“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread”. (v3). “The Devil led him to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world…’I will give you all their authority and splendour… if you worship me, it will be yours’”. (vv6-7). “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…”. (vv9-11).
The Devil met Jesus in the wilderness and tempted him for forty days, whilst Jesus ate nothing. The above verses are three ‘specimen’ temptations, chosen for a specific reason by the gospel writers. Why? I believe that these three temptations are a ‘replay’ of some that occurred much earlier on – in fact in Genesis chapter 3. The serpent had tempted Eve, and later Adam, with the idea that God was a liar and that his character could not be trusted. “Did God really say…?” Eve noticed three things about the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6):
- It was good for food;
- It was pleasing to the eye; and
- It was desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took it and ate.
The temptations of Christ were pretty much identical: in his hands, the stones would become edible bread, the vision of all the kingdoms of the world was enticing and tempting to obtain, and the experience of jumping of the roof of the temple and being caught supernaturally would be a new learning experience for Jesus. Furthermore, it was so much harder for him, since he was genuinely hungry with no other food sources and also weakened against all temptation.
Yet, he resisted them all! The Second Adam (Jesus) accomplished what the First Adam failed at. He quoted scripture to empower himself spiritually against the Devil’s schemes. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, and yet was without sin.
As a result, he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit! As we resist temptation, we grow stronger and more effective for God’s Kingdom. Let’s learn from the Master!
NUMBERS 11, 12 and 13
Well, they’d managed to keep it up for ten chapters, and then they lost control again. Complaining, moaning, whining, and criticising are prone to becoming a habit in some people, and they don’t need much excuse to indulge themselves to the full. Three days after the miracle of crossing the Sea, they had complained about lack of food and water; now, three days after beginning their march towards the Promised Land, they were at it again. A sign of maturity in a young person is that they begin to become grateful towards their parents who have cared for them and sacrificed for them since birth; in most young adults, this attribute begins to kick in during the mid-twenties. God must have felt the same frustration as parents feel when dealing with morose teenagers with short memories and cynicism instead of faith. It doesn’t pay to make the Lord angry! He is a consuming fire!
The ‘Rabble’ (v4) was a collection of non-Israelite people who had followed Israel out of Egypt and who did not know the Lord. They more quickly fell into unbelief and complaining habits, which only encouraged the true believers to follow suit. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out”. (Romans 12:2 MSG.) When you are in a hardship situation, you quickly forget previous hardships and look at the past through rose-tinted specs. It is doubtful that the Israelite slaves ever had meat to eat in Egypt! So God decided to give them meat until they choked on it. God whipped up a quail-storm and carpet-bombed the camp with quail to give a layer three feet deep that surrounded the entire camp; such was the people’s greed that each person gathered nearly two tons of it! As a punishment for greed, complaining, and a general lack of trust in God, the Lord also sent them a plague that killed many of the ringleaders.
The other thing that occurred was that Moses began to feel the extreme stress of coping with two and half million complaints all at once. So the Lord enabled some spiritual delegation to occur and put his Spirit upon seventy (or seventy-two) other elders, who would play their part in leadership of the nation. This reminds us of Jesus sending out the seventy (or seventy-two, depending on what version you read) to begin to do his work alongside him (Luke 10). A sign of Moses’ tiredness and frustration was that even he began to doubt God’s miracle-working power, wondering where he would get all that meat from. The response (v23) from God was rhetorical: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” – with an implied answer of ‘No’! God is willing and able to produce a miracle whenever it is needed.
It is bad enough when unknown strangers or distant relatives criticise you, but when your closest companions and fellow leaders start to undermine you, then that is not just hurtful, but serious! Miriam and Aaron began to become jealous of Moses’ authority and intimate relationship with the Lord and used Moses’ wife, Zipporah as an excuse (since she wasn’t Hebrew). The outpouring of the Spirit on the seventy elders may have also undermined Aaron’s and Miriam’s privileged position, fuelling more jealousy. Miriam’s name is mentioned first, which implies that she was the ringleader this time. God was not amused and spoke sternly to the two them, rebuking them for attacking his close friend. As a punishment, Miriam was afflicted with leprosy, making her skin ‘as white as snow’ (that phrase is used throughout the Old Testament to allude to leprosy, in all but one case). Aaron discovers some new respect for Moses and implores him to intercede with God for mercy. God listens to Moses’ and duly shows mercy, but confines Miriam in disgrace outside the camp for a week to reflect on her recent behaviour.
The key chapter in Numbers (ch. 13) arrives, where Moses briefs twelve tribal representatives to spy out the Promised Land from South to North and back again (a 500-mile round trip, taking 40 days). Caleb, of Judah, and Joshua, of Ephraim, are part of that group. It was a simple task: see what the land and its people are like – make a survey and form an opinion. So they went and then they returned. Clearly, based on their conclusions, ten of them had been to a completely different country from the other two. Caleb and Joshua saw the land through the eyes of faith in God, and with a memory of his past miracles. They expected that the going would get tough, but their God would get tougher! The other ten went to a land where the inhabitants were considerably taller and stronger, and where no God could possibly help them! This is the difference between men of faith and those who only see with their eyes. As we encounter difficult situations in life, let us not forget the Lord of miracles and his willingness to do battle on our behalf. If he has sent us to do a job for him, then he will provide all the resources and support that we require. Are you part of the ‘Ten’ or part of the ‘Two’?