Third Week of Lent: A Long Haul Through the Desert

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written:  ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.  For it is written:

” ‘He will command his angels
concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot
against a stone.’ ”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written:  ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written:  ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  (Matthew 4:1-11)

Last week we left off with Adam and Eve leaving the garden after they had sinned by eating the fruit from the tree that God had told them not to eat from.  Now, fast forward several thousand years, past the Flood, past Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.

Israel has emerged from the land of Egypt, having been brought out by God through a miraculous process of deliverance which culminated in their crossing the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptian army drowned in pursuit.  They traveled to Mount Sinai and there met with God; this meeting resulted in the revelation of the Law.

Now they had to journey across the desert to reach the Promised Land which they were to inhabit.  But this was a long and arduous journey for them, through a wasteland of hunger and thirst.  Moses, their leader, called upon them to trust in God to provide for them.  And God did, in fact, provide for them–manna, quail, water, and many other things along the way.

Still, the people grumbled.  They turned away from God in their hearts.  They longed to return to Egypt, under the mistaken belief that they were better off as slaves to the Egyptians.  They put God to the test on numerous occasions.  And on numerous occasions God threatened to wipe them out, and it was only the intercession of Moses on their behalf that spared them.

Forty years this journey lasted.  At one point the Israelites tested God so grievously that he threatened to wipe them out all at once.  Moses interceded and God relented; instead of dying out all at once they would remain in the desert until that entire generation had died off and then their children would enter the Promised Land.  This process took forty years.

Contrast this with Jesus’ journey into the wilderness.

This lasted forty days.  Jesus was all alone, completely without bread or water.  For forty days he fasted.  On the back end of this, the devil appeared to him in his most vulnerable state, and tempted him to turn stone into bread–just as Israel had eaten bread in the desert.  He wouldn’t do it.  The devil continued to tempt Jesus, but he wouldn’t budge.

In the end, he proved strong.  He succeeded where Adam and Eve had failed; they succumbed to the devil’s temptation but he would not succumb.  He succeeded where Israel had failed; though God provided for them in the desert they grumbled against Him, but though he had nothing to eat or drink at all during his time in the desert he would not grumble against his Father.