“Jesus Resists Temptation”
Lesson Text: Deuteronomy 6:13-16; Matthew 4:1-11
Background Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:13-16, 8:3; Psalm 91:11-12; Matthew 4:1-11
Devotional Reading: Psalm 91:1-12
Deuteronomy 6:13-16 (KJV)
13 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
15 (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
16 Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 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.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
To relate major events of Jesus’ successful resistance to the devil’s deceitful temptations.
To emphasize that temptations target our vulnerable areas.
Commit (whole heartedly) to memory a biblical Scripture to combat a “frequent temptation” that occurs in your life. Practice verbalizing this Scripture, (speaking directly to the devil’s deceitful offers) when such situations occur.
Sunday School on Trial
Churches are abandoning Sunday school at an alarming rate. Those who approve this trend are heard to say, “Young people and many adults sit behind desks all week. How can we expect them to sit for an hour on Sunday morning right before sitting through an hour of worship?” It is better, they propose, to simplify Sundays by eliminating Sunday school altogether. Children will receive instruction at youth group meetings, and adults have small-group programs during the week.
An unfortunate consequence of canceling Sunday school is that many believers never receive comprehensive biblical instruction. Though youth and small-group curriculum may be Bible-based, it is often topical in nature. So unless preachers work through the books of the Bible comprehensively in sermons, the average believer might never receive instruction on certain sections of the Bible.
Today’s passages provide compelling reasons to take Bible instruction seriously. When facing important decisions about the shape of His life and ministry, it was Jesus’ familiarity with God's Word that triumphed over the devil's temptations.
Times: 1406 B.C.; A.D. 26
Places: Plains of Moab; wilderness of Judea
Two layers of context furnish the background of today’s passages. Our first passage is from Deuteronomy. In part, the reason we have this book is that God’s people, Israel, did not remain faithful to Him. After God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He gave them His law and then led them toward the promised land.
Unfortunately, that generation got cold feet. After a preliminary inspection of the promised land, the people feared the land’s inhabitants more than they trusted God's power (Numbers 13:26-14:4). So God refused that generation of Israelites entrance into the land and chose the next generation for that task instead. Deuteronomy is Moses’ “sermon” to those of the second generation.
In this sermon, Moses reminded the people of the failures of the first generation and instructed them on how to follow God’s law faithfully. Deuteronomy 6:13-16 is a key part of that instruction.
Our second passage comes at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. At about age 30 (Luke 3:23), He was baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21, 22), who received a sign of Jesus’ identity when the Holy Spirit descended “from heaven like a dove” on Jesus (John 1:29-34). This set the stage for Jesus’ extremely challenging ministry. But that ministry was preceded by a test of His faithfulness to be the kind of Messiah that God had called Him to be.
Israel’s Task (Deuteronomy 6:13-16)
1. What were the circumstances surrounding Israel that prompted Moses to give them God’s commands? (Deuteronomy 6:13)
Moses’ sermon to the second generation of Israelites after the exodus includes a restatement of the Ten Commandments (compare Exodus 20:1-17 with Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:1-9). If the second generation of Israelites is to succeed where the first generation failed, its success will have to be grounded in love and respect of the one true God.
In verses 10-12, Moses warned the Israelites not to forget the Lord when they came to dwell in the promised land. Moses realized that it would be easy for God’s people to forget Him when times were good. Therefore, Moses told the Israelites to always remember everything that God had done for them, so that they would love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. The power that would make them into a prosperous nation would be from the Lord and not from themselves. Therefore, they were never to forget what He had done for them if they wanted to continue to enjoy His blessings. By reminding the Israelites about their terrible experiences in Egypt, Moses was, in effect, warning them that tragedy could again happen to them if they did not remember the Lord and His gifts to them.
