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And if He has the will and power to help us, then it follows that we should make Him our refuge in all seasons of trouble and temptation, should come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace to help in time of need. Another great use of the Lord's Temptation will be the help we may get from it in resisting the devil. For herein, as in so many other points, Christ has set us an example—gone before us in the way. Bearing these two things in mind—1st, that our Lord suffered, being tempted, in order to a more perfect sympathy with us when we are tempted; and 2ndly, that in the manner in which He met temptation He is our pattern, let us go on to consider the several stages of the Temptation itself. Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the Tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. The temptation here was to distrust God—and the attack was made on that side of our human nature where we are commonly the weakest—the side of bodily appetite. For forty days had the Lord been without food, and His body was enfeebled by the long fast. As the Son of God, He could have provided for Himself instant refreshment. He who fed the five thousand with five loaves, and the four thousand with seven loaves, could not lack the power to find food for Himself. And this is what Satan suggested to Him now—If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But no—the time was not yet come for Jesus to work miracles. Besides, had He listened to the Tempter, had He turned the stones into bread, He would have been no example to us. And remember that, throughout all the Temptation, the Lord had us in mind, and acted and spoke for our good. Instead, then, of being beguiled by this crafty wile of the devil, He put it from Him, with these grand and instructive words—It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. You know the place where it is so written (Deut. viii. 3), and also the occasion. It occurs in the exhortation of Moses to the Israelites, and the reference is to that providential supply of food by which the Israelites were sustained of old, when they despaired of life, by God in the wilderness. Our Lord checks Satan, and crushes his suggestion with this thought, that “God will provide”—that they who wait on Him, shall want for nothing—that He can and does furnish food, and all other needful things, for those who trust in Him, even though they may not be able themselves to see the channel of His mercies, the quarter from whence the help is to come. And O, brethren, what a valuable lesson there is for us here! How truly are we concerned to fix deeply in our mind this reply of our Lord to Satan—It is written, man shall not live by bread alone! Yes, it is written—that we might be patient under poverty, calm under sorrow, resigned in all things to the will of God. It is written, that we might have faithtrust in a living God—and look to Him for our deliverance in all times of trouble and distress.
For so it was with God's people of old-so it will be to the end. They who trust in the Lord are not let to want. They who live in a belief that God ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth—that both when He giveth, and when He taketh away, all is for the best—these are the truly happy ones. Not easily will Satan prevail with them to be impatient or discontented-to seek to change the stones into the bread. They may be suffering, they may be in sorrow, but they will not seek by unlawful ways to be delivered—they will hold fast by God—they will endure as seeing Him who is invisible—they will be comforted in all their tribulation with this remembranceMan doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live !
But let us go on to the second temptation. Finding that our Lord was not to be overcome on the side of bodily appetite, the devil next assails Him on the side of pride. He had tempted Him to distrust God, he now tempts Him to trust Himself. And for this—He taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.
Now we may remark in this the cunning of Satan. He had just himself been defeated by a word of God by our Lord's appeal to the written testimony—and, wiser by his failure, he now himself quotes the Scripture in support of his temptation--he said unto Jesus—It is written ! . .
But the Lord was not to be so deceived. There are two ways of quoting Scripture—the way Satan quoted it -the way ignorant and unlearned men sometimes quote it-wresting it to a false meaning, taking it apart from its true connection-and the way our Lord quoted it, in sincerity and truth, in the spirit as well as the letter.
If you look at Psalm xci., from whence the words are taken, you will see that it furnishes no real argument for Satan's proposal — no encouragement to presumption. The promise there made of safety and protection, is made not to him who should rashly run into danger, but to the man who dwells, abides habitually under the defence of the Most High.
It could not then be right to urge the words of this psalm as an inducement to our Lord to cast Himself off the temple roof. Clearly, to have done this would have been, not to dwell under the defence of the Most High, but to come from under it, and reject its shelter altogether.
And so our Lord again evaded the snare—again baffled Satan's wiles—and with the same instrument as before—Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God-how full of weighty caution for us, in all time, is this answer! Thou shalt not tempt God by thy presumption—by being overconfident in thyself—by going into unnecessary dangers -by playing, as it were, on the edge of sin. Thou shalt
not tempt Him by leaving the shelter of His protection, by endeavouring to walk without Him in the world—by going out, morning after morning, without prayer—by neglecting any means of grace which He has opened to you, and which you need, that you may be able to stand against the wicked one. Neither shalt thou tempt the Lord thy God by careless living—by putting off the preparation for death—by trusting to your last sickness to do the work, the great and difficult work of repentance. I find this, and much more than this, conveyed in that short answer of our Lord to Satan—Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Is it not, then, an answer to be remembered? Ought we not to have it always by us—a weapon of defence ever ready against the crafts and assaults of our great adversary P But I must hasten to the third and closing scene of the Temptation. Again the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me. We are not surprised that this temptation also failed. It was too bold—too barefaced. Hitherto Satan had masked his guile under a show of bringing out into action the greatness and power of Christ—but he now dares to ask directly for His homage—and thinks to bribe Him by offering those kingdoms of the world which were not his to give—which Christ was soon to claim for His own by a very different title ! Well might the Lord now be moved to righteous anger | Well might He bid the Tempter flee, with