Day 80

How to Resist Temptation

Wisdom Proverbs 7:21-27
New Testament Luke 3:23-4:13
Old Testament Numbers 11:4-13:25

Introduction

The Sirens were three mysterious women who, according to Homer’s Odyssey, lived on an island. Whenever a ship passed by, they would stand on the cliffs and sing. Their beautiful song would tempt sailors closer and closer, until eventually they were shipwrecked on the rocks below.

Odysseus was curious to hear the Sirens’ song, but was well aware of the dangers. He ordered his men to tie him to the mast as they approached the island and then to plug their own ears with beeswax. When Odysseus heard the Siren call he demanded to be untied, but his shipmates bound him tighter, releasing him only when then the danger had passed.

The story explores the powerful pull we all feel at times to flirt with choices that we know are bad, and even destructive. No one can go through life without being tempted. Temptation is not sin; Jesus was ‘without sin’, yet even he was ‘tempted in every way, just as we are’ (Hebrews 4:15).

Wisdom

Proverbs 7:21-27

21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
  she seduced him with her smooth talk.
22 All at once he followed her
  like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
  23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
  little knowing it will cost him his life.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
  pay attention to what I say.
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
  or stray into her paths.
26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
  her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
  leading down to the chambers of death.

Commentary

Tempted to cheat

This passage describes the power and the dangers of sexual temptation.

  1. Beware persuasive words
    Be careful about what you listen to and what you read: ‘With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk’ (v.21).

  2. Avoid foolish actions
    Thoughts and words lead eventually to actions: ‘All at once he followed her... little knowing it will cost him his life’ (vv.22–23).

  3. Control straying thoughts
    Temptation often starts in our hearts: ‘Do not let your heart turn to her ways the adulteress’ (v.25; see Matthew 5:28).

Heed this warning: ‘Listen... take these words of mine most seriously. Don’t fool around... don’t even stroll through her neighbourhood’ (Proverbs 7:24–25, MSG). Following this path is a ‘highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death’ (v.27).

Prayer

Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one. Guard my heart, give me discernment and guide my feet.

New Testament

Luke 3:23-4:13

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

  the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,

  the son of Levi, the son of Melki,

  the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

  25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,

  the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,

  the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,

  the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,

  the son of Josek, the son of Joda,

  27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,

  the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,

  the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,

  the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,

  the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

  29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,

  the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,

  the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,

  the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,

  the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

  31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,

  the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,

  the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,

  the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,

  the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

  33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,

  the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,

  the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,

 the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,

  the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

  35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,

  the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,

  the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,

  the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,

  the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

  37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,

  the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,

  the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,

  the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

  the son of God.

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 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.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 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. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

9 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. 10 For it is written:

  “‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
  11 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Commentary

Tempted over control

God allows temptation in your life. As you go through these tests your faith is strengthened.

Jesus knows all about temptation. Jesus was tempted for forty days (4:2). Although it was the devil doing the tempting (v.3), God allowed it (he ‘was led by the Spirit into the wilderness’, v.1).

This period of temptation followed Jesus’ powerful experience of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. This sequence of events is common, which is why we warn people on Alpha that they may experience increased temptation after the weekend away (where the focus is on the work and experience of the Holy Spirit).

Luke emphasises Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (3:23–38) but the temptations that Jesus faced are often similar to the ones we face.

All these temptations revolve around control – control of our appetites, control of our ambitions, and control of our lives. The devil wants to control your life. In contrast, God wants you to know the freedom that comes from being led by the Holy Spirit.

  1. Instant gratification

    The devil appeals to Jesus’ physical appetite (v.3) and offers instant gratification. Jesus answers, ‘It is written: “People do not live on bread alone”’ (v.4).

    In the long run instant gratification leads to disillusion, emptiness and despair. Listening to God and building a relationship with him leads to deep spiritual satisfaction, joy and purpose.

  2. Selfish ambition

    The devil showed Jesus in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. ‘He said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour... If you worship me, it will all be yours”’ (vv.6–7).

    The temptation to accumulate things for ourselves is very powerful. Material prosperity may lead to ‘authority’ and ‘splendour’ (v.6) in this lifetime, but the danger is that financial security becomes our ambition and we put our trust in wealth and not in God.

    Jesus responded to this temptation by saying, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”’ (v.8). Ultimately, there is only one thing that can be totally secure and that is your relationship with God. This must be your primary ambition.

  3. Presumptuous power

    The devil takes Jesus to the highest point in the temple and says, ‘If you are the Son of God… throw yourself down from here’ (v.9). He then quotes the Bible at him (out of context, of course). Jesus answered this scripture with scripture, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”’ (v.12).

