[Presented in church: August 4, 2018]
There are almost 800,000 words, and over 31,000 verses in the Bible. Today I am going to take a look at five words that form part of one verse! A very small piece of a very large work, and the five words are very powerful!
The verse is Matthew 6:13 and the five words are LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION! This is the final verse of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus delivered during his Sermon on the Mount. The prayer is Jesus’ model prayer for us, but to me I find these five words interesting, to say the least. Since Jesus is telling us to pray to God in “this manner” and He tells us the words, and we know that Jesus is not wrong in His words, why are we asking God to not lead us to temptation? Isn’t temptation the work of satan?
There are examples of God testing us in the Bible. Job, for example is tested when God and satan agree to test Job, with satan trying to get Job to curse God with each worsening test. but God is not leading Job into temptation, satan is just making various really bad things occur to Job. In the end God prevails, as no matter how bad things get, Job remains faithful to God.
Another example of God testing the faithfulness of a follower is when He has Abraham bring Isaac up the mountain and instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test of his faith. At the last second, God stops Abraham from killing Isaac and Abraham’s faith in God is proven. But again, God does not tempt Abraham.
Jesus, himself, however was tempted, three times in the desert, but not by God. Jesus was tempted by satan! Jesus overcame the temptation all three times by falling back on His teachings and knowledge of the scriptures and rebuked satan and cast him away. Satan is not easy to defeat, and even Jesus continually had to fight off satan’s temptations.
So temptation comes not from God, but instead it comes directly from satan. So if this is the case, why do we pray to God and ask Him to “lead us not into temptation?” What we are really asking God, is that instead of allowing sin to lead us close to satan, take us away from satan’s temptations and lead us to do good.
Instead of the term “lead us”, we could substitute words like, “do not allow” or “do not permit” us to be lead into temptation. Which would then fall closer into a true relationship with how God wants us to live. Asking Him for help in preventing us from falling into satan’s traps.
We’ve already seen that God can and will test us but He will never allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure. 1st Corinthians 10:13 reads: There hath not temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what it is possible for us to endure!
But we must not forget that there is a difference between trials and temptations. God does not tells us that our lives will be free of trials. Again we know that most of our most famous prophets and kings faced trials and adversaries during their life journeys. Daniel was told to submit to the Kings orders, but refused. His friends were thrown into the furnace when they refused to bow down to the kings image. God allowed the trial to proceed but God saved them from death. Daniel, himself was sentenced to death and cast to be eaten by lions, but again God rescues him. The temptations that they faced, follow the kings decree and bow to the king’s image, were brought by satan, but the trials were allowed by God. In allowing the trial to proceed, God knew that His power would be seen and the faith of His followers would be strengthened.
Peter, Jesus’ closest confidant and prior to the Apostle Paul, possibly the strongest Christian, was sorely tempted. When Jesus was walking on water and was seen by Peter, who eventually climbed onto the water to meet Jesus, but his own doubt caused him to fall into the water and almost drown. Satan placed the doubt into Peter’s mind, but God allowed it to proceed, to prove to Peter that it was He that controls everything.
Prior to Jesus’ arrest, He told Peter of the upcoming denial, and although Peter couldn’t believe that it would happen, once again it did. God allowed the trial, but it was satan who tempted Peter into his betrayal.
And Paul, the man who authored, through divine inspiration, about 1/2 of the New Testament, was tempted by satan on numerous occasions. But he overcame, and we read of his trials in his many epistles.
