Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for April 23

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of biblical and religious studies, Samford University

The Temptation to Rely on Myself Instead of God

Deuteronomy 8:2–10; Matthew 4:1–4

In last week’s lesson, James reminded us that even if something enticing lies before us, temptation comes from desires residing within. Without God’s wisdom, we progress from desire to sin to death.

In Matthew’s account of one of the most famous stories in the Bible, we meet the being sometimes called the tempter. All of Jesus’ responses come from Deuteronomy, in which Moses reminds Israel of the covenant before they enter the promised land. Read all of Matthew 4 and Deuteronomy 8.

We are often tempted to satisfy God-given desires in the wrong way. (Matt. 4:1–4)

Both “devil” (from Greek) and “Satan” (from Hebrew) mean “accuser.” As in Job, the accuser looks for evidence that Jesus is not truly righteous and not worthy to be God’s beloved Son. The tempter tries to convince Jesus to use His power for personal gain rather than His divine mission — redemption.

The voice from heaven has just declared to those gathered at the Jordan that Jesus is His beloved Son. It is striking that the temptation is the next event. Matthew links Jesus’ identity as God’s Son to temptation more than once.

For example, Jesus first predicts He will die immediately after Peter declares Him to be the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16, 21–23). In response to Peter’s rebuke, Jesus calls him Satan. Likewise, when the crowds, using language similar to the devil’s, taunt Jesus to come down from the cross, He remains steadfast to His divine purpose (Matt. 27:40).

In these verses, we catch echoes of Israel in the wilderness, as did Matthew’s audience, and as Jesus Himself probably thought of the event. This episode not only looks back to Israel’s story, it also looks forward to Jesus’ ministry. Before He begins His ministry, Jesus will not succumb to the temptation to feed His hunger. Similarly, in a wilderness place, He will miraculously provide for more than 5,000 hungry people (Matt. 14:13–21).

We can be tempted not to trust God’s provision. (Deut. 8:2–5)

Jesus answers by quoting part of Deuteronomy 8:3, Moses’ words to the Israelites as they are poised to cross the Jordan River. Moses reminds them of God’s care in the wilderness, feeding them both with manna and with everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord. God’s words are like food. They sustain the life God intends for people to live (8:1).

Moses interprets some kinds of suffering as evidence of God’s parental discipline and love (8:5, Prov. 3:11–12).

God provides when we trust and obey Him. (Deut. 8:6–10)

Taking in the land from the northernmost borders of Galilee to the Timnah Valley in the South, we can see God has given Israel everything it needs for all Israelites to thrive. This brings up a potential problem: Because of the land’s goodness, the people may be tempted to think they prosper by their own skill, but God gives the ingenuity and persistence to make the land produce (vv. 17–18).

We too have our divine calling. Desires to stray are strong because some temptations are for good things. The lure to think we are self-sufficient is real because of God’s good gifts. Let us remember that the One who requires faithfulness makes faithfulness possible.