The Temptation of Satan
The Temptation of Satan
Mat 4:1–4 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
These are the words with which the devil first tried to tempt the Lord Jesus. What is the content of what the devil said? (“If You be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”) These words that the devil spoke are quite simple, but is there a problem with their essence? The devil said, “If You be the Son of God,” but in its heart, did it or did it not know that Jesus was the Son of God? Did it or did it not know that He was Christ? (It knew.) Then why did it say “If You be”? (It was trying to tempt God.) But what was its purpose in doing so? It said, “If You be the Son of God.” In its heart it knew that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, it was very clear about this in its heart, but despite knowing this, did it submit to Him and worship Him? (No.) What did it want to do? It wanted to use this method and these words to anger the Lord Jesus, and then fool Him into acting in line with its intentions. Was this not the meaning behind the devil’s words? In Satan’s heart, it clearly knew that this was the Lord Jesus Christ, but it said these words nonetheless. Is this not Satan’s nature? What is Satan’s nature? (To be sly, evil, and have no reverence for God.) What consequences would result from having no reverence for God? Was it not that it wanted to attack God? It wanted to use this method to attack God, and so it said: “If You be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread”; is this not Satan’s evil intention? What was it really trying to do? Its purpose is very obvious: It was trying to use this method to deny the position and identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. What Satan meant by those words is, “If You are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. If You cannot do this, then You are not the Son of God, so You should not carry out Your work any longer.” Is this not so? It wanted to use this method to attack God, it wanted to dismantle and destroy God’s work; this is the malevolence of Satan. Its malevolence is a natural expression of its nature. Even though it knew the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the very incarnation of God Himself, it could not help but do this kind of thing, following closely behind God’s back, persistently attacking Him and going to great lengths to disrupt and sabotage God’s work.
Now, let us analyze this phrase that Satan spoke: “Command that these stones be made bread.” To turn stones into bread—does this mean anything? If there is food, why not eat it? Why is it necessary to turn stones into food? Can it be said there is no meaning here? Although He was fasting at the time, surely the Lord Jesus had food to eat? (He did.) So, here we can see the preposterousness of Satan’s words. For all Satan’s treachery and malice, we can still see its preposterousness and absurdity. Satan does a number of things through which you can see its malicious nature; you can see it doing things that sabotage God’s work, and seeing this, you feel that it is hateful and infuriating. But, on the other hand, do you not see a childish, ridiculous nature behind its words and actions? This is a revelation about Satan’s nature; since it has this kind of nature, it will do this kind of thing. To people today, these words of Satan are preposterous and laughable. But Satan is indeed capable of uttering such words. Can we say that it is ignorant and absurd? Satan’s evil is everywhere and it is constantly being revealed. And how did the Lord Jesus answer it? (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”) Do these words have any power? (They do.) Why do we say that they have power? It is because these words are the truth. Now, does man live by bread alone? The Lord Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. Did He starve to death? (No.) He did not starve to death, so Satan approached Him, prompting Him to turn the stones into food by saying things such as: “If You turn the stones into food, won’t You then have things to eat? Won’t You then not have to fast, not have to go hungry?” But the Lord Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” which means that, although man lives in a physical body, it is not food that allows his physical body to live and breathe, but each and every one of the words uttered from the mouth of God. On the one hand, these words are truth; they give people faith, making them feel that they can depend on God and that He is truth. On the other hand, is there a practical aspect to these words? Was the Lord Jesus not still standing, still alive after fasting for forty days and nights? Is this not a real example? He had not eaten any food for forty days and nights, and yet He was still alive. This is powerful evidence confirming the truth of His words. These words are simple, but for the Lord Jesus, did He speak them only when Satan tempted Him, or were they already naturally a part of Him? To put it another way, God is truth, and God is life, but were God’s truth and life a subsequent addition? Were they born of later experience? No—they are innate in God. That is to say, truth and life are God’s essence. Whatever happens to Him, all that He reveals is truth. This truth, these words—whether the content of His speech be long or short—can enable man to live and give man life; they can enable people to gain truth and clarity about the path of human life, and enable them to have faith in God. In other words, the source of God’s use of these words is positive. So can we say that this positive thing is holy? (Yes.) Those words of Satan come from Satan’s nature. Satan reveals its evil and malicious nature everywhere, constantly. Now, does Satan make these revelations naturally? Does anyone direct it to do this? Does anyone help it? Does anyone coerce it? (No.) All of these revelations, it makes of its own accord. This is Satan’s evil nature. Whatever God does and however He does it, Satan follows on His heels. The essence and the true nature of these things that Satan says and does are Satan’s essence—an essence that is evil and malicious. Now, as we read on, what else did Satan say? Let us read.
