UNWAVERING LOYALTY TO THE WILL OF GOD
In the first attack of Satan upon Christ, the objective point is His loyalty to the will of God. This does not appear on the surface, and in that fact there is marked THE METHOD OF THE ENEMY. He never pre-announces the point against which his attack is to be directed, but an examination of the whole situation will reveal the truth of the position. As has been already emphasized, Jesus was led by the Spirit, driven by the Spirit, to and in the wilderness, and in that fact there was great significance. In the life of every being wholly devoted to the will of God, there is nothing accidental. Every detail of arrangement is in the Divine plan, and cannot be interfered with without changing the result, and interfering with the purpose. The circumstance of hunger was not only within the Divine knowledge; it was part of the Divine plan. The circumstance of hunger WAS INCIDENTAL, but not accidental. It was not an unexpected contingency. It was part of the Divine program. Led by the Spirit into the wilderness He was taken to physical hunger, and that hunger was a necessary process in the economy of God, a circumstance within His will.
This is emphasized by the very fact of His being taken to the wilderness. If there had been no necessity for hunger, the temptation might have taken place in quite other surroundings; or, to put the matter from the other side, the very fact of His being led to and through forty days in a place desolate of sustenance for physical life, indicates the need for hunger, and at last suggests its meaning, the suggested meaning being, that man even in his weakness, leaning wholly upon God is stronger than man in strength standing alone, stronger moreover than the forces at are against him. When God leads a man, every last detail is always taken into account. This fact should come in comfort as well as in searching power to everyone. There are no accidents to those who abide wholly within the will of God. There may be events which men outside will look upon as accidents, but when life is lived in the center of the circle of the Divine will, nothing can approach it except those things which are foreordained, and which are therefore integral parts of the Divine plan, and the Divine program.
The hunger of Jesus therefore was within the purpose of God for Him. Now if He might be persuaded to cancel this circumstance, small and unimportant though it appear, He would nevertheless throw out of perfect working order, that whole Divine plan. If He could only be persuaded to minister to His physical need by the use of a Divinely-bestowed power, outside the Divinely-indicated line, and so satisfy His hunger, while yet in the place where God had put Him, and intended that He should suffer it, then that act of personal choice against the choice of God would invalidate the whole plan, and the citadel towards which the enemy moves, His loyalty to the will of God, would be taken.
Thus it is seen that the point towards which this first temptation was directed was the quiet, peaceful strength of Jesus as He rested in the will of God in triumph over all circumstances. That is the objective point.
Now consider THE AVENUE OF APPROACH. The enemy appealed to the sense of hunger. Hunger was natural, and therefore sinless. Perhaps that statement needs some word of explanation. In evangelical teaching and thinking to speak of a thing as natural, is often to associate with the idea of depravity. For instance, to speak of the natural man is to think of that which is in opposition to the spiritual man. This is due to the fact that Paul uses the term "natural" invariably in reference to man in his fallen nature. It must however never be forgotten that behind the fallen is the unfallen. God's archetypal Man is the truly natural man. This is not to quarrel with the apostle's use of the word, but to indicate the meaning when it is said that hunger was natural. If man had never sinned he would still have grown hungry. Hunger is not a result of sin. It is a consciousness divinely implanted, which suggests the need for food. It is a part of the wonderful economy of God for the sustenance of the physical need of man. In the use of the body, there is a waste of tissue, and for its reconstruction there must be a reception of food. Whenever that food is necessary, there is a sense of need, that sense being hunger. Hunger, then, is within God's gracious economy in the creation of man.
Notice carefully that it was after the lapse of the forty days that Jesus was hungry. It would seem as though during their passing, He was unconscious of His physical need. His thoughts had been of things within the spiritual realm, and the demands of the physical had been unrecognized. At the close of forty days the sense of need swept over Him. He was hungry. That sense of hunger was perfectly sinless. To satisfy it is the natural action of a perfect Man. The hunger is a God-created sense. To feed it, to satisfy it, is to fall in with the Divine purpose.
