“Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.” (Mark 1:12-13)
Absent from Mark’s account of the Lord Jesus’ temptation are the details of how Satan sought to entice Him. There is no description given of the dialogue recorded both in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels between Jesus and the devil. But two interesting features are present in Mark’s version which we do not find in the others.
The Holy Spirit Drove Jesus Into The Wilderness
A different term is used by Mark than Matthew or Luke. While the other two state that the Lord was led by the Spirit, Mark says that He was driven (or impelled in the NASB) by the Spirit. At first glance, these words might not seem to significantly differ, but Mark’s expression has a much stronger meaning than those of the other two writers. While Matthew and Luke employed a root word meaning that Jesus was essentially guided into the Wilderness, Mark described the Lord as literally being cast out!
Obviously, we know that the Lord went willingly where the Holy Spirit brought Him, but the idea of the Lord being driven brings to mind a much greater sense of urgency and compulsion. It was the will of God that Jesus go out into that desert place to face the enemy and the path upon which the Lord was to walk led straight through the wilderness. The Spirit brought Him there immediately and without delay right into the face of temptation.
The Wild Beasts Were With Him
No other Gospel writer felt the importance of including this detail and it is initially puzzling that Mark would feel the need to. For we would assume that wild animals are present in a desert and wilderness place, wouldn’t we? Bible expositors disagree on whether the wild beasts are to be understood as instruments in the hand of Satan being used to enhance our Lord’s torment or are to be grouped with the ministering angels who safeguarded Him from harm. Some suggest that Mark mentions the animals simply to underscore the desolation and loneliness of the place of Jesus’ trials. But I wonder if the Holy Spirit wasn’t inspiring the Gospel writer to illustrate a different picture.
That the wild beasts were in league with Satan seems highly unlikely since the Lord Jesus is shown again and again to be in complete control over all of His creation. This is the One Whom even the winds and seas obey (Mark 4:41). Additionally, while the angels would certainly have been able to strengthen and refresh our Lord, assisting Him in an hour of physical weakness by serving Him sustenance at the conclusion of the forty days in a place where little vegetation grows, of what help would the animals be? We were told that John the Baptist fed on wild locusts, but we are not told that Jesus actually ate the wild beasts to end His fast.
The wild beasts do, however, remind us of another place in Scripture where their presence was significant and that is the Garden of Eden. After all, the Garden of Eden was the place of temptation for the First Adam and here we have the temptation of the Second Adam. The Apostle Paul compares Jesus Christ, the infallible Man, with Adam, the fallen man, even calling Jesus the “Last Adam” (e.g., Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Christ is shown to have overcome where Adam failed and the response of each one is sharply contrasted here in the face of Jesus’ temptation.
Yet this is no paradise where the Lord faces His trial. The docile creatures of Eden are replaced by the wild beasts of the Wilderness and the lush, green garden filled with trees bearing sumptuous fruits is nowhere to be seen amongst the arid sands of the desert. The stain of sin has marred the perfect creation of God and the place where Jesus faces Satan is much different from that where Adam encountered him. The Spirit of the Lord drove man away from Paradise after he sinned (Genesis 3:24) and He drove Christ into a fallen and corrupted “paradise” to succeed in the very way in which Adam had failed.
The Beloved Son Is Driven Into The Wilderness
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12)
We should consider one final thing about this passage of Scripture. Mark 1:11 ends with the words, “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased“, while the very next sentence begins, “Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). God permits those whom He loves to be tried and tempted. The trials that we face and the temptations that we endure are not a sign that we are out of the will of God, no, they are usually indicators of just the opposite. Testing and temptation are never viewed in Scripture as a punishment or something which afflicts the wicked, but as something which proves the people of God. We often wonder why God permits the trials and tribulations of this life to come upon us, yet the Word clearly warns us that we will face them (cf. John 16:33).
The Father put His sign of approval on Jesus at His baptism and declared Him to be His beloved Son in Whom He is well-pleased. And what was the very next thing that God did? Send Jesus somewhere peaceful and quiet where He could enjoy all the luxuries and comforts of life? No. He sent Him right into a place where He would be confronted by Satan! The Father sent the Son to a dry, arid, and lonely place without even food or water for comfort. Yet the Father was well-pleased with the Son in all ways.
Let us not think it strange when we face our own trials and temptations, supposing that our Father has disowned us or has become displeased with us. Perhaps we have committed some grievous sin and moved ourselves out from under His hand of protection by our own foolish choices, though we never cease to be His children. Or perhaps we are standing exactly in the place where the Spirit has driven us because He loves us enough to allow us to be tested, that His faithfulness through trials be proven in our own hearts.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published July 23, 2014]
Chapter 22 of Genesis is one of the most extraordinary chapters in the entire Book of Genesis, and also one of the most misunderstood. The skeptic as well as the sincere student of the Word of God has seldom found a field so fertile with seeming contradiction and perplexity. Yet when the spiritual truths of this astounding chapter are firmly grasped, there are fewer places in all of Scripture where more insight into the character of God Almighty can be more clearly seen.
