Patmos Journal – #10

May 20, 2020

The tests of the wilderness

Matthew 4:1-11 
1  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
3  And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”
5  Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,
6  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, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'”
7  Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'”
8  Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;
9  and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
10  Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”
11  Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

The Word of God is rich with the accounts of testings that come to mankind. Through sin, illness, chastisement, perfections of faith, or fallout from a fellow man in a fallen world, there are accounts of these tests that range from days for an individual, to multiple centuries for a people group.

The accounts of those enduring the ordeals are striking, because in sufferings of a similar type, the range of responses are so varied.  For some in their trial, it yields an outcome of complete surrender and turning to God for safety and deliverance. For others, it is the opposite extreme: the abject rejection of God, and blasphemies that ring out all the way to their grave.

The best example for us, for our response to testings, is found in the life of the Lord Jesus. The sinless One endured the attack of the enemy at the end of a prolonged isolation with fasting. This time in the wilderness was an intense period of fellowship with the Father; a preparation for our Lord’s public ministry days. This mission would include multiple tests, and ultimately the greatest test, the Cross of Calvary.

The enemy paid his call after forty days, when Christ was physically weakened but as we know, spiritually fortified. His isolation had been purposeful, and directed by the Father. I find a lesson in this alone, amid my days of forced stays at home. God has purpose in the quiet, and I must seek Him for the preparation for what lies ahead, here in my isolated days.

The first test Christ deflects, in verses three and four, reminds me that a strict obsession with my needs, however real, can be detrimental to my spiritual life. The Scripture Christ refers to is from Deuteronomy 8, reminding me that taking my creature comforts as first-priority, even in a time of upheaval and real needs, will not profit me in my walk with God. Jesus would speak in other days:

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34

The next testing, in verses five through seven, show Satan trying to twist the words of God to push his own twisted agenda. The Psalm the enemy quotes from is Psalm 91. I would recommend reading this psalm in its entirety, for even protections from plague and pestilence for those trusting in the Lord are spoken of here. Jesus corrects the deception of Satan, by using the Word aright, for He is the Word, and birthed the Word for us. Referencing the principle of Deuteronomy (and other passages), the Lord states that God’s protections are not a license to manipulate Him to rescue us from willful acts of reckless abandon.

For these present days, I find a resonating truth in the Lord’s triumph over this testing. The truth is unchanged: God offers me His protections in Himself, and ultimately I am indeed forever secure in His care. Yet I should not take the challenges of this day lightly. There is wisdom in heeding some practical safe practices, rather than recklessly assuming the Lord is obligated to extract me from my mess I create from foolish presumptions. It’s also why I use seat belts and observe driving rules, or use extreme caution when working around live wires.  Proverbs contrasts wisdom and foolishness, and we should meditate there more often.

The last test of this encounter is found in verses eight through ten. Satan offers a counterfeit triumph and worldly power by shifting worship away from the Father to himself. Jesus reprimands Him again with the Word, showing that nothing is to be worshiped but God, and service is to Him and for Him alone.

 Jesus was focused on His relationship to the Father, and doing as the Father willed. The mission was not for mere earthly kingdoms, and certainly not for pride or personal ambitions on Jesus’ behalf. All was to bring praise to the Father, and to be done for His Glory. Satan offered the best he could put forth, and the Lord quickly pronounced the paltry value of those earthly deeds and titles.

My application of this principle in this present pandemic is thus: While there is a continual clamor for power, acquisition, chief seats, public adorations and unwavering servitude, there is only one King. There is only one Kingdom. There is only one God, and I must keep the allegiance to Him always before me, in my going and coming, my thoughts, words and deeds, and all that becomes in effect my “testimony” that I either speak or show to all around me. Then Satan left, and the angels ministered. May we all know the ministrations of the angels, as we overcome the attacks of the evil one.  This is done through rightly dividing the Word, reliance upon His powerful Spirit within, and the fellowship of the saints who very much are united in Christ, though for the present are enduring a prolonged wilderness test.