May 11, 2021
As I was reading in my favorite book this morning, I was overwhelmed….again….at the wisdom, peace, superb advice, hope, promises, critical warnings and more that this book contains for those who will open its pages and read and follow. I just passed my 88th birthday. I’ve loved this book since I was a child. I’ve read it, studied it, prepared lessons from its pages throughout my life. Now, as the road before me grows shorter (“Is that the junction just ahead?”) that book is special beyond human explanation.
I have never shied from death or talking about it. Some folks think it is morbid, or depressive, or perhaps a bit senile, to dwell on the subject. Some folks refuse to accept that they are growing old and that death is approaching. Some folks never live long enough to deal with any of that but are cut off from this earth in the prime of their years. I have had the privilege of living a long, exciting, sometimes smooth sailing, sometimes choppy waters, always adventurous life. I have been and am blessed beyond words.
The world around us is cause for concern. We have seen great changes, changes we never thought possible, taking place on this planet and we are not finding any peace in what we see. Fear, terror, anger, violence, harsh judgments, hatred, surround our everyday activities and blaze across our headlines. Hopelessness is felt in the hearts of many.
And the answers, the answers to EVERY ONE of LIFE’S PROBLEMS is found in the pages of my favorite book. Millions, billions of copies are “out there” in bookstores, on tables, by the bedside, in the library, in the motel rooms, hospital rooms, and wastebaskets. Books that are untouched, dusty, never read, free for the taking in many cases….and the best advice ever given because it is our “owner’s manual,” written by the One Who made our bodies and created our individual eternal spirits that will never die. Never die! NEVER DIE!!
“Oh, Father! You have been merciful, patient, kind, caring, tolerant. You are not wanting any of us to perish but all to come to repentance. You have put up with our rebellion, deception, indifference, disobedience, ridicule and downright rejection….just trying to give us a bit more time to open our eyes and ears and hearts to Your Good News. (II Peter 2:9) My heart is broken because so many are suffering so much for lack of knowledge or concern for You and Your ways. (Hosea 4:6) Your heart must be broken, too!”
This is what I read today. I’ve probably read it a hundred or more times before. It has spoken to me each time and it yelled at me today:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights He fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to Him,
“If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him to the holy city, Jerusalem,
to the highest point of the Temple, and said,
“If you are the Son of God, jump off!
For the Scriptures say,‘He will order His angels to protect You.
And they will hold You up with their hands
so You won’t even hurt Your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say,
‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took Him to the peak of a very high mountain
and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
“I will give it all to You,” he said, “if You will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him.
“For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only Him.’”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Matthew 4:1-11 (New Living Translation)
Let’s consider Jesus for a moment before we go further into these thoughts. He was the Messiah, the Promised One from God whom the Jewish people had been looking for for centuries. Those who knew the scriptures of old recognized Him for Who He was because….He fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah 300+ times over. Jesus WAS the only begotten Son of God….and He still is!! He was co-founder of everything that is, with His Father at the creation of time and space and all that exists. His Father sent Him on a special mission to Earth and it is here we meet Him, first in the Bethlehem manger and now on the mountain as He begins His earthly ministry. What a sacrifice!! He gave up the glories of Heaven for thirty-some years with we sin-filled, self-centered human beings! BUT, THAT was just the beginning!
Satan! A fallen angel from Heaven! Wherever there is good going on Satan will be nearby to deceive and tempt and lie and attract. He glibly quotes God with just a little twist and turn here and there, and then giddily watches as each precious soul he has fooled skips merrily down the road to destruction. His style worked well in the Garden of Eden, introducing sin to the world, but it was a different story when the wily old Satan took on the Son of God on the mountain that day two thousand years ago.
Jesus, in His mortal body, hadn’t eaten in forty days and nights, and was hungry. Satan challenged Jesus to turn the stones to bread so He could quell His hunger. Satan knew it would be an easy task indeed for Jesus to do, and His hunger would make it a very appealing temptation. Satan still temps us today in the very same way, hitting our very weakest spot to draw a wedge between us and God. Satan was no match for Jesus though and we are blessed because of it! Jesus quoted God, too; but He quoted Him correctly, “….man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Keep that thought in mind!
