We look at Jesus’ temptation in the desert in Matthew 4:1-11, we are able to find a few clues.
From the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:1–11) to the end (Luke 22:3), Jesus was in conflict with the powers of darkness. And it is the clear teaching of the apostles, Peter (1 Peter 5:8), James (James 4:7), John (1 John 2:13; 3:8; 5:18), and Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:5) that Satan is against the church and must be resisted by faith and the word of God. We do well to know his tactics.
For example, I have been struck recently at how well Satan knows the Bible and how he loves to quote Scripture in order to destroy faith. Remember how he tried to persuade Jesus to throw himself down from the temple roof? He argued from Scripture! “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’” (Matthew 4:6). Note well! Satan does not always try to ruin faith by saying, “The Bible isn’t true.” He often tries to destroy our faith by affirming some passage and using it to lead us into disobedience.
Not only this, but how would Jesus have known Satan?
Satan’s beauty! We in present day are fed this image of a horned, pitchfork holding, tailed ‘creature’. Totally the opposite of what is!
God created Lucifer, whose beauty goes beyond all description.
No Horns, Red Suit, Or Pitchfork
During the middle ages, people would put on plays where biblical characters were portrayed. When the character of Satan came on stage, he was portrayed as an ugly individual with a red outfit, a tail, horns, and holding a pitchfork. Today, most people immediately think of this description when someone speaks about the Devil. However, this is not how the Bible describes this personage.
No Physical Form
Because Satan is a spirit-being, he has no physical form. The Bible says that angels do not have any physical substance.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).
Though evil angels do not minister to God’s people, they still are spirits.
Angel Of Light
When he does appear, the Devil appears as an angel of light.
And no marvel; for even Satan fashions himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Because Satan is the master deceiver, coming as an angel of light, he appears as a beautiful, tempting, creature – not something ugly or repulsive.
Contrary to the popular view of the Devil, he is not an ugly creature. Since he is a spirit-being, he has no physical form. When he does appear, it is as a beautiful creature, an angel of light.
All Christians suck life from God’s holy Word. We ‘die’ without it (literally and figuratively.) We will not let it be taken from us. We will go to jail rather than stop reading it.
So what does Satan do? His one aim is to destroy our faith. The Word of God alone keeps faith alive. But we cleave to it and Satan cannot tear it away.
So he studies it, he has been there at its inception, every word is known. How else could he quote Psalm 91:11–12 to Jesus? He studies The Word, not for the reasons we do! Mind you:
“You were created” (Ezekiel 28:15).
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. … Every precious stone was your covering. … The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. … You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:12, 13, 15).
Satan knows how to distort it and pervert it by plausible misinterpretations. Yes, they must be plausible. He is not so happy when his sub-demons put absurd misinterpretations into our spirit because they are far too easily corrected. A reason to know and read The Word. Know it cold, so you in spirit will be piping hot! Amen.
What makes Satan happy is when he can get Christians to believe that Proverbs 15:6 justifies the accumulation of wealth in a world of hunger; that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 abolishes charity; that Romans 9:16 makes evangelism superfluous; that 1 Timothy 2:4 means God is not sovereign in conversion; that John 10:28 means a “Christian” can do whatever he wants and still be saved; that Hebrews 6:4–6 means there is no security and assurance for God’s elect.
Is it a sobering thought that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)?
With what do we battle? We are in a war! Do we go in unarmed? You are a soldier! Life is a battlefield. Even speaking ‘every day’ school, work, eating, sleepinf, profit, loss, wh we are! What we are meant to be!
Surprising when we read/learn:
“Finally, be strong in The Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of The Spirit, which is the Word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all The Lord’s people.
We can literally go on for days! But this is key in our walk, on our daily journey.
Yes! Romans 10 is where it starts:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth The Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For whosoever shall call upon The name of The Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
But they have not all obeyed The gospel.
For Esaias saith, “Lord, who hath believed our report?”
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by The Word of God.
But I say, “have they not heard?” Yes verily, their sound went into all the Earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Yes! And indeed it is. What did Jesus say when Satan quoted Scripture? He said: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put The Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). He quoted Scripture against Satan’s use of Scripture. He knew the Bible better than Satan, because Jesus is The Word of God, Amen.
What is the upshot for us?
1. Do not believe everyone who can quote you a text. History is strewn with cults who twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
2. Read widely in the Bible and ask yourself continually how this part fits with that part and that with this. It is when the pieces start to fit together that we are most secure from distortion.
3. Read theological books that the decades and centuries have proved to be deep, solid, and lasting.
4. Fast and pray that God will open our eyes to see true and wonderful things in His Word (Psalm 119:18).
5. Obey what you do understand and you will understand more.
Each time Jesus responds to the devil, he replies with Scripture. When the devil says, “Turn these stones to bread,” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes forth from the Mouth of God.” When the devil tells Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple, Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put The Lord your God to the test.” When the devil commands Jesus to worships him, Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:13 (10:20): “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.”
Could the answer to “why 40 days?” be found in Deuteronomy?
The number 40 does come up in Deuteronomy in some pretty significant ways. For example, Moses twice fasts for 40 days. The first time is when he was preparing himself to receive the Ten Commandments to give to Israel at the base of the mountain (Deuteronomy 9:9-11). Curiously, Jesus gives the New Law on the Sermon on the Mount shortly after his 40-day fast (Matthew 5).
The second time Moses fasts for 40 days comes immediately after he gives the law. Moses returned from the mountain to find the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. God wished to wipe out Israel and make Moses into an even mightier nation (Deuteronomy 9:14), but Moses — being a good mediator — fasted another 40 days for the sins of his people (Deuteronomy 9:18).
Afterward, God permitted Israel to continue to the promised land (Deuteronomy 10:10-11).
Once there, the people rebelled again. They doubted whether they could overcome the inhabitants, so they sent scouts to assess their chances. After 40 days (another 40!)the scouts returned, saying it was impossible. Their discouraging report caused the people to rise up in rebellion.
Their punishment for this rebellion? Forty years in the desert. One year for each day their scouts reconnoitered the land (Number 14:34). Wandering 40 years in the desert was a period of testing, to “find out whether or not it was your intention to keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 8:2). But during this trial, the Israelites had to rely wholly on The Lord: “…Your clothes did not fall from you in tatters nor your sandals from your feet; bread was not your food, nor wine or beer your drink. Thus you should know that I, The LORD, I am your God.’” (Deuteronomy 29:4-5).
Deuteronomy shows us that Jesus is a new Moses who after fasting for 40 days gives us a New Law and suffers for the sins of the people. He is also like a new Israel. Unlike the Israelites who fell repeatedly in the desert, Jesus response to temptation with the same words with which they should have responded.
By uniting ourselves with the mystery of Christ’s trial in the desert, we’re reminded that the 40 days of Lent are like our journey through the desert in this life. If we remain faithful, following the new Moses, Jesus Christ, we too will enter into the true promised land of Heaven.