Sometimes people can distort their love for the Lord by becoming too familiar with Him. They lose their reverence toward Him and tend to think of Him as a pal rather than as their Master. When this occurs, they may subconsciously think God as only loving and forgetting that He is also righteous, their moral strength weakens and the voice of their conscience dims. In an effort to prevent this kind of warped attitude from happening to the Israelites, Moses told them to fear God, to serve only Him, and to take their oaths in His name (v. 13). Moses desired that God’s people not only love the Lord, but also fear Him. In short, Moses wanted them to have a reverent attitude toward this awesome God.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways to demonstrate appropriate “fear” (respect) of God in daily life?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In lifestyle choices | In prioritizing use of time and resources | In service opportunities
2. In what way can God’s jealousy lead Him to anger? (Deuteronomy 6:14-16)
Along with Moses’ admonition for the Israelites to fear God was a warning not to follow the false gods of the Canaanites living around them (Deuteronomy 6:14) When reverence for the Lord diminishes, the allurement to follow after pagan deities increases. For the Israelites to actually follow other gods would arouse the Lord’s anger. Moses reminded the Israelites that their Redeemer was a jealous God, and that His anger would destroy them if they were unfaithful to Him (v. 15). The Lord demands exclusive devotion from those who have a covenant with Him—much in the same way a husband or wife expects total fidelity from his or her spouse in their marital covenant. In either relationship, jealousy will natural reaction of the one whose love is betrayed.
What Do You Think?
What are some of "the gods of the people" that challenge our loyalty to the one true God? How can we better resist these challenges?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Career aspirations | Material possessions | Personal accomplishments
Entertainment choices | Other
Furthermore, Moses admonished the Israelites not to test the Lord as their fathers and mothers had at Massah (v. 16). Apparently, Moses’ hearers would recall the account of this site in the Sinai peninsula, where the people grumbled because they were thirsty and actually questioned whether God was really with them (see Exodus 17:7). Moses warned this new generation of Israelites—and all future generations—to never question the Lord’s faithfulness.
Using Scripture to Resist Temptation (Matthew 4:4-11)
The first generation of Israelites failed the test of faith of Numbers 13, even though the people had gone through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2). The result was 40 years of wilderness wandering and more testing (Deuteronomy 8:2). After emerging from His own baptismal waters (Matthew 3:13-17), it is now time for Jesus to be tested in a wilderness. One is left with the impression that this event occurred by divine necessity and in private (compare Deut. 8:2 with Matt 4:1-3). At various times in Jesus’ earthly life, He experienced events that paralleled important episodes in Israel’s history. In contrast however, Jesus, as the ideal Israelite and representative of the human race, not only endured real testing, but also triumphed over it in the power of the Spirit as we will see in Matthew 4:4-11.
The First Temptation (Matthew 4:4)
3. What made Jesus especially vulnerable to Satan’s first temptation? (Matthew 4:4)
The “devil” (Matt. 4:1; see Luke 4:2) was the entity who harassed Jesus. “Devil” (Matt. 4:1) renders a Greek adjective that means “slanderer” or “false accuser.” Mark 1:13 refers to Jesus’ nemesis as “Satan.” Both names are the same. The devil wanted to draw away the Son from obeying the Father’s will. The devil “tempted” (Matt. 4:1) Jesus to sin throughout and toward the end of His wilderness sojourn. As the perfect representative for sinful humanity, Jesus had to endure real temptation and triumph over it.
Verse 2 states that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness, He fasted “forty days and forty nights,” which in turn left Him famished. In Satan’s first attempt to entice Jesus to sin, the “tempter” (4:3) said that since Jesus is the “Son of God,” He should turn some of the stones that were lying about into bread.
The devil was probably attempting to get the Son to show distrust in His Father’s provision. The Father had designed the fast for His Son and would provide for Him at the proper time. Satan, however, wanted the Son to rebel by taking matters into His own hands. Rather than yield to the tempter’s suggestion, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This verse teaches that people live not only by consuming food. They also need to take in God’s Word for spiritual nourishment (Matt 4:4). The relationship between temptations and testing is very close. The section of Deuteronomy 8 that Jesus quoted to Satan deals with the Israelites and the test that the Lord put them through in the wilderness. Like the Israelites, Jesus faced the temptations in the wilderness, but unlike those who refused to enter the promised land (see Num. 13-14), the Son passed His test and remained faithful to the Father.
The Second Temptation (Matthew 4:5-7)
4. Why is it important for us to examine Scripture according to the will of God for our lives (Matthew 4:5-7)?
The devil next escorted Jesus to Jerusalem and positioned Him on the “pinnacle (highest point) of the temple” (Matthew 4:5). The tempter invited Jesus to prove in a spectacular way that He was God the Son. Supposedly, He could throw Himself down from the apex of the sanctuary and trust the Father to protect Him (v. 6).
