by Jennifer Lind
Unlike many chocolate-forsaken Lenten seasons of my childhood, this year I’ve been meditating on the responses of Jesus during his time in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. Christ’s triple refutation of the devil during his 40 days of preparation for public ministry reveals the rich opportunities of Lent and at least three core disciplines which when lived out in grace, truth, and love may draw us closer to God.
Jesus’ First Refusal: The devil first tries to convince Jesus that his immediate and legitimate hunger is his greatest need while asking for proof of his identity – “If you are the Son of God.” Jesus replies with a reminder of God’s provision of manna to Israel (Deut. 8:3): No matter how basic our hunger and our thirst, our greatest need is to live out the truth of our dependence on and relationship with God.
First Discipline: Spend time in the Word every day in prayerful remembrance of God’s provision. The same verse Jesus quotes also states that we must remember all the ways the Lord has led us until now (Deut. 8:3). Daily Light provides a year of collected verses to read both morning and evening. With this daily rhythm we remember who we are, what we truly need most, and what God has done and is doing for us. The Lord says we need this bread, take and eat.
Jesus’ Second Refusal: The devil responds by quoting Psalm 91. He proposes that the best thing for Jesus to do next is to prove himself and seek refuge and resolution in his own actions. The devil sneers, “you can end this right now, you’ll get everything you need, and you won’t even get hurt.” Christ’s allegiance is being tested as well as his purpose. Jesus refuses to put God to the test as Israel did when they complained against God (Deut. 6:16), crying out for water with hardened hearts (Ps. 95:8), and demanding further signs of God’s provision and deliverance. Immediately before the Spirit led Jesus here to the wilderness Jesus was baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit, and declared by God as his beloved son (Matt. 3:13-17). Christ does not reject God’s provision by requiring for the work at hand more than what he is already given.
Second Discipline: Find our refuge in God and keep our hearts softened towards him. Each time we seek to self-soothe our worries with our own plans we lose out on the true safety and comfort of finding shelter with God in his presence. I use a daily cellphone reminder to pause a minimum of 5 minutes midday. This time can be used for prayer and to re-center on the promises of God: “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (Psalm 91:16).
Jesus’ Third Refusal: The devil’s final appeal is to grant what is already promised to Christ at a different price. He is “only” asking for Jesus to bow down once but God calls for utter dedication (Matt. 6:24). Christ rejects the devil’s offer with Moses’ charge to Israel to not forget the one who gave her her freedom. Fear only the Lord your God. Worship, serve, and cling to him. He is your praise, and he is your God who has done awesome things for you, which your eyes have seen (Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Job 42:5).
Third Discipline: Worship in the fear of the Lord and cling to him. Lent provides us a prime opportunity to tear apart and rebuild our schedules in order to prioritize worship on a daily basis in our homes as well as on a weekly basis together in our churches. The truest blessing we will see in this renewed time of praise and reverence is a more loving relationship with the God who loves us. Rather than merely holding to a fast, in Lent we may learn to hold fast only to him.