Summary: Adam, son of God, failed in the Garden. Israel, son of God, rebelled in the wilderness. Jesus the Son of God, on behalf of us all, won the battle against temptation in the wilderness. Believers in Jesus are also called sons of God, so how must we live?
A SECOND CHANCE FOR THE HUMAN RACE
Man was always going to get a second chance after the Fall of Adam. God made a promise concerning the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), and ‘that seed was Christ’ (cf. Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29). We see in the temptation of Jesus a new Adam marching into the Wilderness, in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:1), to do battle against the same malicious foe as first confronted the couple in the Garden.
Jesus had just been baptized in the River Jordan and, praying, He received the anointing of the Holy Ghost for His ministry, and the affirmation of the Father: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). In his usual tidy way, Luke used this opportunity to insert the genealogy of Jesus, tracing the family line all the way back to ‘the son of Adam, which was the son of God’ (Luke 3:38).
Adam and Jesus are not the only people to be named ‘son of God’ in the Bible. The LORD speaks of Israel as His son, whom He called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). Matthew, in his own characteristic way, has no problem applying this prophecy to Jesus, who was also called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15). Yet the devil saw it as his special task to throw doubt upon Jesus’ unique status: “If you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4:3; Luke 4:9).
Be warned, dear child of God: this questioning of God’s Word is a favourite ploy of the devil. Back in the Garden, the serpent had begun, ‘Has God said…?’ (Genesis 3:1). There he twisted God’s word, denied it (Genesis 3:4), and led our first parents into rebellion against God.
In the wilderness that other ‘son’ of God, Israel, complained of the ‘light bread’ that God had provided. Lest there should be any doubt as to the source of this complaint, they were thereafter bitten by serpents (Numbers 21:5-6). Food had been the flashpoint for the temptation in the Garden (Genesis 3:1), and would now be the first challenge for the hungry fasting Jesus in another wilderness. “If you are the Son of God (then prove it): command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3).
Another indictment against the children of Israel in the wilderness might be that they did not believe God’s word. Jesus’ answer to the first temptation covers that: “It is written,” He says (Luke 4:4; quoting Deuteronomy 8:3), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” All three answers of Jesus come from the book of Deuteronomy: ‘the second giving of the Law’.
John warns us all of the nature of temptation. It is worldly, and therefore ‘not of the Father’ (1 John 2:16). If turning a stone into bread had to do with ‘the lust of the flesh’, then Luke turns now to ‘the lust of the eyes’. Then there is the ‘pride of life’.
In the Garden, the yielding to temptation took place in similar terms. The forbidden tree is ‘good for fruit, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise’ (Genesis 3:6).
“Look”, says the devil, “all this can be yours: it’s mine to give - if you will just worship me” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus rebukes the devil, whom He addresses as “Satan”, adding that “it is written” that “you shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only shall you serve (Luke 4:8; quoting Deuteronomy 6:13).
Now the tempter sets up a scenario which is designed to test God. This is where the children of Israel failed again and again in the wilderness, for forty years: a whole generation of them falling in the wilderness on account of it (Psalm 95:8-11). Be warned by their example: ‘Let anyone who thinks they are standing take heed lest they fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Go on Jesus, taunts the devil, “throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple.” After all, he sneers, “If you are God’s Son,” then surely He’s got it covered (Luke 4:9)? The devil even employs Scripture (Luke 4:10-11; quoting Psalm 91:11-12).
The quotation is pulled out of context, and omits the reference to Jesus trampling on the adder and dragon in Psalm 91:13. Our Lord could have pointed to this as His fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, but He will not be distracted from His own agenda. He ends all argument (for the time being) with the succinct comment, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Luke 4:12; quoting Deuteronomy 6:16).
At that, the devil withdrew “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus was without sin throughout His life, but not without temptation (Hebrews 4:15). It is in His victory over sin that our victory lies. He is the last Adam, the new representative head of the human race; and we the new humanity in Him.