Matthew 4:1-11 - Premeditated Testing
What's the difference between trusting God and testing God?
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Read Matthew 4:1-11 (focus on v5-7)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“ ‘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.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 105
Q. What is God’s will for you
in the sixth commandment?
A. I am not to belittle, insult,
hate, or kill my neighbor—
my look or gesture,
and certainly not
by actual deeds—
and I am not to be party to this
rather, I am to put away
all desire for revenge.
I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.
Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.
As is his habit, Satan shows up at Jesus' weakest moment, after He's been alone and fasting for 40 days. Three times the tempter plays on Jesus' ego and emotions; the first two come across as a dare for Jesus to prove His identity (If you're the Son of God...) and the final attempt picks at what would have been a massively strong desire for Jesus to just be finished with His mission and return home, having regained "the kingdoms of this world and their splendor."
Certainly we have lots of lessons to learn from these interactions - especially to maintain self-vigilance when we're tired and weak, and to stand firmly on God's Word, as Jesus does all three times. But today we're going to focus on the middle temptation: for Jesus to put God's promise of omnipotent protection to the test.
Notice how this temptation is framed. In the first and final temptations, Satan tries to exploit Jesus' human weakness, to satisfy His hunger and then His ego. But in this middle round, Satan tempts Jesus by giving Him the opportunity to prove that what the Bible says is true, quoting Psalm 91's promise that angels would catch Jesus if He jumped from the high point they stood upon.
But Jesus resolutely resists. He knew what we need to know now: that when people say things we instinctively know is wrong, it probably is, no matter how many Bible verses they attempt to justify their position with (every heresy ever uttered began with a Bible passage that was manipulated to mean something it doesn't).
Jesus quotes a verse from Deuteronomy that you need to memorize also. You must certainly trust the Lord, but:
do not put the Lord your God to the test (Matt. 4:7, Deut 6:16).
Thomas Jackson was a Confederate general in the Civil War. Like many of his colleagues, he was a godly man, even if he ultimately took what we now consider to be the wrong side in that conflict.
He earned his nickname "Stonewall" for his resolute ability to stand like a stone wall in the face of the enemy. He said that his trust in God's providence allowed him to "feel as safe in battle as I do in bed, since I know that God has fixed the time of my death." This steadfastness allowed him to sit up straight upon his horse even as bullets and cannonballs whizzed by him in battle after battle.
Was Stonewall Jackson 'testing' God? Remember, God uses ordinary means like safety equipment to work His will out! Shouldn't Jackson have availed himself of some armor or taken a safer tactical position? Maybe, or maybe not. I encourage you to learn more about this great man and decide for yourself (ironically, the enemy never hit Stonewall Jackson. He was felled by friendly fire and died several days later).
The point here is that you must not recklessly endanger any life, including your own. To do so is to break the sixth commandment and commit murder. There's a fine line between trusting and testing God, but you have a responsibility to know where that line is and keep yourself from crossing it.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father who has promised to protect us and who will never allow anything outside of His will to harm you;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for His providential protection in your life, and ask Him to embed His Word into you to keep you safe as Jesus did;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 John 4