That Word Above All Earthly Pow'rs

After God’s voice declares Jesus to be His beloved Son in Luke 3, another voice tests that sonship in Luke 4. Despite the devil’s temptations, Jesus listens carefully to His Father’s Word and proves to be a faithful Son. This is good news for all sons of Adam, because when our father Adam was tempted by the devil, he didn’t live according to God’s Word. He listened to the Serpent’s Word, fed himself at the devil’s command, placed his God-given authority in the devil’s hands, and fell to his death.

But Jesus was the first man born into the world without having Adam for His father, not born under Satan’s control, and so Satan was after Him from the beginning. Now the devil catches Jesus alone in the desert and comes to tempt Him at His weakest.

The three temptations concern necessities, authority and glory, and security. The heart of each temptation is to make those things central and the Word of God optional. The tempter says: “If living by God’s Word doesn’t meet your needs, look elsewhere. If living by God’s Word doesn’t bring you success and influence, look elsewhere. If living by God’s Word doesn’t bring you safety and security, look elsewhere.”

Look at the first temptation: the devil tempts Jesus to satisfy His hunger by turning stones into bread. If the devil wins here, then Jesus will spend His life taking orders from the devil or His own desires, rather than God’s Word.

This temptation concerns one of the big questions of life: “Will I have everything I need? Will I be taken care of?” When we live by the Word, we say yes by faith, regardless of sight. When we pause to think about our answer, that’s called worry. And not only does Jesus tell us not to worry, he specifically tells us not to be anxious about what we eat, because our heavenly Father knows what we need. Because He trusts God to meet His needs, Jesus says, “There is more to life than bread. My desires do not determine how I live.” Living by God’s Word is more important than daily necessities.

Look at the second temptation: Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and promises Him authority and glory, power and praise. If the devil wins this one, then even if he gives authority to Jesus, Jesus will be nothing more than a puppet king in the devil’s service.

This temptation connects with another basic human impulse: the hunger for significance. “Will my life matter in the sight of others? Will I be appreciated?” When we live by God’s Word and obey it, we wait for God to grant us authority. When we doubt God’s Word, we feel the need to get power and glory our way. But note how Jesus shifts the discussion as He quotes from Deuteronomy: the devil connects worship and authority; Jesus connects worship and service. “You shall worship the Lord your God; Him alone shall you serve.” Overcoming this temptation means letting go of your need to be recognized and appreciated, your need to be in charge. Letting go of these desires sets us free to serve. Living by God’s Word is more important than getting power and glory.

Look at the third temptation: the devil tries to get Jesus to test God’s promises in order to prove His own Sonship, and he does so over the issue of physical safety. If the devil wins this battle, then Jesus will prioritize His own safety over what God says, and the cross will never happen.

This temptation strikes at something very precious to all of us: “Will I be safe?” When we live by God’s Word, we do not fear what might happen in the future; we have hope for the future. Testing God reveals a lack of trust in God. We won’t believe until we have independently verified whether or not God is able to keep His word. But that’s not the humble faith of a son of God; that’s the unbelief of a son of the devil. And so Jesus refuses to test His Father’s promises concerning His safety. He is content to take God at His Word. Living by God’s Word is more important than physical safety.

In resisting these temptations, Jesus has given us the answer to worry, anxiety, out-of-control desires, discontent, pride, greed, and fear. At every point, the answer is the same: “It is written.” Everything we need to resist temptation is found in God’s Word. The answer to temptation is faith that believes that God will provide for all that we need, love that gladly serves instead of grasping for power, and hope that entrusts the future to God’s care.

Jesus resists the devil’s temptations because He trusts His Father’s Word. The devil says that you need more food, more power, more safety. But Jesus is alone in an empty desert, and He has everything He needs. He has the Word, and He values that above all the necessities of life, above all authority and glory, and above all promises of earthly security. May the Word of God be enough for us as we follow in His steps.

Posted on Thursday, February 18, 2016 by CJ Bowen