In the temptation of the Son of God in the wilderness, Satan employs every means at his disposal in his attack against Jesus Christ, including the quoting of Scripture. In this article I want to only look briefly at the temptation of Jesus, focusing on the irony of the Scripture that Satan chooses to quote.
MAIN POINT: Satan’s attempt to draw Jesus Christ into sin actually points to Satan’s own demise.
From the moment of Jesus’ baptism, His mission on earth was irreversibly set. He would walk a sinless path to His appointed death on the cross to redeem His people from their sin. And from the moment of Jesus’ baptism, Satan’s objective was clear. If Satan could cause Jesus to sin or if he could tempt Jesus to refuse the cross, then mankind would be forever rendered condemned, because there would be no perfect atonement to pay for their sins and thus there would be no basis for forgiveness. This conflict, then, is the context for the encounter in the wilderness, when the Son of God is tempted by Satan. There is so much that could be said about this entire interchange, but I want to focus only on that part of the temptation when the devil quotes Scripture.
Satan tempts the Son of God with the words of Psalm 91:11-12:
“He will command His angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” By quoting these two verses, Satan is saying that Jesus deserves to be protected and that God, His Father, is not protecting Him from difficulty and danger. In essence the devil says, “You do not deserve to suffer or go through difficulty. God should protect you! Are you sure that you can trust Him? Surely you deserve better than this!”
But Jesus knows the Scripture perfectly, not only the content but also the intent, and so He is not persuaded by Satan’s taunt. He stops the devil in his tracks, quoting Scripture in reply: “It is written, ‘You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.’”
Where, then, is the irony in this? The irony of this passage is hidden and is subtle, but it has to do with Satan’s taunt from Psalm 91. The adversary quotes verses 11 and 12, either forgetting or not realizing what verse 13 of Psalm 91 says: “You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; The young lion and the SERPENT YOU WILL TRAMPLE DOWN.” Notice the irony of these words.
Satan tempts Jesus with the very words that tell of His mission on earth. Jesus has been sent to earth for the express purpose of trampling upon Satan. (See Genesis 3:15 and 1 John 3:8.) Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil.
Satan chooses to tempt Jesus from the very psalm that explicitly tells of his demise.
Instead of causing Jesus to sin or to be distracted from His mission, Satan’s quote leads to a prophecy of Satan’s being trampled by Jesus’, which points to the cross.
The passage reveals that Satan is clumsy when he quotes Scripture and that his understanding of Scripture is limited and weak. What he meant as a trick to derail the Son of God turns out to reveal Jesus’ glory by showing His victory over the devil. This is the irony of the passage.
SDG rmb 5/8/2017