Power encounter in the desert

The Judean wilderness

Have you ever watched a movie trilogy where the second or third installment causes a paradigm shift in your understanding? Information is revealed which completely revises what you thought you knew from the first film. Or have you read a book where what you thought was the main character becomes an actor within a subplot written by the actual main character?

Sometimes when the Holy Spirit highlights a passage of scripture to us it can seem like a paradigm shift. Everything is revealed in a new light and “becomes” relevant to everyday life. I put the word “becomes” in quotation marks because the Word of God did not change. It is just that the eyes of our understanding that have been enlightened (Ephesians 1:18).

Throughout the Scriptures, the truth is revealed that God is in control. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, in Him all things hold together (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:17). Although we are looking at a fallen and broken world, God is still in control and still working through every circumstance to bring his perfect kingdom rule from heaven to earth (Matthew 6:10, Romans 8:28).

I have always read the account of the temptation of Yeshua from a human perspective. Yeshua was fully human, he identified in every way with our weakness and suffering. Temptation is an ongoing battle for believers in Yeshua and this account demonstrates how Yeshua was in every way like us yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 affirms, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin.” As I read the account of the temptation, I focused on the temptations. The devil appeared to be the initiator. He was laying out his traps to catch Yeshua but Yeshua through the wisdom of God prevailed.

These are great, amazing truths. They are part of the rock that our faith is built upon. They will not be shaken. Yet there is also another side of God that this passage of scripture reveals. It is a strategy for spiritual warfare which goes right to the heart of who has true authority over the world we live in.

Matthew 4 opens with the words: “Then Yeshua was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Read the passage with me again with the focus this time on Yeshua. The Holy Spirit is the initiator and God is in control at every stage.

“Then Yeshua was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Yeshua answered,“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Yeshua answered him,“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Yeshua said to him,“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

Matthew 4: 1-11

Now we are looking at a power encounter. A clash of the kingdom of light with the kingdom of darkness which sets the precedent for every subsequent interaction between the kingdoms. Yeshua’s strategy is simple:

1) Reveal the strongholds which are the basis of evil rule
2) Speak the truth through Scriptures
3) Stand firm

The devil met Yeshua in the wilderness to tempt him. Yeshua met the devil in the wilderness to provoke him into revealing the strongholds that his kingdom was founded upon: selfishness, pride and idolatry. These strongholds once brought into the light could be destroyed by the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17) because Yeshua was without sin and so operated in the authority of the Father. This confrontation laid the foundation for Yeshua’s ministry of declaring the Good News, healing the sick and setting captives free. The declaration of truth brought heaven to earth in the ministry of Yeshua while the work of salvation through the death and resurrection of Yeshua destroyed the foundations of satanic rule for all who believe in him. So now we also can operate in an unbroken line of authority from God our Father and enforce the victory that Yeshua won on the cross.

In our struggles in everyday life, we can apply the same strategy. We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the strongholds set up by the kingdom of darkness. We can ask for wisdom to find the appropriate scriptures and declare them in faith. Then we stand firm and watch what God will do. The Apostle Paul reminded us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This is why he could sing hymns after being beaten in prison and rejoice in every circumstance. He could see the spiritual world and the victories being achieved through putting on the armor of God, walking in the character of God and speaking the truth in love.

The hardest part is standing firm. Yeshua had to wait forty days before the devil even made his appearance. Often we expect the results to be immediate and give up before seeing the victory. Or we want the Holy Spirit to reveal the lack of discipline or hypocrisy in others but he draws our attention to the selfishness and pride in ourselves. The same strategy is just as effective in our private lives. Once we have learned to live in victory here we can have solid foundations to build upon as we follow Yeshua in declaring the Good News, healing the sick and setting captives free.