Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
We continue our study of the wilderness in Scripture. And we’ve seen a lot happens in the wilderness. Wandering. It is also a place of transition. The restoration of relationships can happen in the wilderness. Sometimes it is an opportunity for instruction. This week we will see it can be a time of temptation.
Jesus Himself was tempted during a time in the wilderness. Now, His experience is unique because first, the Spirit directed Him to the wilderness, knowing that the temptation was coming. Second, it was necessary to prove Christ’s sinlessness so He was more than qualified to be the sacrifice for our sins. But if we look closely at His experience, we can see some lessons for us.
Jesus was physically weakened after a forty-day fast, but He was also alone (humanly speaking). Now I tend to believe that what we see recorded in the gospels is only the final round of temptation. I doubt Satan stood by for forty days and then tried three temptations and left. I believe the temptations were constant through those forty days, making it an emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausting time as well.
Temptation is a danger for us when we are isolated and exhausted.
Circumstances cut us off from our support system. It’s hard to find enough good, spiritual food, and it’s not long before the tempter is whispering in our ear, drawing our eyes away, sowing rotten seeds in our hearts and minds. “You are alone. God is tired of hearing your complaints. It’s not worth the effort.” These recent days have certainly proven that the temptations to despair, or to laziness in our faith, or to any number of thoughts and actions that don’t honor God, are a very real and very formidable challenge.
Jesus was led into the wilderness after a very public affirmation of His Sonship and His mission. There was no time to simply enjoy that victory before the attacks came.
Temptation is a danger after times of confirmation or victory.
Maybe that’s when our pride opens the door. Maybe our guard is lowered. Maybe we are frustrated that the good times ended and we are in the wilderness.
Many, many commentators have written extensively on Jesus’s use of Scripture in the face of intense temptation. We would be wise to follow His example of knowing the Word and being able to apply it to our lives. (The whole reason I write is to demonstrate that.)
In the wilderness (or anywhere else), truth is our best weapon against temptation.
When we hear, “You are alone,” the truth is Jesus said He would never leave you or forsake you. When we hear, “You don’t matter,” the truth is God loves you with an everlasting love. And on and on. Lean on truth, God’s proclaimed truth, rather than our feelings or our circumstances or even our own take on things.
Satan fights dirty and he will come after you at the worst possible times, especially wilderness times. Reliance on Christ and His word can flip the script and remake the temptations in a wilderness time an opportunity to grow stronger in faith, move closer to God and bring Him honor and glory.
This time of temptation was not Jesus’s only time in the wilderness. Next week, we’ll look at another time He got away from it all.