“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written:
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10
As I preached about in the video devotional (see bottom of page), the devil, the world, and humanity’s sinful flesh are mighty enemies – they’ve brought down empires, corrupted rulers, and been the downfall of many.
The Israelites in the wilderness fell victim to them time and time again, even after living through the ten plagues, walking through the Red Sea, hearing the voice and beholding the glory of God. They stumbled and they grumbled. They didn’t just commit big sins, like dancing around a golden calf, but a whole lot of “mundane” sins as well. After walking through the Red Sea, they complained that they were brought out into the desert to die (Ex. 14:11-22). They complained that they were hungry (Ex. 16:3), and in doing so suggested that God, the creator of the universe, who brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, couldn’t adequately feed His people. When God caused food to fall from the sky, they complained that it didn’t look quite right (Ex. 16:15), that it wasn’t what they wanted to eat, and that Egypt had better both a wider selection and better food (Nm. 11:4-6). They complained that the water didn’t taste right, and they couldn’t drink it (Ex. 15:23-24). They complained that they were thirsty (Ex. 17:1-4). They complained that entering the promised land looked like too much work (Nm. 14:1-10). And time (Ex. 5:1-22), after time (Ex. 14:11-12), after time (Nm. 12:1-12), after time (Nm. 14:10), after time (Nm. 16:1-2), after time (Nm. 16:41), after time (Nm. 20:1-5), after time (Nm. 21:4-5), they complained that Moses and God weren’t doing their jobs well enough. Throughout the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites constantly failed to trust that God would provide them with food (Ex. 16:4-5), that He would really be with them and preserve them (Ex. 13, Nm. 16), and that He would bring them into a land made for them (Exodus 3:17). They didn’t believe, and thought that their ways of doing things were better than God’s ways.
Centuries later, Israel once again was driven back over the Jordan into the wilderness (Mk. 1:12). He, for in Him Israel was reduced to one single person, didn’t have enough food to be comfortable and was deeply hungry (Mt. 4:2). Yet He sat without complaint, trusting that God who provided manna in the wilderness and food and water for Elijah, (1 Kngs. 19:6), who is faithful in His promises and in His provision (Ps. 111:5), would provide for Him. When offered a quick solution, He reminded the Tempter that God’s Word is more important even than food (Deut. 8:3). When offered a “better kingdom” than the one God has given Him in exchange for worshipping Satan, He reminded the Tempter that only God is to be worshipped (Deut 6:13). When urged to commit suicide to see if God would prevent His death, He reminded the Tempter that we should not put God to the test (Deut. 6:16). Here, alone in the desert sits Israel’s true leader.
The one who told Moses what to say, who appeared as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, who stood with the elders on the Holy Mountain of God, sitting here, in human incarnation, as Israel, and where the Israelites stumbled and grumbled He stands firm without complaint in perfect obedience. And wouldn’t you know it – God is exactly who He says He is and does exactly what He says He will, and Jesus is provided for, ministered to by angels themselves (Mark 1:13).
What a great blessing for us! Where we stumble, Jesus stands firm. Where we fail, Jesus does not. His obedience, His righteousness, and His faithfulness are set upon each of us in Baptism. We are clothed in Him, covered in His grace, and washed with His glory. O Lord how great is your love for us, that you should send Christ to live for us, to die for us, and to rise for us!
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
sound the loud triumphant lay:
tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer,
as a victim won the day.
Tell how, when at length the fullness
of th'appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
left for us His Father's home,
blazed the path of true obedience,
shone as light amidst the gloom.