The Scriptorium


Satan, the original Scripture-twister. Matthew 4.5-7

Matthew 4: Wilderness Victory (3)

Pray Psalm 91.1-3.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler.
And from the perilous pestilence.

Sing joyfully Psalm 91.1-3.
(Lauda Anima: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven)
All who dwell within God’s shelter in His shadow will reside.
He our Tow’r, our Fortress ever, in Him we our trust confide.
From the trapper’s snares He saves us; safe from sickness we abide.

Read Matthew 4.1-7; meditate on verses 5-7

1. What did Satan want Jesus to do? How did he try to bolster his temptation?

2. To what did Jesus appeal in answering the devil?

Satan implied in this temptation that, if Jesus didn’t do what he suggested, it would indicate He doubted the truth of God’s Word. But Jesus knew that to yield to the devil’s test would be to doubt the Word of God, rather than to trust it. God had indeed said that His angels would protect His servants. That was good enough for Jesus – and, as we shall see, it turned out to be correct (v. 11). To test the Lord’s Word by doing what Satan indicated would actually have been to doubt its reliability. Jesus didn’t have to test the Word to know it was reliable.

We should be warned by what we see in this temptation, that it is possible to misuse the Word of God, even when you are quoting it exactly. Satan’s only goal in these temptations was to get Jesus to submit to his word – to exercise authority over Jesus, so that he could realize his own will above that of God. So, if using the Scripture would help him to achieve that end, he was not above doing so.

Jesus, however, would not give in to this sinister ploy. He shows us that, when we are interpreting the Bible, we must keep in mind a certain hierarchy of truths. Last on that list is what we want for our own selfish purposes, and what we might try to get the Bible to endorse, so that we can have our will rather than submit to God’s. At such times, the devil is encouraging us to use the Bible for ourpurposes, rather than those of the Lord. The more we know of Scripture, the better equipped we will be to understand how to compare passages of God’s Word, so as to know how to obey Him (1 Cor. 2.12, 13). We will be less likely to try to make the Scripture submit to our desires if we are continually increasing in understanding concerning God’s.

Jesus answered the devil’s throwdown with a throwdown of His own, and it would be His sticking to the Word of God in all things that ultimately threw the devil down to defeat.

1. Why was the devil wrong to cite the Scripture in this temptation? Are you ever tempted in this way?

2. What do we mean by saying that a hierarchy of priorities must guide our interpretation of Scripture? What’s the highest of those priorities?

3. How might you be able to know when you are trying to make the Scriptures justify some desire on your part?

What does Christ then do? He is neither indignant nor provoked but with extreme gentleness reasons with him again from the Scriptures, saying, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,”
teaching us that we must overcome the devil not by miracles but by forbearance and long-suffering and that we should do nothing at all for display and vainglory. John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 13.4

Thank You for Your Word, O Lord! Help me to walk according to its light today as I…

Pray Psalm 91.11-16.
Thank God for angels to protect you throughout the day, and for His promise to deliver you in the face of every evil. Throughout the day, call upon the Lord in your times of trouble, and rejoice in His salvation.

Sing Psalm 91.11-16.
Psalm 91.11-16 (Lauda Anima: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven)
He shall give His angels charge to bear us up, lest we should fall.
They will guard and carry all who on the Savior’s mercy call.
Cobra, mighty lion, serpent: We shall tread upon them all!

Save us, Lord! We love You only; set us up secure on high!
You we know, on You we call in trouble: Hear us when we cry!
Show us Your salvation, let long life forever satisfy!

T. M. Moore

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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