5 “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:5-7 ESV).
Temptations began in Genesis 3:1-7. They are solicitations to disobey God; either in our thinking, speaking or behavior. Although God never tempts anyone (James 1:13), they are included in God’s plan for lives (I Cor. 10:13). Temptations occur from the fallen world system, our remaining sinful nature (the flesh), and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).
Temptation’s core purpose is to not only disbelieve (Gen. 3:1-3), but also to deny what God has said (Gen. 3:4) resulting in disobedience. An individual does not sin when tempted. It is only when the individual gives in to the temptation that sin occurs (James 1:12-15).
There are three areas of temptations. They are implicit not only in the Genesis account, but also Matthew 4 and Luke 4. The three areas of temptation are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They involve our physical drives, the desire for possessions and a sense of entitlement.
The Apostle John explicitly refers to them in I John 2:15-17 where he writes, 15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
The focus today is on the temptation of the pride of life. It is the evil solicitation to exalt oneself. “Hence, it is evident that the stratagems of the enemy were intended to induce Christ to exalt Himself unduly,” explains John Calvin.
Today’s text also reveals that the devil also knows the Word of God. While he does not submit to it, he can, and does, use it for his intended purposes (Gen. 3:1-7). He did so in this context by quoting from Psalm 91:11-12. It stands to reason that if the devil knows Scripture, believers in Christ better know it as well.
However, the devil twisted Scripture in a way that was opposite to its original meaning. He used Psalm 91:11-12 as a proof text carefully avoiding the verses immediately preceding and following the quoted verses. False teachers do the same thing as do many immature believers.
“The second test by Satan appealed to personal display or popularity. This test built on the first, for if He is the Son of God and the Messiah, nothing could harm Him. Satan took Him to … the highest point of the temple. Whether this was actual or simply a vision cannot be determined dogmatically. Here Satan made a subtle suggestion to Jesus as the Messiah. In effect he was reminding Jesus of Malachi’s prophecy (Mal. 3:1), which had led to a common belief among the Jews that Messiah would suddenly appear in the sky, coming down to His temple. Satan was saying, in essence, “Why don’t You do what the people are expecting and make some marvelous display? After all, the Scripture says His angels will protect You and You won’t even hurt a foot as You come down,” explains commentator Louis A. Barbieri.
Psalm 91 stresses the importance of trusting God and not testing Him. That is why Jesus quoted from Deut. 6:16 and Isaiah 7:12. We are not to put God to the test.
“Satan may have thought if Jesus could quote Scripture to him, he could quote it too. However, he purposely did not quote Psalm 91:11–12 accurately. He left out an important phrase, “in all Your ways.” According to the psalmist, a person is protected only when he is following the Lord’s will. For Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in some dramatic display to accommodate Himself to the people’s thinking would not have been God’s will. Jesus responded, again from Deuteronomy (6:16), that it would not be proper to test … God and expect Him to do something when one is out of His will,” states Barbieri.
The pride of life temptation is particularly strong for students, teachers, professional speakers, leaders and planners who think of themselves more highly than they should (Romans 12:3). Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). If we are too confident in our own abilities, providential circumstances will show us that we are not as good as we think.
Today, ask Jesus to provide you the strength to resist the devil; knowing he will flee (James 4:7). Jesus has already provided us the example.
Soli deo Gloria!