Sunday, March 09, 2014

Staring down temptation

by Alexandre Bida, 1874.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 4:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "But He answered and said, 'It is written Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

What a chilling situation Jesus found Himself in: "...led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Then, after a 40-day fast, in a weakened state and without the fortification of a full belly, the devil confronted Him at His point of greatest vulnerability—physical hunger.

Jesus fended off Satan with Scripture. How did He do it? The Scripture He used was from Deuteronomy 8, where Moses was interpreting the desert experience to the Israelites. Notice that Moses was also talking in the context of physical hunger:

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" - Deuteronomy 8:3 NKJV.

Jerry Bridges in his book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts comments on this passage:

"The 'word' in this passage is not the word of Scripture but the word of God's providence. God wanted to teach the Israelites that they were dependent upon Him for their daily bread. He did this, not by incorporating this truth into the law of Moses but by bringing adversity in the form of hunger into their lives..." (Kindle Location 1831).

Interestingly, the NASB translation bears this out. It renders Deuteronomy 8:3: " does not live by bread alone but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord."

So Jesus was reminding Satan (when Satan implied that as the Son of God, He shouldn't have to endure hunger - vs. 3) that God can be trusted even in the providences He sends.

In regard to the use of Scripture to fend off temptation, the word Jesus used for 'word' is rhema. A sidebar article in my Bible explains about the two words used for the Word of God: rhema and logos:

["Rhema is "That which is said or spoken, an utterance, in contrast to logos which is the expression of a thought, a message, a discourse. Logos is the message, rhema is the communication of the message. In reference to the Bible, logos is the Bible in its entirety; rhema is a verse from the Bible. The meaning of rhema in distinction to logos is illustrated in Ephesians 6:17 where the reference is not to the Scriptures as a whole, but to that portion which the believer wields as a sword in the time of need" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1294-5.]

It seems Jesus was essentially saying two things to counter Satan's temptation to provide for His own hunger:
  • By quoting Scripture He was saying that Scripture was/is the final authority on the way things are.
  • By quoting the Deuteronomy passage, He let Satan know that He lived secure in God's providence, where there was no room for self-pity and an insistence on His rights.

We can follow Jesus' example when we encounter temptation. We can have a teachable attitude in our circumstances, letting them drive us to God (instead of giving way to complaining, self-pity, or an insistence on our rights). We can also cut those temptations down to size with words from the Bible that are appropriate to the specific temptation.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have Jesus' presence-of-mind when I meet with temptation. Help me to be spiritually astute enough to know what's going on and to withstand temptation using Your example of trust and thrust. Amen.

MORE: On temptation
"Do not forecast where the temptation will come, it is the least likely thing that is the peril....Do not be morbidly introspective, looking forward with dread, but keep alert; keep your memory bright before God." 
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, April 19th reading.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

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  1. Violet, thank you for pointing me to your site. I look forward to reading more.

  2. "trust and thrust" - perfect, Violet. I want to be a "doer" of both.


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