Matthew 4:1-11
"Get Back, Satan!"

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. If you were asked the question, "Do you believe in the existence of the devil?," what would your answer be? Some may reply, "Yes, I do. The devil certainly does exist," but others may give the answer, "The devil? Preposterous! [We all know] there's no such thing." In modern times there is probably more of the latter [reply]. But, what [would they say] if asked, "Have you ever felt tempted by the devil?" Surprisingly so, wouldn't many people answer that they "have been [tempted by the devil]?" That's because people have had the experience of more or less being drawn to sin and the experience of [feeling] "The Devil made me do it," even though they knew it was wrong. Through such experiences, an image has been formed of what has been named "the temptation by the devil." But, as we read today's passage, we perhaps need to have our image of this thing named "the temptation by the devil" adjusted. -- Because what I mean with that is that "the temptation by the devil" which we find in our text here is not something we could call "devilish or satanic" in any general sense of the term.

Where The Temptation Of The Devil [Is Really At]

2. Please look from verses one to three. "So, as Jesus was tempted by Satan, he was led by 'the Spirit' and went into the wilderness. Then for forty days, after he fasted both day and night, he felt hungry. Whereupon, the tempter came and said to Jesus, 'Since you are the son of God, why not command these stones be turned to bread!'," (verses one to three). This is the first temptation of the devil.

3. Were he tempted with "Go out to the city and steal some bread," anyone looking at it would see it as "a satanic, devilish" temptation. But, is commanding stones to become bread so wrong? Why might this be a temptation from Satan? No doubt the break maker in town would be in trouble were Jesus to turn large quantities of stone into bread. If [something like] that were to go on, inflation might take off. But, even if he had changed a rock or two for food, it would hardly be a bother to anyone, would it?

4. Yet, the Bible teaches that this was a temptation of the devil. We mustn't think that the devil comes on in acting like a devil. Temptations from the devil will be found where ever [you hear the question], "Why can't you do this?" In [our] country [of Japan], many parents raise their children saying, "Don't be a bother to other people." We scold them with "You are being a nuisance to others! [You're bugging somebody right now, so stop.]" Therefore, the kids start to think, "I had better not annoy anyone." So before too long, [the devil] will answer this with, "Why can't you do that? It won't be a bother to anybody in this case." But, the Bible teaches that there was a temptation of the devil, even in "commanding the stones be turned to bread," which wouldn't have bothered anyone at all.

5. So, why is this a temptation? To understand this we must take note of what Jesus said [as he] cast off the devil. The Lord answered him, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone. He lives by each and every word that comes from the mouth of God'," (verse four). When [we're] hungry getting a hold of some bread is pleasant. It would be even more so still if [we] were given it in a way where rocks had been turned to bread. But, even though rocks are not literally turning to bread for us, what about if it were the lottery next year, one little piece of paper could turn out to be two hundred million yen [about two million U.S. dollars]. In their hearts there are a lot of people out there around this season of time commanding "You stones, turn to bread." But, there is a temptation there in that. What temptation is that? There is the temptation to think that "Man can live by bread alone."

6. It was the words from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament that Jesus had quoted. Please look at Deuteronomy chapter eight. "Remember the forty year long journey in the wilderness where the Lord your God had led you. Thus, the Lord tested you with afflictions and wanted to know what was in your hearts, that is, whether you would keep his commandments. The Lord afflicted you, let you go hungry, and gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your ancestors have ever tasted before. He did that to make you know that man does not live by bread alone but man lives by all the words that come from the mouth of the Lord," (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). It is quite paradoxical, but Moses states that the reason the Lord gave them manna, the bread from heaven, was that they might understand that human beings do not live by bread alone. The Giver was more important than the thing given. Human life is more than taking in the things given to it. The Israelites must know that honoring a giving God and being obedient to his word is where true life is exactly to be found.

7. That was there because they were about to enter the promised land. The scripture says, "The Lord your God is about to lead you to a good land ... Praise the Lord your God as you eat and are satisfied, and as you think of his giving you the good land," (verses seven through ten). That is a joyous and pleasant thing. But, there is a temptation in that too. "When you eat and are satisfied, you build fine homes and live in them, you raise your cows and sheep, your silver and gold increase, and your prosperity is bountiful, your hearts will be proud, but make sure you never forget the Lord your God," (verses twelve through fourteen). Well, what actually happened after that? Later the Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah, "Does a virgin forget what she adorns herself with or a bride the belt of her wedding dress? But, my people have forgotten me, uncountable days and months have passed," (Jeremiah 2:32). It is true, in the end, Israel had ended up defeated by this temptation.

