This time, we’ll continue looking at how we can resist temptation, using Jesus as our example. (If you missed the last one, no worries - you can catch up here.) We’ll pick up where we left off, looking at Matthew 4:5-7.
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,’
‘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.’”— Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)
For this temptation, Satan takes Jesus up to the top of the temple. At this point, it seems that he may have learned from the prior temptation, because he tries to use Scripture as part of this temptation. He uses two verses, Psalm 91:11-12, to support his claim that Jesus can do the spectacular trick he has just dared Him to do.
As with the first temptation, the request itself is not sinful, at least at first glance. At many points within Scripture, God asks people to do things that would normally lead to their deaths, yet He preserves them through the midst of that dangerous situation. This situation isn’t quite like those, though.
- In each of those situations, the miraculous outcome brought glory to God among many people. Jesus performing this trick would bring glory to Him - not His Father - and likely would have only been visible to Satan.
- God did not request this activity; Satan suggested it. This was not within the will of God; instead, it would have been a foolish misapplication of faith. God’s promises in one context cannot be presumed upon in completely different contexts.
Jesus is unimpressed with Satan’s knowledge of Scripture. Instead, He reaches back to Deuteronomy again to thwart this temptation.
16You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.— Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV)
Massah was the name given to the place described in Exodus 17:1-7, when the children of Israel were complaining that they had no water as they wandered. God miraculously provided water from a rock, but the place where this occurred was named to remind Israel of the sin that this represented. (“Massah” literally means “testing.”) Testing God indicates not only a lack of faith, but also a lack of belief in His goodness and sovereignty.
For the second time, we see Jesus using Scripture to withstand temptation. Here, the temptation was something He could easily handle; He literally could have thrown Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and had a cadre of angels catch Him at the bottom. It would not have even been a challenge.
This is the exact scenario where we are likely to fail. We have just accomplished something great, and our confidence is high; or, we encounter a situation that we are sure we could handle without having to think about it. In these times, we must continue to rely on God. If we run into situations without thinking, we will not have time to pray, or apply our knowledge of Scripture to the situation. That is a recipe for a fall. We must know Scripture to be able to apply it, and we must be consistent in actually applying it, if we are to successfully resist temptation.