For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ “
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’ ”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’ ”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”
Matthew 4:2-11 NLT
Today we see Jesus walking through 40 days and 40 nights of trials and temptations, and he fasted! Let that sink in: a month and ten days with no food.
The longest I have ever prayed and fasted was for a week, and during that time I allowed myself one meal a day in the evening. Those first few days, I had to really focus on what I was praying about because all I really wanted to think about was the food I would have later that day!
Jesus was in the wilderness, he was hungry, weak, and on top of that he was being tempted by Satan. Remember in our last blog I talked about how Satan introduces partial or skewed truths to confuse us? Let’s look at what he says to tempt Jesus:
- You can turn these stones into bread and eat. Jesus could have done that but God had called him for a set time to fast and pray to prepare Him for what was coming.
- Jump off this cliff, you know the angels will protect you. Jesus could have commanded the angels to catch him, but He wasn’t there to use His power to impress Satan or test what God would do to protect Him before His appointed task.
- Everything you see can be yours if you kneel and worship me. Although Satan does have temporary control and free reign of the world, Jesus knew God was the only God he was commanded to worship.
Jesus countered every temptation from Satan with God’s truth from verses in Deuteronomy:
“He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3b NLT
“You must not test the Lord your God as you did when you complained at Massah.” Deuteronomy 6:16 NLT
“You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.” Deuteronomy 6:13 NLT
My NIV study Bible explains what Satan was doing when he tempted Jesus this way, “The devil’s temptations focused on three crucial areas: (1) physical needs and desires, (2) possessions and power, (3) and pride. [Jesus] knows firsthand what we are experiencing, and he is willing and able to help us in our struggles.”
Remember these very important words; Jesus is willing and able to help us in any struggle. I love that!
The study notes continue with this information about the devil tempting Jesus with food: “Jesus was hungry and weak after fasting for 40 days, but he chose not to use his divine power to satisfy his natural desire for food. Food, hunger, and eating are good, but the timing was wrong. Jesus was in the desert to fast, not to eat. And because Jesus had given up the unlimited, independent use of his divine power in order to experience humanity fully, he wouldn’t use his power to change the stones to bread. We may also be tempted to satisfy a perfectly normal desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time.”
Many of our desires are good but God wants us to satisfy them in the right way and the right time. I doubt any of us will ever be called to fast for 40 days and nights, but if you are called to fast and pray for a day or more, be prepared for the devil to encourage you to break that fast.
Satan also tried to entice Jesus to test God and the loyalty of the angels by jumping from a high point and calling for the angels to catch Him. However, Jesus is not a magician to perform at Satan’s or anyone else’s whims! God wants us to live by faith not by magic!
The last thing Satan did was try to seduce Jesus’ pride by offering him power and material things, at which point Jesus reminds Satan that we are to worship only God.
Caution: You better know and be especially prepared for this temptation because Satan does the same thing to us! Anything we worship before God will lead us into terrible sin and eventually to a very hard fall.
We must know what the Lord says when we face a temptation so we can recite verses from memory, or locate His truths in the Bible to help us fight them. I have heard some say, “I can’t memorize verses because it’s too hard.” Hmmm, don’t we sing along with songs on the radio? Yes, we do! The devil says you can’t memorize God’s Word, but this is proof you can!
Also, the devil will use any lie he can to confuse us, including the partial use of scripture or a skewed version of scripture. That is why it is so important to know the word of God in order to fight this particular lie.
A common example is when people say that the Bible says money is the root of all kinds of evil. That is absolutely NOT what the word of God says! This is what scripture says:
“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:10 NLT
Money isn’t evil; it’s the love of money that gets us into trouble!
There have been cults that have used this partial truth about money as a means of keeping their followers in poverty. Had those followers known what the Bible really said, perhaps they would not have been so easily conned.
Here is the last truth that is my favorite: when we use the word of God to combat trials and temptations we are told “then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.” The same will happen for us. At the very least call on the name of Jesus and that alone will send the devil away and give you strength to fight any temptation!
Father God, thank You for this lesson that reminds us of the power of Your holy name and Your holy word. I pray that we all seek Your guidance before we jump into any temptation. Forgive me for where I have failed to do this, Lord. I confess that lately I have been feeling especially weak and vulnerable because of all the changes in my life, so I ask for a strong awareness of the presence of evil and the reminder that You are stronger. Teach me to know my weaknesses so well, I can stop and pray before I jump into the middle of those temptations. As difficult as it is for me to face (because I’m human and a sinner) I know because I follow You, I am held to a higher level of accountability. I ask for a strong reminder of this truth every moment of every day. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.