“Today Satan is carrying forward zealously his work of temptation, and he will make many conquests over those who are not watching unto prayer. Christ was tempted in all points as we are tempted. Let those who are bowed down under trial and temptation, and who feel that their friends have forsaken them, think of Christ, of Whom God said, “This is My Beloved Son,” alone in the wilderness, meeting temptations more severe than any that are brought against them.
Let them not give up in despair, but reach out a trembling hand of faith to grasp the Hand that is held out to save (Isaiah 42:1-7 & 40:26-31). Let them cast their helpless souls upon Jesus, Who, because He has passed over the ground knows how to deliver them that are tempted . . . .
At the baptism of Christ, a Voice from heaven was heard, saying, “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I Am well pleased.” Immediately after this, Christ went into the wilderness of temptation and began His long fast, and in His weakness, Satan came to Him, and tempted Him.
Why was it that at the beginning of His public ministry, Christ was led into the wilderness to be tempted? It was the Spirit that led Him thence, and He went, not in His own behalf, but in our behalf, to overcome for us. There was no compulsion about it. He was led by the Spirit, His humanity to be proved, as One Who had undertaken to stand at the Head of the fallen race (as the second and Last Adam).
Christ had been, and was then, in perfect harmony with the Father. He was to be tried and tested as a representative of the race. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to meet the foe in personal encounter, to overthrow him who claimed to be the head of the kingdoms of the world.
While in the wilderness, Christ fasted, but He was insensible to hunger. Engaged in constant prayer to His Father for a preparation to resist the adversary, Christ did not feel the pangs of hunger. He spent the time in earnest prayer, shut in with God. It was as if He were in the presence of His Father. He sought for strength to meet the foe, for the assurance that He would receive grace* to carry out all that He had undertaken in behalf of humanity. The thought of the warfare before Him made Him oblivious to all else, and His soul was fed with the Bread of Life (the unfailing Word of the Living God), just as today those tempted souls will be fed who go to God for aid. He ate of the Truth (John 17:17 & Psalm 34:8) which He was to give to the people as having power to deliver them from Satan’s temptations. He saw the breaking of Satan’s power over fallen and tempted ones. He saw Himself healing the sick, comforting the hopeless, cheering the desponding, and preaching the gospel to the poor–doing the work that God had outlined for Him; and He did not realize any sense of hunger until the forty days of His fast were ended.
The vision passed away, and then, with strong craving, Christ’s human nature called for food. Now was Satan’s opportunity to make his assault. He resolved to appear as one of the angels of light that had appeared to Christ in His vision.
Christ is in the wilderness, the wild beasts His only companions, and everything around Him tending to make Him realize His humanity. Suddenly an angel appears before Him, apparently one of the angels that He saw not long since, and addresses Him in the words, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
“If Thou be the Son of God.” Here is the insinuation of distrust. The words rankle with bitterness in his [Satan’s] mind. In the tones of his voice is an expression of utter incredulity. He ridiculed the idea of Christ, the Majesty of heaven, being left in the wilderness to suffer from hunger. 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,” he says, “show Thy power by relieving Thyself of this pressing hunger. Command that this stone be made bread.”
The Words from heaven, “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I Am well pleased,” 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 make Him doubt this Word. If Christ’s confidence in God could be shaken, Satan knew that victory in the whole conflict 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 (deliverance, rescue, freedom, healing and restoration) would have been broken.
And Christ, the Son of God, answering said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Christ had been warned not to enter into argument with Satan. And though He recognized him 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.
Satan tempted the first Adam in Eden, and Adam reasoned with the enemy, thus giving him the advantage. Satan exercised his power of hypnotism over Adam and Eve, and this power he strove to exercise over Christ. But after the word of Scripture was quoted, Satan knew that he had no chance of triumphing.
Satan came to Christ hoping to gain the victory. He thought that he had every advantage over Him. But he was conquered by the Saviour’s meekness and humility, and by His reliance on the word of God. Meek and lowly, and seemingly helpless, Christ was stronger than the strong man armed. Oh, how Satan strove to make Him sin against God! But all his efforts failed to make Christ swerve from His allegiance.
