40 Days - Tempted in the Desert, part two
Not leaving well enough alone, the "backbiter" once again speaks a word of temptation into Jesus' ear saying to him,
"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
'He will command his angels concerning you',
and 'On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' "
The "slanderer" quotes from Psalm 91 in order to tempt the faith of Jesus. The words of the songbook of Israel twisted in order to serve the needs and purposes of the one who speaks them. That is the way the accuser works tangling lies into a word of truth.
Jesus responds with another quote from the scroll we call Deuteronomy. He says, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " This quotation comes from a section of Deuteronomy calling the people of God to remember the faithfulness of the God who called them out of a land of slavery, through the wilderness, and into a new land (the narrative can be found in Deuteronomy 6). This direct quote refers to a moment in the wandering of Israel when the people of God were again questioning why they were led out of a land where their most basic needs were met only to be "left to die" in the wilderness.
The story of this struggle is recorded in Exodus 17. The people had just been led through the Red Sea, seen their captors destroyed in its water, and received the gifts of quail and manna from heaven to satiate their hunger. However as they continued to journey, they came to a stopping place where there was no water. Isn't that how life often seems to be? Just when one challenge is behind us another stares us directly in the face. The people grumbled to Moses and demanded that something be done. They challenged Moses to cry out to God on their behalf so that they might receive yet another miracle of provision. But the people of Jacob did not need to put the Lord to the test in order to know that God is faithful. All they needed to do was look to their past where faithfulness was demonstrated again and again. They were God's chosen ones and nothing could ever change that.
The passage Jesus quotes to his adversary speaks the truth of God's faithfulness even in the moments when God seems distant. The faithfulness of God has been demonstrated throughout the past. There is no need to put God to the test to see if that same faithfulness will be demonstrated in the pain of the present or the uncertainty of the future. God is faithful in all times and in all ways; even in the hunger following a fast, even in the loneliness of the wilderness, even in the face of fear.
Another Psalm from the songbook of Israel reads,
"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city;
it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar,
the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice,
the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah" (Psalm 46)