There are many similarities to Christ’s wilderness experience and that of the Israelites, as well as some significant differences. We will compare and contrast both experiences and hopefully learn from the mistakes of the Israelites and about how to defeat the enemy in his sly, manipulative vices from the Master Himself, Jesus Christ.
Moses and the Israelites represent the people under the Law. Christ represents the New Covenant.
The Israelites spent forty years in the desert wandering. We know throughout the Scriptures that the Israelites were stubborn, disobedient, and idolatrous. Moses, their leader/representative fasted forty days and forty nights praying for Israel. He was pleading for the Lord to spare the Israelites and not destroy them. (Deut. 9:18) Actually one day fasted for each year of the wilderness experience.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 reminds us that the wilderness allowed a time for humbling and testing of loyalty, obedience, and to prove true character. The Israelites stubbornly tested God in their hearts demanding the foods they craved. They complained and grumbled. They even stated that God couldn’t give them food in the wilderness. (Psalm 78) The Israelites were fed manna for their hunger and also were told of the importance not to live by bread alone but by the Word of the Lord. What we have here is lust of the flesh and the testing of God and His ability to give provision.
Now, Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights and was very hungry.
Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit so that the devil could test Him. Christ’s wilderness experience came prior to the beginning of His public ministry. Christ, our representative, must have the wilderness trial to prove character and be given the opportunity to sin. It is completely necessary for Christ to endure every human emotion to fully understand our needs, weaknesses, desires, and temptations in the form of human flesh. If Christ was to preach about overcoming, He must first overcome, as man. He could easily be victorious over the enemy in Spirit, but He would now show the enemy that He was very capable of defeating Him as human flesh and bone. A true leader doesn’t just tell you how to be victorious but shows you how to be victorious by example.
Mark 1:12 states that right away, God’s Spirit made Jesus go into the desert. This was immediately after the baptism of Jesus and God’s statement that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased.
The enemy loves to jump right in after an encouraging statement or affirmation to tear down or destroy that little bit of motivating drive that would fuel growth, continued commitment, or determination to be steadfast or press forward. Why? Because the enemy wants to halt or obliterate your Christian walk, witness, ministry. Often the enemy will work tediously to hinder every step, cancel every encouraging word, and cause doubt to any faith act. Discouragement, discontentment, and doubt are all from the devil. So when faced with these things, know they are not of God. So deny, rebuke, and remove them immediately.
In Matthew 4:3, the devil tempts Jesus saying, If You are God’s Son, tell those stones to turn to bread. In this first temptation, the devil is trying to appeal to the weakness of the flesh by enticing Jesus to turn the stones to bread. Why? Because the devil knew that Christ was hungry and he wanted to cause submission to that desire or succumb to the lust or physical aspect.
Fasting is a sacrifice, some type of deprivation in one way or another. It is literally when you place the physical under subjection to the spiritual. At any time, especially during a fast, the devil loves to make things seem innocent or gray those areas that should be black and white. He wants to make deals, seduce and lure you into partaking of that which would cause separation, defeat, sin, or discouragement. For example, during a fast the devil will tell you that “It will be okay for you to eat that meal this time.” Not to mention the constant things he tries to place in our thoughts on a routine basis; it will be “okay” to do this or that, “no one will know,” etc.
The enemy not only will try to throw stumbling blocks in our paths on our climb up the mountain but in our lowest valley as well. He never lets up on his job to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan will most definitely kick you while you are down and try to gain the upper hand in those times of weakness.
Christ replied to the enemy’s first attempt with the Word of God by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 that no one can live by bread alone but every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. The enemy’s tactics was a big failure!
People need every Word that God has spoken. After all, this mortal body will perish but what will remain is the Spirit. We are reminded that the spiritual aspect is more important than the physical. Furthermore, Christ did not complain or sin. Jesus Christ defeats the enemy during temptation number one.
Reflecting on this first temptation of Christ, I noticed that the Israelites tested God’s ability and loyalty, just as Satan did Christ. But this time, Satan did it himself.
Next, the devil took Jesus to the Holy City and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. This time the devil says, “If You are God’s Son, jump off. God will give His angels orders about You. They will catch You in their arms, and You won’t hurt Your feet on the stones.” Yet again the devil uses a manipulation statement for testing the power of God with “if You are God’s Son.”
Just like the devil to try another tactic or scheme if the first one isn’t successful. He is always trying some way to get us to fail or sin. The first temptation was to appeal to an area of physical weakness to defile the temple. This time it is a temptation to also bring harm to the body. The second temptation is an attempt for drastic measures.
