Beware of Tempter’s Strategy
Many things can be gleaned from a study of the temptations the devil used against Yeshua, the Messiah. We can see the devil’s tactics used most on followers of Yeshua. But best of all, we can learn from Yeshua how to resist and overcome them. Matt. 4:1-3 says, “Then Yeshua was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’”
The first point to recognize is that Yeshua was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This was a divinely orchestrated event. The outcome of it holds many powerful insights intended to be instructive to the followers of Messiah.
Yeshua, in His flesh was extremely vulnerable. He had gone without food for 40 days. He would have felt the agonizing pain of hunger screaming to be fed. What area of His life did the devil try to tempt first? It was his personal need for gratification in His flesh. The devil appealed to Yeshua to pay attention to His own personal need for self-indulgence, entitlement and pride and prove His supernatural power by satisfying His flesh. May this be a warning to be aware of when the devil will use this tactic to try to deceive believers to pay more attention to personal need, self-indulgence and entitlement than to our Father’s purpose for our relationship with Yeshua our Messiah.
How did Yeshua respond? Verse 4 states, “But He replied, “It is written, ‘man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” As an observant Jewish man, He had learned and followed the Torah His entire life. He referred back to Deuteronomy 8:3 but as Jewish custom would have it not only to that passage but to all the Scripture that preceded it as well. Deut. 8:1-3 says, “You are to take care to do the whole commandment that I am commanding you today, so that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to your fathers. You are to remember all the way that the Lord your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness – in order to humble you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you manna - which neither you nor your fathers had known – in order to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
It is important to mention that all religious Jews then and today recite and live daily by these Scriptures in Deut. 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words, which I am commanding you today, are to be on your heart. You are to teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. Bind them as a sign on your hand, they are to be as frontlets between your eyes and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Yeshua’s 40 day fast would remind His Jewish audience of the 40 years of wandering in the desert. Just as they had to learn to trust the Lord for food, manna He provided daily, except the double portion on the 6th day as God rested on the 7th day, we as Yeshua followers must learn to depend upon Him for everything. They were tested when told not to take more manna than enough to meet one day’s need. When they didn’t trust Him, taking more for the next day, it would become rancid and uneatable the next day.
The second temptation in Matt 4:5-7 reads, “Then the devil took Him into the holy city and placed Him on the highest point of the Temple. ‘If You are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw Yourself down. For it is written, ‘”He shall command His angels concerning you and upon their hands they shall lift you up, so that you may not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Isn’t it interesting that Yeshua, who is God in the flesh, was taken to the highest point of the Temple where the Presence of the Lord dwelt with His people in worship? Here, the devil quoted Psalm 91. This Psalm is one of the most widely known and quoted passages of most Christians. But notice what the devil does with it. He twists it, taking it out of its original context, and misapplies it to bring about his desired end. The devil is a liar. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. First, he tried to steal Yeshua’s identity. Now he is trying to kill him. But what does Yeshua say in response to this? Once again, He quotes from the Torah in Deut. 6:16. Matt 4:7 says, “Yeshua said to him, “again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, He returned to Covenant instructions in Torah, to observe them and not to test the Lord.
Replacement theology, a heinous teaching that wrongly teaches that the Church replaced Israel, is a prideful usurping and coveting of the unique Covenant relationship God instituted with His people Israel. There are many Scriptures that warn of false teaching throughout the Epistles. When the whole counsel of the entire Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is not studied and understood on its own terms, it is easily fed to unsuspecting hearers by the master manipulator and twister of Scripture the devil was revealed as being. It is one of his tactics that has worked far too often with those who hold learned doctrines and traditions above the Holy Scriptures. It is a twisting of Scripture and manipulation for it is indeed testing God.
Finally, let us look at the third and final temptation in Matt. 4:8-9. “Again, the devil takes Him to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’”
Why would the devil think that might even be possible? Since the Fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden that affected all of creation, the devil has maintained control over his domain. The devil took him to a high mountain to impress Him with the fact that he had domain over all the worldly systems, the fallenness of all creation over which he was given temporary control. The devil was attempting to intimidate Yeshua into serving and obeying the devil for the exchange of giving Yeshua the tainted kingdoms of the earth. Imagine that usurper attempting to give the fallen world he had corrupted to the Creator who created it without corruption! How did Yeshua respond?
Matt. 4:10 says, “Then Yeshua says to him, ‘Go away satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”
Once again, Yeshua is quoting Deut. 6:13, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve Him.” It is imperative for all believers to read know and observe Torah, especially the book of Deuteronomy as it provides instructions for life, even abundant life, promised by Yeshua Messiah.
Yeshua said in Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” The word ‘fulfill’ actually indicates a making full or expounding the right understanding of Torah. He goes on to say in the following verses, “Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the Torah scholars, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven!” Righteousness is actually doing what is righteous, or being obedient to what the Torah teaches. How is one to be obedient and do it if one has not learned it? Yeshua came to teach how to understand and live it properly. He never abolished His law, just the legalistic interpretation of it. When we read the whole book of Deuteronomy, we see that God knew they would forget and disobey Him. But He gave them hope in His instructions to return and obey. We may never see God’s people live in such a way as to fully obey and live out the commandments perfectly this side of the world to come. But we can be confident that when Messiah Yeshua returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth, we will see His commandments manifested in the righteous ways His people live. For truly the kingdom of God is here now and yet, not yet.
It is my prayer and desire to see those of us Gentile believers, of whom I am one, repent for our arrogance and pride in embracing the twisting of Scripture through Replacement Theology and turn to the Lord who graciously forgives and restores us. Most of us innocently simply accepted the erroneous teaching that the Church fathers handed down without realizing that it was motivated in the 3rd century by those teaching the false doctrine John warned about in all his Epistles and Yeshua prayed against in His prayer found in John 17. He desires all those who believe in Him, the Messiah of Israel, who are both Jewish and non-Jewish to be one even as He and the Father are One. He longs for His Jewish people who are far from Him and the people of the nations to come to Him, the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.