if he pulls, he pulls because he knows it is the time to pull (the line).

cont...

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

Jesus knew the intent and purpose of the text of Ps 91, or in the words of the example above, He has understanding of, is it to pull or NOT to pull. Satan said to Him, “Jump-lah” (my colloquial language), but Jesus knew better; He knew, that text of Ps 91 was NOT intended and purposed by God to say God will prevent you from getting hurt, if you are deliberately, of your own accord, try to get yourself hurt. The text does NOT suggest we can test God. The big frame of Ps 91, framing all the goody, goody promises, is “when we are loving Him”; it is given in Ps 91:14 – “Because he loves me,….”. When we are loving Him, we will go or do, as led by His Spirit, and when we are acting like that, we will have His rescue, protection, answer, and He with us in our trouble, and deliver us, honor us, grant us long life and salvation. When we are loving Him; when we are led by His Spirit, can we still be in trouble? Yes, it is said right there, in Ps 91:14-16, “….. I will be with him in trouble, ..”

I am, however, NOT saying, if you fail in your love for Him, you will NEVER have God’s grace flow out to you (it is NOT never). But we need to understand what God’s will and desire are, for us; and NOT, we can do anything we like, and can expect God to ensure “Not a single hair from my head must be lost!”

Now, let us look at the account in the Garden of Eden:
Gen 3:1-5 - 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

What do you think was the intent and purpose of God’s prohibitive words to Adam (and so, too, to Eve), that the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, must NOT be eaten? What is the fundamental intent behind the prohibitive command? I submit to you, it is this: “As it is, Man is NOT built/equipped to handle the knowledge of good and evil”. In simple terms, it was God saying the knowledge of good and evil was NOT good for Adam (and Eve).

From the conversation, Satan gathered that Eve (possibly Adam, too) possibly, did NOT know the intent and purpose of the command, and proceeded to deceive them. Now, the purpose is NOT so that they would NOT die. The “having to die”, was the punishment by God, NOT the purpose. Had they just fall to the ground and die, on eating the fruit, then, it may be right to say the intent and purpose of God issuing the command was so that they would NOT die.

Even when we understand that the death there, was spiritual death or 2nd death, it was NOT they ate the fruit they die; actually, they still would NOT die; they would die the spiritual death because God stopped them from eating from the tree of life. Satan, in a way, was NOT wrong; eating of the fruit won’t kill them and they did NOT die (physically) [Adam and Eve lived on, a few hundred years]; and like I said, had God NOT stopped Adam and Eve from accessing the tree of life, they would NOT die the 2nd death, too (We know that unless the 1st death is entered into, the 2nd death does NOT come).

Cont...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from above

Satan knew the intent and purpose, and it is from his words (Gen 3:5) to the woman, that I submitted you the intent and purpose of God’s prohibitive command. Satan was in fact saying, the knowledge of good and evil was good for Adam and Eve; they would be like God. Eve and Adam fell for that. Had they had understood God’s intent and purpose of the prohibition, they would have, perhaps, answered back, saying, the fruit or the knowledge of good and evil was NOT good for them, that they were NOT equipped to handle the knowledge, Satan would have failed.

Let us do a little side by side of the 2 accounts:
Eve and Adam were deceived; “You will NOT die-lah”, and they fell for it, and they did NOT die physically (right-way) from the eating. It was NOT a matter you eat, you die as such; it was a matter of 2 deeper things: 1. They were NOT equipped to handle it, the knowledge of good and evil, like God is able to; and 2. They obeyed NOT their Maker; they gave their obedience to another, Satan.

Jesus was NOT deceived; Satan was hoping, in Jesus’ humanly weakened or vulnerable state, Jesus would fumble (point to note – when we are weak or vulnerable, we must be careful), but He did NOT. Had Jesus concur with Satan, and jumped down, what do you think would happen? No need to crack your brain over it, it is NOT a matter of Jesus would die or NOT; it was a matter of we are NOT to test God.

Today, some preachers are helping Satan along this one line: "Did God NOT say, when you accept the Lord as your Saviour, He forgives you of ALL your sins? Are you NOT a believer; if you are, why do you sweat over sins after conversion, they have already been forgiven at your conversion (rhetorically put)!" Jesus, for the Matt 4:6 suggestion, quoted Deu 6:16, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” I will say, for this, Heb 12:4, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”, and 1 Pet 1:16, “Be holy, as God is holy”. We have to abhor sins, and seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing when we have sinned.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS: Sorry, Ps Prentis, this one a bit too long!

Craig Godfrey said...

The thing that surprises me most is that Mark and Luke's account both said that he was tempted for the entire 40 days. If so then this makes Jesus's response even more remarkable!

Craig

Prentis McGoldrick said...

That makes His responses even more amazing.