Basically, the devil is trying to get Jesus to plummet off the highest point of the Temple, in the most sacred and holy place in the city, to “prove” God’s mighty angels would rescue Him. This was not part of God’s will or plan. Jesus was to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins not become a pawn for manipulation and control of the enemy. Satan was trying to prevent the ultimate sacrifice from our perfect Savior.
This time the devil tries to invade the mind. “You won’t get hurt.” The devil will use mind games if you will entertain them. They are individualized to prey upon specific areas that he feels he can manipulate like an area of weakness, a past hurt, a previous defeat, a fear, etc. He plants a little seed then he adds a little something else to that. The vicious cycle just repeats itself. One thought leads to another thought, and before you even realize it, you are in the middle of oppression, depression, or sin. A simple thought can lead to a destructive act such as adultery or suicide to name a couple examples.
Jesus answered, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Don’t try to test the Lord your God!” (Matthew 4:7) Victory over temptation number two!
In Deuteronomy 8:6, the Israelites are told to obey the commands the Lord has given and worship Him with fear and trembling.
Matthew 4:8-9 Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth and their power and said to Jesus, “I will give all this to You, if You will bow down and worship me.” This third temptation is an attempt to appeal to the ego-pride of man.
Throughout the Bible, we are shown the importance of humility and humbleness. We are taught to prefer our brother above ourselves. A wise proverb states pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. We must be careful to never exalt ourselves in pride or become boastful of success or gain because the Lord is the one who gives the strength and power for success (Deuteronomy 8:8-18). The Lord gives and the Lord can take it away!
Satan will offer so much and make them seem so amazing. The devil paints a pretty picture of what all you can have if you serve him. He leads you to believe that you will have a vast array to gain. He is the father of lies. He promises things that he can’t keep. He wants one to think they will gain power, prestige, or success with no circumstance or consequence. Everything he offers has a hefty price. Serving the devil leads to everlasting darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, a place where thirst is never quenched, and fire burns constantly. What a hefty price that is indeed. He always seems to leave those things out of the picture.
Following the third temptation from the enemy, Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him!” The Bible says that after this that the devil left Jesus. (Matthew 4:11) Jesus defeated Satan! He didn’t give in to any of the temptations dished out from the enemy. He overcame! Christ spoke the Scriptures (the Sword of the Spirit) and with one, two, three…the enemy was defeated!
Christ was obedient, steadfast, bold, faithful, and just.
The Israelites on the other hand, made a golden calf to worship while they wandered in the wilderness. They were idolatrous and disobedient. Deuteronomy 8:19 warns that if they did worship or bow to other gods, that they would be destroyed. They continued to test God’s patience and provoked Him throughout the entire wilderness experience.
The Lord wants respect, love, and for us to serve with all of our heart and soul. The Scriptures state that the fear of the Lord is necessary. (Deuteronomy 10:12) Also, to respect the Lord, serve only Him, and make promises in His name alone. (Deuteronomy 10:20)
Compare and Contrast Review:
Both Jesus and the Israelites were led to the wilderness for humbling, testing, and trial.
The Israelites went through the wilderness prior to reaching the Promise Land. Jesus’ wilderness experience was prior to His public ministry.
The Lord God fed the Israelites manna (bread) in the wilderness. Jesus IS the Bread of Life.
Moses fasted forty days for God’s mercy on the Israelites. He was their representative who led the people out of Egyptian bondage. Jesus, our representative, fasted forty days to lead His people out of bondage. He is our Deliverer!
The Israelites spent forty years in their wilderness experience. Christ spent forty days in His wilderness experience; one day for each year.
The Israelite people complained often. Jesus didn’t complain.
The Israelites were easily persuaded into idol worship. Jesus magnified God and boldly resisted! And by doing this, He gave each of us important insight and key components on how we too can defeat the enemy.
Now, when we enter into a wilderness experience, we can be like the Israelites who were disobedient, rebellious, selfish, ungrateful, idolatrous, proud, complainers –OR- We can be like Christ and not complain but trust in God’s plan, be obedient and steadfast, and rebuke the enemy with boldness, be on guard and aware of his sly, cunning tricks or traps, and defeat the devil with the Word of God.
Christ paved the path for victory! We too can and shall overcome those wilderness experiences if we follow Christ’s lead. And may the name of the Lord Jesus Christ forever be glorified!