Satan does not discourage easily. Perhaps Jesus won the first round, but Satan presses on. Notice the challenge he starts with: “IF you are the Son of God….” I can hear the twisted tongue as he snarls out the “If….” What red-blooded American boy could shrink from such mockery when it was within his power to “show the wise guy up?” What Jewish-blooded Son of God would shrink from such a challenge? Jesus didn’t shrink, He simply answered with God’s Word again: “You must not test the Lord your God.”
Then Satan, not use to failing, gave the silliest challenge ever. He took Jesus to the highest mountain peak around and showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, their power and glory and beauty. I can hear his pleading voice say, “I will give it all to You, if You will kneel down and worship me.” WHAT? Give all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if only He’ll fall down and worship Satan! The kingdoms of the world existed because of Jesus, He was their co-founder, they all belonged to Him and they still do! Jesus didn’t bother to remind Satan of that little fact, He simply said: “Get out of here, Satan, for the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”
“Then the devil went away and angels came and took care of Jesus.”
WHAT a powerful story! WHAT wonderful lessons are contained within it! Jesus endured much discomfort and hunger during His forty days on the mountain. Then He tolerated the wily skills of Satan as he tried to bring Jesus down to his level of evil and deceit. First he appealed to Jesus’ physical hunger, then he challenged Jesus to show His “manly skills.” And finally he tried to trip Jesus up by waving power and strength and beauty and fame in front of Him. Satan is still using these same deceptive ways on each of us today, but Jesus gave us the pattern for triumphing over all the lies of Satan. Did you see what the answer is to withstand the clever, cunning, crafty ways of Satan? Every victorious win in this debate between life and death was gained by the use of God’s Word to “knock the ball out of the park.” That encounter between Jesus and Satan, played out so long ago, WAS a matter of life and death – ours! Had Jesus succumbed to Satan’s lies, His perfection would have ended, He could not have been the perfect lamb to be sacrificed for our sin. I can see Satan slouching away from Jesus, defeated, depressed and shamed.
When Satan Visits
When Satan visits each of us, when he poses his appealing temptations to enjoy the “pleasures of sin for a season,” how do WE answer? Oh, the pleasure that comes from venting our wrath, indulging in immoral thoughts, speech or acts, feeding greed, trampling over others to have our way, demanding what we want now, never thinking of others and their needs, and the list goes on and on and on! What pleasure indeed,….for a very short season. Then, there is ample time to carry the heavy burden of regret, guilt, shame, and all the consequences that go with a life out-of-control and out of step with God.
The Psalmist gives us a good clue on how to defeat the lies of Satan:
Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Psalms 119:11
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalms 119:105
Oh, I know! You hold the Bible in your hands and wonder how you can ever possibly know all you need to know to be an obedient child of God. If you never start, you never WILL have the knowledge you need. If you begin with a passage a day, read it, think about each phrase, ponder what the lessons are that you can learn from it, it is just quite possible you will be “hooked” on the most wonderful book in the world….God’s Holy Bible. Every word inspired by God, there for a purpose. Yes, there are some difficult thoughts and possibly we might never know the true meaning until God reveals it like that things yet to come in the book of Revelations. But there are many stories and thoughts just like the ones above, easily read, easily understood, easily used in our every day lives to be the children God can take pleasure in. He has promised:
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
One last thought! After Satan was so soundly defeated, the angels came to tenderly care for the needs of Jesus. THAT’S what awaits those who are faithful to the end. Life may be rough and tough on earth, but when we step over to the other side of life, it will be worth it all.
And so, I commend to you the Word of God, the Bible, God speaking to us! What a gracious, thoughtful, caring God to provide for us a road map to get us through this earthly journey and safely home to the place He and His Son have prepared for us! What a travesty of disobedience, shame and ungratefulness if we neglect “so great a salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3) Praise His Holy Name!!
Mrs. Willard Kelley (Janice)