Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Shall Not Put the Lord To The Test - Matthew 4:5-7 Bible Commentary

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
"'He will command his angels concerning you,' and
"'On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matthew 4:5-7)
Our hunger-stricken, yet steadfast Saviour is taken to Jerusalem, the holy city. There the devil sets Him on the pinnacle of the temple.

Thirty years before, Herod the Great tried to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:16). Now Jesus stands high upon the very same temple that Herod, years before, ordered to be built. Herod, now dead, can no longer kill the King of Kings, but the devil is alive and active.

"If you are the Son of God," says the devil, "throw yourself down!" It's as if the devil were saying, "Show me that you truly are divine! Although you are opposed to turning stones into bread, what wrong is there in this request? Just think of all the supposed power that you have! You can command angels to come whenever you wish! You even have a promise in Scripture. For it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and, 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.' So do it! Throw yourself down! Are you not the Son of God?"

Our all-knowing, incarnate Saviour, responds- and his answer is not a leap of "faith" off the temple.

Even in this moment of trial, Jesus does not forget the Scriptures. He knows the devil has ripped Psalm 91 out of context. The intent of Psalm 91 is that the person "who dwells in the shelter of the Most High" receives protection from the Lord (Psalm 91:1). He will be delivered "from the deadly pestilence," not fearing "the terror of the night" (Psalm 91:3,5). Because such a person has made the Lord his dwelling place, it is said of him:
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:10-12)
Our Saviour, recognizing that the devil had twisted the truth into a lie, responds with a quote from Scripture, saying, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test'". Christ takes this quote comes from the words of Moses, who said to the people of Israel, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah" (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Recall that at Massah, the Israelites quarreled with Moses about water (Exodus 17:2). If the people of Israel at Massah asked for water in such a way that they tested the Lord, how much more would our Saviour have tested His Father if He had thrown Himself off the temple? It would violate what He had come to do. He had not come to perform self-exalting miracles; rather, he had come to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind. He came as a humble servant. He came for the cross.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quote of the Day #216 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon:
To know Christ is the best of all philosophy, the highest of all sciences. Angels desire to look into this—but I do not know that they care a fig for half the sciences so valued among men. If you know Christ you never need be afraid of being ashamed and confounded whatever company you may be in. If you stood in a senate of emperors, or amidst a parliament of philosophers and only told them of the God that came in human flesh, and loved, and lived, and died to redeem mankind—you would have told them a greater mystery and a more profound secret than reason could discover. Be not ashamed, then, amid the intellectual pride of this boastful age.
~Charles Spurgeon (The Fourfold Treasure 991)

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone - Matthew 4:2-4 Bible Commentary

And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
(Matthew 4:2-4)
For forty days now, Jesus had fasted from food, just as Moses and Elijah had once done. People often fast when they face something extraordinary. Moses had no desire for food when He came face to face with God (Exodus 34:28), nor did Elijah when he was in the midst of an extraordinary event (1 Kings 19:8). The same can be said of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness.

During those days, Jesus faced one of the greatest trials of his life, lesser only than His trial in Gethsemane. In either of these great trials, can you imagine Jesus casually taking a break to have a snack? The thought, of course, is absurd. Can you really imagine Jesus, at one moment, sweating blood and crying out, "Let this cup pass from me!" and then, in the next moment, taking a break to eat a fish sandwich?

There are times when food does not come to mind, when the thought of it is disgusting. Such was the case for Jesus' forty days in the wilderness. We can imagine Jesus, now, on the last of these forty days frail and weak— his humanness on full display. Satan appears to the hungry Christ, saying, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread".

Four thousand years ago, the first Adam fell. He gave into temptation and ate what was forbidden. Now, four thousand years later, Satan tries to push the Second Adam into the same trap. "Go ahead," says Satan, "Eat. Be satisfied. Why hunger any longer? Think of the power you have! The authority you have! If you really are the Son of God, then bring an end to your misery."

This brings up a challenging question. Why was it wrong for Jesus to turn stones into bread? The other two temptations make sense. There is something intrinsically evil about them. But what is so bad about eating?

Was it inherently wrong for Jesus to eat? The answer, I think, must be no. But if this is the case, why was it wrong for Jesus to eat as the devil wanted Him to eat? Was there something inherently wrong about turning bread to stones? The answer to this question, I think, is— in this situation at least— yes.

The clue to why this was the case can be found in the passage from which Jesus quotes. The phrase, "man shall not live by bread alone," is taken from a speech delivered by Moses to the people of Israel. Here is the full context of the quote:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. (Deuteronomy 8:3-6)
If Jesus had turned the stones into bread, then He would have stopped depending on His Father to provide for Him. It was not yet time for miracles. It was not the time to put His divinity on display. Now was the time for Jesus' humanness. Now was the time of His trial— the time to be tempted just as we are, yet without sin.

Notice that in Moses' speech from Deuteronomy, he mentions that Israel was in the wilderness forty years. So too Christ was in the wilderness for forty days. It's almost as if Matthew wants us to see Christ in this passage from Exodus. Just as Matthew has already explained that Jesus fulfilled prophecies by experiencing both exodus and exile (Matthew 2:15, 16-18), here too we see Christ experiencing Israel's time in the wilderness. Here in this great hour of trial, Jesus is completely dependent on His Father. Unlike Israel, He doesn't complain. He doesn't whine and long for the good food of Egypt. Instead, Christ is obedient to His Father, waiting patiently for the manna to fall from Heaven.

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