[This is the journal entry for my quiet time with God yesterday, December 26.]
Look: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus, famished after forty days in the wilderness, gives this reply from the book of Deuteronomy after the devil suggests He turn some stones into bread.
It’s remarkable that Jesus here, as at His trial and execution, refuses to exploit His power as God in a self-interested way, even if the world might consider miraculously feeding Himself would not be an act of selfishness on the order of, say, whipping up a Mercedes-Benz to take him from preaching stop to preaching stop.
Jesus refuses to act in a self-interested way, ever. His sinlessness is precisely what gives His death on a cross the power to save a self-interested sinner like me.
Listen: But the question Jesus’ citation of Deuteronomy raises for me is where the Word of God fits into my life. Jesus is saying that God’s Word is more fundamental to our living than food, oxygen, or water, that if you don’t have the Word of God pulsing through your mind, body, and soul, you’re dead.
To not take in this Word, Jesus is saying, is to be starving to death. And Jesus would rather have physically starved to death in the wilderness than not rely on God’s Word.
On the other hand, Jesus, because He knew His Father’s faithfulness, also knew that if He “stayed the course,” turning back the temptations of the devil, the Father would find some way to take care of Him. (Which is what happened, once the devil had temporarily given up on tempting Him.)
Jesus then doesn’t have some death wish and He doesn’t commend recklessness as a way of life to His disciples. (For example, in a later temptation, He refuses to jump off the temple mount, as the devil wants Him to do, because it’s wrong to “tempt the Lord your God,” to presume that if I act in a stupidly sinful way, God is obligated to protect me from my stupidity.)
Quite simply, Jesus trusts His Father and He tells us to do the same, even if it entails adversity. It’s “the one who stands firm to the end [who] will be saved,” Jesus says in Matthew 24:13.
This means turning to the Father when the devil, the world, and everything within us says to do what we want to do, to act self-interestedly to fill a present urge rather than relying on God for the life that only He can give.
Respond: Lord, help me today to consciously and consistently turn to You, rather than to my own thoughts or “wisdom” or to the world for the right path in my decision-making. You alone have the words of life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]