Led By the Spirit, Standing On the Word

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the fourth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find Jesus’ encounter and experience at the Jordan River drawing to a close and His movement away from the river. It’s actually quite interesting that when you consider and compare Jesus’ journey with the journey of the children of Israel, for when you read of the children of Israel you will find that their journey to the Jordan River marked the end of their time in the wilderness. Upon coming out of their slavery and bondage in the land of Egypt they entered into the Sinai wilderness where they were to spend a short period of time learning how to worship and obey the living God before entering into the Promised Land. Perhaps o be of the most intriguing realities concerning the experience of the children of Israel exiting the land of Egypt and entering into the wilderness is that on the one hand you have a God who could have very easily led them through the land and territory of the Philistines in order that they might enter into the land sworn on oath to their ancestors—unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. In fact, when you come to the final portion of verses within the thirteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find Moses explaining the journey of the children of Israel away from and out of the land of Egypt in order that they might begin to make their way unto the land of Canaan where they would find their inheritance and promise. What we must understand concerning the children of Israel being delivered and set free from their Egyptian slavery, bondage and oppression is that the Lord could have very easily led them out of the land of Egypt and through the territory of the Philistines, however, the Lord was concerned for the courage and boldness within their hearts—particularly and especially concerning warfare, conflict and battle. The Lord of hosts knew that despite the fact that He had just delivered them out of the hands of their Egyptian oppressors, they weren’t yet ready and prepared to face, experience and endure conflict, warfare and battle. The Lord knew the children of Israel were not strong enough, nor did they possess the necessary capabilities to deal with and effectively handle conflict and warfare. Pause for a moment and consider this reality concerning your own life, as well as the lives of many saints and believers—not only within this present generation, but also in previous generations. Consider the fact that there are saints and believers whom the Lord could have verily easily delivered from the slavery, bondage and oppression of their sinful lives, and could have very easily led them through what can only be known as their own territory of the Philistines, yet the Lord knew and understood that they were not yet ready to handle and endure conflict, struggle, warfare and battle. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus beginning with the seventeenth verse:

“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest per adventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will su rely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Ethan, in the dodge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not way the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:17-22).

It is actually necessary that we pay close attention to that which is written and recorded within this particular passage of Scripture, for it would have been much easier to lead the children of Israel through the territory of the Philistines which was to the north of Egypt, and into the land of Canaan. The Lord, however, was completely unwilling to do so, for He knew that if He had led them through the territory of the Philistines, they would have surely seen, faced and experienced warfare, conflict, struggle and battle, and could have very easily repented at the sight of war. Consider the fact that the Lord knew and was keenly aware of the condition of the heart of this delivered people, and knew that although they were delivered, they could still be gripped and seized with fear at the sight and presence of conflict, struggle, warfare and battle. It’s actually quite interesting that the Lord would not lead the children of Israel through the territory of the Philistines because He knew that if they saw and became engaged in warfare, conflict and battle, they would have had opportunity to repent and return unto the land of Egypt; however, if you continue reading the Old Testament account of the children of Israel after their departure from the land of Egypt you will find the Lord leading them further into the Sinai wilderness, and specifically to the Red Sea. The entire fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus is the account of the Lord leading the children of Israel to the edge of the Red Sea—and not just the Lord leading the children of Israel to edge of the Red Sea, but also the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart that he might pursue the children of Israel into the wilderness with horses, chariots, and soldiers. The Lord would not lead the children of Israel into and through the territory of the Philistines in case they saw war, repented as a result of it, and sought to return to Egypt; however, the Lord would lead them to the edge of the Red Sea and would harden the heart of Pharaoh so that he would come out against them in the wilderness with horses and chariots to overtake them in the desert and bring them back into the land of Egypt. The Lord knew the children of Israel were not yet ready to engage themselves in and experience conflict, struggle and battle in the territory of the Philistines, however, He was willing to bring them to the edge of the Red Sea and position them between the sea and their enemy. Stop for a moment and think about this, for it almost seems contradictory on behalf of God—a God who was unwilling to lead them through the territory of a people who would most certainly engage them in conflict, warfare and battle, but a God who would lead them to the Red Sea and allow their Egyptian oppressors, enemies and adversaries to pursue them in the wilderness. Consider if you will the account that is written in the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus beginning to read with the first verse of the chapter:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-Hahiroth, between Miguel and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all hi host: that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go form serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside, Pi=hahiroth, before Baal-zephon. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: but lift thou up thy road, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen” (Exodus 14:1-18).

