The Temptation in the Wilderness

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
— Matthew 4:1-11

Without bread a man will die; but he will not find that he dies. He will only find that the tent which hid the stars from him is gone, and that he can see the heavens. Our Lord says, “I can do without the life that comes of bread; without the life that comes of the word of my Father, I die indeed.” In the higher aspect of the first temptation, arising from the fact that a man cannot feel the things be believes except under certain conditions of physical well-being dependent upon food, the answer is the same: A man does not live by his feelings any more than by bread, but by the Truth, that is, the Word, the Will of God.

No word is fully a Word of God until the man therein recognizes God. Even Christ himself is not The Word of God in the deepest sense to a man until he is the Revelation of God to the man, until the Spirit that is the meaning in the Word has come to him. The words of God are as the sands and the stars, but the end of all and each is to reveal God. When we receive the word of God, his will becomes our will, and so we live by God. But the word of God once understood, a man must live by the faith of what God is, and not by his own feelings even in regard to God. And when he can no longer feel the truth, he shall not therefore die. He lives because God is true; and he is able to know that he lives because he knows, having once understood the word, that God is truth. He believes in the God of former vision, lives by that word therefore, when all is dark and there is no vision.


by Dave Roney

Shall Not Therefore Die...

From the daily reading:  “But the word of God once understood, a man must live by the faith of what God is, and not by his own feelings even in regard to God.  And when he can no longer feel the truth, he shall not therefore die.  He lives because God is true...”

In every way our Lord is our great example; it is to Him that we look for application of today's reading.  What is perhaps the most significant feature concerning our Lord as we find Him in the wilderness setting (Matthew 4:1-11), is the comprehensive nature of His temptations; and of the magnitude St. Matthew speaks but a little, giving us only the intrusion of Satan and his three enticements; the rest is glossed over by him with the merest comment of “forty days.”  It is left to us to think about those long days and longer nights.  There is then, as I think, much more left unsaid than is said, and in order to see more of what occurred during those forty days let us, for a moment, attempt to pull back the curtain of apostolic words and look deeper into the matter.

In order to do this, to more fully understand the Lord's ordeal, we must first consider what manner of man was, and is, He.  Do we suppose, because He is God come in flesh, that He somehow is not affected by ordeals in the exact same manner as are we?  As though He had some advantage over us?  Surely we believe the Scripture when it declares He was a man just like every other man with the singular exception that, unlike us, He never sinned.  He has laid aside all use of His Deity for the moments of earthly life, has not called upon the power inherent in His Divinity in any way, overcomes not through His Godness but, as must we, through His Manness.  When He walks on the sea, raises the dead, heals the lame, does all His miraculous deeds, how does He do it? as God, or as obedient man?  He does it as man, as The Man, the Man among all men, the Representative Man.  By His own lips comes the prophesy; “You will do greater deeds than I am doing!”  Did not faltering Peter also walk on the water?  Did not Paul raise the dead?  Did not others heal the sick and do all manner of miracles?  And were any of themmore than mortals?  Did they do it as God or as men who were like all other men?

So, I think, we must first understand that even as we become weary, so also our Lord; when we become hungry, so does He.  We bleed, He also bled; we suffer heartache and He no less than we: There is nothing in Christ Jesus the Man which is not common to all men.  Of all which Christ did and accomplished on earth, it was always as Man and not as God; His power was that which is ours and His weaknesses likewise the same as ours.  His victory lay not in His Deity but in His absolute obedience as a Man; He did nothing of His own power or will but only by that of the authorization, which is to say the empowerment, of the good Father.

Now therefore consider Him in the forty wilderness days and nights, seeing Him as a Man.  He is The Friend of sinners, come down to minister to them, to love them, to devote His life to them; here we find Him isolated away from them, from what may well have been considered by Him as “His Father's business.”  How His heart must have burned within Him to be about that business rather than sitting, idle, in some remote desert spot.  Yet, as always, He was obedient to the will of the Father and put under Him any thought or desire which might run contrary to that Will, contenting Himself to sit on His stone seat forever if it be the will of God; He will abide in His remote retreat until death if necessary, never hearing the voice of His Father offering explanation, if that be the Father's will.  Think also that He was brought, led forth, by the Spirit into the wilderness.  It is a picture of the Lamb being led forth to its slaughter; He follows without complaint, asks not why, is a greater than Isaac, who did not question old Abraham when he was brought by him to the place of sacrifice; it is, for Christ Jesus, a foreshadowing of and preparation for Calvary: the Father scourges every son whom He receives, by discipline and by trial, doing so in the best eternal interest of the son; this with us, thus also with The Son.

