I recently discovered a commentary on the book of Matthew by David Platt. It was incredibly ‘coincidental’ (is anything ever coincidence with God?) as I was struggling with trials and temptations at the time. I have to write an essay for university where I explore the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, and so, after seeing this commentary by an author I knew, I flicked to section by essay would be about and…. wow. Was I blown away by God! He knocked my spiritual socks off!
For whoever happens to stumble across this blog post, I hope the following helps you to understand trials, tests, temptation, and sin as much as it helped me.
There is an intrinsically close tie between the temptations Jesus faced and the spiritual battles that we face in our own lives.
The first temptation that Jesus came up against was self-gratification. Satan played on the idea that God wasn’t providing for what Jesus needed- food. Platt summarised Satan’s temptation in language we may better understand; “If you are the Son of God, the beloved of God, then why are You out here in the wilderness starving? You desire food. Is your Father not providing and caring for you? Satisfy your desires now.” When we have an outsider’s perspective, we can recognise that this is a blatant lie (something Satan does often). But sometimes when we are in a situation where we feel like God is not providing for what we need we can take things into our own hands. This manifests itself in so many situations in our lives where Satan tempts us to take our lives into our own hands instead of trusting that God will provide whatever we need, whether this be food, money, relationships, rest, etc. according to his will and plan for our lives. “This was a testing of the heart to see if [insert name] would trust the goodness of God to fulfil [his/her] desires according to His word and the counsel of his will.” We are tempted to fulfil our wants apart from God’s will. Don’t give up, my friend. Stand firm in this spiritual war; let your faith in Jesus be the guiding arrow to your actions and decisions. Keep reminding yourself of who you are, and who He is.
The second temptation which Jesus faced was self-protection. Platt helps us to understand Jesus’ temptation here through linking passages from the Old Testament: “[Satan] quotes from Deuteronomy 6.16, where Israel received the following command: do not test the Lord your God as you tested him at Massah…. this takes us back to Exodus 17, where the people of God put God to the test by demanding that he provide them more water. They asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exod 17.7) Their questioning proved a lack of trust in God. They didn’t trust his presence with them or His protection of them. The same thing can often be said of us.. we are tempted to question God’s presence and manipulate God’s promises. Jesus was tempted to put God to the test by manipulating Psalm 91 (which Satan quoted him) into forcing the Father to prove his [Jesus’] sonship by miraculously delivering him.” If we were to give in to this temptation, it would show a lack of trust in God. A line that particularly resonated with me is, “we are tempted to ask for signs that He is still with us even though He has shown His faithfulness to us over and over and over again.” Man, have I done that a lot. Like, A LOT. I am going to begin assuring myself of His love and protection and provision for me, and that he is continuously and always with me, regardless of what I am feeling at a particular moment. He never leaves me, and He dwells inside me (1 Cor 6.19). I have nothing to fear. He has promised that he will not leave me.
The last temptation is self-exaltation. Jesus is shown all the people he could be Lord of if he bowed to Satan. It is an easy shortcut. One without the pain and the suffering that Jesus was going to face. “He was tempted to try and seize God’s reward right then, apart from the path of pain. Satan points out the pleasures and accomplishments and things that we can have right here and now, trying to focus our perspective towards the immediate future. God, however, desires that we have a more eternal perspective- what matters for eternity? We do not know all of what eternity will hold, which means that we have to trust Him that it will be incredible. “We attempt to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of his worship. Instead of a simple, humble, difficult obedience to God in this world, in our pride we seek to attain what we want in the way we want to do it. This pride is at the root of all our rebellion. We all struggle with pride, wherein we bow the knee to the prince of this world and seek to dethrone the one true God who alone is worthy of all worship… Jesus chose to live a life of suffering obedience to the Father instead of sinful submission to Satan, and in the end, all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matt 28.18).”
As in the book of Job, Satan can only do what God allows him to do. God allows Satan to tempt us as a test. And this is okay. God loves us to an unimaginable extent, and protects us and cherishes us and gives us rest. But as a part of His love, which is so much greater than any other experience of love that we have, he allows us to go through hard times where we grow and our faith and trust in him gets refined like gold, becoming stronger and purer. I reiterate, God is good to us, and true love includes allowing the one you love to grow through testing times.
Please note that much of what is written above consists of Platt’s ideas woven into what I have gained from reading this chapter in his book. I highly recommend his book and would encourage you to read a copy. This is the full reference: Platt, David. Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in Matthew. (2013) B&H Publishing Group: Nashville.
The feature photograph is taken from: http://www.loosenessofassociation.com/born-to-wander/desert-wilderness/