Matthew 4

Matthew 4  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
From the commencement of this chapter we may learn this simple principle, that God will not lead His own into circumstances of trial without first amply preparing them for those circumstances. He had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, and He now leads Him by the Spirit into the wilderness that His manhood should be thoroughly put to the test. The prince of this world is the instrument chosen of God to do this, as in Job's case he had been selected to break the links that bound the carnal man to the earth. God will be glorified, and if man in the flesh had failed to glorify Him He will still be glorified in His Son. The first Adam had failed to resist the test applied to him by Satan; it remains now that Jesus should do this, even though everything that could entice the natural man was laid before Him in the most attractive forms.
The wilderness, the pinnacle of the temple, and the exceeding high mountain, are the three scenes of the temptation. And the character of the trial is suited to the locality. The wilderness was necessarily destitute of food. The pinnacle would afford the most suitable, because the most lofty spot,- whence to display so notable a miracle as the ninety-first Psalm encouraged Messiah to trust God for. And the mountain top was the place whence naturally all the kingdoms of the world would appear before the eye in their most attractive forms.
The temptations man is subject to are divided by the apostle John into three classes (chap. 2:16.) " The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." These comprise "all that is in the world." In these three ways Eve was evidently tempted, in the same three the Lord Jesus, less clearly perhaps, but not the less certainly, for He "was in all points tempted, like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:1515For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)). It was " when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise," that she gave way. Thus the lust of the flesh, &c., had their three-fold development in her. In Christ we find one who would not satisfy His natural need of food at the expense of obedience, who would not allow His eye to rest on the world so as to covet it, and who would not take Messiah's place lest the pride of life should be manifested in Him.
Not only had Adam failed to glorify God in resisting Satan, but Israel also had given way through disobedience to the law. Here, therefore, we find Christ taking the place, not only of a perfect Man, but of a perfect Israelite, and resisting Satan by means of perfect subjection to the law of Moses. Had he conquered Him as God there were neither victory nor contest, for one word from the Creator were sufficient to send the creature to perdition, but Christ, though " over all, God blessed forever" (Rom. 9:55Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)) was perfect Man, " made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:44But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)) besides; and in this character, we find Him here displayed. And surely this may awaken a deeper feeling of interest in us, as we "consider Him," who is now able, perfectly to sympathize with us in our trials, seeing that He endured precisely the same, leaving us an example as to how we should behave under similar circumstances.
How different was His place and that of Adam. A garden of delights, surrounded by animals that were under his dominion, marked the scene of Adam's testing. Christ was in the wilderness surrounded by the "wild beasts" (Mark 1:1313And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. (Mark 1:13)). Forty long days and nights the trial lasted (Luke 4:22Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. (Luke 4:2)). Perhaps inasmuch as He took the place of Israel in memory of the "forty years" that Israel had tempted God in the desert (Deut. 8:2, 42And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
4Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:4)
). Elijah had gone in the strength of the meat that God provided forty days and forty nights to Horeb-the mount of God. Moses, too, had gone into the same mount for the same time (Ex. 34:2828And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. (Exodus 34:28); 1 Kings 19:88And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:8)). But in Elijah's case there was no opposing enemy, and in Moses' case he went to be with God. Moses thus was separated from his natural condition to be with God. Christ was separated from His to be with the enemy. Everything was against Him, and yet by the word of Jehovah's lips He kept Himself from the paths of the destroyer (Psa. 17:44Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. (Psalm 17:4)). He had, indeed, put on the whole armor of God, and defended Himself with the sword of the Spirit, which is His word.
Satan first tests Him as Man: "If thou be the Son of God command," &c. One word would have been sufficient, but the perfect man, and obedient Jew, would not transgress the law of His God, who said that "man should not live by bread alone."
Again, as Messiah, the protecting care of God had been promised to Him, and surely when the enemy can quote Scripture he is, indeed, "transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:1414And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)). But, again, the word proves an infallible resource against him, and Jesus answers him that such a course as this would be but tempting the Lord. And now the final test is applied as to whether He would take the place of the Son of Man in glory (Psa. 8:66Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (Psalm 8:6)) without passing through the sufferings that would entitle Him to it. But, again, the word supplies a ready answer, and God, not Satan, is alone to be worshipped. In Rev. 13:22And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. (Revelation 13:2) we read how Satan afterward finds one (the future head of the Latin empire) who only too willingly accepts from him the domain that Christ had so successfully refused,
The temptation was now over for a season (chap. 4), and Satan receives his sentence of dismissal from the stronger man, who having now bound the strong man (chap 12:29) is about to spoil his goods.
Jesus now takes his place as "the light from Nephthalim," identifying Himself with the poor of the flock. He then, His forerunner having been cast into prison, preaches repentance, as the necessary precursor of the kingdom of heaven.