In the thirteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus we find a God who was unwilling to lead the children of Israel into and through the land of the Philistines, lest they encounter and experience warfare, conflict and battle, and repent of their exit from Egypt, and return to the land. The Lord knew that although the children of Israel had been delivered from their slavery, bondage and oppression, they were not yet ready to handle the conflict and struggle of warfare. The Lord knew and understood the fear, the anxiousness, the trepidation and the worry that was still present within the hearts of His people—even though He had delivered them out of their slavery, bondage and oppression. I am convinced there is a tremendous prophetic truth that is found and contained within this reality and concept—namely, that it is possible that we can be delivered out of and from our slavery, bondage and oppression, and yet we are not yet ready for conflict, struggle and warfare. I am convinced there are men and women among us in this generation whom the Lord has delivered out of their slavery, bondage and oppression, and yet He doesn’t immediately bring them into places of conflict, struggle, warfare and battle because He knows they are not yet ready to handle and experience such realities within their lives. It is true that they have been miraculously delivered out of that which held them captive and bondage, and yet because they have not yet tasted conflict, struggle, warfare and battle, the Lord chooses to lead them a different way as He seeks to bring them into the land of Canaan. It’s important to recognize and realize that the destination is and has always been the same, however, the means of getting us to that destination is not what we have thought about and even expected. It’s important to recognize and realize that the children of Israel didn’t have any expectations concerning where they would go once they were delivered out of their Egyptians slavery, bondage and oppression—only that the God who had delivered them out of such harshness would lead them wherever they would go next. While it is true the living God would not lead them through the land of the Philistines because He knew they weren’t yet ready to handle conflict, warfare, struggle and battle, He led them to the Red Sea, and even allowed the Egyptian army to pursue them to that place in order that He might destroy them once and for all, in order that He might gain glory upon Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, and in order that He might teach the children of Israel a lesson in faith, in confidence and in trust. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think and consider that the very first lesson the living God taught the children of Israel upon coming out of the land of Egypt was not warfare, was not how to wage war, was not how to engage in battle, but rather how to stand still and see His salvation. The very first lesson the children of Israel faced and experienced upon coming out of the land of Egypt was a lesson of quietness, a lesson of faith, a lesson of trust, and a lesson of confidence, as they were instructed to stand still and see the salvation of the living God.

