Satan – Part 2

Matthew 4:1-4
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil [Slanderer].
2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
3And the tempter [Tempter] came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple
6and 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.’ ”
7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan [“Adversary”]! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Round two of the battle between Jesus and the devil finds them at the top of the temple in Jerusalem. For this round, Satan heads into the ridiculous. At least with the last challenge, Satan tempts Jesus with something that was a real need – the assuaging of physical hunger. But this time, he wants Jesus to throw Himself off of the pinnacle to see if the Father will actually send angels to keep Jesus from harm. Then begins the back and forth as Jesus and the devil use God’s Word as their weapon.

Let’s look at the actual texts that are quoted by Jesus and Satan. Here is where we can see Jesus’ commanding strength and the devil’s ability to quote the Bible (with his own spin) in order to win his point. Satan starts with Psalm 91. With this volley he takes the passage out of context and leaves out a line. Compare what he says in verse 6 of today’s reading with the actual passage below. “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.’”

Psalm 91:9-12
9Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—
10no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
12On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

As you can see, the psalmist is very clear about the conditions under which we find refuge in the Lord. We can always find refuge and protection in the Lord when He is our hiding place, our dwelling place. This passage has nothing to do with testing God to see if He is truly powerful or truly loving enough to help us.

Jesus responds with “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” He is quoting directly from Deuteronomy 6:16 which is a reference to an event that took place in the wilderness wanderings of the Children of Israel. That story is always quoted for you below.

Deuteronomy 6:16
You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Exodus 17:1-7
1All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
2Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
3But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
4So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
6Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
7And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

When these verses are examined inside of their context and placed over the ridiculous scenario that the devil has contrived, you can see how this particular challenge plays out. “Satan wants Jesus to test whether God’s power is available to protect and save Him, just as the people of Israel wondered whether God would provide water for them in their thirst. But Jesus will doubt neither God’s promise nor His power. He will not deviate from His Father’s ‘ways.’ [Jesus] has no need to learn whether God’s power and purposes are guiding Him.” (Concordia Commentary Series: Matthew 1:1-11:1. Dr. Jeffery Gibbs. CPH.  p195.) We too have no need to “test” God. He promises His protection and so we can trust that He will always be there for us. Testing Him is an arrogant activity and Jesus stays away from that satanic ploy. Who are we to test the Lord God Almighty? In that regard, we are nothing and it needs to be avoided.