Mat 4:5–7 Then the devil takes Him up into the holy city, and sets Him on a pinnacle of the temple, And said to Him, If You be the Son of God, cast Yourself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
Let us first see the words that Satan spoke here. Satan said, “If You be the Son of God, cast Yourself down,” and then it quoted from the Scriptures: “He shall give His angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.” How do you feel when you hear Satan’s words? Are they not very childish? They are childish, preposterous, and disgusting. Why do I say this? Satan often does foolish things, and it believes itself to be very clever. It often quotes from the Scriptures—even the very words spoken by God—trying to turn these words against God to attack Him and to tempt Him in an attempt to achieve its objective of sabotaging God’s plan of work. Are you able to see anything in these words spoken by Satan? (Satan harbors evil intentions.) In all that Satan does, it has always sought to tempt mankind. Satan does not speak straightforwardly, but in a roundabout way using temptation, beguilement, and seduction. Satan approaches its temptation of God as though He were an ordinary human being, believing that God is also ignorant, foolish, and unable to clearly distinguish the true form of things, just as man is unable to. Satan thinks that God and man alike are unable to see through its essence and its deceit and sinister intent. Is this not what Satan’s foolishness is? Furthermore, Satan overtly quotes from the Scriptures, believing that doing so lends it credibility, and that you will be unable to pick out any flaws in its words or to avoid being fooled. Is this not Satan’s absurdity and childishness? This is just like when people spread the gospel and bear witness to God: Will not nonbelievers sometimes say something similar to what Satan said? Have you heard people say something similar? How do you feel when you hear such things? Do you feel disgusted? (Yes.) When you feel disgusted, do you also feel aversion and hate? When you have these feelings are you able to recognize that Satan and the corrupt disposition Satan works into man are wicked? In your hearts, do you ever have this realization: “When Satan speaks, it does so as an attack and a temptation; Satan’s words are absurd, laughable, childish, and disgusting; however, God would never speak or work in such a way, and indeed He has never done so”? Of course, in this situation people are only able to faintly sense it, and remain unable to grasp God’s holiness. Is that not so? With your current stature, you merely feel that: “Everything God says is the truth, is beneficial to us, and we must accept it.” Regardless of whether you are able to accept this or not, you say without exception that God’s word is truth and that God is truth, but you do not know that truth itself is holy and that God is holy.
