Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for April 30

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for April 30

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

The Temptation to Test God

Deuteronomy 6:16–25; Matthew 4:5–7

In our third lesson on enduring temptations, we move to the second temptation of Jesus in Matthew. (For Luke’s telling, see Luke 4:1–13).

As we noted last week, all of Jesus’s responses are from Deuteronomy. Hence, in each of our lessons we will look at the passages to which Jesus refers.

By beginning the first two temptations with, “If you are the Son of God …,” the devil (called “the tempter” in 4:3 and “Satan” in 4:1) betrays his purpose: to demonstrate that Jesus isn’t worthy of the title that God has given Him in 3:17.

Read all of Matthew 4 and Deuteronomy 6.

We can be tempted to test God for our own purposes. (Matt. 4:5–7)

In the first temptation, the devil alluded to Scripture. Now he quotes it, mimicking Jesus by beginning with, “It is written …” (see 4:4). The citation is from Psalm 91:11–12, in which God protects a person who loves God and calls God’s name (Ps. 91:14).

The image of striking a foot against a stone evokes encountering one of life’s difficulties. In the devil’s interpretation, it refers to God’s Son leaping from the pinnacle of the temple.

Jesus uses Deuteronomy 6:16 to reject the idea of testing God. In particular, Jesus discards the temptation to make God protect Him from harm and thus prove that He is indeed God’s beloved Son.

Because God has declared this status for all to hear, the Son would show lack of faith if He attempted to force God to demonstrate it in the sight of all.

By not throwing himself from the temple’s pinnacle, Jesus accepts the yoke of His mission: His Galilean ministry, His suffering and His death. Jesus will demonstrate his Sonship through the cross rather than by escaping harm.

Likewise, Jesus is a model of faithful obedience to those of us who want proof of God’s love and protection before obeying God’s call.

We have no reason to test God when we trust and obey His Word. (Deut. 6:16–19)

“Massah” is the place where Moses struck the rock. The name comes from a Hebrew verb that means “test” or “try.” It was there that, by grumbling about their thirst, the Israelites questioned whether the Lord was among them (Ex. 17:1–7).

Now, as they are about to enter the Promised Land, Moses tells the people that not to keep the Lord’s Commandments, not to do what is good and right in the Lord’s eyes, is another way to doubt the Lord.

We experience God’s goodness and faithfulness as we obey His Word. (Deut. 6:20–25)

Jewish families read this passage at the Passover seder.

It is not ironic or a mistake that none of the Israelites to whom Moses was speaking had been in Egypt, for that generation had died. This is because each of Israel’s generations is to say, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves …” and “The Lord displayed before our eyes …” as if it were they and not their ancestors who escaped Egypt.

All are to live as if they were the ones whom the Lord their God redeemed, as if it were they who saw the Lord’s “great and awesome signs and wonders” in the wilderness.

As with Israel, so with the Church. We also know what is good and right, and by our acts of rebellion we, individually and collectively, put the Lord our God to the test. We erase the distinction of time and space between ourselves and the foot of the cross.

But we also live as if we were the ones who received Christ’s body and blood at the Last Supper, as if we were the ones to whom the risen Lord spoke the Great Commission.