Command These Stones
“If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:1-4).
There are those who hold the idea that there is no real devil, just a spirit of evil.
But the Scriptures confirm there is a devil and here Jesus had a personal encounter with him.
He is referred to as the tempter and Jesus later said he is as liar and the father of it.
The devil’s approach on this occasion was very much like that to Eve in the garden of Eden. He sought to raise doubt about God’s Word by asking, “Hath God said?”
In this case God had spoken from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But when Satan says, “If thou be the Son of God,” he was hoping to entice him to prove he was the Son of God by turning stones into bread. He wanted Jesus to act on his own rather than in subjection to the will of the Father. But as Jesus later said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”
Jesus’ response to this temptation is to quote Scripture. He says, “It is written,” referring to Deuteronomy 8:3: “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
In this reply Jesus reveals his complete confidence in his Father to supply all his needs.
Just as God fed his people in the wilderness by raining down manna from heaven, he was confident the Father would provide for him and so he refused to yield to Satan’s suggestion.
Lessons to Learn
There is a great lesson here for all of us. We sometimes worry about how our needs will be supplied and may be tempted to resort to a plan that does not honor God. But we have a wonderful promise: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
The promise does not excuse laziness or neglect of duty but it does mean that we must not be given to worry or some scheme which would compromise our commitment to honor the Lord in every detail of life. Our heavenly Father knows all your needs and Jesus declares that he feeds the fowls of the air and so you can have confidence he will feed you.
We also see here the importance of not just believing God’s Word but using it in our daily life. If Jesus believed using Scripture was the effective way to resist temptation then surely we should follow his example. David wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). And Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16).
If we are reading God’s Word, mediating on God’s Word, hiding God’s Word in our heart; it will be of great benefit when temptations come.
Tempted Like Us
It is somewhat difficult for us to grasp the idea of Jesus Christ being tempted. We know that he was God in the flesh. We know that he was a sinless perfect man. So it is hard to comprehend what it meant for him to be tempted.
Yet this account, as all of Scripture, is included by divine inspiration and is there for our benefit. One of the reasons for the inclusion of this event in Jesus’ life is revealed in the book of Hebrews. “Seeing then that we have great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:14-15).
The writer had already given the admonition, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you and evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (3:12). Now once more the admonition is given, “let us hold fast our profession.” Then follows the encouragement needed to continue on course: we have a great high priest.
He is passed into the heavens and he ever lives to make intercession for us.
Because of our sin and our continual failings we need someone to intercede for us. Jesus Christ is that one-and-only mediator between God and man. He is at the right hand of God and so occupies a position where he can effectively do the work of interceding. But the word of encouragement doesn’t end there.
Although this great high priest is in a high and exalted place, he can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. In fact he came to earth and was tempted like we are tempted so he is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. This in no way intimates that he thinks lightly of sin or excuses it, but it does say he understands our struggles and will both hear us and help us. So since we have a great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmity, the writer then says: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
We are encouraged to come with confidence to the throne of grace — not the bar of justice. We come to obtain mercy and furthermore to find grace to help in time of need.
Grace is needed for every step of the journey. Grace is needed to overcome temptation, and God is ready to provide it. The writer of the Hebrew epistle puts great emphasis on the temptation of Christ as a means of assuring us we can find the help in him that we so desperately need. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).
We are reminded our Lord was made like unto his brethren. He became a man. After forty days of fasting in the wilderness he knew what it was to be hungry.
He knew what it was to be tempted. So he is able to help those who are tempted.
When Satan would tempt us to give up the battle and yield to his cunning devices we must remember there is help. We are not on our own, we have available to us the best help possible — Jesus Christ himself. And when it is necessary to confess our sin, we are encouraged to hear that he is a merciful high priest. He is the one who makes reconciliation for the sins of the people and so he intercedes for us, he pleads our case on the basis of his perfect life and sacrificial death.