So, what was Jesus’ response to these words of Satan? Jesus said to it: “It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Is there truth in these words that Jesus said? (Yes.) There is truth in them. On the surface, these words are a commandment for people to follow, a simple phrase, yet nonetheless, both man and Satan have often offended these words. So, the Lord Jesus said to Satan, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” because this is what Satan often did, taking pains as it went about it. It could be said that Satan did this brazenly and without shame. It is in Satan’s nature essence to not fear God and to not have reverence for God in its heart. Even when Satan stood beside God and could see Him, it could not help itself but to tempt God. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said to Satan, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” These are words that God has often said to Satan. So, is it appropriate for this phrase to be applied in the present day? (Yes, as we also often tempt God.) Why do people often tempt God? Is it because people are full of corrupt satanic disposition? (Yes.) So are the words of Satan above something people often say? And in what situations do people say these words? One could say that people have been saying things like this irrespective of time and place. This proves that the disposition of people is no different from the corrupt disposition of Satan. The Lord Jesus said a few simple words, words that represent truth, words that people need. However, in this situation, was the Lord Jesus speaking in such a way as to argue with Satan? Was there anything confrontational in what He said to Satan? (No.) How did the Lord Jesus feel about Satan’s temptation in His heart? Did He feel disgusted and repulsed? (Yes.) The Lord Jesus felt repulsed and disgusted, and yet He did not argue with Satan, and much less did He speak about any grand principles. Why is that? (Because Satan is always like this; it can never change.) Could it be said that Satan is impervious to reason? (Yes.) Can Satan recognize that God is truth? Satan will never recognize that God is truth and will never admit that God is truth; this is its nature. There is yet another aspect of Satan’s nature that is repulsive. What is it? In its efforts to tempt the Lord Jesus, Satan thought that even if it was unsuccessful, it would nonetheless still try to do so. Even though it would be punished, it chose to try anyway. Even though it would gain no advantage out of doing so, it would try nonetheless, persisting in its efforts and standing against God until the very end. What sort of nature is this? Is it not evil? If a man becomes infuriated and flies into a rage when God is mentioned, has he seen God? Does he know who God is? He does not know who God is, does not believe in Him, and God has not spoken to him. God has never troubled him, so why would he be angry? Could we say that this person is evil? Worldly trends, eating, drinking, and pleasure-seeking, and chasing celebrities—none of these things would bother such a man. However, at the very mention of the word “God,” or of God’s word the truth, he flies into a rage. Does this not constitute having an evil nature? This is sufficient to prove that this is man’s evil nature. Now, speaking for yourselves, are there times when truth is mentioned, or when God’s trials of mankind or God’s words of judgment against man are mentioned, you feel an aversion; you feel repulsed, and you do not want to hear such things? Your heart may think: “Don’t people all say that God is truth? Some of these words are not truth! They are clearly just God’s words of admonishment toward man!” Some people might even feel a strong aversion in their hearts, and think: “This is spoken about every day—His trials, His judgment, when will it end? When will we receive the good destination?” It is not known where this unreasonable anger comes from. What sort of nature is this? (Evil nature.) It is directed and guided by the evil nature of Satan. From God’s perspective, with regard to the evil nature of Satan and the corrupt disposition of man, He never argues or holds grudges against people, and He never makes a fuss when people act foolishly. You will never see God hold similar views on things to human beings, and moreover you will not see Him use mankind’s viewpoints, knowledge, science, philosophy or imagination to handle matters. Rather, everything God does and everything He reveals is connected to truth. That is, every word He has said and every action He has taken is bound to the truth. This truth is not the product of some baseless fantasy; this truth and these words are expressed by God by virtue of His essence and His life. Because these words and the essence of everything God has done are truth, we can say that God’s essence is holy. In other words, everything God says and does brings vitality and light to people, enables people to see positive things and the reality of those positive things, and points the way for humanity so that they may walk the right path. These things are all determined by God’s essence and by the essence of His holiness. You see this now, do you not? Now, we will continue with another reading from the Scriptures.
