September 22, 2014

Kept safe in a very dangerous place

I read through the Bible every year using a guide generated by a software program. The reading for today included Matthew 4. Then I opened my devotional booklet and the reading for today is Matthew 4:1-10. Like Gibbs on NCIS, I do not believe in coincidences. God has something vital to say to me from this passage.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:1–10)

The first thing I notice is that this temptation was part of God’s plan. The Spirit led Jesus to a lonely place where He would experience it. Oh my . . .

Last night I woke up around 3:30 and spent the next few hours in the wilderness. My husband is on the other side of the world. With that plus several other circumstances, I felt alone, even abandoned to the point of physical pain. It was horrible. At that time, I could not ‘call a friend’ or do anything to fix the problem. I did pick up a novel, but first spent some time in the Bible and in prayer.

As I read this passage this morning, I noticed three characteristics of these temptations that I’d not noticed before. In His hunger, Satan tried to move Jesus to rely on something else instead of the Word of God to help His with His hunger. I realized how strong Satan tempted me to escape into my novel and not bother at all with Scripture and prayer. However, I knew that I needed words from God, not words from David Baldacci.

In the second temptation, Satan suggested that Jesus take matters into His own hands and test God. I thought of taking matters into my own hands, and even that relying on Christian friends would be far better than reading a novel. However, at that time in the night, I doubt if any of my friends would be ready to jump up and come over to hold my hand. I was on my own, or at least felt like it. Instead of trying to fix this by myself, I began saying God’s promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” While it did not change my emotions, this did change how I was thinking.

Third, the devil tried to get Jesus to put something above obedience to God and above worshiping God. Jesus didn’t fall for that either. Instead He quoted Scripture again. I remembered a few verses and also began singing praise choruses. I’m not a great singer and the horrible emptiness was still there, but eventually fell back to sleep. My alarm rang about an hour later.

The first thing I noticed was that I was in a new place, not in that wilderness with the tempter trying to turn me into a faithless, self-sufficient atheist, but at peace and ready to get up. I might need a nap later, but verse 11 says, “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” (Matthew 4:11)
I say, Praise God and amen.

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