Lent 1 Invocabit 2024

Invocabit
February 17, 2024 A+D
St. Matthew 4:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
“It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Temptation takes place mainly in our minds. It is a battle of words. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature seek to rationalize sin, to convince us that it is valuable, good in some way. This is because all sin begins, in some sense, as covetous idolatry. It is a matter of the will. We have a will that is apart from the Father’s and in crass idolatry we seek to put it first. So it is that the devil comes at Jesus in the desert with words. He overcomes temptation by the Word of God and prayer. He responds to the devil with assertions that are written in the Bible in order to comfort Himself.

The devil tempts Jesus by saying,

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
“All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Rather than getting into a debate, Jesus replies with assertions from the Bible:

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
“It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Then the devil left Him and angels came and ministered to Him.

Apologetics is sometimes helpful for tender consciences. A Christian at university who is struggling to understand how the Bible can withstand scrutiny and the scientific method is often comforted by recognizing that the Bible is rational and doesn’t violate observable, testable science.

But arguing with the devil or our flesh is worse than futile, it is disastrous. Adam’s fatal mistake was to stand by idly and let the devil’s statements to Eve be taken seriously. Jesus doesn’t argue with the devil. He simply makes assertions and that from the Word of God. He does this not to convince the devil but to remind Himself of what is true.

The devil tries to get Jesus to consider His own needs. He says, “Make for yourself some bread.” Jesus doesn’t explain why He won’t. He simply asserts what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 8. Here is what is trustworthy. Man shall not live by bread alone, but but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. This is open and shut, over and done. There is nothing else to consider. Will this satisfy the devil? Will this impress the world or the academy? Will this be carved in stone in the halls of philosophy or made into a masthead for Facebook and Google? Absolutely not! But it will serve and it will satisfy faith. It will drive off the devil and feed the soul. Jesus quotes the Bible not so much to the devil as He does to Himself. He is the One being tempted and therefore He is the One who needs comfort and strength.

It is much the same with the other temptations. The devil tries to get Jesus to think about what He is missing with the service of angels and the pleasures of this world. Jesus responds with assertions from Deuteronomy 6 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” and “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” He doesn’t get into a debate about the character of angels or the sort of service they provide or whether or not the devil can give him the glory of the world. He simply asserts. He is not particularly clever about it. He is not theologically sophisticated or profound.

Here is part of the point: these are defenses we are all capable of, which He Himself has handed us. Again, this won’t convince the devil that he is wrong. But it will comfort and strengthen faith. The Word serves the tempted.

We also see that Jesus grounds Himself in the written Word. Even in the secular world, written words have power and endurance that spoken words don’t. If you go to court over a contract dispute, what matters most is what is written and not what you claim someone said. A written “to do” list is a powerful productivity device not just because it keeps us from forgetting something, but because it allows us to forget something. I can concentrate on what I am doing and don’t have to try to hold something in my mind because I wrote it down. That gives it endurance. Job longed for the Word of God to be written so that it couldn’t be forgotten, so that it could be passed down.

God doesn’t need the Word written. God doesn’t forget or misremember or twist the things He says. But we do. So we need the Word written. We need an objective standard that we can trust, that we can return to, that is outside of us and not dependent upon our memories, understanding, or current situations.

Temptation and sin are always temporal, always contemporary. They are always about what our fallen flesh and will wants in the moment, right now. Therefore they ever changing like the devil moving from a rocky place to the Temple and then to a mountain. But the Word of God never changes. Temptation feels like an ocean in the moment, but it is all a charade, an illusion. In contrast, the Word is eternal, beautiful, and true. It brushes away the lies of Satan and our flesh like drops of dew in the morning sun. Satan and the old man cannot resist. They slink away. The Word endures.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
“It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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