Our Saviour could receive the heavenly revelation without becoming self-exalted. Let us seek for His humility. The enemy is subtle and very daring, but he is not invincible. He is a strong man armed, but if we keep close to the Captain of our Salvation, using the weapon that He has given us, we shall be victorious. Satan is armed with sophistry and deceptive statements. It is a mistake to quote his words, and then seek to refute them. This always gives him an advantage. Keep close to Christ. Do not tell all that you know, thinking thus to baffle the enemy. By allowing yourself to contradict him, you give him opportunity to confuse you by his subtle reasoning. ref: Jude 1:9.
We cannot be overcome while we place our whole dependence upon God, and stand firm in His strength. When we are tempted, we must humble ourselves. We must keep back the words of argument with which we think that we could baffle the enemy. What we desire to say might be perfectly true, but God does not wish His people to controvert Satan’s suggestions (Jude 1:9 & Zechariah 3:1-4). Let them take their stand on the platform of eternal Truth, and let their only weapon be the Word, “It is written.” This will bring more confusion to him (Satan) than any charge that we ourselves could make against him. He has used the Word of God frequently to the heavenly assemblies. God’s Words stand fast forever. They cannot be changed !
From the experience of Christ in the wilderness of temptation, we may learn that there is no conquest without a combat. Remember that this temptation came to Christ immediately after the heavens had been opened and the Spirit of God, like a dove of burnished gold, had rested on Him. In the wilderness He had held close communion with God. Then the storm of temptation fell upon Him.
Is it not thus with us? After the Lord has bestowed on us the richest blessings, does not some sore trial come to us to darken our souls and cause us to doubt God’s goodness? Let us, at such times, remember that Christ was tempted in all points like as we are tempted, and that in His strength we can overcome. Let us by prayer and fasting draw near to God.
After great honor has been placed upon us, then is the time that we are to walk humbly with God. After Paul had been received into the third heaven, an affliction was sent to buffet him. The Lord prepares His people for temptation. Before a great trial, He gives them a more than usually clear revelation of His presence and compassion and love.
Has the Holy Spirit witnessed to our adoption (I John 3:24)? Have we been given a commission to do a special work?
And does this not nearly always bring us a day of trial? But strength is given sufficient for the trial. God will surely answer the prayers of those who work in humility and faith. The assurance of the blessing of God need not lift us in our own estimation. It should lead us to exalt God. If we will lay hold of the spirituality of our faith, and walk humbly with God, we shall be furnished with the weapon, “It is written.” Through Christ we shall be enabled to answer wisely and firmly, and we shall not be overcome and led into temptation. Christ has conquered for us, and if we follow His example, our words will be few and true and pure !
Christ did not need to fast for forty days because of inward corruption, or to subdue self. He was sinless. It was on our account that He fasted. He had been exalted by God, but He humbled Himself, and when He could have taken advantage of circumstances to favor Himself, He did not do this.
We may have to diet for the combat, as wrestlers who are temperate in all things. Those who take part in worldly contests of physical strength prepare themselves by careful training. Paul says, “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate (self-denying, self-controlled) in all things,” and he adds, “Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” I Corinthians 9:25.
During His fast, Christ held communion with heaven. And the fast that we may be called upon to endure will be understood by One Who knows. He took upon Him our natural infirmities (weaknesses), that He might know how to help us. In every temptation He makes for us a way of escape. ref: Isaiah 59:19-21
Satan came to Adam and Eve with the suggestion that in forbidding them to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God was defrauding them of rich blessings, of honor and exaltation that were theirs by right. They listened to him, accepted his suggestions, and fell.
Today Satan is carrying forward zealously his work of temptation, and he will make many conquests over those who are not watching unto prayer. Christ was tempted in all points as we are tempted. Let those who are bowed down under trial and temptation, and who feel that their friends have forsaken them, think of Christ, of Whom God said, “This is My Beloved Son,” alone in the wilderness, meeting temptations more severe than any that are brought against them. Let them not give up in despair, but reach out a trembling hand of faith to grasp the Hand that is held out to save (Isaiah 42:1-7 & 40:26-31). Let them cast their helpless souls upon Jesus, Who, because He has passed over the ground knows how to deliver them that are tempted.”
– Letter 159, 1903.