Early in his ministry, Jesus and the devil had a showdown in the sand. The devil lobbed three temptations at the Christ. These temptations that are still so common for us all! But our Savior handled them perfectly. Our devotion today is the second of these three temptations, which is described here:
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Matthew 4:5-7).'”
Satan was so clever! He did the opposite of what you’d expect. Instead of running away from church, this time he ran to church. He opened up his Bible to Psalm 91:11-12, verses that describe God’s comfort as he commissions his angels to protect us. But Satan had a hidden agenda. He never intended for the comforting truth to get out. He was only opening up his Bible so that he could distort it.
He started temptation #2 the same way he started temptation #1, with the letters, “I-F.” ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said. Satan wanted Jesus to doubt his identity as God’s Son. Can you really take God at his Word? Will he send his angels to always protect you? Doesn’t that sound a bit crazy? You probably should try this out first, to see what happens. Make sure God’s actually able to send his angels and back up his claims! You had better throw yourself off from this cliff and see what happens next.
But Jesus wasn’t fooled. The best way to make sure you aren’t taking the Bible out of context is to let all of God’s Word shed light on the subject. Jesus knew that God intended Psalm 91 to be something you can count on before you ever needed to count on it. There’s no “if” about it. He saw right through the devilish deception. The Christ also quoted from the Old Testament, and his powerful truth exposed the shady lie. He announced to Satan, ‘It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
What’s a helpful approach to God’s Word? How do we avoid deceiving ourselves (like Satan did) and instead bolster ourselves (like Jesus did)? Approach the Bible carefully and humbly, with a listening heart. It is possible for anyone to misinterpret what God is saying. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you listen to his simple, straightforward truth as he intended for it to be heard. Battle against the temptation to put God to the test, as though some of his Word isn’t trustworthy. Battle against the desire for a pick-and-choose approach to the Bible. Learn to ask questions like, “Is this what I want, or is this what God wants?” And then stick with what God wants.
Then…thank Jesus for being the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. His light exposes even the most clever-sounding lies. And it always will.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you know that Satan, the Accuser, is filled with fury because his time is short. He wages war against those who keep your commands and hold to your truth. But you have already triumphed over him, King Messiah! Your holy truth will always expose all of his deceptions and lies! Drown out all his accusations, and help me listen instead to your truth. Give me a humble craving to always learn more about your Word, so that I can help share your truth with the world, and expose Satan’s lies whenever, and wherever, they show up. Amen.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1