    You are called to a life of obedience and service to God. Jesus performed some dramatic miracles during his ministry. In doing so, however, he was obeying God and following the Holy Spirit’s leading. This is quite different from testing God and then asking him to back you up. Rather than coming up with your own plans and asking God to bless them, seek to find out God’s plans and obey his calling.

    Jesus saw off the devil and his temptations with God’s word. He repeatedly said, ‘It is written...’ and then quoted scriptures that directly answered the devil’s lies and temptations.

    The devil ‘left him’. But he only ‘retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity’ (v.13, MSG). It is a relief to have periods in life when temptations are not so strong – but you can be sure that the devil will try to lure you astray again.

Prayer

Lord, I want to follow the leading of your Holy Spirit. Help me to stay close to you, to know your words and to resist temptation.

Old Testament

Numbers 11:4-13:25

Quail From the Lord

4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna! ”

7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me —if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it —because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you. ”

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied —but did not do so again.

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses

12Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

  “When there is a prophet among you,
    I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
    I speak to them in dreams.
  7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
    he is faithful in all my house.
  8 With him I speak face to face,
    clearly and not in riddles;
    he sees the form of the Lord.
  Why then were you not afraid
    to speak against my servant Moses?”

9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her! ”

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

Exploring Canaan

13The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names:

  from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;

  5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;

  6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;

  7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;

  8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;

  9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;

  10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;

  11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;

  12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;

  13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;

  14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;

  15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. ” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

Commentary

Tempted to compare

Just as Jesus was tempted in ‘the wilderness’ (Luke 4:1), the people of God were tempted during their wilderness years. The examples in this passage were written down as warnings for us (see 1 Corinthians 10:6).

1. Discontent

God had supplied them with food but they craved ‘other food’ (Numbers 11:4). Rather than thanking God for his miraculous provision they said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!’ (v.4b). They kept ‘whining’ (vv.10,13, MSG) and complaining.

They were tempted to make comparisons with the old life back in Egypt and turn back to where they had come from. It is easy to fall into this trap. There is always something to complain about. Yet, if we have eyes to see it, we are constantly surrounded by God’s goodness, mercy, forgiveness, love and grace.

‘… be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you”’ (Hebrews 13:5).

The antidote to discontent is thanksgiving. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

2. Jealousy

We see an example of jealousy with Miriam and Aaron asking, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ (Numbers 12:2). When Joshua had been upset about others prophesying in the camp, Moses asked in response, ‘Are you jealous for my sake?’ (11:29). The context here is spiritual leadership and gifting.

Moses’ leadership structure involved a group of three at the centre (Aaron, Miriam and Joshua). Then, there were the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel (13:4–15), then the seventy leaders and officials (11:16 onwards). This is very similar to Jesus’ inner circle of three, the twelve apostles, and then the seventy-two others (see Luke 10). When the Holy Spirit rested on the seventy of Moses, ‘they prophesied’ (Numbers 11:25).

Like Moses, try to avoid the temptation to compare and to be jealous when you see God using other people in a powerful way. Moses recognised that he needed all the help he could get. He replied, ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ (v.29). He did not feel he had to be the only one God used. The Lord had said, ‘I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone’ (v.17).

3. Pride

Jealousy comes from comparing ourselves with others and thinking that we are less well off. Pride comes from thinking too much of ourselves, comparing with others and thinking we are better.

Moses also resisted the temptation of pride. Pride is the biggest barrier between God and human beings. God loves the humble. As C.S. Lewis put it, ‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.’

‘Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth’ (12:3). Perhaps that is why God used Moses in such a powerful way.

Moses was ‘humble’ (v.3), ‘faithful’ (v.7), compassionate and forgiving (v.13). All this stemmed from the very close relationship he had with God in which God spoke to him intimately in person (‘With him I speak face to face’, v.8).

Prayer

Lord, help me to resist the temptations of discontent, jealously and pride. Help me to be trustworthy, faithful and humble.

Pippa adds

Numbers 11:4–6

I do have a little bit of sympathy for the Israelites. Manna every day for forty years does sound a little dull. I have a slightly delicate constitution so I am a little fussy about food. I am sure manna was delicious and very good for you. When you are hungry, most things taste good. Learning contentment and gratitude for what we have is very important.

Verse of the Day

Luke 4:8

‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’
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References

C.S. Lewis, ‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.’

C. S. Lewis may not have used these exact words but he did say something similar in Mere Christianity, which has inspired the evolution of this quote.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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