8. But, in today's passage of scripture, Christ is led into the wilderness again [like Israel had been before] and so there he stands again before the temptation that Israel had lost to. You might say, he is following with his very own body the [same] history of Israel, but Israel wasn't able to carry out its obedience to God. Israel was taken by the temptation and unable to follow through in its obedience to God, but Christ will cast the devil off with God's word and be permeated through and through with obedience. This is the fundamental makeup of the subject which is written up about in this passage. As far as that goes, two other temptations must be mentioned with that one.

Because Of Christ's Obedience

9. The second temptation went like this. "Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy capitol, he had him stand on the highest point of the temple's roof and said, 'Since you are the son of God, why not jump down? It is written that God will command the angels on your behalf, and the angels will support you by the hand so that your foot does not strike against a stone.'," (.. 5-6). Here as well, the devil is not devilish because he's quoting scripture. He looks just like a pastor. The devil seems to come for a visit in the guise of a pastor.

10. Here too we must understand through the words of Christ what exactly were the particulars of the temptation. Jesus said, "It is written, 'Do not test the Lord your God'," (verse seven). [He gave] a quote from Deuteronomy. That verse in its entirety is given in the scripture as follows: "Do not test the Lord your God like you did when you were in Masa," (Deuteronomy 6:16). The place name Masa means "to test, to tempt." Let's give a look at the story that goes with that name. Please open to Exodus chapter seventeen.

11. That was the place where the Israelites had said, "Give us drinking water" and where they argued with Moses. They complained to Moses with "Why did you lead us up out of Egypt? Was it to kill us, our children, and even our cattle with thirst?" But the problem did not lie in the fact of their requirement for drinking water or in that they complained. The Bible records the following in regard to the origin of that place name: "He (Moses) gave the name of that place Masa (testing) and Meriba (arguing) because the Israelites said, 'Is the Lord really among us as we expected?' And so they argued with Moses and tested the Lord," (Exodus 17:7). In their requiring water, they tested if the Lord was really with them or not. In other words, it was all about how they had doubted God's love and loyalty to them when he had led Israel out of Egypt and he was saying that he would lead them to the promised land. Thus, they had tested God by requiring visible evidence of his love and loyalty. That is how Israel fell to this temptation and their lack of faith was exposed to all. But, Christ experienced for himself the same temptation as that and won the victory over it.

12. Then, the third temptation went like this. The devil showed [him] all the nations of the world and their prosperity and said, "When you bow down and worship me, I will give all of this to you." Amongst the three temptations this one seems to be the most devilish of them and the easiest to spot because a lot of people would bow to the devil and be willing to gain prosperity even if they did [have to] engage in a little bit of sin to get it. But, from Christ's words we must correctly understand this temptation as well.

13. The Lord drove off the devil by saying, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only the Lord'," (verse ten). [Jesus didn't say,] "It is written, 'Don't worship the devil.'" The problem is not that [people] are worshipping the devil. As a matter of fact, the Israelites did not worship the devil. Though they might have engaged in some sin on purpose, they didn't do it to try to gain prosperity. They ended up apart from the words of "Worship the Lord your God and serve only the Lord." How did that [happen]? By worshipping the god of Baal, the agricultural god with his promises of prosperity. They were seeking for just a god to give them prosperity and happiness and not the Lord God who addressed them and asked of them for their trust and obedience. As a result of that, they wound up being pulled away from the Lord God and his word. But then again, Christ himself stood up before that same temptation, which Israel had once fallen to. But, he overcame that temptation.

14. In this way then, Christ retraced the history of Israel and yet while they had succumbed to the temptation and were unable to obey God completely, Christ had won the victory over that temptation and was total in his obedience to God, even to the point of his death on the cross. That is to say, he accomplished what humans could not accomplish due to their weakness. Christ himself is the one who calls us together, joins us to himself, and makes us in himself as a people of God living in unison with God. The reason we are standing before God is not because of our own complete obedience, but because of Christ's perfect obedience. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't matter if we're disobedient. Christ offered his life and made us the new Israel. We are to live in dependence on the Christ who won the victory over the devil's temptation and are invited to follow after Christ as the new Israel. "Trust in the Lord and be strong in his great might," (Ephesians 6:10).

 
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