This is the final section of our series on the Devices of the Devil as displayed in the temptation in the wilderness. We have examined the purpose of the various devices as well as the manner in which the Savior responded. We have suggested that an examination of the context of the Old Testament quotations gives us a better understanding of what Satan was trying to achieve. We summarized the three devices of the devil as An Attempt to Defile Worth by Wickedness, Worship by Worldliness, and Work by Wilfulness. This month we examine the influence of our will on any work entrusted to us by our Lord.
Defiling Work by Wilfulness
In this final temptation our Lord is taken into Jerusalem, to the pinnacle of the Temple and dared to jump off. Satan quotes Psalm 91:11 to try to add credence to this proposal. However, it is important to note the important qualifier, “in all thy ways,” is left out of the quotation. The implication of the omission is that the way is not as important as is the end. Niccolò Machiavelli (A.D. 1532), in his advice to the Prince stated, “The end is all that counts … for the means will always be judged to be honorable and praiseworthy by each and every person.” While Machiavelli is one of the first to formulate “The end justifies the means,” it is a concept as old as time. The question then is: What would have happened had the Savior plunged off the pinnacle of the Temple? While speculation isn’t always profitable, I think we can affirm that angels indeed would have borne Him up before He had dashed His foot against a stone. Then why not simply do it? To answer this we need to look at the context of our Lord’s reply.
As before, Christ responds from Deuteronomy. This time the context of chapter 6 verse 16 brings us to the waters of Meribah. “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah.” The children of Israel had first come to the rock in Horeb early in their desert wanderings. Exodus 17 records the first instance when the people thirsted. Moses, with instructions from God, smites the rock and water flows out to quench the people’s thirst. Later, after many years of wandering, the people find themselves again thirsting before the same rock in Numbers 20. Much has transpired in the intervening years. Most recently Miriam, the older sister who had always looked out for Moses, had died. Moses had dealt with the rebellious challenge to his leadership by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and now the people were again complaining about the journey. In fact, they side with the rebels in their attack of Moses and long to be back in Egypt. It is little wonder given the stresses he was under that he speaks as he does. Given specific direction of how to get water from the rock, he ignores the means provided and strikes the rock – twice! Water then flows out again. Clearly, however, the end did not justify the means.
There are consequences of following our own will in contradiction to Scripture even if the short term results are favorable. For Moses, he would not enter the Promised Land with the children of Israel. More importantly, he destroyed a beautiful type of Christ. Approximately 1600 years later when a ruler in Israel comes to speak to the Savior, the conversation could have been, “And as Moses smote the rock in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be smitten,” but such was not to be the case. The truths set forth in Hebrews 10, the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once, one sacrifice for sins forever, one offering, and no more offering for sin, cannot be illustrated by a twice smitten rock. The consequences of willful disobedience can be profound and far reaching, regardless of the potential of short term positive results.
Thankfully, our God is a God of recovery. Prior to the next chapter Aaron has died and Moses is more alone than ever. In the following chapter the people are still voicing a preference for Egypt. They complain about a lack of water and of bread and slander the manna of God. The stresses on Moses have increased, but this time, when instructed to make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole, Moses shows almost word for word obedience. Thus the conversation many years later is, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”
There are numerous situations in which we can apply the above. In our workplaces, schools, businesses – “Just get it done!” is an all too familiar mantra. Perhaps we need to ask, “Is God really concerned about how things are done or is He really just interested in the results?” This example clearly shows that the end does not justify the means. This is equally true when we do not see immediate results. If you are part of a small struggling assembly trying to be faithful to the Word but seeing little fruit, there may be a number of reasons for this. One of the reasons is not because you have been following God’s pattern. The “end justifies the means” approach to your spiritual life is a device of the enemy of which we should not be ignorant.
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
Our enemy is a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour. One obvious target will be those who are unaware. He uses the three great enemies with a skill which has been honed over thousands of years. The devil is wicked and out to destroy and defile your practical worth. The world is compelling and will defile and destroy your worship. The flesh is relentless and will destroy and defile your work for God. It is instructive that at the end of these temptations the devil left the Savior, but only for a season (Luke 4:13). He will attack again. Please, do not be ignorant of his devices.