Thursday, October 19, 2017

Full Circle (Spiritual Warfare, Part XX)

The temptation of Christ took place in a wilderness, a desert.  In facing down the devil, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy.  Why?

The NIV Study Bible sets the scene:  "Deuteronomy locates Moses and the Israelites in the territory of Moab in the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (1:5).  As his final act at this important time of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses delivers his farewell addresses to prepare the people for their entrance into Canaan.  These addresses were actually a covenant renewal…In them, Moses emphasized the laws that were especially needed at such a time, and he presented them in a way appropriate to the situation. In contrast to the matter-of-fact narratives of Leviticus and Numbers, the book of Deuteronomy comes to us from Moses’ heart in a warm, personal, sermonic form of expression…The love relationship of the Lord to his people and that of the people to the Lord as their sovereign God pervade the whole book.  Deuteronomy’s spiritual emphasis and its call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience inspired references to its message throughout the rest of Scripture." (243)

The Israelites were facing a transition from Moses’ leadership to that of Joshua’s. They would be moving from wanderers to warriors. 

The Jews of Jesus’ day were facing a transition from the law of Moses to the revelation of Jesus Christ: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." (John 1:17-18 NIV)

Deuteronomy emphasizes the covenant the Lord made with His people.  The Jews of Jesus’ day were seeing a New Covenant, not written on stone tablets, but written with the blood of the Son of God.  Covenant, God’s sovereignty, His love for His people, and His call for total commitment to Him are the book’s major themes (NIV Study Bible 243).  It is no surprise that Jesus, Who was inaugurating a new era in God’s salvation plan, would use this book to rebuke the devil and emphasize those same themes by His own life and ministry. 

Jesus Himself entered into the narrative of the Forty Years in the Desert by adding His own chapter as He faced His Forty Days in the Desert.  Let’s see Jesus’ responses and the larger context from which they are drawn. 

To the first temptation, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. 

I have included the surrounding verses to show the larger context: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." (Deut. 8:2-5 NIV)

God led His Son to a place where He would have to keep His Father’s commands, depend on Him only, and only do His will.  Jesus says later in His ministry: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:19-20 & 30 NIV)

Jesus responds to the second temptation with, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:8 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said." (Deut. 6:13-19 NIV)

Jesus will not even consider serving anyone else other than His Father.  In fact, in Deuteronomy 6:4 is the beginning of the Shema, the prayer that is the essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

Jesus is reasserting the oneness and the holiness of God.  No other gods shall receive any honor other than the one true God—Jesus’ Father.  The absolute unity of God, His glorious oneness is preserved by Jesus, for He applies this verse to Himself.  The mystery of one God in three Persons is never up for debate by Jesus.  He asserts it as truth, for He is Truth. 

Thus, Jesus will serve only God as He walks on this planet.  That alone is the reason why He came.  Jesus loves His Father with every fiber of His being.  He will walk in obedience for He loves the Father with an all-consuming love.

Jesus responds to the third temptation with, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?' tell him: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us that will be our righteousness.'"(Deut. 6:16-25 NIV)

Jesus is the new Moses, about to deliver His people from the greatest enslavement of all: to sin and death. We are to be the new house wherein the God of the Universe personally dwells.  

That will only be possible, however, with the death and resurrection of Jesus: "He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." (Heb. 3:2-6 NIV)

I see many things emerging out of Jesus’ encounter with Satan that are very applicable to us.  God’s Word alone is our strength and shield.  Jesus stood on it no matter who He was talking to and what He was doing.  The Word alone was His foundation for how He saw His Father and for His ministry.  He knew the Word well enough to wield it powerfully at His supporters, His detractors and Satan. 
But most of all, it was His comfort.  He knew the promises were absolute, not subject to change or whim.  Those promises were woven into every part of Him.  We, in following our Lord, should do no less.

It is in the desert where we are tested THE MOST.  If you look at the desert in Israel, it is rocky, desolate and hot.  The landscape has a certain ominous aspect to it that says: If you are not careful, you will perish here.  

We are tested every day, but a desert period in our lives can reach into our very soul causing us to ask:  Does God care?  Will He continue to care?  Why should He even care?

Jesus went into a desert to show us how we should cope with ours.  He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He Himself has not done.  He truly knows what we are going through: "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." (Heb. 4:15)

He knows and hears the depths of our cries.  Out in that silent and desolate desert, His Father heard the cries of His Son’s heart.  He hears ours as well. 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

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