If you study the account of the children of Israel in the wilderness you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that the Lord led them into and through the wilderness for two very specific reasons and purposes. According to Scripture you will find that in the wilderness there were two distinct realities which were accomplished within and among the children of Israel—the first of which was to teach them how to worship and obey the living God, while the second was to teach them how to engage themselves in warfare and battle against their enemies. The Lord knew that while it was His will to lead them into the land of Canaan, there were giants in the land, there were peoples stronger, greater and mightier than the children of Israel, and they would most certainly be engaged in conflict, warfare, struggle and battle. The Lord knew that the land of Canaan was in fact their inheritance which was promised and sworn on oath to their ancestors, and because of this reality, the Lord would teach them how to engage themselves in conflict, warfare and battle. It’s interesting and worth noting that the people who entered into the land of Canaan and took possession of the land did not know and experience the deliverance from the land of Egypt, nor did they experience the salvation at the Red Sea, but they would experience the battles which would be fought on the eastern edge of the Jordan River in the land of the Moabites, and other peoples and nations. Although the people who would ultimately enter into the land of Canaan would not experience or have the testimony of the deliverance in Egypt, not even the salvation at the Red Sea, they would be a people who would know how to wage war, how to engage in battle, and how to engage the enemy in warfare. The people who would enter into the land of Canaan would know victory over their enemies as they not only defeated Og king of Bashan, but also Og—both of which took place prior to the children of Israel even entering into the land of Canaan. By the time the children of Israel had reached the banks of the Jordan River, they were not only a people who knew how to rightly and properly worship and obey the living God, but they would also be a people who could engage the enemy in conflict, in battle, and in warfare. The children of Israel who would find themselves standing on the edge of the Promise and on the edge of the Promised Land would be a people who would carry with them the Ark of the Covenant of the living God, would carry the Tabernacle and house of the living God, would carry with them the law, commandments and statutes of the living God, and would know how to engage the enemy in conflict and battle. The people who would come to the edge of the Jordan River would be a people who had been taught how to worship and obey the living God, and would be a people who would be taught how to engage themselves in warfare, in conflict and battle.

What is so interesting and unique about the account of Jesus is that Jesus’ journey would begin at the Jordan River where He would be baptized by John the Baptist, and would then require Him to journey from the river into the wilderness and desert. The journey of Jesus was in essence a complete opposite journey than that which the children of Israel themselves experienced, for they went from the wilderness to the Jordan River, and would enter into the Promised Land after crossing over the river. Jesus’ journey, however, would bring Him first to the Jordan River in order that He might fulfill all righteousness, and would then bring Him into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil. When you come to the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of His life and ministry as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke you will find that after emerging from the waters of the Jordan River, after the heavens were opened, after the Spirit descended upon Him in the bodily form of a dove, and after hearing the voice of the Father speak unto Him, Jesus would be led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil. This is actually quite interesting, for the journey of Jesus Christ would not immediately transition from the Jordan River to Galilee, to Nazareth, and to the surrounding regions of Judaea. After spending thirty years in preparation through submission and subjection to His parents, Jesus would come to the Jordan River where He would be baptized of John, and yet He wouldn’t immediately transition from the river to the front lines. There are so many of us who think and believe the lie and the delusion that once we come to the Jordan River and fulfill that which is instructed and required of us we are immediately able and positioned to engage ourselves in that which we have been called to do. We read the account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, and think that once He came out of the waters of the Jordan River He would have immediately been thrust into ministry and service. We think and believe that after hearing the voice of the Father speak from heaven and declare His pleasure and delight in Him, and after experiencing the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in the bodily form of a dove, Jesus would immediately be released into the life of ministry for which He was sent. We read the account of Jesus the Christ at the Jordan River and we think that after hearing the voice of the Father and after experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit, He would be ready to enter into full-time ministry. What’s more, is that we oftentimes think the same thing for and concerning ourselves, for we think that after we have spent however many years in seclusion, in years of preparation, and in learning subjection and submission to those appointed over us we are ready to enter into the ministry for which we have been called. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case, and that there may very well be additional time needed in the desert and in the wilderness before we can truly be ready to engage ourselves in that which the living God has called us to.

