By Sam E. Stone
This month concludes our study of “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture,” as we see how he used the Old Testament so powerfully in his teaching and ministry. The giving of the Law through Moses is recorded in the book of Exodus. Much of the material is related again in the book of Deuteronomy (literally “Second Law”). It repeats and renews the message delivered to the people before they were to enter the promised land. Our New Testament text is taken from Matthew 4, just after Christ’s baptism.
It was the failure of the Israelites to obey God’s law when it was first given that delayed their entrance into the promised land. Moses repeated the law in his exhortation to obedience. James E. Smith noted, “Deuteronomy 6 begins with a reminder that the commands which Moses was about to give them (1) came from the Lord, (2) were intended for observance in the promised land, (3) were to be conveyed to future generations, (4) would test their fear of the Lord, and (5) would lead to a more abundant life and the fulfillment of God’s promises (Deuteronomy 6:1-3).”
This sermon for the second generation of Israelites called upon them to fear the Lord. Fear conveys the idea of worship. Devoting yourself to God is the way to ensure faithfulness. Scripture warns, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). A generation earlier the people had tested God at Massah and Meribah. They were warned not to let that happen again (Psalm 95:8-11; Hebrews 3:15-19).
Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. This uninhabited region near the city of Jericho was a desolate location, away from food and water. Here the devil would do his best to try to break down the Messiah before he could begin his ministry. The temptations to disobedience came at the end of a long fast. Jesus, the greater Moses, abstained from food for 40 days—the same length of time that Moses fasted when he was “with the Lord” on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28).
J. W. McGarvey reminds us, “The temptation of Christ was as real as that of Adam. He had taken upon himself our temptable nature (Philippians 2:7, 8) and he was tempted . . . as the second Adam, Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10-18).”
First, the devil challenged Jesus to satisfy his hunger by transforming some of the stones into bread he could eat. Jesus responded to each temptation by quoting Scripture. This time it was from Deuteronomy 8:3; the other two quotations are from Deuteronomy 6, the chapter we just studied.
For the second temptation the devil transported Jesus to the holy city (Jerusalem) and the highest point of the temple. Here Satan challenged Jesus to fit the people’s expectation of what the Messiah should be and do.
R. V. G. Tasker added, “This temptation was made more attractive by the scriptural language in which it was framed. Divine protection from physical disaster was promised to the faithful in the quotation from Psalm 91:11, 12. Satan even tried quoting Scripture to lead Jesus into sin! His quotation was not accurate, however. The original statement did not encourage people to tempt God by taking unnecessary risks, but assured them God would keep a person safe wherever his way may lead, provided he is obedient to the divine will.”
Once again, Jesus used Scripture to silence Satan. “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Jesus would not make a dramatic entrance into the temple area with an angelic escort. He knew that to follow the Father’s will, he would have to endure abuse and mistreatment at the hands of men, leading finally to death on the cross (Matthew 26:53, 54).
The third temptation came when the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world. “These can all be yours,” Satan suggested, “if you will bow down and worship me.” William Barclay wrote, “This is the temptation to come to terms with the world, instead of uncompromisingly presenting God’s demands to the world. It was the temptation to advance by retreating, to try to change the world by becoming like the world.”
This time Jesus ordered, “Away from me, Satan,” affirming that one is to “worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” At this Satan left Jesus, and angels came and attended him.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.