From the Wilderness to the Temple
In the testing of Jesus the devil’s goal was to get Jesus to question His son ship and distrust His Father’s love. He wanted Jesus to follow the course Israel had taken throughout their history. Satan wanted Jesus to immediately satisfy His hunger. Jesus knew there are times when God for wise and holy ends will have His children suffer as Israel did in their wandering in the wilderness. God wants His children not only to depend on Him but trust Him to act on their benefit when it is the right time and not according to their time schedule. Satan wanted Jesus to provide for His physical need and not depend on His Father to provide the bread to satisfy the need.
Our needs in this life are satisfied by ordinary means and miracles. Though bread is the staff of life it is God’s blessing that is the staff of life. We may need bread and yet be nourished some other way. God sustained Moses and Elias without bread. He sustained Israel with bread from heaven, angels’ food; Elijah with bread sent miraculously by ravens, therefore it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to turn stones into bread, but trust God to keep Him alive some other way now that He is hungry.
When all our needs are being supplied we must not think to live without God in our lives. When we are lacking what we need to survive we must learn to live upon God. When all ordinary means of comfort and support are cut off and we can not see an end to the situation we are in we must rejoice in the Lord. We must humbly pray for what He thinks fit to give us, and be thankful for the bread He provides even though it falls short of what we expected. We must follow Jesus’ example. Jesus trusted His Father believing some way He would satisfy His hunger. In this life it is better to live poorly upon the fruits of God’s goodness, than live plentifully upon the products of our sins.
Satan is a restless unwearied adversary. If he fails in one assault, he tries another. We must be aware of his determination to defeat us. When he fails to defeat us using our needs he will use an extremely more dangerous attack upon the soul. There are men and women who have been convinced the Lord can save them from their sins who are tempted to presume that they will be saved in their sins. Satan tempted Jesus to presume upon His Father’s love and power. Failing to get Jesus to use supernatural means to satisfy His hunger Satan tries to get Jesus to presume on His Father’s protection.
Jesus is taken, not by force against His will, but moved to go to Jerusalem and told to stand on the pinnacle of the temple. Willingly going to Jerusalem with Satan show how submissive Jesus was. He knew it was the will of the Father He is to be tested and willingly goes with Satan. He was willing to let Satan do his worst and yet conquer him. The patience of Christ here, as afterward in his sufferings and death, is more wonderful than the power of Satan or his instruments; for neither he nor they could have any power against Him. It is a great comfort to know Jesus let Satan unleash his power against Him as He does in this instance in Jesus’ life but does not let Satan unleash the same power against us, but restrains it, for He knows our weakness.
Satan, intending to get Jesus to use His power to supply bread to satisfy His hunger and presume upon God’s providence, he fixes him on a public place in Jerusalem, a populous city, and on a pinnacle of the temple, one of the wonders of the world. There He might make himself remarkable, and be taken notice of by every body, and prove Himself the Son of God. The former temptation took place in the wilderness this second temptation will take place where hundreds could see it.
Jerusalem is here called the holy city. There is no city on earth so holy as to be exempt and secure from Satan and his temptations. The first Adam was tempted in a holy garden. Jerusalem, the holy city is the place where he does, with great advantage and success, tempt men to pride and presumption; but, blessed be to God, into the New Jerusalem no unclean thing shall enter; there shall be forever no temptation.
The pinnacle Jesus stood on was a high place of the temple. High places are slippery places. High places in the world make a man a fair mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. High places in the church can be dangerous places. Those who excel in gifts, who are in eminent stations, and have gained great reputation, must keep themselves humble. If they don’t humble themselves Satan will puff them up with pride that they may fall into the condemnation of Satan. Those who stand in high places must stand fast.
On this high place of the temple Satan uses the same approach he used in the wilderness, “if you are the Son of God.” In the wilderness Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread. On the high place of the temple He is told to test the love and protection of the Father. Jesus is tempted to prove to the world and Himself He is the Son of God.
Satan told Jesus “throw Yourself down.” He wanted to plant in the mind of Jesus the idea if He jumped off the pinnacle God will protect Him and He will not kill Himself. When the people see no harm came to Him they will admire Him they will say He is a God. All Jerusalem will see and acknowledge, not only that Jesus is more than a man, but is a Messenger, the angel of the covenant that was to come suddenly to the temple (Malachi 3:1).
Satan told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle because he could not push Jesus from the pinnacle. The power of Satan is a limited power. Whatever harm is done to us but he can not compel us to do it. He can tell us throw yourself down but he can not throw us down. Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and not forced, but enticed.
Satan backs up his command to Jesus to jump off the pinnacle with Scripture. He partially quotes Psalm 91:11-12. Satan quoting Scripture is evidence it is possible for a man to have his head full of scripture verses and his mouth full of scripture expressions, while his heart is full of reigning enmity to God and all goodness. The knowledge which the devils have of the scripture, increases both their mischievousness and their torment. It is true, there is such a promise of the ministration of the angels, for the protection of the saints. The devil knows it by experience; for he finds his attempts against them fruitless, and he frets and rages at it, as he did at the hedge God had built around Job (Job 1:10). He was also right in applying it to Jesus.
When Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 he misquoted it. The promise is, “For He will give angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” If we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty to God, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God’s protection. This promise refers to the tempter. This is why Satan left it out of Psalm 91:11-12 when he quoted. If Jesus would have jumped off the pinnacle He would have went out of His ways. He had no reason to expose Himself the danger of jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. It is good for us to consult the Scriptures ourselves and not put our trust in those that maim and mangle the word of God. We must do as the noble Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily.
Scripture is abused when it is used to patronize sin as it is today. This promise is firm, but Satan used it in the wrong way when he used it as an encouragement to presume upon divine care. It is no new thing for the grace of God to be turned into wantonness and for men to use it to encourage men and women to continue in their sinful ways.
Jesus over came this temptation as He did the former. Satan abusing Scripture did not prevent Him from using it. In this incident Jesus used Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” The meaning of this is not, you must not test Me; but, you must not test my Father. If Jesus jumps off the pinnacle He would be testing the love of God. Jesus was convinced God was His Father, took care of Him, and gave angels a charge concerning Him. He had no reason to test the Father as the Pharisees tested Him when they demanded a sign from heaven.
Jumping off the pinnacle would require a special preservation. Putting ourselves in dangers we can avoid requires a special preservation. If we expect this because God has promised not to forsake us He should follow us when we go out of the way of our duty and protect us. Because He has promised to supply our needs, He should humor us, and fulfill our wants. Because He has promised to keep us, we may willfully thrust ourselves into danger, and expect Him to rescue us is presumption. It is testing God. It is an abuse of the privilege we enjoy, in having Him for our God. God has told us to trust Him but if we are ungrateful it is insult and contrary to our duty to Him as our God whom we are to honor.