Part two of the Temptations of Jesus. This time we’ll be going through verses 5-7 of Matthew 4.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
The devil saw in his previous temptation that Jesus was confident in God’s care for him, and so he presumed upon safety. The word “took” implied that the devil did not force him to go, but moved him ~ Christ was submissive to let Satan do his best so he could conquer him.
The devil was subtle. Jerusalem was a popular city and a populous one, and a place where Jesus would be noticed. Pinnacles and high places are places of temptation: they’re slippery, and they’re places of advancement. Those who have great gifts need to stay humble, and those who stand high must also stand fast and not be puffed-up with pride.
In verse six the devil told Jesus to throw himself down. In doing this, he would be admired ~ the people, who would not be able to miss a person launching themselves from the top of the temple, would call him a god, and they would receive him, acknowledging that he was a “messenger of the covenant” as described in Malachi 3:1. The devil himself couldn’t throw Jesus down, however. His power is limited, and if he had thrown him down, he wouldn’t really be tempting Jesus. The devil can only persuade us, not force us.
This time, the devil backed up his temptation with Scripture. It seems that he is well-versed enough to quote it readily ~ note that it is possible for a man to have a head full of God’s Word and still be against God in his heart. The devil hoped to persuade Christ to kill himself by telling him the angels would protect him. Satan knows angels protect God’s people, as they have foiled his plans before.
Notice that the devil misquoted the verse. Psalm 91:11-12 actually says, “For He will command His angels concerning you TO GUARD YOU IN ALL YOUR WAYS; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” If we go out of God’s way, we forfeit that promise. And if Christ had jumped, he would have been going out of His way, since he had no call to expose himself.
Jesus replies with this verse from Deuteronomy 6: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” In a way Jesus wasn’t saying, “You must not tempt me,” but rather “I must not tempt my Father.” He was satisfied in God’s ability to take care of him and protect him.
Tempting God is requiring a special preservation of Him. It’s the following mindset: He promised not to forsake us, so He should follow us out of the way of our duty; He promised to supply our wants, so He should humor us with pleasures; He promised to protect us, so we can put ourselves in danger and He will have to protect us. Tempting Him abuses our privilege of having Him for our God. He is not here to serve us; we are here to serve Him.