By Bob Waldron
In our previous article, we studied the first temptation of Jesus wherein we learned that when we think of the necessities of life, the top of the list should be, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This time we want to go to the pinnacle of the temple and learn another lesson from Jesus’ temptations.
“Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city, and he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple” (Matt. 4:5). If this pinnacle were the southern wall of the temple enclosure, then, according to Josephus, the wall was “vastly high” in elevation while the valley immediately below was “very deep, and its bottom could not be seen.” The exact location of the pinnacle is not important. A fall from such a height would be fatal. Imagine standing there looking down into the depths of the valley below. Satan says, “If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, `He shall give His angels charge concerning thee’: and, `On their hands they shall bear thee up, lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone”‘ (Mt. 4:6). Is the true content of the temptation here the Sonship of Jesus? What does Jesus reply? “Again it is written, ‘Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God”‘ (Mt. 4:7). Jesus knew what Satan was tempting Him to do. Satan was trying to make Jesus show a lack of confidence in God.
As in His response to the first temptation, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, “Ye shall not tempt Jehovah your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah” (Deut. 6:16). Obviously Moses was reminding the Israelites of a former occasion when they had tried God. The time to which he referred happened within the first few weeks after the Israelites had left Egypt. The people were thirsty and murmured. God told Moses to smite the rock, and he did so, and water came forth. “And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the children of Israel, and because they tempted Jehovah, saying, `Is Jehovah among us, or not?”‘ (Exod. 17:7). The Israelites saw the plagues God brought upon Egypt. They saw God divide the waters of the Red Sea while His pillar of fire stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. He had enabled Moses to sweeten the waters of Marah and had fed the children of Israel with manna, but these were not sufficient grounds for faith for the Israelites. God must needs continually prove Himself. This attitude is one of perpetual doubt, a spiritual vacuum. This is the attitude we see in people today when they can look upon the handiwork of God, behold His providential works, have an abundance of material things,’ a family, health, and then say, “You know, sometimes I wonder whether God really exists.” Tempting God in this manner is caused by a blindness which refuses to accept the evidence God has given to support faith and which continually asks for proof.
Satan was really attempting to get Jesus to express doubt as the Israelites had done before. “You say you are the Son of God. Well God said He would give His angels charge to guard you and to keep you from dashing your foot against a stone. Why not test God and see if He will?” Jesus, however, saw the trap and replied, “Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.” If Jesus had done as Satan requested, He would have manifested a lack of confidence in God. If He, the Son of God, had manifested a lack of confidence in God, any grounds for our faith would have been totally destroyed.
We need to draw a practical lesson for ourselves. Let us not say, “I wish God would do something now to show that He really is.” How can we stand on the peak of God’s revelation, and see the path of redemption from the Garden of Eden until now, and observe the daily operation of God’s creation, and say, “Do something, God, so that I will know you are there”? “Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.”
Truth Magazine XXIII: 32, pp. 520-521
August 16, 1979