Thus led, He follows; He is unprepared; He has no raiment other than His course robe, no blanket or pillow, no food; He knows not where He is being led nor why; He is given no reason by God His Father as to what purpose this foray into the wilderness serves, the Spirit offers no answer, the Son asks no question but simply, in childlike obedience, follows.  A day He sits, the sun burning Him, followed by a night filled with wilderness chill, then by a long procession of days and nights; He shivers in the chill of evening but does not complain, His skin is burned to red bronze by shadeless days; He is doing the will of His Father, trusts Him that whatever the intent of this ordeal it is good.  Day after day, night after night, He abides without any explanation; there is no food, and He is at first hungry, then starving; a small mountain brook gives Him water; in His spirit He knows it to be within the great Will for Him to drink, only drink and not eat, drink not for comfort but survival.  He comes to the point of utter exhaustion, emaciation, nearly too weak to stand much less to walk.  It is then, after forty days without cover, or company, or comfort, that the Tempter, thinking Him now sufficiently weak and therefore vulnerable, comes to Him.  He has been thoroughly tried and tested as a man, weakened nearly to death in His humanity, and to the very end He will be faithful and true, obedient to The Will.  Therein His power as a Man is discovered in His weakness; and Satan the Tempter has no power over Him.

What has God done by this great ordeal to which He subjected His precious Son?  Scripture tells us that as a lad our Lord “grew in wisdom and stature.”  He is now a man; He is still growing and God must discipline Him; the Father is preparing His Son to become the Atonement.  Does not another man tell us “I discipline myself through hardship and keep my body under control?”  It is St. Paul saying it, he who followed in the footsteps of our Lord.  And how shall Christ endure His coming Ordeal except He be disciplined, tested and tempered, prepared and made ready?  Thus, the Father is preparing His Son to become the Sovereign Savior, and the Lord is earning His future title, “Faithful and True.”  He is doing it as a Man.  He is doing it regardless of how He feels, even His feelings in regard to God.

Allow that in closing I attempt to make this quite practical.  Jesus is baptized and the Father speaks from Heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!”  And almost immediately the Spirit speaks into the Lord's heart, saying in effect “Get Thee up from where Thou art and go to a place I will show Thee.”  This is the command given first to old Abram in the type of the Spirit's command to Christ; both men were obedient without regard to how they felt.  Both men “believed God and it was counted to [them] for righteousness;” and by “believed” is meant “were obedient to.”  To the former is accorded the title “father of all them who believe;” to the latter, Lord over all.  Christ has been tried in the craggy place; it is His training for the ordeal on another craggy hill, the “Place of the Skull.”  But is it any different for Abraham and Jesus than for every other man?  For Abraham was as much a man as was the Lord, and Jesus was a man just like Abram; and we are all men such as they.  Therefore, in Christ Jesus “...we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”   And the application, most practical, is this:

“...Christ also suffered for you, leaving you AN EXAMPLE for you to follow in His steps.”

                                                 (I Peter 2:21— CAPS & italics added for emphasis )

Regardless of how bleak our circumstance, how dark our night, without respect to how we might feel, how we might feel “even in regard to God,” let us, in the image of Christ Jesus, remain faithful because of Who and What God IS.  For, we are sure that He is Faithful, that He will continue the good thing which He has begun in us; for we are convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love; neither death nor life, not angels or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow— no, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.  And if our ordeal becomes unbearable, if we are pressed beyond the bounds of human endurance, when it might seem God has forsaken us, and “...when [we] can no longer feel the truth, [we] shall not therefore die.  [We] live because God is true...”