Matthew 4:1 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Some are amazed that God orchestrated Jesus’ testing in the wilderness. They believe that it is God’s duty to protect His people from temptation, so that we won’t fall into sin.
But Jesus’ temptation, like the temptation of Adam and Eve, and like the temptations and times of testing that He allows into the life of every one of His people, has a purpose.
There were two levels of significance to this time of testing in Jesus’ life. The first was primal: the first Adam was tested and fell into sin, making the whole human race liable to sin and subject to death. The second Adam, who was sent to save mankind from sin and death also had to pass through a similar time of testing and be victorious if His mission was going to be successful.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by that Spirit into the desert. And in this lay the second level of significance. The Israelites, the first people that God had called to be His own people, had been tested in the desert for 40 days while Moses was on the mountain with God, and they had failed the test. They had fallen into the gross sin of idolatry with the golden calf. That fall had planted the seed of idolatry deep into the hearts of the people, which then sprang up over and over again, even in the Promised Land, breaking their relationship with God repeatedly, and ultimately causing God to drive them out of the land. By going through the wilderness test successfully, Jesus, unlike the Israelites, would be able to come out of the desert in power and victory, and would bear the seeds of a new, transformed people, whose hearts would be entirely devoted to God, without the generational taint of idolatry.
There were two factors that helped Jesus to stand firm in this time of testing. The first was His assurance that the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him made Him more powerful than the tempter that would be assailing Him. The second was the understanding of what was at stake in this time of testing. Jesus knew who He was; He knew what His job was; and He understood that failure at this point would doom the whole enterprise. And there was no way that He was going to let that happen!
Father, like Jesus, we have been given a mission to accomplish – not to give our lives for the salvation of mankind, but to take the message of that accomplished salvation into the world and lead people into Your kingdom. In order to be successful in our mission like Jesus was in His, we too need to pass every testing time without falling, which would taint our lives and invalidate our message. Like Jesus, You have given us the assurance that the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is more powerful that the tempter that assails us. (1 John 4:4 (NIV): You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.) Like Him, we must always keep in mind what is at stake every time we are tested. We must know who we are in You: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that (we) may declare the praises of him who called (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) We must know what our job is: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus has) commanded (us). (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) And we must understand that failing when we are tested will damage our witness, and doom the whole enterprise. I praise You, Lord, that You have already given us all the power we need to gain the victory whenever the tempter comes. Now help us to use that power to make the victory real. Amen.