Daily Reading: Genesis 9, 10, 11; Matthew 4
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1, NASB95)
In the story of Jesus’ temptation, the enemy is described with three titles: devil, Satan, and tempter.
- Devil (Matt. 4:1, 5, 8, 11; 13:39): in the Greek OT, devil is used consistently to translate the Hebrew word Satan.
- Satan (Matt. 4:10; 12:26; cf. Matt. 16:23 referring to Simon Peter): adversary, someone who opposes, obstructs, or accuses. It is used to describe one who stands against God’s people (Job 1:6, 7, 8; Zech. 3:1; 1 Chron. 21:1)
- Tempter (Matt. 4:3): he opposes God’s salvific plan and attempts to cause God’s people to fall.
In the parallel account of Luke (Lk. 4:1-13), only the title devil is used. Matthew further refers to the devil as Beelzebul (Matt. 10:25; 12:24, 27), the enemy (Matt. 13:39), and the evil one (Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38). In other accounts of testing Jesus, Satan uses people to accomplish his work, demonstrating the tempter’s power behind such actions (Matt. 12:38; 16:1; 19:3; 22:15, 18, 35). The whole world stands under the sway of the devil (1 Jn. 5:19), but Jesus came to destroy his works (1 Jn. 3:8). All who stand opposed to Jesus side with the devil. Even though many people will come against Jesus, they are only tools of His main enemy, the devil. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Matthew makes it clear that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted by the devil. The Spirit is the agent of leading and the devil is the agent of testing. It was necessary that Jesus be tempted, yet remain sinless, so that He could be our High Priest and offer His body as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. The devil has His own nefarious purposes in opposing Jesus, yet God uses that testing for His glory. How did Jesus triumph over Satan? He yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit, not following His own desires, but being completely submitted to the will of the Father. Jesus is victorious over Satan’s testing and is revealed to be God’s King and Saviour of the world. Whose side are you on? Have you yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit?