Ahhhh, temptation. If you gave something up for Lent this year, you are probably in the fighting-temptation stage. A friend shared with me that she gave up Twitter. She felt she was spending too much time and emotional energy on Twitter, and is now trying to break the habit of constantly looking at it. Her need to scroll was challenging at the beginning, and she even contemplated changing her password to a computer-generated one, with the idea of saving it in a safe place for later, and thus by-passing the temptation to look.
I get it. Psychologists say it takes a full six weeks to develop a new habit and rid yourself of an old one. It is WORK.
Jesus gets it, too. In our passage today, we see Jesus in the wilderness, weak and starving, being tempted by the Tempter Extraordinaire:
Matthew 4 (The Message)
4 1-3 Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
5-6 For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
7 Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
Did you notice that Jesus answered each assault by quoting scripture? Could there be any better way to look temptation in the face? Of course that meant that he KNEW scripture….
Thus, the challenge for us. Bible Study leader Dick Murray once said that it was in a foxhole in World War II when he realized how little scripture he had actually memorized. After reciting the few big ones he knew (John 3:16 and Psalm 23,) he was at a loss. From that day on, he committed to memorizing scripture. Think about it: if your only Bible was the one in your head, how much use would it be to you?
8-9 For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
10 Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
11 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.
Beat it, Satan! You have to love The Message’s language. I imagine this scripture is one we can all memorize! And one that we all need on a daily basis. And again, Jesus backs up his rebuke with another quotation from scripture.
As you continue the discipline of giving something up this Lent, perhaps you might consider taking on the memorization of Bible passages. After all, it takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth to keep temptation at bay. Let’s start today….repeat after me:
BEAT IT, SATAN!