Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus traveled alone into the wilderness to engage one of the greatest spiritual battles of all time.  It is glorious to see how our Saviour triumphed where all sinful men have failed.  Adam himself, the prototype man, a sinless man, was entangled in Satan’s snare.  Israel went out into the wilderness, and when they began to run low on food and water, they began to murmur and complain against God and against Moses.  How different is the reaction of Christ!  Confronted by that most basic and primitive drive of human nature, and living in a body precisely similar to our own, He refused to complain against God, and neither would He work a miracle which His Father had not assigned Him.  Our Lord never did any miracle merely for His own private benefit, nor just to impress the crowds with His special powers.  Every great act He ever did was according to the purpose and command of His heavenly Father.  They were done to attest to His identity as Messiah, to show His power as God in human flesh, and to glorify His Father in heaven.

There have rightly been drawn a number of parallels between Christ’s engagement with the Devil and the history of the Old Testament.  Christ fasted forty days and forty nights, just as Moses did on two occasions, and Elijah at a later date.  The people of God were led out of Egypt and into the wilderness, where God “tested and proved them.”  But they fell short of the mark, complaining and rioting whenever they encountered hardship in the desert.  The great majority of that congregation would have been content to live on bread alone, even at the cost of returning to Egyptian slavery.  Christ, on the other hand, though He had the power, yet refused to succumb to Satan’s allurements, but declared that man should not live by bread alone, but by the word of God.  And that sacred word will not permit us to yield on any point to the Devil’s suggestions.  It is better to starve for lack of food than to disregard the commands of God.

The temptations to which men are most prone (with the single exception of sexual lust) were all hurled at Christ during the course of Satan’s assault.  Taking advantage of our Lord’s hunger, the Devil invited Him to turn stones into bread for His own benefit.  But this would have betrayed in Christ a lack of trust in His heavenly Father.  Therefore He retorts that it is not bread alone upon which men live, but upon the word of God.  He was content to obey the will of His Father rather than relieve the terrible pangs of hunger.

Then the Devil assaulted Him through pride, which is the downfall of multitudes of sinful men.  He constantly badgers Christ with the words, “If Thou be the Son of God…”  In other words, prove Who you are!  Prove that you are the only begotten Son of God, loved by Him through the ages of eternity, sent into the world as the great Mediator between God and men!  If you are really so special to the King of heaven, then appropriate that promise of Psalm 91:11 to yourself, and cast yourself off a pinnacle of the temple.  His angels will surely catch you and preserve you, if you really are so unique and precious to the Father, if He is really and truly pleased with you!  But Christ knew that the promise of Psalm 91 was not written as a license for the godly, or even the Messiah, to casually risk the safety of their human bodies.  Scripture must be tested against Scripture, and it is marvelous to see how our Lord does it in withstanding this temptation.  It betrays no lack of trust in God to intentionally preserve ourselves from harm.  Rather, it is tempting Him to destroy us when we rashly expose ourselves to danger unnecessarily.

Finally, Satan dangled before Him the allurement of power, which drives men to acts of incredible audacity, courage, brutality, and wickedness.  The Devil has dominion over the kingdoms of the earth, because men came into bondage to him through the fall.  But Christ knew that there was One Who reigned over Satan.  Better to be a pauper, yielding humble obedience to the true King, than assume the pomp of earthly empire, which can only last as long as one’s own lifespan!  “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”  He knew that power over all the kingdoms of men would be His in due season, and He was willing to suffer through a season of humility and poverty rather than violate the command to worship God alone.

Having disposed of these temptations, Christ then shows Who is the true Master by disposing of Satan.  “Get thee hence.”  And off the Devil went, no match for the supreme power and goodness of our beloved Lord.  The prince of the world came, but he had nothing in Christ, no weakness on which he could take hold.  Though He had made Himself of no reputation, yet Christ was still in the form of God, the very fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily.  In such an amazing being there can be no propensity to sin.  This the Devil learned, and fled the scene in disgrace, having failed to do to Christ what he had done to Adam, and to so many others.

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