As we continue our series in Matthew’s gospel, today we look only at the first of the three Satanic temptations. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Remember, Jesus had just spent forty grueling nights and days in the wilderness. At this point, at the end of those forty days, the HUMAN Jesus is at His lowest ebb. He’s hungry. And tired – emotionally and physically. And cold. And, knowing human nature as we do, He probably want to go home and sleep in His own bed.
And it now, at the Lord’s most weary state, the Tempter shows up. Notice the timing and think to yourself: Does what Satan said to Jesus sound vaguely familiar to what he says to YOU when you’re tired, or sick, or in pain, or lonely for family or friends? Does he say to you something like: “If you are TRULY a child of God, He would not let you be in the situation you’re in. Does he try to get you to give up praying? Does he also whisper that since God has turned His back on you, you may as well turn your back on Him?
Remember of first importance: Satan is the original liar. The Lord Jesus tells us: “[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8)
Listen, please. Everything the devil tells us is either a blatant lie, or a nuanced lie. But whatever he says to us, it is ALL designed to seduce us into turning from our Savior, the lover of our soul, our best Friend.
Satan’s first temptation challenged the hungry Jesus to turn the surrounding rocks into bread. But Jesus answered: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Throughout the Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, God makes this point repeatedly and in a variety of ways: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
And this, too, is important. When Jesus said we must live by every word God said, He meant ‘every’ word that comes out of the mouth of God.
Every word. From cover to cover of the Bible. Not just the ones that make us comfortable or those with which we agree. Every word includes those that make us uncomfortable; The ones that make us squirm; The ‘thou shalts’ and the ‘thou shalt nots.’
That is probably why so few people consistently read AND STUDY God's word. Because it is a mirror to the soul. It shows us our dirty faces and dirty hands and dirty hearts.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Man does not live only by bread, but by God's word. Here is Psalm 119:9-11— How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
St. Peter writes “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)
And St. John writes: “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
And HOW did the young men overcome the evil one? Read the last part of the next verse: “Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:13-15
Is it any wonder that Satan hates it when God's children study God's word. Is it any wonder why he deceives us into thinking that the Bible is understandable by only a select few people. That we should therefore leave it to that group to tell us what it says and what it means.
Now, certainly, there are difficult passages in the Scriptures that need trustworthy explanation. No doubt that is true. But it is a deadly lie that that the average person cannot understand the Bible well enough to live a holy life pleasing to God and to inherit salvation.
Listen! An adult with a sixth-grade education can understand well enough for personal application texts such as “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16); And “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30); And the entire book of Proverbs; And the Sermon on the Mount; And on and on and on.
Please! Hear me. When Sts. Paul and Peter and James and John and Jude wrote their epistles, and when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote their gospels, their audience was NOT comprised of theologians. They did not write those gospels and letters of instruction and encouragement and exhortation to the well-educated and schooled Ph.ds and Th.ds. They wrote them to average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill people like you and me.
And if THEY were able to understand the letters, don’t let anyone tell you that YOU cannot understand them – but we have to READ THEM if we hope to understand them. And so the Lord Jesus promised He would send us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
God supernaturally designed His word to be simple enough for a child to understand, and at the same time so profound that you can have a dozen Ph.ds after your name and STILL spend twenty lifetimes plunging the depths of the scriptures.
Please do not fall for the lie that the average person cannot understand God's word. If we could not, then the warning of the Lord in the last few verses of the Sermon on the Mount would make no sense: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Even without a degree in structural engineering, everyone understands if you build a house on the sand, it will not have the necessary stability to stand its ground – so to speak – in a severe storm. But build the same house on solid rock, and the storm will hardly be noticeable.
A strong foundation is the basis of the entire counsel Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount. And the principle of solid foundations is to what St. Paul referred in his letter to the Christians at Rome – and, yes, also at Ashwood Meadows: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Be transformed. From death to life. Corruption to purity. And what is it that transforms us? St. Paul counseled: (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
And then again to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
Do you see the pattern here? God is serious about our well-being. He is serious about our safety – as serious as you and I were when we had small children in our home, and we hovered over them to protect them from dangerous situations or dangerous people.
That’s why the Lord Jesus reminds us: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Every word. And those words are not and never has been subject to changes in cultures, or the opinions of political, judicial, educational, or religious leaders.
God the Father permitted His beloved Son, with whom He was well-pleased, to undergo that wilderness testing. And we saw how Jesus responded to that first test – with the eternal and sharp sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And so – to bring this message to a close for now and to keep the main thing the main thing: How well do YOU know God's word? Are you personally and consistently reading it and studying it and memorizing it?
Please, make it your habit to do so. Keep it your habit to do so. Consistently read or listen to God's word, from cover to cover, at least once a year. Let the Holy Spirit feed your spirit with the bread of life which only He can provide.