Upon reading the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the beloved physician Luke, I can’t help but be drawn to the fact that Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost and returned from the Jordan River, and yet was immediately led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this fact, for not only was Jesus led into the wilderness after returning from the Jordan River full of the Holy Ghost, but Jesus was led into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil over a period of forty days. After spending thirty years or so in the town of Nazareth submitting Himself to Mary and Joseph, after spending thirty years or so in the shadows and in seclusion, after spending thirty years or so waiting for the appointed time when He would be revealed and manifested unto the world, Jesus would still need to enter into the desert—and not only enter into the desert, but also be tempted of the devil over a period of forty days. It would be there in the desert and wilderness where we would read of Jesus eating nothing during the period of forty days, and afterward being hungry. It would in this place of human need, it would be in this place of vulnerability and weakness the devil and tempter would come to Him and begin his series of temptations. I find it absolutely and incredibly intriguing and captivating that not only was Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness after emerging from the waters of the Jordan River, but Jesus would then be led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and led into the wilderness in order that he might be tempted. Despite thirty years in seclusion and submission, and despite fulfilling all righteousness by being baptized of John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus would still need to enter into the wilderness and there be tempted by the devil. Jesus didn’t immediately journey from the river to the synagogue, for between the river and the synagogue there would be a wilderness where Jesus would need to face and experience the temptation of the devil. Jesus’ journey would not be one that would take Him from the wilderness to the river as was the journey of the children of Israel, but rather, his journey would take Him from the river to the wilderness where He would be tempted by the devil on three different fronts—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Despite hearing the voice of the Father expressing delight and pleasure in Him, Jesus was still led by the Spirit into the wilderness by the Spirit in order that He might be tempted in all ways as we are and have been. Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus was in all ways tempted as we are, and yet He was without sin, for He overcame the devil and his temptations there in the wilderness.

What we must come to terms with when considering the temptation of Jesus the Christ in the wilderness is that His temptations were centered around one single reality and one reality alone—namely, what type of Savior and man He would be. The temptations which Jesus faced there in the wilderness would begin with the temptation to turn stones into bread, would continue with the temptation to bow down and worship the devil, and would culminate in and with the temptation to tempt the living God. The more I read the account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the more I can’t help but be drawn to the fact that the temptations which He faced were strategically designed to determine what kind of Savior—and perhaps even what kind of man He was willing to be. In all reality, the very first temptation He faced and experienced would be centered around the reality of whether or not He would use His divinity to satisfy His own needs, desires, and wants. Scripture makes it abundantly and perfectly clear that Jesus had fasted and was afterward hungry, and the first temptation the devil came to Jesus with was the temptation to turn stones into bread, thus using His power to satisfy His own needs. It was quite clear and quite obvious that Jesus was in fact hungry, but the question was whether or not Jesus would turn stones into bread, and thus engage Himself in an act that would be self-serving and self-seeking. This first temptation which we read of Jesus facing and experiencing would be a temptation which would bring to light whether or not Jesus would use His power to meet, to satisfy and to gratify His own needs and wants. There is not a doubt in my mind that this initial temptation is one that is incredibly important for us to think about and consider, for one of the core and fundamental matters we must settle within our hearts and spirits before we attempt to step into that which God has called us to is whether or not we will live self-seeking and self-serving lives. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we will be about our own selfish desires, our own pleasures and our own wants and needs rather than those which are before and around us. Had Jesus given into the temptation to turn stones into bread, He would not only have given into the temptation of satisfying His own needs, desires and wants, but He would also have potentially set a precedent within His life and ministry—namely, that He could freely satisfy and meet His needs anytime He wanted. It’s actually quite remarkable to think about and consider the fact that Jesus would not turn stones into bread to satisfy His own need and want, but He would turn water into wine, and would multiply loaves of bread and fish in order that He might meet the needs of others. There is not a doubt in my mind that had Jesus given into the temptation to turn stones into bread to satisfy, He would have set a precedent for His life—one that could potentially have placed His own needs above those which were before and around Him. Jesus would resist the temptation to turn stones into bread—to provide for Himself rather than trusting in and relying upon the living God—and as such would emphatically declare that He would never seek to gratify His own needs, His own wants, His own pleasures, and His own desires. There is absolutely no question that Jesus was in fact hungry, for Scripture would not declare it if it wasn’t true, and yet despite His hunger, Jesus would and could not serve His own needs.

