Satan in the Wilderness
Whenever we read about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness after His baptism, we often overlook the depth of Satan’s craftiness.
In Matthew 4, Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to fast, and then be tempted by the Devil. He was hungry after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, as most of us would be. Satan comes to him in his hunger, and tempts him, first by appealing to His human needs. If Christ was really the Son of God, certainly he would be able to do something as simple as turning rocks into bread. Christ responds in the exact way I hope I respond when tempted (but often don’t): He rebuts the temptation with God’s Word.
Christ was well learned in the Old Testament Law, as we should be. Scripture’s usefulness takes many different forms, but one of the most important is that it equips us to respond to temptations of all kinds. Satan is no less real, or potent, than he was when tempting Jesus, and we would do well to store up God’s Words in our hearts for when we are inevitably tempted to sin. The need to know the Scriptures becomes even more evident as we continue reading the account of Christ’s temptation.
Satan keeps up his attack on Christ, bringing Him to the highest point on the temple’s pinnacle in the holy city. He then tempts the power of the Son of God, urging Christ to throw himself down. Then, after Christ has used Scripture to refute Satan’s temptation, Satan himself uses Scripture to further tempt Jesus. How can that be? Does God’s word ever tempt us to sin?
By no means! James 1:13 tells us “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” So, what does it mean when the Devil tempts Christ using God’s own words?
It means that Satan is smart, crafty, and that he knows the Scriptures. Just because someone has a knowledge of the truth, and is able to recite portions of it, does not mean that we should accept what they say without another thought. Many today (whether by accident or knowingly) use Scripture to say things that the original Scripture never intended to say. The context of the scriptures we read are extremely important, and crucial to understanding the original intent of the text.
This also means that we need to be even more careful to know the Scriptures, so we ourselves can “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (1 John 4:1). Satan himself is able to know and use the Scriptures against us! It is of eternal importance that we are able to recognize when the Bible is being used sinfully, and be able to refute it. Those using the Scriptures to their own ends will answer for their own stray teachings, but we are called to a greater purpose. Ephesians 4: 7-16 tells us that Christ has given us teachers for the equipping of the Saints, for the building up of the body of Christ, increasing in knowledge and unity. The result of this unity and knowledge is stability in Christ, who is our anchor that prevents us from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. These doctrines (in contrast to the pastors and teachers that Christ has sent) are from crafty, deceitful men, whose ultimate ruler is not only evil, but well versed in the Scriptures. Temptation can take many forms, and the more we know of the Scriptures, and of Christ, the better equipped we are for battle.