Now mark the SUBTLENESS OF THE ENEMY. God had created the need, but there was no provision there for its satisfaction. The temptation proceeded along this avenue, and virtually may be stated in this form. Thou art hungry, according to Divine arrangement, but in the Divine arrangement of this moment there is no provision for the satisfaction of Thy hunger. It is now competent for Thee to act upon Thine own initiative, “command that these stones become bread."
Long centuries before, the devil had asked a question in the Divine presence. A servant of God, a perfect and upright man was living in such conditions that all the necessities of his life seemed to be met, and the enemy coming before God, said, "Doth Job serve God for naught?" (Job 1:9) Around that question and insinuation of evil, the magnificent book of Job circles. The suggestion made was, that Job's loyalty to God was ensured by the satisfaction of all physical need. Job was full and wealthy through the beneficence of heaven. Let him be emptied and impoverished, and the strain put upon his loyalty would break down. To put it in the more vulgar language of the street, Job feared God for what he could get. Thus the devil's estimate of human life is, that the only reason for man's loyalty to God is that God meets every demand of his need as it arises; and, moreover, that man's happiness consists in the satisfaction of his material nature, in a word, that he lives by bread alone.
That same thought underlay THE TEMPTATION OF THE MASTER. It is as though he had said to Him, Thou art hungry. That sense of hunger is a part of the Divine arrangement. Therefore it must be right to satisfy it. If God has made no provision for the satisfaction of a need which He has created, then act independently, command that the stones be made bread.
The subtleness of the temptation lies within the fact that the devil suggested to Christ that He should satisfy a perfectly legitimate craving. The evil of the temptation lies within the fact that he suggested that a legitimate craving should be satisfied in an illegitimate way.
Thus Christ, impoverished and hungry, faced the old-time lie, by meeting temptation, not when filled with the plentitude of Divine gifts, but when needing that which God provides for all His creatures. So much for the avenue of approach.
Now notice the argument the enemy used, "If Thou be the Son of God," marking carefully the meaning of the "If," and the reason of its use at this particular crisis. The temptation closely followed upon the baptism. But forty days ago the silence of the long thirty years had been spoken, and the Divine voice had said, "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17) Thus the seal of God was set not merely in approval upon the perfection of the life, but in identification of the personality of Jesus. “This is My beloved Son." Now hear the enemy's “if." “If Thou art the Son of God." (Matt 4:3) If that experience of forty days ago was really anything more than a phantasy, a vision; if what the voice declared be true, why remain hungry? What is the use, said the enemy in effect, of a position without its privileges? What value is there in being the Son of God unless Thou shalt make use of all that the name implies? Mark well that the devil's idea of the privileges of sonship is that of selfish gratification.
This temptation moved wholly in the physical realm. The Man Jesus was hungry, and the enemy took advantage of this fact, and, moving along the avenue of His hunger, and using the argument of His Sonship, he suggested that He should exercise His Sonship for the satisfaction of His hunger, without reference to the fact that His hunger at the moment was a part of the will of His Father.
To sum up. The objective point was THE LOYALTY OF JESUS TO THE WILL OF GOD. The avenue of approach was the perfectly natural and sinless hunger of His manhood. The argument used was that if He were the Son of God, He might use that privilege to minister to His necessity, without consulting the will of His Father.
There was nothing in that temptation which had the slightest suspicion of vulgarity. The devil did not suggest that He should minister to any craving of life that was not in itself right. Indeed such suggestion would have been utterly useless, for there was no such craving in Him. It was so, even then, as He said afterwards, that the devil "cometh: and he hath nothing in Me." (John 14:30) The enemy asked Him to do a right thing in a wrong way, to satisfy a lawful appetite in an illegal fashion, to make use of the privileges of Sonship for violating its responsibilities. The temptation was an attempt to pervert the will. This was done by a subtle suggestion OF THE UNKINDNESS OF GOD, in order to quench love towards God. This suggestion was of the nature of an attempt to cloud the intelligence, by mixing the privileges and responsibilities of Sonship. Same attempt as with Adam and Eve.