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The Temptation and Testing Trilogy

• Vanessa Williams

In order to understand Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4, we have to look back to the stories of temptation and testing that preceded it. In this sermon, Vanessa Williams shares with us how we can stand strong during these times.

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The temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 can really only be understood when we know why it was included in the book of Matthew. The author was continuing the story of temptation and testing that had been prevalent throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus is the continuation of a trilogy of testing and temptation throughout the OT.

The first story begins in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were created and everything was good. God told Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil or they would die. Satan comes along and tempts them to eat from the tree, and Satan calls into question God’s character. Adam and Eve fell to that temptation by deciding that they knew better than God.

The second story in this trilogy is the people of Israel. God decides that he won’t throw away his creation, and he instead chooses a single family to become the beginning of his people in this world. These people eventually fell into slavery in Egypt, and this begins the time of testing for them.

God eventually sends Moses to free the Israelites. In the desert for 40 days, the Israelites’ hearts are tested. Instead of choosing to trust the God who freed them, they turned to idols and the things they thought were best. Because of this, they were unable to enter the Promised Land and instead spent 40 years in the desert.

Jesus becomes the continuation of this story of temptation and testing. He is tested in the same things that Adam and Eve and the Israelites were tested. Just like Israel, he was led into the desert for 40 days. And, just like Adam and Eve, he was tempted with food. Satan even used scripture to try and change Jesus, but Jesus refuted Satan’s exegesis. Instead of bowing down and succumbing to temptation, Jesus withstood the test and chose God’s promises.

This story of temptation and testing continues today. We face these things whether we like it or not. However, we can prepare for temptation and testing by being faithful to God. There are many ways to do this, but two come to mind.

First, we must remember God’s past work with us. It’s difficult to make good choices in the present without knowing about the past in the situation. And this is true for any decision. To know God’s past work, we must read the Bible. But the Bible can be boring. “How to read the Bible book by book” is a good choice for reading the Bible and not becoming bored. It can help shed light on the context of the story.

Second, we need to be obedient in the present. We need to frame it by God’s character, and that we are obedient to the One who created us and wants the best for us. We are called to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul. Handing something over to God is handing something to the God who loves us and not a tyrant. Asking for God’s perspective is important when we do this. If we simply lean on our own understanding, we will fall to the trappings of Satan.

We are like athletes when we build up our faith muscles. When we do this, we can say to Satan, like Jesus, it’s time you go. It’s important that we work on being faithful because temptations and tests will come when we least expect them. It’s important to always be ready and be faithful to God.

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Topics: Faith, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation


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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 4:1-11

    4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

    ‘One does not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

    5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

    ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

    7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

    8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

    ‘Worship the Lord your God,

    and serve only him.’”

    11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

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