Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.(Matthew 4:5-7)
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness yields deep insights into the nature of the adversary and of the Spiritual warfare we find ourselves engaged in.
Some aspects of the temptation of the Son of God are representative, as was the temptation of Adam. In the wilderness, Jesus passed the test which our first father failed, he overcame the Devil for us, as the “last Adam”. Thank God, none of the redeemed will ever endure a temptation with so much at stake. In a mysterious sense,the temptation of Jesus was real, and the stakes were high, the salvation of us all was on the line. Christus Victor!
On the other hand,there is much to be gleaned regarding the “wiles of Satan” and the way of victory in the Spiritual warfare of the church in this story.
The underlying issues of this temptation are manifold. For example,What was the Temple’s true Purpose? Satan would have Jesus draw attention to himself in the house of prayer for all nations, in order to jump start his ministry by a dramatic exhibition of power and deliverance. God would not let his Messiah fall to the ground!
The temptation was real, and quite compelling when we take into account the Messianic expectation of the popular Rabbis and Sages. Alfred Eidersheim notes that there was a widely expected teaching that Messiah would perform just such a feat, at his advent;
. In the Commentary just referred to,7 the placing of Messiah on the pinnacle of the Temple, so far from being of Satanic temptation, is said to mark the hour of deliverance, of Messianic proclamation, and of Gentile voluntary submission. ‘Our Rabbis give this tradition: In the hour when King Messiah cometh, He standeth upon the roof of the Sanctuary, and proclaims to Israel, saying, Ye poor (suffering), the time of your redemption draweth nigh. And if ye believe, rejoice in My Light, which is risen upon you . . . . . Is. lx. 1. . . . . upon you only . . . . Is. lx. 2. . . . . In that hour will the Holy One, blessed be His Name, make the Light of the Messiah and of Israel to shine forth; and all shall come to the Light of the King Messiah and of Israel, as it is written ….. Is. lx. 3. . . . . And they shall come and lick the dust from under the feet of the King Messiah, as it is written, Is. xlix.Free
.On top of that, Satan added a scripture,
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.(Psalm 91:10-12)
The misuse of scripture is a powerful device of Satan because believers (rightly) reverence scripture, thus giving false authority to many of Satan’s arguments.
Satan and his agents “use” scripture, to deceive and seduce.
This is an important and profound revelation. Like Jesus, we use scripture, rightly divided and applied, to answer to Satan’s proposals. John said to the “young men”, that they were “strong,and the Word of God “was in them, and that they had “overcome the Wicked One”.
But we must realize that Satan resorts to scripture also, of course always twisted,misapplied and tortured. What we see in Matthew 4 was a religious argument between Satan and Jesus.
The 91st Psalm is a God given promise of protection and provision for all who truly fear God and remain in his covenant protection. He really does appoint his Angels to protect his people in their earthly sojourn.
But is that promise a basis for any believer to do something self seeking and reckless to force God’s hand? Can any believer “use” a promise of God to obligate Him to act?
The sin is called ‘presumption’. All of God’s promises are true God is faithful, but they are all fulfilled on his terms, and at his initiative. God is faithful and sovereign.
Hearkening back to the context of Deuteronomy, Jesus could see that the suggestion to forcefully and publicly fulfill the general Messianic expectation,and to misuse the very Temple of the Lord for his own self promotion, was a sinful snare. It was “putting the Lord to the test”,as Israel had done in the wilderness at Massah, when they demanded,”is the Lord among us or not”?
True reverence for scripture,careful study of it in context, and the effort to grasp the whole picture, the text in the larger flow of scripture,as well as prayerful dependence upon God can save us from the sophisticated deception of the wicked One.
The whole concept of “using” scripture ,prooftexting, picking and choosing particular verses over others, or even the superstitious use of verses with little or no regard for actual context or for cross references, predisposes Christians to be open to deception which features scripture.
Jesus again invokes scripture, standing as a Son under the authority of God,”it is written,you shall not put the Lord your God to the Test!”