In Desire of Ages Chapter 12: The Temptation, Ellen G White writes:
Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam’s position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us. But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured. DA 117.2
With Christ, as with the holy pair in Eden, appetite was the ground of the first great temptation. Just where the ruin began, the work of our redemption must begin. As by the indulgence of appetite Adam fell, so by the denial of appetite Christ must overcome. “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” DA 117.3
From the time of Adam to that of Christ, self – indulgence had increased the power of the appetites and passions, until they had almost unlimited control. Thus men had become debased and diseased, and of themselves it was impossible for them to overcome. In man’s behalf, Christ conquered by enduring the severest test. For our sake He exercised a self – control stronger than hunger or death. And in this first victory were involved other issues that enter into all our conflicts with the powers of darkness. DA 117.4
When Jesus entered the wilderness, He was shut in by the Father’s glory. Absorbed in communion with God, He was lifted above human weakness. But the glory departed, and He was left to battle with temptation. It was pressing upon Him every moment. His human nature shrank from the conflict that awaited Him. For forty days He fasted and prayed. Weak and emaciated from hunger, worn and haggard with mental agony, “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Isaiah 52:14. Now was Satan’s opportunity. Now he supposed that he could overcome Christ. DA 118.1
There came to the Saviour, as if in answer to His prayers, one in the guise of an angel from heaven. He claimed to have a commission from God to declare that Christ’s fast was at an end. As God had sent an angel to stay the hand of Abraham from offering Isaac, so, satisfied with Christ’s willingness to enter the bloodstained path, the Father had sent an angel to deliver Him; this was the message brought to Jesus. The Saviour was faint from hunger, He was craving for food, when Satan came suddenly upon Him. Pointing to the stones which strewed the desert, and which had the appearance of loaves, the tempter said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” DA 118.2
Though he appears as an angel of light, these first words betray his character. “If Thou be the Son of God.” Here is the insinuation of distrust. Should Jesus do what Satan suggests, it would be an acceptance of the doubt. The tempter plans to overthrow Christ by the same means that were so successful with the human race in the beginning. How artfully had Satan approached Eve in Eden! “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1. Thus far the tempter’s words were truth; but in his manner of speaking them there was a disguised contempt for the words of God. There was a covert negative, a doubt of the divine truthfulness. Satan sought to instill into the mind of Eve the thought that God would not do as He had said; that the withholding of such beautiful fruit was a contradiction of His love and compassion for man. So now the tempter seeks to inspire Christ with his own sentiments. “If Thou be the Son of God.” The words rankle with bitterness in his mind. In the tones of his voice is an expression of utter incredulity. Would God treat His own Son thus? Would He leave Him in the desert with wild beasts, without food, without companions, without comfort? He insinuates that God never meant His Son to be in such a state as this. “If Thou be the Son of God,” show Thy power by relieving Thyself of this pressing hunger. Command that this stone be made bread. DA 118.3
The words from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), were still sounding in the ears of Satan. But he was determined to make Christ disbelieve this testimony. The word of God was Christ’s assurance of His divine mission. He had come to live as a man among men, and it was the word that declared His connection with heaven. It was Satan’s purpose to cause Him to doubt that word. If Christ’s confidence in God could be shaken, Satan knew that the victory in the whole controversy would be his. He could overcome Jesus. He hoped that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger, Christ would lose faith in His Father, and work a miracle in His own behalf. Had He done this, the plan of salvation would have been broken. DA 119.1
When Satan and the Son of God first met in conflict, Christ was the commander of the heavenly hosts; and Satan, the leader of revolt in heaven, was cast out. Now their condition is apparently reversed, and Satan makes the most of his supposed advantage. One of the most powerful of the angels, he says, has been banished from heaven. The appearance of Jesus indicates that He is that fallen angel, forsaken by God, and deserted by man. A divine being would be able to sustain his claim by working a miracle; “if Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” Such an act of creative power, urges the tempter, would be conclusive evidence of divinity. It would bring the controversy to an end. DA 119.2
Not without a struggle could Jesus listen in silence to the arch – deceiver. But the Son of God was not to prove His divinity to Satan, or to explain the reason of His humiliation. By conceding to the demands of the rebel, nothing for the good of man or the glory of God would be gained. Had Christ complied with the suggestion of the enemy, Satan would still have said, Show me a sign that I may believe you to be the Son of God. Evidence would have been worthless to break the power of rebellion in his heart. And Christ was not to exercise divine power for His own benefit. He had come to bear trial as we must do, leaving us an example of faith and submission. Neither here nor at any subsequent time in His earthly life did He work a miracle in His own behalf. His wonderful works were all for the good of others. Though Jesus recognized Satan from the beginning, He was not provoked to enter into controversy with him. Strengthened with the memory of the voice from heaven, He rested in His Father’s love. He would not parley with temptation. DA 119.3
Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture. “It is written,” He said. In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God. Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity. But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a “Thus saith the Lord,” was a sign that could not be controverted. So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage. DA 120.1
It was in the time of greatest weakness that Christ was assailed by the fiercest temptations. Thus Satan thought to prevail. By this policy he had gained the victory over men. When strength failed, and the will power weakened, and faith ceased to repose in God, then those who had stood long and valiantly for the right were overcome. Moses was wearied with the forty years’ wandering of Israel, when for the moment his faith let go its hold upon infinite power. He failed just upon the borders of the Promised Land. So with Elijah, who had stood undaunted before King Ahab, who had faced the whole nation of Israel, with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at their head. After that terrible day upon Carmel, when the false prophets had been slain, and the people had declared their allegiance to God, Elijah fled for his life before the threats of the idolatrous Jezebel. Thus Satan has taken advantage of the weakness of humanity. And he will still work in the same way. Whenever one is encompassed with clouds, perplexed by circumstances, or afflicted by poverty or distress, Satan is at hand to tempt and annoy. He attacks our weak points of character. He seeks to shake our confidence in God, who suffers such a condition of things to exist. We are tempted to distrust God, to question His love. Often the tempter comes to us as he came to Christ, arraying before us our weakness and infirmities. He hopes to discourage the soul, and to break our hold on God. Then he is sure of his prey. If we would meet him as Jesus did, we should escape many a defeat. By parleying with the enemy, we give him an advantage. DA 120.2
When Christ said to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” He repeated the words that, more than fourteen hundred years before, He had spoken to Israel: “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness…. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:2, 3. In the wilderness, when all means of sustenance failed, God sent His people manna from heaven; and a sufficient and constant supply was given. This provision was to teach them that while they trusted in God and walked in His ways He would not forsake them. The Saviour now practiced the lesson He had taught to Israel. By the word of God succor had been given to the Hebrew host, and by the same word it would be given to Jesus. He awaited God’s time to bring relief. He was in the wilderness in obedience to God, and He would not obtain food by following the suggestions of Satan. In the presence of the witnessing universe, He testified that it is a less calamity to suffer whatever may befall than to depart in any manner from the will of God. DA 121.1
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Often the follower of Christ is brought where he cannot serve God and carry forward his worldly enterprises. Perhaps it appears that obedience to some plain requirement of God will cut off his means of support. Satan would make him believe that he must sacrifice his conscientious convictions. But the only thing in our world upon which we can rely is the word of God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. Even in this life it is not for our good to depart from the will of our Father in heaven. When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives. Our only questions will be, What is God’s command? and what His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one, and trust the other. DA 121.2
In the last great conflict of the controversy with Satan those who are loyal to God will see every earthly support cut off. Because they refuse to break His law in obedience to earthly powers, they will be forbidden to buy or sell. It will finally be decreed that they shall be put to death. See Revelation 13:11 – 17. But to the obedient is given the promise, “He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Isaiah 33:16. By this promise the children of God will live. When the earth shall be wasted with famine, they shall be fed. “They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.” Psalm 37:19. To that time of distress the prophet Habakkuk looked forward, and his words express the faith of the church: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17, 18. DA 121.3
Of all the lessons to be learned from our Lord’s first great temptation none is more important than that bearing upon the control of the appetites and passions. In all ages, temptations appealing to the physical nature have been most effectual in corrupting and degrading mankind. Through intemperance, Satan works to destroy the mental and moral powers that God gave to man as a priceless endowment. Thus it becomes impossible for men to appreciate things of eternal worth. Through sensual indulgence, Satan seeks to blot from the soul every trace of likeness to God. DA 122.1
(Copyright 1990 by Better Living Publications, a trademark of ASI Missions. Inc)
My God doesn’t lead me into temptation. He places trials before me to make me stronger, but it is satan who tempts me. Satan is hard at work, making it difficult for me to follow God’s words, but with fervent prayer, and submission to God’s will, I can overcome the best of what satan puts forth.