The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.
The three temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness were more than just examples of how to deal with natural desires. They were specific temptations applicable to what Jesus was to face throughout his ministry. God had just declared Jesus to be His Son at his baptism when the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17). The temptations echoed those words when the tempter said, “If you are the Son of God” (Matt. 4:3, 7) before the first two. The last temptation, when he saw all the kingdoms of the world and was tempted to bow down to the devil, relates to his status as the Messiah of Israel. Not only was he the Son of God, but the seed of Abraham and David, the one promised to sit on David’s throne.
The challenge of him being the Messiah and Son of God continued throughout his ministry. People like the scribes and Pharisees kept putting these claims to the test. All the way to the cross where the people once again said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt. 27:40). His wilderness experiences helped train his mind to deal with what was to come.
In the first century, there was a high expectation among the Jews of the coming of the Messiah. But they weren’t expecting him to die on the cross. When we look at Jewish writings of the time, we find out that they were looking for someone who would drive out the Roman oppressor and reestablish the throne of David in Jerusalem. There’s even a rabbinical tradition that Messiah would manifest himself on the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus knew all of this. Not only was he given the Holy Spirit power of God, enabling him to prove to the people who he was, but he indeed was their Messiah. He was destined to sit on David’s throne. The temptation to conform to the expectations of the people, saving his people, those he grew up with, his family and friends, from Roman occupation, would have been immense. It was either that or conform himself to the mission God had given him, which would end with crucifixion.
Therefore we can look at the devil in the wilderness as a representation of the Jewish people and their expectations. While Jesus was alone in the wilderness, he took what the people expected him to do there with him. He dealt with his temptations, and the experience strengthened him for the task ahead.
There are many lessons for us when we consider Jesus’ temptations, but perhaps the main one is the importance of putting the cross before the crown. Think of your life as a pathway that leads to the cross, as it did for Jesus. Every decision we make is about whether we are going to conform to God’s expectations, or the expectations of the world around us, and our fleshly desires. The danger for us is not so much the fact that we slip up and fall on the pathway. God will pick us up and put us back on track by forgiving us for our sins when that happens. The danger is when we choose another path altogether. That was what Jesus dealt with in the wilderness. Was he going to do God’s will and submit himself to the cross? Or was he going to conform to what the people expected him to do?
We also are under constant pressure to take a different path. Sin wins the battle when we give in to that pressure. Perhaps we worry and fret about our sinfulness when we stumble along the way. But as long as we are heading in the right direction, sin won’t have the final victory. It’s when we’re tempted to avoid the cross altogether that the battle is lost.
Simi Hills, CA
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