In the first two verses, we come across two “sticking points” that initially seem to make no sense whatsoever. First of all, we are told that God tempted Abraham. Many critics of the Bible have used this very statement as a springboard from which to hurl the most audacious of blasphemies toward a Holy God. Before we move any farther into the remarkable events of this chapter, it is prudent that we make sure that we understand exactly what God is doing here and what His intentions really are.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13)
When we think of the word tempted, we think of an enticement to do that which is evil. James categorically states that God never does such to any man. What God is doing here is more accurately conveyed in most of the other Bible translations of Genesis 22:1 which render the word “tested.” Personally, I prefer the way that the American Standard Version of 1901 reads:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did PROVE Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, Here am I.” (emphasis added)
So often we think of tests as nothing but opportunities to fail. We seldom see that they are also opportunities to succeed. The school-child who has shirked her responsibilities and has neglected to study will fear the teacher’s test, knowing that they have not sufficiently learned the necessary material in order to pass the test. The student who has mastered the material will find the examination a blissful occasion as they are being afforded the chance to prove that they have learned what was presented to them. We can scarcely accuse the teacher of wrong-doing for even presenting the children with the test; it is their intention that all the students pass (although I had some teachers in school that I was not so sure of….but that’s another story :) ) No, the tests are designed to prove what the students have learned, to give them the opportunity to demonstrate, for the teacher and for themselves, their mastery of the skills which they have been learning.
Now, I recognize that, in light of what God is asking Abraham to do here, my analogy is very poor and trivial indeed. Abraham is being asked far more than to recite a memorized portion of a textbook, or rehearse his “multiplication tables.” His test is indisputably and quite literally a matter of life and death. But it is important for us to see the underlying motive of God in even presenting Abraham with this test, which he, of course, did not know was actually a test at the time. There can be no misunderstanding that, to Abraham, this was something that God was actually requiring of him. Little did he know at the time that this was to be a great turning point in his life, a mighty landmark which would be visible across the expanse of human history as a beacon of the kind of faith in which God is well pleased. Heretofore, we have seen that Abraham’s faith has been inconsistent and we have witnessed several occasions of failure in his trust of God. But here atop lonely Mt. Moriah, Abraham and Isaac both will pass “with flying colors” and demonstrate without a doubt how a life totally yielded to God should look. We will look more closely at these events in the coming days.
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published February 22, 2010]
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]
Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.
There are quite a few things that we can learn from this singular incident recorded about Noah’s life after the Flood. First, it is noteworthy that this incident is the only thing that we read about Noah after he builds his altar to the Lord and makes his sacrifices upon it. Verse 28 tells us that he lived another 350 years after the Flood, yet this is the sole incident that the Word of God records during that entire time. What a powerful reminder of how our sins so often carry a legacy that remains far after we would have ever imagined they would. We should always remember that the indiscretions that we give into during a brief moment of passion can bring lingering and lasting consequences. When we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven and our eternal Salvation is not forfeited, but there are many times that our sinful behaviors carry unintended repercussions that can cause us great sorrow for a long time.
Sin Is Still A Problem
Lest we think that the judgment of the Flood remedied the problem of sin and changed the hearts of men- turning them from their sinful ways- this passage records not one but two offenses. Noah, who had been called “a just man” and “perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9), drinks the wine of his vineyard to the point of passing out in a drunken stupor. Regardless of how close God’s people walk with Him, no matter how long they serve Him in this world, until we put off this flesh and dwell forever in His presence in the age to come, we remain susceptible to the temptations of sin. Why? Because sin comes from the heart of man. Sin comes from the desires of the flesh which we are never separated from during this life.
In addition to Noah’s drunkenness, we are also told of his son Ham’s impropriety. Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers (verse 22).
What Exactly Was Ham’s Sin?
There has been much speculation about what it was specifically that Ham did that would be sinful in this matter. All sorts of immoral, lewd, and perverted misdeeds have been suggested in order to explain where Ham went wrong. Personally, I think that it reflects more on the twisted imaginations of the commentators who read such innuendos into the text rather than bringing clarity to the narrative. I see no reason to surmise that anything else happened other than what the Bible says happened: Ham saw his father naked, passed out in drunkenness, and he went and told Shem and Japheth about it. So what was the problem with what he did?
