Lenten Devotion Day 5

Matthew 4:1-11

When I was growing up, I memorized a lot of Scripture verses.  One of my favorites was:

“Thy word I have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”  Psalm 119:11      (KJV)

Of course it was the King James Version.  That was the only “translation” we had at our house.

I still like that verse, Elizabethan language and all.

Jesus must have memorized a lot of Scripture too.  He used it to resist temptation.

He had just been baptized, a big step in beginning his ministry.  Then, like Moses and Elijah before him, he was led to go into the desert to fast for 40 days.  Forty days is a long time to go without food, and Jesus was human.  He must have been so hungry that the stones on the ground began to look like loaves of bread.  It was the perfect setup for temptation.  The devil said, “If you really are the son of God, just tell these stones to become bread.”

But Jesus did not yield to temptation.  Instead, he reached into his trove of Scripture and said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God.”

But the devil did not give up.  He took Jesus to the highest point of the Temple, and this time the devil quoted Scripture.  (Don’t you hate it when people use Scripture for self-serving purposes, or to justify their actions and prejudices?)  “If you are the son of God,” the devil challenged, “throw yourself down.  God will protect you.”

Jesus was tired and alone.  This would be an easy way to show the world once and for all that he was the son of God. It would be hard to resist that kind of power.  But again Jesus quoted Scripture:  “Do not test God.”

Satan tried one more time. He took Jesus to the top of a high mountain where he could see all the kingdoms of the earth and promised him that he could have dominion over all of it if he would just bow down and worship Satan.  This time Jesus quoted:  “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only;” and he sent Satan away with a “Get thee behind me.”

The experience in the wilderness was not the end of Jesus’ temptations.   As he was dying on the cross, alone and feeling that even God had forsaken him, some in the crowd shouted, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!”  Jesus chose not to save himself but to fulfill the mission he came to earth for.

Probably no one reading this has experienced the kind of hunger that would lead to major temptation; but as Christians we make decisions every day. Who among us has not experienced, and yielded to, the temptation to bend the rules or cheat a little to gain possessions or popularity? The temptation is always with us to get- more, get-more; to turn a blind eye to the poor; to believe that those who are different are somehow less than and that people who are suffering must have done something to deserve it.

The Season of Lent calls us to put these temptations behind us by praying, spending time with our Bibles, and listening to what God is saying to us.

–Nancy Russ


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