Forty days and forty nights, Jesus himself spent forty days in isolation after his baptism, before he called his first disciple. “The spirit compelled him to go into the wilderness.” The wilderness area he chose was called the Judean Desert, a desert in Israel and the West Bank that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. It was an ideal place for those seeking refuge from enemies or retreat from the world. When on the run from King Saul, David hid in various places in the Judean wilderness and John the Baptist preached here.
During those forty days and forty nights of isolation, Jesus was tempted by Satan each and every day. Unfortunately we have embodied our own form of isolation (thank you covid-19) for 40 days of more. But now, maybe we can think a little more like Jesus, draw closer to him.
Today, let’s take a closer look at the temptation of Jesus, Matthew 4: 5-7.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you wont’s even hurt your foot on a stone.
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[b]”
We are back at the temple again, the pinnacle of the temple . No one knows the exact location of the highest point of the temple during this time period. “The most accepted location is the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount. This would have been where the Royal Portico and Solomon’s Porch met overlooking the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus, the height from this location into the Kidron Valley would have been around 450 feet. Of course, the top of the walls have been destroyed and rebuilt since then, so it is hard to know exactly how high it would have been. Either way, it would have been a very long fall into the Kidron Valley, ” according to Barry Britnell, owner of tour company Exploring Bible Lands.
Satan responds with scripture. Imagine. The words satan quoted are direct quotes from Psalm 91. This psalm was most likely composed by Moses. Some think he may have composed this song on the day he completed the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. Psalm 91 conveys the themes of God’s protection and rescue from danger. This psalm has been recited to ward off evil spirits and demons, which may be why satan used it. He was familiar with these words. Psalm 91 is also known as the Soldier’s Psalm or Soldier’s Prayer. Camouflage bandanas imprinted with the psalm are often distributed to US troops. And this Psalm has been historically called the song of plagues. How fitting for times like today.
Verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 91 illustrate this point….. “Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousands are dying around you, these evil will not touch you.”
If we are to be like Jesus, walk like Jesus, and live isolated like Jesus, then let’s respond to the events in our present time like Jesus. Plain and simple Jesus says, “Do not put our Lord to the test”. According to Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching in Atlanta, “the adult Jesus may have retraced the adventure of the Isaraelites in the wilderness. The temptations that Jesus faced echoes the very temptations, even in the same order, that the Israelites experienced after the exodus from slavery in Egypt.” Jesus’s quote comes from Deuteronomy 6, a call from Moses for wholehearted commitment and instruction to the Israelites on proper behaviour, because after wandering in the desert they began doubting God was with them.
These words from Jesus should be a reminder to us for proper behavior during this present time. Do not put our Lord to the test. Yes he is our rescuer in times of trouble. However, he states in one simple sentence, “Do not put our Lord to the test.” Stay home. Practice social distancing at all times. A present reminder for today, over 10,000 people have died in Italy as of today. Please heed your role in this. Do not put our Lord to the test.
March 28, 2020