Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

In the Wilderness of Life

Author: Charles Hegwood

There is a wilderness motif in the Bible. Therefore, it is no accident that Jesus was led out into the wilderness right after His baptism. It is here in Matthew chapter 4 that Jesus fasts and is tempted by the tempter, Satan. It is a story of Jesus’ faithfulness as the Son of God. But why was He tempted? Could it be that it was to demonstrate that Jesus was sinless? Sure, and he was sinless. Could it be that Jesus was doing something symbolic? Jesus’ trip to the wilderness was a mirror of the trip that Israel took in Exodus and Numbers. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus faced the temptation of not trusting God’s Word, testing God, and worshiping other gods. Those were the same three tests that Israel failed. We need to read Matthew 4: 1-10 in light of Exodus and Numbers. Jesus will show what it looks like to trust God and love Him above all other things.  

Obeying God’s Word 

“If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” 

Why bread? Surely Jesus would have been more tempted with turning the rocks into a steak dinner. Well, first century bread was not like the manufactured Wonder bread of today. First century bread was life sustaining. It was a staple food. Therefore, to a man who had not eaten in forty days this was a real temptation. His mouth may have watered just thinking about bread.  

So what is the connection with Jesus, bread, Israel, and us? Remember, God is telling His people what it looks like to trust Him fully. Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. He fasted for forty days, I struggle with an hour. We find Jesus weak and hungry. Satan encourages Jesus to turn the rocks into bread. Will Jesus trust the Father or listen to the tempter? His stomach growls for food, but is God’s goodness more important than the physical pain of hunger?  

Remember, Israel grumbled continuously in the wilderness about food. God gave them manna, like bread from heaven. God gave them quail when they complained about the manna. They complained and did not trust that God knew what was best for them. Read Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 for reference. Israel questioned God’s provision. But where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus quotes scripture that man cannot live by bread alone, but must rely on God’s Word. Israel did not rely on God’s Word. For Jesus, God’s Word was life-giving and life-sustaining. God’s Word was His staple food. It is our’s as well. Whether we know it or not. We are like Israel. Will God’s Word be the life-sustaining answer to our spiritual hunger?  

 Do not Test God  

The next test was the temptation to test God. Exodus and Numbers are full of Israel testing God in the wilderness. They tested God for the same reasons that we do. We do not fully trust that God is good for us. Jesus was faced with the proposition of jumping off from a high place since He knew the angels would catch Him. This would have been a test of God’s goodness. Jesus very clearly again quoted scripture, that we should not test our God. Again Jesus has succeeded where Israel failed. It is where we often fail.  

We are prone to test God. Jesus was doing more than merely showing us how to use scripture in times of temptation, though it is important and powerful to do so. Jesus is faced with testing if the Father would do all that He promised. This test would have denied the myriads of evidence that shows God’s goodness. This is a test of God’s authority. Jesus does not need to question God’s authority or love for Him with a test. Instead, Jesus trusts that the Father is good. Let us do the same. See the evidence of God’s goodness in your life. 

Do not Worship Other gods  

In the final test Satan pulls out all of the stops. He, that is Satan, showed Jesus all of the Kingdoms of Earth and promised to give it to him if only Jesus would bow and worship him. I have always found this to be ironic, since Jesus already knew that He was the King of Kings. What a feeble attempt to tempt Jesus. But Jesus must face this temptation. Israel did in the wilderness and throughout their history. We do too. We face and often fall into the worship of so- called gods. If we were promised the world, would we bow? Or would we trust that God is good and He is enough for us? Would being a child of God be more exhilarating than having dominion over a world that is fading?  

Jesus will not bow. He shows that God is good and to be worshiped above idols. Again I restate that Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. Israel turned to idols in the desert. When they worshiped the golden calf in Exodus, they were telling God, “you are not enough, we do not trust your goodness.” They sinned. Through Jesus’ obedience, He has redeemed their sin and He has redeemed our sin too. Cast out those idols and like Jesus worship God alone.  

The Wilderness and Us  

The Bible has a wilderness motif that runs throughout it. Jesus’ trip to the wilderness was no coincidence. His trip was a parallel to Israel. So as we wrap up this discussion, we look at those parallels one more time. Israel was meant to be a beacon of light leading people to worship God. They failed. Jesus entered the wilderness as the Light and He succeeded, proving that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Our lives are like the wilderness. We have tests and trials that will lead us to run to God and say, “He is good, He is enough for me” or will lead us to run to the idols of this world. What do we do when we are in the wilderness? We look to Jesus. Look at how He loved God through the tests and trials. We have a model of how to be obedient. We also have a portrait of grace and hope because we follow and worship the one who has overcome the wilderness. Let us live in obedience holding on to the love that we have in Jesus, our Great Redeemer. 

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