What does it mean to test the Lord as Jesus addresses in the second temptation?
In Matthew 4:1-11, the devil tempts Jesus three times. Each
temptation can be related to the three temptations John mentions (1 John 2:16).
We will use these as a loose understanding of the temptations of Jesus. What
our chief curiosity is when Jesus talks about testing the Lord in the second
Matthew interestingly tells us that the Holy Spirit leads
Jesus into the wilderness for the express purpose to be tempted by the devil.
This is the final preparation for his ministry. He has already been baptized by
John the Baptist. This is the last step. Where Israel failed to follow God and
rebelled and complained the entire time, Jesus will succeed in every
The Lust of the Flesh
The devil challenges Jesus’ title as the Son of God and
wants him to prove that he is (Matthew 4:3). He wants to see a miracle like
everyone else. He wants Jesus to turn stones into bread because he is hungry.
Stones were almost the size of a loaf of bread in the time
of Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. He says that a person doesn’t live by
bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matthew 4:4).
Although Jesus was very hungry and needed food to eat after
40 days of fasting, he did not allow the lust of his flesh to deter him. He
stood up to the devil and didn’t do a miraculous sign for him. He trusted that
God was the sustenance that he needed in that hour. He resisted his flesh and
the desire to prove himself as Son of God. She knew who he was and didn’t need
to prove it on command.
The Pride of Life
Next, the devil takes him to the highest point of the Temple
in Jerusalem and challenges to throw himself down (Matthew 4:5-6). Since he is
the Son of God he did not be afraid of dying before his time. The devil quotes
Scripture from Psalm 91, a Psalm about God protecting the Messiah from harm.
Jesus isn’t surprised by the devil. But he responds with the
perfect Scripture for this moment. When the devil tempts him to enjoy the pride
of life, the promise that he will be safe until this time, Jesus responds that
no one should test God when he promises these things (Matthew 4:7).
Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16 where Moses tells the
Israelites when they enter the promised not to test the Lord as they did at
Massah. This refers back to Exodus 17:1-7. The Israelites were thirsty and so
they complained to Moses that there was no water to drink in this place.
It was originally named Rephidim but because of their
quarreling he renamed it Massah. He asked God what he should do and God told
him to take the same staff struck the Nile with and strike the rock. Then water
But the sin of the Israelites in testing the Lord was that
they asked the question, “Is the Lord among us or not” (Exodus 17:7)? But look
at Exodus 17:6. The Lord tells Moses that the only reason water comes from the
rock is not because he strikes it with the special staff but because, “Behold,
I will stand before you on the rock…”
The Israelites asked if God was among them but he says that
he was standing on the rock before them where the water flowed after Moses
struck it with his staff. They tested the Lord by questioning his presence as
he stood in front of them!
As a side note (because I can’t resist), Jesus stood before
the Israelites on that day on that rock. How do I know this? In 1 Corinthians
10:4, Paul says that their forefathers all drank from the spiritual Rock that
is Christ. And Jesus, interestingly, speaks of rivers of water (John 7:37-39)
and talks about living water with the Samaritan woman (John 4:10, 13-14).
The Lust of the Eyes
Finally, the devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed
him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-10). The key for the lust of the
eyes is that he “showed” him these kingdoms. He beheld the glory of these
kingdoms with his eyes.
The devil says he will give these kingdoms to Jesus only if
Jesus bows down and worships him. Who owned these kingdoms? The devil clearly
says he owns them and can give them if he wishes. For this time, the devil does
reign on this earth.
But God owns his creation as its sovereign Lord. Jesus will
reign on the earth in the millennial reign at the end of time. He was able to
be patient and not take the bait of Satan. Here was the true King of the whole
universe standing before the devil who was given these kingdoms for this time.
But Jesus quotes Scripture for the final time to worship God
and serve him only (Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus wasn’t concerned
with getting a kingdom from Satan that he already owned. He concentrated on
serving his Father.
Instead of succumbing to the lust of his eyes in the
kingdoms that he saw, taking them now instead of at the proper time later, and
giving up his throne to Satan in that moment, Jesus was patient. After all,
that’s what Satan has always been after, usurping God’s throne from the
Notice that in Matthew 4:11, the Angels come to minister to
Jesus. They take care of the fact that he was hungry without food. They
minister to him as Psalm 91 had prophesied about the Messiah.
Testing the Lord
This question is about what it means to test the Lord. The
Israelites tested the Lord by questioning his presence while he stood right
before then. They tested him because they saw and still asked if he was there.
Satan wanted Jesus to test his Father by proving his promise
to protect him. If he would have jumped off, angels would rescue him so that he
didn’t die at the bottom. It wasn’t his time before his ministry began for him
To test the Lord is to not trust in his promises. If anyone
needs the proof of the promise before the Lord fulfills it in his time, they
test him. We don’t need to demand proof of the promise because we have seen evidence
of it along the way.
Instead of testing the Lord for proof of his promises we
need to be patient until he fulfills them. We trust the Lord and if he makes a
promise he fulfills it. We even have examples throughout history of his
fulfillment of his promises. Abraham received his promised son Isaac. Jesus
fulfilled all of the prophecies about him in the Old Testament. God fulfills
his promises in his time.