Thursday March 30, 2023
IT IS SAID
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
In human relationships, it is very important who said what in a conversation. We infer motives when someone says something, and we are surprised or not surprised when someone says something, knowing who they are and what they have been through.
Jesus, in this moment, was calling on the entirety of the covenant community of Israel when he said the words, “It is said.”
“It is said by whom?” the reader, and even the devil, may ask. To answer this question, we must go back to the passage in Deuteronomy to which Jesus is referring.
Deuteronomy 6:14–19 says:
Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipu- lations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.
Who put the Lord their God to the test at Massah? The Israelites, God’s people, that’s who. At Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling) the chosen of God demanded water, testing God and Moses, quarreling all along the way.
Resisting God leads to eventual devastation and lessons learned.
In Exodus 17:7 we read: “And he [Moses] called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”
Moses, on behalf of God’s entire covenant family across time, and repeated by their children’s children across history, is the one who is behind the “It is said” in Jesus’s response to the enemy.
And here we find a reason to speak Scripture, pray Scripture, and respond with Scripture. We are leveraging that mass of spiritual equity of the faithful who have gone before us in their response to God, as we respond to our foe.
The Israelites learned a lesson at Massah and Meribah, and they repeated the story of that lesson throughout time in the form of a command from the Lord.
Jesus called that entire corporate movement of covenant journey with God to mind with the three simple words, “It is said.” “Our words” in resisting the enemy may need to be replaced with “Our Words” of the entire covenant community. There is a difference.
Have you ever spoken back to the enemy, in the face of a moment of temptation, using the Scriptures and the weight of your covenant family’s response to God? What was that moment like, and what Scripture did you use?
Lord of the Wild, we thank you for all the lessons of your covenant people that have preceded our own situations, and for the wisdom from which we can draw. May we not test you as the people of Israel tested you. Let our daily response be one of immediate, and blessed, obedience. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Songs for the Wilderness
First 15 through the season of Lent is adapted from Jesus in the Wild: Lessons of Calling for Life in the World available through Seedbed. If you or your small group are interested in using this resource for your Lenten study, you can find more information here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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