The Warrior in the Wilderness

Chapter 3.....The Conflict for Religious Success

NOW we come to the second temptation following the recording of Matthew-the third in the record of Luke.

"Then the devil taketh Him into the Holy City and setteth Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down. For it is written. He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."

Jesus said unto him, " It is written "-again-" Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Now one or two preliminary questions which I am passing on, but not definitely answering.

Did our Lord actually leave the wilderness, and if He did, was He transported bodily from the wilderness to Jerusalem? Or, is this an experience like that recorded by St. Paul, when he says: " I was caught up into the third heaven, whether I was in the body or out of the body, I know not, but God knoweth?"

We can wonder perhaps not to our profit, just what happened, though I always go back in these issues when nobody knows, to the simple understanding of what the word of God says. Following that line: the Devil taketh Him into what Matthew calls "The Holy City." He was a Jew- (which Luke, the Gentile, calls in a plain unadorned term,) " Jerusalem "-and having taken Him to the city, he took Him to the temple. This was the heart of the city-and having brought Him to the temple, he took Him to a part of the temple roof, the pinnacle of which was a kind of parapet or wing of the temple.

The word really means, "wing." It is not used in Scripture apart from the record in Luke and Matthew.

Now this temptation is regarded by all expositors such as I am able to refer to, as being a temptation to presumption. I am not so sure, but in any case I am sure it is vastly more than that.

Now imagine, that you were taken to the golden cross on the top of St. Paul's-that is a very good height. Do you think there would be any temptation to you to throw yourself down- to trust God to save you ? For me that would be no temptation at all. If I had to pass through a temptation from Satan along that line, I should come out victorious, quite easily.

Do you think that is the beginning and the end of this temptation? If it were, why bring Him into Jerusalem? Why not take Him to that exceeding high mountain which we shall be thinking about in our next study, and from one of its lofty crags give our Lord the same temptation? I think the very place to which our Lord was taken and all the circumstances indicate there is something deeper here than just a mere challenge to a physical escapade in which you throw yourself into the hand of God.

At the same time, we are told more and this must be recognised always. In my own mind I am convinced there is something deeper.

Now Matthew-says, " he brought Him to the Holy City." See the emphasis Matthew the publican, the Jew, puts on that: " He brought Him to the Holy City " the " Mecca " of all God's ancient people, then, as it is to day. And he brought Him to the temple- the very heart of the religious life of Israel and to the pinnacle of the temple.

Now we must allow some time for reflection as Jesus surveys the scene from the pinnacle of the temple. The Messiah (that must have been an element in His consciousness), God's anointed Messiah-promised right through from the Garden of Eden-has come to His temple, the centre from which God's Messiah might be expected to work.

He had been there already, He had been there as a boy of twelve, and there He had astounded the religious elders in Jerusalem with His wisdom. If He had astounded them with His wisdom, they must have astounded Him with their spiritual ignorance.

Later, not long after this experience, He was to go into the temple and overturn the tables of the moneychangers, to throw out those who had turned religion into a business. Something of that burning passion with which He did it was aroused in this temptation. I cannot help thinking that as He saw all that motley throng going into the temple, with the approach to the temple like a bazaar. While acutely aware of all its opportunities for buying and selling in the precincts of God's house, there must have come to His mind a sense of the hopelessness of the religious conditions of God's ancient people. There was an incongruity of all that was outside the temple with all that was indicated by those mystic signs in the most Holy Place within.

So if I understand it aright Satan says to our Lord, "Well, you are conscious of a divine issue-you are the Son of God. To carry out that divine issue you will need, of course, to work through religion and its leaders. Now, see how utterly lacking in spiritual understanding, how superficial and carnal these people are. They believe in neither the Son of God, nor the devil. How then, shall you command their attention? What are you going to do in order to secure their interest in the things that you have received from God? Where are you going to get a following? Cast Thyself down from this dizzy height! Be sure of this, since you rightly value the Scripture, that you have Scriptural authority for what you are about to do: 'He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."

What a marvellous impression it will make when at this moment the crowds are thronging into the temple, without any knowledge that the Messiah is here and, as you cast yourself down instead of crashing into the abyss, you stand amongst them supported by the unseen hands of angels. They will hail you as the long anticipated Son of God. That is to say, in that dire condition in which you find the temple, render a service to God by fixing the eyes of men upon yourself- God's anointed." That I believe to be something that gets nearer to the heart of this temptation than mere presumption.

