Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Temptation

Dearly Beloved
Encapsulated in today's reading Matt 4:1-11 is great teachings on temptation.
First we will read the text, then we will meditate on the lessons that God speaks to us.

Matt 4:1 describes that Jesus was led by the Holy spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

This was a confrontation that God had allowed, and the fact that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit confirms this. We will, in a while, look at further texts to see why God allows us to be tested, and the degree to which he allows us to be tested. Suffice to say that this was not a surprise attack by the devil, but God did allow the devil to test Jesus in the desert.

Matt 4:2 describes that after Jesus fasted for 40 days he was hungry. Jesus anticipated his testing and prepared himself by a period of fasting. God's people have always found cleansing of body, mind and soul best accomplished with a period of fasting. It requires discipline of body and mind. With the submission of body and mind to the discipline of fasting, we are given a keener edge to spiritual insight. Fasting by itself is not a guarantee to spiritual insight, for it does require the submission to God's will. In Isaiah 58, God himself identifies how the hypocrites did as they pleased, exploited workers (vs3); ended in quarrelling and strife (vs4), yet wondered why God did not listen to them. True fasting was to be accompanied by appropriate action: loosening the chains of the oppressed, untying the cords of the yoke, feed the hungry, shelter the poor, clothe the naked...

We know Jesus was Son of God, and we know He was led to the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted: we know he prepared for the test by fasting for 40 days, and we can, by extrapolation, understand that he used these 40 days for mental and spiritual preparation, in prayer, talking to God, and indeed seeking his guidance directly and from the scriptures, vital quotations firmly committed to memory and internalised by reading, memory, recitation, and meditation.

Jesus fasted for 40 days. We can assume that this was a total fast, forty days without food. This was similar to the fast that Moses submitted to forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water, when he received the ten commandments for the second time (Exodus 34:28).For us lesser mortals forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water is far too much to achieve without adequate physical and spiritual preparation. Esther requested a shorter fast of 3 days and 3 nights of all the Jews, in preparation for her plea to King Xerxes, (Esther 4:16). The strict Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12): Tradition has had the whole universal church abstaining from meat on Fridays. A regular fast or an occasional fast on a modest scale will, if accompanied by the right behaviour and frame of mind, allow us to disengage from the physical world and engage in things more spiritual.

This brings us to the first temptation. Knowing well that Jesus was fasted for forty days and forty nights, and recognising that he was hungry, the tempter suggests that Jesus use his powers to change the bread to stone, and feed on his physical desires. Within the temptation is a mockery, "If you are the son of God". Sure as eggs are eggs the tempter knew Jesus for who he was. There is no doubt that he recognised Jesus as the son of God. But the devil mocks him and calls upon him to him to ignore the complete dependence on God, and the need to feed on God's word. Jesus met this test with an appropriate quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3. During the 40 years in the wilderness God had provided manna for the Israelites to feed on, with the express purpose of teaching the need for dependence on the Word of God. Jesus is able to deflect this attack with the sword of the spirit which is the word of God (Eph 6:17).

Have we been tested, asked to depend on our own strength to supply our own wants? Are we able to defend ourselves with the word of God, and depend on God to supply all our needs?

Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, atop the highest point of the temple. Here Jesus is invited to use his spiritual authority. Throw yourself down and you will be protected. The devil goes on to quote scripture! (Ah, lesson for us: Quoting right scripture at wrong time is not within God's plan.) Jesus was not willing to abuse his position as son of God for a show that was to have no purpose other than to satisfy his own ego. He responded with a saying. It is also written Do not put God to the test, quoting Deut 6:16. Indeed, who are we who would deem to test God. It is for the Creator to test that which he created. Indeed, where were you when God laid the earth's foundation? (Job 38:4)

The father of lies had not finished. Jesus was brought to a very high mountain and shown all the splendour of the world. All this I will give you if you will worship me.

This temptation deserves study: firstly it was ridiculous: surely all that was in existence already belongs to Jesus as Son of God, Son of the Creator who owns everything. Secondly, it is repeated time and again to us: if we are prepared to bow down and worship the wrong guy, confirming out ticket to an eternity in the wrong place, he offers us a hell of a good time. Recognise the liar for what he is. Put him in his place "Get thee hence, Satan. Away from me Satan."

Jesus replied with a third quotation from Deuteronomy (Deut 6:13) Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.

The devil left Jesus and the angels came and attended to him.

Temptation. We learn that God does allow temptation to test us and purify us. In the book of Job we read how God allowed Satan to test Job, but put the limit clearly, that his life was to be protected (Job 2:6).

1 Cor 10:13 is a precious teaching on temptation: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Temptation does not originate from God, nor is it sinful to be tempted.
James 1:2-18 contains an excellent essay on the subject of temptation. I quote vs 14-15. Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

How then shall we prepare for this spiritual battle? Has not God promised he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it? We can learn from Jesus.

Let us pray.

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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