Jesus has previously resisted the tempter by quoting Scripture (v. 4), so the devil adapts his strategy along that line. Since Jesus wants His messiahship to be shaped by “God's Word,” the devil now fortifies his temptation by quoting from God's Word—specifically Psalm 91:11, 12, stating: “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.” This psalm, as a whole, discusses God's protection for those who seek refuge in Him alone.
The devil cleverly misquoted Psalm 91:11-12 by claiming that the Father would protect the Son as He plummeted to the ground. But since such a stunt would not be within the will of God, the promise of divine protection would not apply.
Rather than yield to the devil’s suggestion, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, saying, It is also written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt 4:7; see Luke 4:9-12). We humans cannot dictate the terms of divine intervention by arranging situations of need. This would be a foolish presumption, an attempt to deny the mutual accountability and responsibility woven into our personal relationship with God. Yet, He freely grants what we need in order to grow in Him.
The Third Temptation (Matthew 4:8-10)
5. How was Satan’s third temptation of Jesus less subtle, but more presumptuous than the first two? (Matthew 4:8-10)
In the third and final temptation, Satan transported Jesus to a “exceeding high mountain” (Matthew 4:8). In a moment of time, the devil paraded before the Son all the nations of the world and their glory, promising them to Him “All these things will I give thee, If thou wilt fall down and worship me” (v. 9). There was now no appeal to Jesus’ divine sonship, no pious pretense of quoting Scripture. Satan threw off his mask, appeared as the archrival to God, and issued a naked bribe: worldwide dominion in exchange for “worship.”
Through the Messiah’s death and resurrection, the Father intended to free the world from the oppressive control of Satan (see Hebrews 2:14-15) and give the Son the nations throughout the earth as His rightful inheritance (Psalm 2:8). Therefore, rather than oblige His tempter, Jesus commanded, “Get thee hence, Satan” (“Away from me, Satan!”) (Matt. 4:10). There was good reason for this command. It stands written in Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20 that worship and service are to be given only to God. In the midst of temptation, Jesus showed an unwavering commitment to do the will of the Father (see Luke 4:5-8).
Standing on God’s Word Leads to Victory! (Matthew 4:11)
6. How did God respond to Jesus’ resisting temptation? (Matthew 4:11)
When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from the Lord (Matthew 4: 11). Even so, when the next opportunity came, Satan would tempt Jesus again (Luke 4:13). Matthew 4:11 notes that angels came and attended to Jesus’ needs. We are not told how they ministered to the Savior, but it is safe to assume that they brought nourishment as well as encouragement. Previously, angels offered care and support to the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness (see Exodus 14:19; 23:20, 23; 32:34; 33:2) and food to Elijah when he fled to Horeb for safety from Ahab (see 1 Kings 19:3-8).
We, like our Saviour Jesus, will persevere in temptation if we apply God’s Word at our point of need. And whatever straits may have brought us into the tempting situation will be more than counterbalanced by the rewards that will follow.
POINT TO PONDER
Satan had tempted Jesus in all the ways he had tempted Adam and Eve in Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). He had appealed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (cf. 1John 2:16); but he had found nothing in Jesus that could be seduced. In each case, Jesus had countered with scriptural principles that kept Him focused on God’s will.
Sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against ... the rulers of the darkness of this world.” The equipment that Paul urges us to wear in this struggle is largely defensive in nature (vs. 13-16). The only offensive weapon we possess is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17).
Jesus used that weapon effectively to counterattack in the face of temptation. We must do the same. But to be able to use it, we have to know it. The Spirit will guide us to use God's Word at the appropriate time, but we must take the time to learn it first. Sunday school is a good place to accomplish this, but it is not the only place or even the best place. Personal study is crucial in order that one might be “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
To know God’s Word, we must read it, meditate on it, and internalize it. Then when we need it most, it will be there for us.
Lord God, we confess that You alone offer the words of life and that You alone know what is in our best interest. Protect us from the devil’s lies. Keep us alert to shortcuts that lead only to our destruction. Help us seek Your kingdom, Your way, in the manner of Your Son, Jesus. In His name we pray, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
God's Word triumphs over the lies of this world.