The most astonishing reality concerning the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is not only that He entered into the wilderness full of the Holy Ghost, and being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, but that when He sought to overcome the temptations of the devil, He didn’t use His own intellect, nor did He use His own wisdom or methods. I am convinced there is something truly wonderful, challenging and powerful about this when you take the time to think about it, for there are many of us who would dare try and resist the devil using our own wisdom and using our own intellect. There would be many of us who would seek to overcome the devil using our own words, and perhaps even our own cleverly crafted arguments and defenses. When we read of Jesus resisting the temptations of the devil in the wilderness we do not find Him speaking His own words, but rather speaking the divine word of God which was written in the Law. There are many of us who would think and believe that we can overcome the temptations of the devil with our own words and our own wisdom, and that the devil would and even should listen to words which proceed from our own intellect and our own knowledge. What we must recognize and what we must understand is that if not even Jesus sought to resist the devil using His own words and wisdom—what makes us think that we can resist the devil.with our own words and our own wisdom? What makes us think that the devil will even pay any attention to anything we have to say, or that he would even entertain it? The late A.W. Tower wrote a book entitled “I Talk Back to the Devil,” and yet I can’t help but think of how many men and women attempt to talk back to the devil, but attempt to do so outside of, apart from, and without the divine word of God? Such men and women think they can rely upon and trust in their own wisdom, their own knowledge, their own understanding, and their own intellect in order to talk back to and resist the devil, and they actually expect the devil to listen. Much like the sevens sons of Sceva tried commanding and confronting the demon which possessed the man during the days of the apostle Paul by speaking of the Jesus whom the apostle Paul preaches, there are men and women who attempt to confront the devil on their own terms and in their own ways. When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted of the devil, He did not seek to overcome and resist the devil using His own words—even though He was the eternal Son of God and the Word become flesh. When Jesus sought to overcome the temptation of the devil there in the wilderness He did so using the word of God alone—that which was written according to the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God.

IN ORDER TO RESIST WITH THE WORD, YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE WORD! IN ORDER TO FIGHT WITH THE WORD, YOU HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO USE THE WORD! What I absolutely love about the account of Jesus in the wilderness is that it brings us face to face with the fact that when it comes to standing firm and resisting the devil as the apostle Peter, and even as James the half brother of Jesus wrote, we must do so “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the living God.” What’s more, is that if we are going to resist the devil knowing that if we do in fact resist him, we must do so with and according to the word of God and according to Scripture. The devil does not care about your own wisdom, your own words, your own knowledge, your own understanding, and your own intellect, and he is not impressed by how well you can speak when seeking to resist him. When Jesus resisted the devil in the wilderness, He did so on three different occasions, and on three different fronts by using the word of God, and quoting that which was written. Each of the temptations which the devil hurled at Jesus were refuted and resisted by that which was written in and according to the word of God, and we would be incredibly wise to pay attention to and understand this. We ourselves can and will face temptations within and throughout the course of our lives, and one of the ultimate questions we must ask ourselves when we encounter and experience such temptations is how we will stand in the midst of them, and how we will resist them. We must ask ourselves whether or not we will stand upon that which is written within the word of God, or whether we will attempt to stand and fight in our own strength, and according to our own wisdom. Like the children of Israel who initially complained to Moses when the report was brought back by ten of the twelve spies, experienced and faced the judgment of God by being prohibited from going up into the land sought to go up into the land to engage the nations and enemies within the land in battle, so also there are men and women who will attempt to engage the temptations of the devil, and that which seeks to oppose them within their lives in their own strength, and according to their own wisdom. When it comes to what type of man and what type of woman we are going to be, we must firmly settle and establish within our hearts and minds whether or not we can and will stand upon the word of God and that which is written, or whether or not we will choose to stand in our own strength, our own wisdom, and our own might and power. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and He stood in the wilderness according to the word of God. LED BY SPIRIT AND STANDING UPON THE WORD OF GOD! Oh that there would be a generation of men and women who can be led by the Spirit and who will stand on the word of God and that which was written in the Law, in the prophets, and by the apostles and early saints of the church of the living God. LED BY THE SPIRIT AND STANDING ON THE WORD!

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