After fasting for forty days, Satan comes on the scene and presents Jesus with three temptations. The first was to turn stones in to bread. The second was to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, trusting that God would send His angels to protect Jesus. And the third was to bow down and worship Satan in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world.
Now, I grew up in the church and have studied this passage multiple times and even preached on it before, but recently a book I’m reading has helped my understanding of these temptations quite a bit. The book is Russell Moore’s “Tempted and Tried”, and the author made an observation about these temptations that has really opened my eyes. He points out that these temptations that Satan was assailing Jesus with were actually failed attempts of adoption. Here is what Dr. Moore says:
“Satan was not just trying to tempt Jesus; He was attempting to adopt Jesus. Satan, in all three temptations, is assuming the role of father –first in provision, then in protection, and now in the granting of an inheritance. Satan didn’t just want to be Jesus’ lord; he wanted to be his father.” (pg.137)
I believe this observation really pinpoints Satan’s motivation in attacking people. Satan looks to take the role of father… more specifically our Heavenly Father. He wants God’s throne. That is why he was kicked out of heaven to begin with (Isaiah14:13-14). And in this most important of temptations, he sought to take the role of God the Father in the life of God the Son.
When I think of the role of father, I think of two words: trust and dependence. We look to our fathers to provide for us, protect us, and to keep His promises to us. Satan tries to cast doubt on God’s trustworthiness. He asks us, Can you believe His Word? Will He meet your needs? What about the future?
Now, Satan is not necessarily looking for us to do what he was asking Jesus to do in third temptation. He does not explicitly ask us to bow down and worship him, but that type of worship is taking place when we begin to doubt the trustworthiness of God. That doubt robs God of glory that belongs exclusively to Him. We then fail to ascribe the proper “worth” to God that He deserves.
The adversary wants us to trust in something else rather than God. I don’t think he cares what we trust in, just so long as it is not in God. This could include your spouse, job, talents, friends, seatbelt….whatever. He’s happy for you to have all kinds of fathers just so long as you are not resting in your Heavenly Father.
But when we start to think that we must provide for ourselves, Satan becomes our father. When we start to think that we are independent, Satan becomes our father. When we worry about our future inheritance, Satan becomes our father.
These are temptations that will manifest themselves in our lives in different ways. What should we do? Well, we are given an example by Jesus to combat this attack. Jesus answered all the devil’s attacks by quoting God’s Word back to him. In doing that, He affirmed that God, and His Word are trustworthy. He is proving that our Heavenly Father is faithful, and will meet our needs. Who is your Father?
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” -John 8:42-47