Mat 4:8–11 Again, the devil takes Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to Him, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Then the devil leaves Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
The devil Satan, having failed at its previous two ploys, tried yet another: It showed all the kingdoms in the world and their glory to the Lord Jesus and asked Him to worship it. What can you see about the true features of the devil from this situation? Is the devil Satan not absolutely shameless? (Yes.) How is it shameless? All things were created by God, and yet Satan turned around and showed all things to God, saying, “Look at the wealth and glory of all of these kingdoms. If You worship me I’ll give them all to You.” Is this not a complete role reversal? Is Satan not shameless? God made all things, but did He make all things for His own enjoyment? God gave everything to mankind, but Satan wanted to seize it all and having seized it all, it told God, “Worship me! Worship me and I’ll give this all to You.” This is the ugly face of Satan; it is absolutely shameless! Satan does not even know the meaning of the word “shame.” This is just another example of its evil. It does not even know what shame is. Satan clearly knows that God created all things and that He manages and has dominion over all things. All things belong not to man, and much less to Satan, but to God, and yet the devil Satan brazenly said that it would give all things to God. Is this not another example of Satan once again acting absurdly and shamelessly? This causes God to hate Satan even more, does it not? Yet no matter what Satan tried, was the Lord Jesus fooled? What did the Lord Jesus say? (“You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”) Do these words have a practical meaning? (Yes.) What sort of practical meaning? We see Satan’s evil and shamelessness in its speech. So if man worshiped Satan, what would be the outcome? Would they obtain the wealth and glory of all of the kingdoms? (No.) What would they obtain? Would mankind become just as shameless and laughable as Satan? (Yes.) They would be no different from Satan then. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said these words, which are important for each and every human being: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” This means that except for the Lord, except for God Himself, if you served another, if you worshiped the devil Satan, then you would wallow in the same filth as Satan. You would then share Satan’s shamelessness and its evil, and just like Satan you would tempt God and attack God. Then what would the outcome be for you? You would be loathed by God, struck down by God, destroyed by God. After Satan had tempted the Lord Jesus several times without success, did it try again? Satan did not try again and then it left. What does this prove? It proves that Satan’s evil nature, its malice, and its absurdity and preposterousness are not worth even mentioning in the face of God. The Lord Jesus defeated Satan with only three sentences, after which it scurried away with its tail between its legs, too ashamed to show its face, and it never again tempted the Lord Jesus. Since the Lord Jesus had defeated this temptation of Satan, He could now easily continue the work that He had to do and the tasks that lay before Him. Would everything that the Lord Jesus did and said in this situation carry any practical meaning for each and every human being if it were applied to the present day? (Yes.) What sort of practical meaning? Is defeating Satan an easy thing to do? Must people have a clear understanding of Satan’s evil nature? Must people have an accurate understanding of Satan’s temptations? (Yes.) When you experience Satan’s temptations in your own life, if you were able to see through to Satan’s evil nature, would you not be able to defeat it? If you knew about Satan’s absurdity and preposterousness, would you still stand on Satan’s side and attack God? If you understood how Satan’s malice and shamelessness are being revealed through you—if you clearly recognized and understood these things—would you still attack and tempt God in this way? (No, we would not.) What would you do? (We would rebel against Satan and cast it aside.) Is that an easy thing to do? It is not easy. To do this, people must frequently pray, they must often place themselves before God and examine themselves. And they must let God’s discipline and His judgment and chastisement come upon them. Only in this way will people gradually extricate themselves from Satan’s deception and control.
Now, by looking at all of these words spoken by Satan, we will summarize the things that make up the essence of Satan. Firstly, Satan’s essence can generally be said to be evil, in contrast to the holiness of God. Why do I say that Satan’s essence is evil? To answer this question, one must examine the consequences of what Satan does to people. Satan corrupts and controls man, and man acts under the corrupt disposition of Satan, and lives in a world of people corrupted by Satan. Mankind is unwittingly possessed and assimilated by Satan; man therefore has the corrupt disposition of Satan, which is Satan’s nature. From everything Satan has said and done, have you seen its arrogance? Have you seen its deceit and malice? How is Satan’s arrogance primarily displayed? Does Satan always harbor the desire to occupy God’s position? Satan always wants to tear down God’s work, and God’s position and take it for itself so that people will follow, support, and worship Satan; this is the arrogant nature of Satan. When Satan corrupts people, does it directly tell them what they should do? When Satan tempts God, does it come out and say, “I am tempting You, I am going to attack You”? It absolutely does not. So what method does Satan use? It seduces, tempts, attacks, and sets traps, and even quotes from the Scriptures. Satan speaks and acts in various ways to achieve its sinister objectives and fulfill its intentions. After Satan has done this, what can be seen from what is manifested in man? Do people not also become arrogant? Man has suffered from Satan’s corruption for thousands of years and so man has become arrogant, deceitful, malicious, and beyond reason. All of these things are brought about due to Satan’s nature. Since Satan’s nature is evil, it has given man this evil nature and brought to man this evil, corrupt disposition. Therefore, man lives under the corrupt satanic disposition and, like Satan, resists God, attacks God, and tempts Him, such that man cannot worship God and does not have a heart that reveres Him.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique V” in The Word Appears in the Flesh