"The Temptation" painting by J. Kirk Richards

Today: Proverbs 1:1-7; Matthew 4:1-22; Genesis 7, 8 & 9:1-17

Proverbs 1
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Proverbs 1:7

I’ve always fretted about the use of the word “fear” in this popular verse. I don’t think it means what we normally think of as “fear” — like being afraid of a snake or a child being afraid of getting a spanking. In this case, fear means reverence, to be in awe. This makes so much more sense to me. Jesus encouraged us to “fear not” more than anything else he said. So I don’t think God wants us to cower in fear of him. He wants to be in relationship with us. He reminds us often that he loves and forgives us.

However I absolutely believe that he DOES want us to comprehend how powerful and magnificent he is. He wants us to be aware of how terrifying his wrath COULD be which makes his love and forgiveness all the more astounding. He is the only thing in this universe so worthy of our worship. Our biggest stumbling block is our own pride. But pridefulness is not a problem when we have a proper understanding of God’s greatness.

Matthew 4 – The Temptation of Christ

Did you ever wonder how Matthew knew about when Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness? Jesus had been alone when that happened. He must have told this story to his disciple because he wanted Matthew to tell it to US. We need to know this story, that Christ too was accosted by the devil as we all are. We need to see how Jesus responded. He is, afterall, our example of how to live a holy life.

We learn so much from Jesus’ interaction with Satan in this story. First of all, we learn how Satan works. Me might be ancient, brilliant and devious, but in the end he is really just a one trick pony. He always appeals to ONE thing — our pride. It was his own sin and his goal is to transform as many of us into his own arrogant image as he can. Look at his three ploys:

Satan tells Jesus to turn stones into bread

Satan confronted Jesus at his most physically weakest hour. Can you imagine going 40 days without food? The longest I’ve ever fasted was 48 HOURS and I felt like I was going to die. After 40 days, Jesus body was beginning to eat itself from hunger. His physical need for food was a REAL NEED, not just some selfish desire of frivolous whim. Jesus needed to eat! Satan knows when we are weak and he plays dirty. That is exactly when he will come after you. He with throw every weapon at us that he can including our REAL needs like human relationship, sustenance, shelter…

Would it have been WRONG for Jesus to turn stones to bread to nourish his starving body? I don’t think so. If I had the power to turn a stone into bread, you betcha I would try it (especially some yummy soft dinner rolls!)

I believe the sin here would be the motivation behind the act. It is not wrong for us to provide for ourselves by working, getting groceries, preparing meals. But, and here’s the catch, WHO is really doing the providing? Is it not God who gives us life? Isn’t it God who grants us the ability to work and “make” our “bread?” Are we mindful of this or do we vainly think that we have accomplished everything on our own without his help?Are we counting up all the gold in our storeroom and smugly congratulating ourselves for our own cleverness? Or do we understand, as Jesus did, that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God?” God is our true sustenance, the eternal food for our souls. All else is only temporary rubbish.

Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off of the temple so that God’s angels might save him

This one always confused me. Why would diving off a tower ever be a temptation? Does anybody really want to do that? The answer is in Jesus’ response, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.” The first temptation is about thinking we can sustain ourselves and this second one concerns our life choices. How do we decide how to live our lives? Do we consult with our heavenly Father, or do we bullheadedly march ahead because we know best?

Can’t you just hear the devil whispering, “C’mon, you don’t need to ask God about this one. Go ahead and do it… What harm could it do? Besides, he will bail you out if things go too far south…” Once again, Satan appeals to pride by trying to convince his victim that they don’t need God. And Jesus’ response is that God most definitely should be consulted and followed. God is the only rightful director of our actions.

Satan promises to give Jesus everything if Jesus would just worship him

Wow, here’s the doozy. And Jesus finally had enough and told that liar to skedaddle! Satan really is the current boss of this world. It was contractually given to him when Eve bit into that forbidden fruit. So he really does have the ability to offer us riches and fame if we follow him. We see this in play in the abject corruption of many (most?) humans who wield great power. Very few people in powerful positions are able to resist Satan’s evil influence.

But take heart; Satan is merely renting this world. God is the ACTUAL owner and Satan’s lease has a termination date. Don’t ever forget that God is more powerful than the devil. Everything Satan promises us is a lie. True life and salvation is only found in God. Satan can only offer us temporary counterfeits.

Jesus responds with God’s Word

Finally, we learn so much by studying HOW Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations. He said very few of his own words to Satan except to tell Satan to “Be gone!” Most of his replies came straight from Scripture. Jesus obviously believed Scripture was important and powerful. He studied it and knew it. He used it to battle the devil. The Holy Bible truly is our sword. May we brandish it wisely.

Genesis 7-9 – Noah & the Flood

40 days is all it took. 40 days it rained and flooded the entire earth fifteen cubits higher than the tallest mountain. 40 days it took to kill every air-breathing living thing on the entire earth except for those safely tucked inside the ark. 40 days Jesus fasted to prepare for his meeting with the current administrator of this planet. Jesus won that battle. And he has also won the war. Jesus is our ark. Within him we are safe from the floods of life and from the lies of the enemy. Within Christ is our victory.