Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Matthew 4:5-7
Twister Alert is about the subtle ploys and strategies of the devil as we study the second temptation of Jesus. In this sermon, we will first explore the details and context of the passage and then proceed to outline four key takeaways.
Details and Context in Jesus’ Second Temptation
The Pinnacle of the Temple
The pinnacle simply means the highest point in the temple. Where is this highest point and what is its significance? There are two possibilities, the first is the outer south-eastern edge of Solomon’s Portico, which overlooks the Kidron Valley with a 137m drop which would definitely be fatal for Jesus. Did Satan want to kill Jesus and thwart His messianic assignment? The second is the inner edge overlooking the courtyard which would presumably be crowded. Was it Satan’s intention to tempt Jesus to jump off in front of the crowds, and have angels save Him? Thus, fulfilling the messianic sign of Malachi 3:1 “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.”
The Twister Twists the Word
In the first temptation, Jesus used the Word to refute the devil. In this temptation, on the other hand, the devil appeals to the Word. Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 but leaves out one phrase “to keep you in all your ways”. This is not entirely unacceptable as rabbis and apostles did it too. The problem is not merely misquotation but misapplication.
Psalm 91 talks about divine protection for those who love God, who dwell in His presence. It presupposes a person’s obedience and faithfulness to God and His purposes too. It is not about divine protection in all situations, including presumption, irresponsible decisions and stupid acts. There are many examples of divine protection in the Bible such as Daniel in the lions’ den, Apostle Paul who was stoned and rose up (Acts14:19-20) and also suffered no harm when bitten by a viper in Malta after the shipwreck (Acts 28:3-5). And yet, divine protection does not happen all the time eg Hebrews 11:35-38.
Next, consider Psalm 91:13 “You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot”. Satan is the lion (1 Peter 5:8-9) and serpent (Genesis 3:1 and Revelation 20:2). It is ironic that the enemy would use a Psalm that promises protection from the lion and the serpent to try to defeat Jesus.
The enemy aims to twist the Word: if he cannot cause you to doubt God’s Word, he will cause you to mis-apply it. However, it does not mean God is not faithful or that His Word cannot be trusted. If you apply the Word rightly, Satan is defeated. If you mis-apply the Word, you may be serving his purposes without even realising it.
The Living Word Quotes the Word
In Matthew 4:7, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 16:6: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah”. Moses called the place Massah and Meribah in Exodus 17:7 because the Israelites ‘tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”’ What is the significance of this temptation? It is the temptation to doubt God’s presence, protection and provision, His faithfulness and reliability of His Word, especially in challenging times.
This is still applicable to New Testament Christians. Paul refers to the same temptation to ‘test’ Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:9 – “nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents”.
Four Key Takeaways
What is the twister trying to get us to do? Firstly, to mis-apply Scripture. Next, to question and doubt God and to complain against Him, expecting Him to be at our beck and call. So what lessons are we to draw from this? What must we be aware of? Let’s look at the following four twister alerts.
The Ministry of Angels
Angels are “all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14). We believe angels are all around us but we need to be mindful not to specifically look for angelic manifestations as if it is a more superior spiritual experience. Furthermore, Satan is a fallen angel. He can transform himself into an angel of light and his ministers can also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). They preach another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4).
Beware of the Sensational and the Spectacular
We must be careful of the recent focus on all things supernatural and new age spirituality. God is to be experienced but our faith is not based only on feeling. What happens when we do not feel Him? Are we tempted to ‘tempt’ Him then?
Have we been trained to depend on accessories and props (ambience, lights and effects) to help us ‘worship’? We believe in miracles, signs and wonders and these are spectacular but we also need to be mindful of lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
How do we discern the truth from deception? We all experience and encounter God differently. The Word of God is the objective common ground for us. Today, the objective Word is being touted as subjective as it is being twisted.
Who is Serving Who?
Humanism and Hedonism puts us as the Centre. For some, the view is that ‘man is smart and capable and God doesn’t feature’; while another common view is that’ I am the most important. God wants me to be happy and comfortable’. Paul warns of this in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “…that in the last days perilous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”
The good news is sometimes twisted as:
– everything will be fine when you believe in Jesus. God is good because He gives us good things. We forget that God is good because He is God!
– Jesus is made out to be our servant when we were saved to serve the King and His purposes.
“It is written…”
Do you know what is written? We need to read the Word and feed on the Word.
Misinterpretation leads to ‘Misobedience’. When we read the Bible, we need to consider the context, before and after the text so as not to misinterpret the text.
We need to pray for teachers of the Word that they preach with the correct interpretation and boldness not to compromise the Word of God (James 3:1). The Word should be a plumbline, not a pendulum, that we will be tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). We must know that Jesus is the centre. He is the Living Word. He has given us scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Let’s do our part. It is written. We need to know.
In the last days, deception will increase. They will come in the name of Christ. The Word of God is already perverted and twisted to such an extent that it is used to justify licentiousness and sexual freedom (2 Peter 3:14-16).
Do you know the Word? Have you lived with twisted applications? Have you been twisted in the wrong way? Have you twisted the word for other people?
The good news is we are in Christ. We can ask Him and He will teach us. Let us look at the life of Jesus, study the word of Jesus and allow Him to guide us. May we stay true to His Word and not be twisted or be a twister.