Just by way of passing observation let me say that imitation being the best form of flattery, Satan uses the Word of God as part of his own argument, because he has felt the vitality of it when our Lord used it in the previous temptation. It ought to encourage every child of God to say, " I must make the Word of God part of my very being, I must learn to use it." If you have got a temptation or a sin that is continually getting hold of you and bringing you down, there is a word in the Scriptures which can meet the need, and which when used is like a sword. The Psalm from which Satan quoted, Psalm 91, gives the assurance to God's children: " He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

That promise refers only to the man or woman who dwells in the secret place of the most High, and to such alone the assurance is given. So that in whatever situation I find myself when I am confronted with problems that are beyond my power to alter then I can most confidently put myself right into God's hands.

It is not a Psalm which is an incitement to presumption, it is a Psalm to encourage the deepest confidence: "He shall give His angels charge over Thee lest at any time thou dash thy feet against a stone," but it is not an encouragement to presumption.

Now let us see something of the force of this temptation. Have you not met Christian people who sometimes are oppressed with the hopelessness of doing anything for God by way of individual salvation? They feel a terrific itch to mesmerise religiously the masses and their deep concern is to fasten the attention of men on religion.

Oh, our Lord had a good deal to say, and a good deal to experience later of this subtle temptation.

There was the rich man and Lazarus, who when he was in torment called upon Abraham that help might be sent to his relatives who were still in sin. He begged him to save them by the drama of resurrection, but our Lord said: " Neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."

When the multitudes wanted to make our Lord a leader of the nations, He turned to them and said in effect: "You seek Me for the loaves, you are not seeking Me because I am in the will of My Father, you are seeking Me because I have the secret of a full pantry for you."

Have you never heard a person say in these days, "Why does God not do something in the world? Why does not He do something spectacular? Is not this the moment surely that God can do something to confuse the wicked men of the earth." But then the more you learn of Christ, the more you learn that spiritual things are not spectacular. God's methods are never spectacular. It takes a long time to learn that. If this is the temptation that Satan presented to me he would have caught me as easily as possible. I should have been hoodwinked before I knew where I was.

So now comes the Lord's answer to this challenge-a very difficult challenge. It is written again: " Thou shalt not tempt (or test) the Lord thy God." In what position do I stand with my Heavenly Father, if I do as you suggest? If I cast myself down am I not presuming that He will bear me up? Is His purpose not secure in His own hands, or must I take it into my own? The fulfilment of His purpose is His concern- obedience to my mission is alone my concern. In effect our Lord says "Ah I should be testing God- I should be taking God's issue into my hands, and in no sense committing myself into His hands." One of the very simple things- and yet very complex- that we have to learn: we are not responsible for how the masses react to what God wants- that is God's concern, but we are responsible for being in God's will moment by moment.

If I may sum up the issue, I think that we may put it in this way. As I understand this temptation, Satan brings our Lord to the temple in order that he may say to Him in effect, that His spiritual mission can be achieved only through the religion of the temple. That, of course, would be the general view, then as it is to day.

You find the newspapers, if they want to know anything about religion- inevitably turn to the established church, or the church of Rome. They would not dream of looking outside such established circles as that. Satan permits our Lord to see that that religion is Satanical, dead! It has got the externals of religion, but it has not got the heart of God's revelation. It is the religion, which makes clear the outside, but inside it is deplorable.

What are you going to do to rescue a condition like that? The only thing for you to do is this. Now you are here cast yourself down, and so by a dramatic act draw the peoples out from religious sloth and lethargy and if you do not cast yourself down then give yourself up. You will never see your mission through.

I hope I have not put any more than is real and accurate into this temptation. I can see it very clearly as being a terrific test for to day.

Our Lord's answer is very simple: " The success of my mission is not my concern. My concern is to be obedient to the will of God." Have you got that affection deep in your heart? Is it your deep concern to be in the will of God? The private in the army is not called upon to worry about tactics and all the issues in the minds of a General Staff. He is just asked to stand where he is told and to fulfil his task as he is ordered, and that is what God wants of you and me. It is God's will that His Church should be submissive to His will. Do not think that because the temple is corrupt there is no other way but that of the spectacular for serving God's ends. There is another way. It shall be to go to Calvary where His life shall not be saved by angelic hands, but offered up by wicked hands. We look for revival. How is it coming? It is coming through men and women of God who are saved from the mesmerism of the spectacular and are saying, "Oh God it is thy will that matters. I just want that my whole life shall be the doing of Thy will. I am not interested in the things that are about me, I am only interested that Thy will shall be done in my life." That is what God wants. It is good to be enthusiastic and passionate, but that passion must be girded by the patience of God. " 0 God, Thou art asking of me just the doing of Thy will, complete obedience, and I want to give it to Thee." Is that your prayer? Then, be sure, that God the Holy Spirit will come down afresh. That is what God wants, men and women to whom nothing matters, but the will of God.

May He find that in you and me.

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