It has always been the practice of the unrepentant to mock and ridicule the people of God when they fall into temptation. They rejoice and revel in the failures of those who seek to live a godly life and obey the Lord. Accusations of “hypocrisy” are hurled, even today, by those of the world whenever a servant of the Lord stumbles in their walk with Christ. Shem and Japheth sought to cover up their father’s shame, they wanted to uphold his integrity even in his moment of weakness. They knew that they were not beyond temptation themselves and, rather than joining in with Ham’s celebration of their godly father’s missteps, they reverently covered Noah’s nakedness and refused to look upon his humiliation. Sadly, just as it was a member of Noah’s own family who was quick to delight in his disobedience, it is so often those in our own “family” of the Body of Christ who are the first to run and tell others of our indiscretions rather than helping us put our garments back on.
Why Was Canaan Cursed?
It seems a little confusing at first glance that Noah, after he awakens from his sleep and learns what was done to him by Ham, proceeds to pronounce a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son. Why should Canaan be punished for the sins of his father? I think that there are two reasons that the Bible records this the way that it does:
1.) It Was A Prophecy More Than A “Curse”
Noah does not say anything along the lines of, “Because of what was done to me: cursed be Canaan…”
His words are meant to be interpreted as prophetic rather than punitive. Like father, like son – the old saying goes, and that is the point being made here. Canaan and his descendants after him would be guilty of displaying this same attitude toward God’s people and would, therefore, earn the curse of God upon themselves, as well. Rather than humble themselves before the hand of God and turn to Him in repentance, the Canaanites would make it a habit to mock, scorn, and defy the children of Israel as they later would enter into the land of Canaan. In reality, they were guilty of mocking God Himself because it was not the ability of the people of God that was ridiculed, but the ability of God to act on their behalf. It is really the same thing today when the skeptic mocks and ridicules the Christian: he is not attacking the person himself so much as he is disparaging God’s ability to move in that person’s life.
The second reason that the passage records the curse upon Canaan is for the very simple fact that the Book of Genesis was originally written by Moses to the children of Israel, as they were preparing to move into the land that God had promised them – namely, Canaan. We are not told how the Lord dealt with Ham for what he had done because, frankly, it was not relevant for the Israelites to know, nor is it really any of our concern. Ham’s name is not mentioned in chapter 9 apart from the statement that he was the father of Canaan. Ham was of no relevance to the children of Israel, but Canaan sure was! It was crucial for them to know that they were dealing with an enemy that bore the curse and judgment of God upon them.
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published November 8, 2009]
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible
**English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
For most people, our first natural response when we are confronted concerning our own guilty actions is to place the blame somewhere else. Rather than bear the brunt of total responsibility, it is our tendency to want to implicate other people or circumstances to explain why we did what we did.
Adam and Eve did just that when God confronted them about their disobedience to Him. Adam blamed Eve, and actually God Himself for giving him Eve, and Eve blamed the devil (Genesis 3:12-13). Rather than take full responsibility for their sin, they sought to excuse their behavior by the misdeeds of another. God was giving them a chance to confess what they had done, but they were more interested in offering an alibi.
Mankind hasn’t changed much since the Garden of Eden. It is still within our human nature to want to shirk the blame for our actions by blaming someone else. Criminal lawyers in civil courts will argue fervently about how their client is not truly to blame for his crime because someone else enticed him to do it. Or his background, heredity, upbringing, and substance addiction (which itself is deemed a “disease” over which the person has absolutely no control) all contributed to what he did and he should, therefore, be considered innocent of his crimes. It seems the only time most people will accept full responsibility and “plead guilty” is when they believe that doing so will lessen the penalty for their actions.
“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)
We should notice, however, that such attempts to sway God’s judgments are useless. We might be able to fool human judges into believing that we bear no culpability concerning our misdeeds, but God knows our very hearts. He knows our every thought and motive. God’s judgments are perfect because He alone has all the facts and knows all of the circumstances. And what is His verdict? We are all guilty of sin (Rom. 3:9, 23), we are all guilty as charged.
Adam and Eve believed that God would hold them blameless because they were tempted and enticed by another into disobeying Him. God listened patiently as they offered up their excuses and then proceeded to judge them accordingly. The devil was judged for his part in their sin, but that did not relieve them of their responsibility. Adam was not judged because Eve gave him the fruit, he was judged because he chose to accept what she gave him and ate it of his own free will (Gen. 3:17).
We will all stand before God, the Perfect Judge, one day to explain our own actions. Either our rewards for service to Christ will be in question; for those who have made Him their Lord and Savior, or our eternal destiny will be on trial; for those who have not. It is doubtless that every imaginable excuse will be given on that day and the blame shifting and finger pointing will be incredible. God will again listen patiently as alibis are offered, but in the end every mouth will be stopped and all will stand guilty (Rom. 3:19). Now is the time to confess our sins, accept full responsibility for our actions, and receive the forgiveness of God and not His perfect judgment!
