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“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Right from His baptism in the Jordan River, where the Holy Spirit descended and rested on Him as a dove, and the voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” THEN, still dripping wet and the beautiful words of His Father still ringing in His ears, the dove flew and Jesus followed.
Sound familiar? Still dripping wet from their baptism in the Red Sea, and the voice of God still ringing in their ears, “I am the Lord your God,” the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, led Israel into the wilderness and Israel followed.
Along the way, Israel encountered various opportunities to demonstrate their trust in God’s Word and Promise to them. After 40 of traveling through the wilderness, the food supplies that the left Egypt with were starting to run a little low. Occasionally stomachs were heard to grumble. What a wonderful opportunity for Israel to affirm their faith and trust that the “I AM,” “the Lord your God” will supply our every need.
If the “Lord God” who opened the sea and brought them through it safely and drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his soldiers in the same, then surely He will supply us our daily bread. And all the people of Israel said, “We will not be anxious about our life, what you will eat or what you will drink… Is not life more than food…? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet our heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not of more value than they?” For God has said, “I am the Lord YOUR God.”
If only they had said that. What they really said was, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex.16:3).
What a miserable disappointment Israel was. But God heard their bellies grumble and their mouths curse Him, and He fed them Manna for bread and quail for meat. God rolled out an all you can eat bread and meat bar everyday for them. And they ate and were satisfied… for awhile.
Then, following the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, they came to a place in the desert that would become known as “Massah.” You don’t have to know anything about “Massah” except this one thing, it’s a dry town. Not ‘dry’ as in no booze or bars, ‘dry’ as in nothing at all to drink.
And now, with bellies full of food and the Word of God still ringing in their ears, “I am the Lord YOUR God,” Israel had a wonderful opportunity to confess their faith in their God. And all the people of Israel said, “we shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike us, for he who has pity on us is leading us, and by springs of water will guide us.” For He said, “I am the Lord your God.” And God’s Word cannot fail.
If only they had said that. What they really said was, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3). Instead of trusting in God to take care of them, they put God to the test and said, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ In Hebrew, “Massah” means “to test.”
What a miserable disappointment Israel was. But God heard their complaint and He took their miserable test, and He told Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water gushed out from that rock and all the people drank and were satisfied.
And now, with bellies full of food and bodies fully hydrated, and the Word of God still ringing in their ears, ‘I AM, the Lord your God,” they came to a mountain. And God called Moses to the top of the mountain and he was gone for over a month – 40 days to be exact, much longer than the people expected Moses to be gone. And they began to wonder if Moses might have died up there somewhere. And if he did die, who would lead them? Who would speak God’s Word to them and who would pray to God for them?
And once again, given the opportunity to rise to the occasion and affirm their steadfast faith and trust in the “I am” “the Lord their God,” they all together, with one voice, “Our soul WAITS FOR THE LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 30:20-22). “We shall have no other gods.”
If only they had said that. What they really said was, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses… we do not know what has become of him.’ And they handed over all of their jewelry to Aaron who made a golden calf out of it. And Aaron declared, “this is your god, O Israel.” And all the people worshipped it.
What a miserable disappointment Israel was. And we are equally disappointing if not more so. We have received the same Word from God in our baptism as they did in theirs. “I am the Lord your God.”
How many perfect opportunities have we had in our times of trial or trouble or suffering or hardship to confess our faith in the “I AM, THE LORD OUR GOD,” only to COMPLAIN about His care for us or PUT HIM TO THE TEST and make Him prove Himself to us and worship more FALSE GODS than we can count.
What a disappointment we are.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Still dripping with the water of His baptism, and the Word of the Father ringing in His ears, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
Jesus is led into the wilderness just as Israel was led into the wilderness.
He is going to be tempted by the devil just as they were tempted by the devil.
He is going to be the Israel that Israel should have been.
He is going to be the Christian Church that the Christian Church should be.
“And after fasting for 40 days and nights, He was hungry.” “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘IF YOUR ARE THE SON OF GOD…” “There’s good reason to doubt it you know. “Did God really say you shall not eat of the tree?” “Well, yes, we are in the desert and not in a garden and there aren’t any trees here like there was there. Ah, but what about these stones? IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, would your Father really want you to remain so hungry? Wouldn’t He want you to turn these stones into bread. If He did that for those faithless Israelites in the desert, wouldn’t He want to do the same for you too?”
What a wonderful opportunity for Israel to testify to His trust and confidence in the Word and Promise of God. And Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Here is One who does not disappoint. He trusts entirely in God’s Word to do what it says.
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘IF YOUR ARE THE SON OF GOD…” “There’s good reason to doubt it you know. Haven’t you ever wondered how far God will let you fall before He comes to your rescue? Surely IF YOU ARE HIS SON, He wouldn’t let you die. But just to be sure, “throw yourself down.” See if His Word is really as dependable as You think that it is. The Scriptures say, “’He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘on their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” “Wouldn’t you be more confident in His Word if you put it to the test?”
What a wonderful opportunity for Israel to confess His faith and conviction in the Word and Promise of God. And Jesus said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Here is one who does not disappoint. He trusts entirely in God’s Word to do what it says.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Let’s stop to consider this one. Jesus knows all that lies ahead for Him in this mission that He is on. This foray into the desert is just the first battle of the war. He will emerge from this unharmed. In time, the devil will leave him and the angels will minister to him.
But this is not the end of it. He knows…
He will have to face terrible agony and suffering, and hunger and thirst that knows no relief,
and the scourging that will turn His flesh inside out,
and the thorns pressed into His skull,
and the frenzy of the crowd He has come to save – ‘crucify Him, crucify Him,’
and the sting of the steel that crashes through tendon, nerve and bone …
And that same terrible voice as He has just faced, “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, come down from the cross.” (Mat. 27:40).
And NO ANGELS will come to minister to Him.
“All of this can be avoided Jesus, “if you will fall down and worship me.”
And Israel replied, “Be gone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
Here is one who does not disappoint. For He trusts in the Word of God to do what it says.
God has redone Israel in His Son, Jesus Christ. Whereas Israel was a great disappointment, Jesus is the One with whom the Father is WELL PLEASED. The history of Israel’s defeat is swallowed up in Jesus’ victory.
It is the same for us. The devil has no power over us, not because we are strong. We are not. We are as weak as ancient Israel. But in our baptism, we were taken into Jesus Christ. God hid us in Christ.
By faith, we may live in this wilderness where we are surrounded by temptation, with confidence that it cannot overcome us. But our confidence can never be found in our faith or in our resistance.
Our confidence is in Jesus. He was tempted in every way as we are YET WITHOUT SIN – so that you would be counted as YET WITHOUT SIN. He has said, “I am the Lord your God.” And we believe His Word.
“Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.” And we say, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord.“ (1 Cor. 15:57).