Matthew chapter 4 has four parts:
1. The temptation of Jesus,
2. The beginning of His ministry,
3. The first disciples, and
4. The crowds that followed Him.
Today, I will focus in on the temptation that Jesus had, and how it began right after Jesus expressed an obedient heart, a water baptism and an open Heaven where Father, Son and Spirit were reconnected as a Trinity of One. If you want to know more, please go back and read Matthew 3.
You see, right after the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, the adversary of God. There are several things that need to be examined in this passage, and it starts with an understanding of what the wilderness is.
Deuteronomy 28 says that that there will be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience - all of which come from God. This means that God will give us opportunities to be tested, even though He is not the one tempting us. And Deuteronomy 29:5-6 says, "I have led you forty years in the wilderness. The clothes on your back have not worn out, and the sandals on your feet have not worn out; you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink—so that you may know that I am the Lord your God."
The Greek word for wilderness in the Matthew Chapter 4 passage is eremos, and it's etymology comes from the root meaning "of uncertain affinity." Eremos is actually an adjective that describes the condition of loneliness, desolation and deserted. The Hebrew word for wilderness is midbar, and it's etymology stems from the meaning "an open field or a pasture in which cattle are driven." So what I am understanding about the wilderness is that it is a desolate place to which God is driving us so that we can show our obedience by fully relying on Him.
The second thing that struck me was the number 40. The amount of time, in days and years, that God allowed Jesus and the Israelites to wander in. It seems to signify a period of testing, trial and tribulation. Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and 40 years in the desert before God chose Him, and he sat on Mount Sinai for days and nights, on two separate occasions. Spies were sent to investigate the land of Canaan for 40 days before they could obtain their inheritance, and Jonah powerfully warned the land of Nineveh for 40 days that it's destruction would come come because of its many sins. Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah's sins, and Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb - Just as Jesus did. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that God destroyed a generation of people, while leaving a remnant through the Noahic covenant when he flooded the earth 40 days, just as he did through the Mosaic covenant when the children of Israel were punished by wandering the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation was allowed to possess the promised land. All we have to do is add a 0 to see, that God cemented his Word, his Land, his Seed, and his Redemption and Blessing when he told Abraham, in a dream, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated (400) four hundred years. But I will judge the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will depart with many possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
The third thing that struck me was that Satan was given permission to tempt Jesus in the land that the Spirit of God sent him, just as Satan was allowed to enter the Garden of Eden and tempt Adam and Eve. But this time, man was not just the flesh creation as he was with Adam. This time, Jesus was fully God and fully man - God incarnated. "So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam a life-giving spirit." 1 Corinthians 15:45
So we see, in Matthew 4 that Satan is actually trying to tempt God himself. Now I totally understand why the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, and why anything that goes against God is called a fool.
Jesus was able to withstand the temptation of Satan, because He knew who He was and who He was dealing with. Satan started by tempting the flesh, and trying to get Jesus to break from His identity in God. Jesus had been 40 days in the wilderness, with no food to eat. So the tempter offered him bread to eat, if Jesus were truly the Son of God then he could tell the stones to become loaves of bread at his feet. But Jesus did not take the bait. He said, "The scriptures say that people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."
So then Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the temple and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump! For it is written, "He will command His angels concerning You, and they will You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone." By the way, this scripture is found in the 11th verse of Psalm 91. But Jesus said, "The Scriptures ALSO say, "you must not test of the Lord your God."
Now I know why scripture tells us to put the Word of God inside our hearts, because Satan knows it better than us. We have to understand, that it's only through the blood of Christ and our faith in Him that we are made right in sight of God.
Satan made a third attempt to tempt Jesus, and this time he did it through the spirit. Satan, as the chief spiritual prince of this world, the world that David referred to as the Valley of the Shadow of Death, took Jesus to the highest mountain peak. He showed Him ALL the kingdoms of the world, and said, "I will give you everything if you will kneel down and worship me."
Jesus said, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve." And finally the devil went away, and to Jesus, the angels came and ministered unto Him.
You see, Satan is nothing more than a pest, a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, whose sole mission is to tempt us. But God puts us to the test. This world is not our home. It is not our final destination. This world is the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that Genesis Chapter 3 describes as Paradise Lost. But our God, He is with us. He has offered himself as the final sacrifice. The Land is promised - to whosoever accepts Jesus.
Tomorrow I will begin looking at the ministry of Jesus which Matthew Chapter 4 says is, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."