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published August 27, 2009]
In the third chapter of the Book of Genesis, we see the first example of the devil tempting a human being to disobey God. If we look closely at specifically what happens in verses 1-6, we can learn a lot about the method that the devil used and still uses today.
We saw in verse 1 that the very first step that he takes is to call into question the Word of God. Did God really say what you think that He said? In other words, his first objective is to undermine the authority of God’s Word on which the child of God stands. How often could we escape temptation’s snare if we would simply stand firm on the Word of God and end the matter right then and there. But we do not always do this. We allow the shadow of doubt to be cast across our faith and begin to agree with the enemy and question the Word that we have received from the Lord.
Denying The Consequences
The second step is to deny or marginalize the consequences of our disobedience against God:
“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4)
God said that disobedience would result in death (Gen. 2:17), Satan said that it would not. He then proceeds to call into question the goodness and motives of God Almighty. The devil portrays God as a jealous tyrant who merely wants to suppress Adam and Eve’s true potential and keep their “eyes closed” (Verse 5).
This same tactic is employed against the believer today. Temptation always over-promises the rewards of sin and negates the consequences. It leads us to believe that we can arbitrarily break the commandments of God and suffer no loss for it. It focuses our attention on the passion of the moment and diverts our thoughts away from considering the long term effects of our actions. And it always greatly magnifies the supposed “pleasure” we will reap by choosing to do things our own way rather than God’s.
Appeal To The Flesh
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Genesis 3:6a)
The first target that the devil aims at during temptation is our flesh or our base desires. This was also the first thing that Satan targeted when he approached the Lord Jesus Christ:
“And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3)
How successful the enemy has been by tempting us to fulfill our fleshly appetites in a way that God never intended! I have heard even non-believers comment about how many Christians seem to fall into sexual sins and how many ministries have been toppled by the lusts of certain preachers. Why is this so common? Because the enemy knows that it works. Sadly, for so many believers, no other appeal is necessary.
Appeal To The Mind
“…and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (Genesis 3:6b)
The second appeal is to man’s intellectual faculties. Temptation not only appeals to our fleshly appetites, but to our appreciation for that which is aesthetically pleasing. The fruit of the tree looked good to eat and it was also apparently nice to look at. The tree that bore the fruit of temptation was not an old, withered up little shrub off in the corner of the Garden of Eden. No, it was “in the middle of” the Garden, possibly right in the very center; alongside the Tree of Life. I do not think that God aggravated the temptation by making the beauty of this tree above the others, but I also do not think that there was anything particularly ugly or unattractive about it that might suggest its deadly qualities. I believe that there was actually nothing distinctive at all about it except for the fact that God chose to designate it as the single tree in the Garden that was off limits.
This is a facet of temptation that often gets us into trouble. We use our own reasoning and determine that there is nothing unappealing about the object of our desire, nothing that would suggest its danger to us. In fact, it looks quite the opposite. It looks good to us, how can it be wrong?
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” (Luke 4:5-6 KJV)
Desires for money, possessions, and any appeals to our intrinsic greed and jealousy all fall into this category, as well.
Appeal To The Soul
“…and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…” (Genesis 3:6c)
Put quite simply, this is an appeal to man’s pride. Satan wields this particular aspect of temptation with such skill and cunning because this was the temptation that caused his own downfall. The desire to be like God and become a god himself had ensnared him (Isaiah 14:13-14), he believed that it would also ensnare Eve. And it did. “Ye shall be as gods” or, literally, “Ye shall be as God” was the promise that Satan made and he continues to promise people the same thing to this day. Prideful self-reliance and the rejection and denial of man’s need for God is a temptation that appeals to the very soul of man. The temptation to do things in our own strength and deny our need for God’s providence is a sin that often ensnares believers where nothing else will. Like the ascetic monks of the Middle Ages who denied all fleshly desires, gave away all earthly possessions, and yet went to gruesome extremes to demonstrate their confidence in their own piety, there are many believers today who resist the lusts of their flesh and eyes and yet fall headlong into this temptation.
“And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Luke 4:9-11 KJV)
It wasn’t that Jesus could not have easily done this, but to do so would have meant rebellion against the will of God the Father Who had another plan in mind for the Lord Jesus Christ. He would demonstrate that He was in fact the Son of God, but He would do it God’s way and no other.
Doing It God’s Way
This is what temptation is really all about. Getting the believer to satisfy their own desires in a way that God does not intend them to. There were plenty of other trees in the Garden that were good for food. There were plenty of them that were beautiful to look at. And if Eve wanted wisdom, couldn’t she have asked God for it (see James 1:5)? There is always a way that God can satisfy our needs and pure desires in a way that glorifies Him. As for our impure desires, God can replace them with holy desires if we will trust Him to do so. The key is to let God satisfy us body, mind, and spirit and not give in to the enemy’s appeals.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published August 21, 2009]