The Scriptorium

Our Necessary Food

Jesus begins His conquest of the devil. Matthew 4.2-4

Matthew 4: Wilderness Victory (2)

Pray Psalm 119.1-8.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

Sing with conviction Psalm 119.1-8.
(Ode to Joy: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee)
Blessed are they whose way is blameless, all who walk within God’s Law,
who, His testimonies keeping, seek Him, filled with joy and awe.
These are they who, no wrong doing, ever walk within God’s ways.
Lord, Your precepts You command us; we would keep them all our days.

Let my ways steadfastly keep to all the statutes of Your Word.
Then shall I, no shame enduring, fix my eyes on You, O Lord!
With an upright heart I praise You, in Your rules will I abide.
I will keep Your statutes wholly; keep me ever by Your side.

Read Matthew 4.1-4; meditate on verses 2-4

Prepare.
1. How long was Jesus in the wilderness before the devil confronted Him?

2. What was the devil’s first line of attack against the Lord?

Meditate.
The Scriptures frequently refer to themselves as spiritual food. Job said that he considered the Word of God more important than the food that nourished his body (Job 23.12). Jeremiah delighted to feed on the Scriptures (Jer. 15.16). Paul and the writer of Hebrews mentioned Scripture both as food for infants and maturing saints (1 Cor. 3.1, 2; Heb. 5.12-14). Peter said we should eagerly desire the food Scripture provides, so that we may grow by it (1 Pet. 2.1-3).

It should not surprise us that Jesus took such language seriously. We can imagine that, during those forty days of fasting in the wilderness, He reviewed, recalled, recited, and thus fed on a great many passages of Scripture. In fact, Scripture was undoubtedly the only thing on the menu for Him during those trying and lonely days, as He recapitulated Israel’s wanderings, and prepared for His great victory over the enemy of God.

When Satan finally showed up to tempt Jesus, he thought he was beginning at the Lord’s most vulnerable point – His hunger for food. The devil could not have been more wrong. Jesus was full of God’s Word, and strong in it, and He would not allow Himself to fall into the tempter’s trap. Satan knew Who Jesus was. He did not say to Him, “If it’s really so that You are the Son of God…” He would have used the Greek ἐὰν ean – if it is so – to say that (cf. v. 9). What he actually said was, “Since (Greek: Εἰ, ei – if, or in this case, since) You are the Son of God…” Satan’s problem was he had too high a view of his own powers. But when you have ruled and bullied and trashed every kingdom of man for thousands of years, and the rest of creation to boot, you can begin to believe you’re capable of just about anything.

Wrong. Jesus, the Son and Word of God, was not going to take orders or follow any suggestions by the one He was about to clap into spiritual irons. He knew that feeding on, relying on, and being sustained by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God was more important than satisfying any merely fleshly desire, or performing some miracle at the behest of the father of lies.

Test everything by the Word of God: This is the lesson from His temptation. Anything that might appeal to you, seem like the best way to go, an idea that won’t hurt anyone, or something you strongly desire – all of it must be tested by the Word of God. If we feed on our lusts rather than Scripture, we will not make progress in the Lord. Instead, we’ll simply give the devil the satisfaction of watching us founder on the rocks of misguided affections.

Jesus shows us where real power lies – in “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Reflect.
1. What does it mean to “feed” on Scripture? How does that feeding nourish us?

2. Why should we test all our inclinations by the Word of God? Can we trust strong feelings as a reliable guide to action? Why not?

3. Jesus was hungry after His forty-day fast. But He would not eat at the devil’s suggestion. Why not? What’s the lesson here for us?

The Word of God is Christ the Lord, as the Evangelist says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”
So, whoever feeds on the word of Christ does not require earthly food, nor can one who feeds on the bread of the Savior desire the food of the world. The Lord has his own bread; indeed, the bread is the Savior himself, as he taught when he said, “I am the bread who came down from heaven.” Maximus of Turin (d. 423), Sermons 51.2

Feed my with Your Word, O Lord, and strengthen me today so that I…

Pray Psalm 119.171-176.
Praise God for His Word, and for His Spirit to teach it to you. Commit to talking with someone today about the glories of God’s Word, and what you’re learning from Him.

Sing Psalm 119.171-176.
Psalm 119.171-176  (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
With our lips we praise You, Jesus, for You teach us, full and free.
Now Your Word will ever please us; Your commandments true shall be.
Let Your hand come forth to ease us; we Your Word choose gratefully!

For Your saving grace we plead, Lord, and Your Law is our delight.
We to live and praise You need, Lord, all Your help by day and night.
Straying sheep, we do not heed, Lord; come and seek us by Your might!

T. M. Moore

What really happened in the wilderness? What did Jesus accomplish? Our book Satan Bound: A Theology of Evil, can help you to understand more completely the magnitude and importance of Matthew 4.1-11. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore