The Temptation to Isolate, Twist & Manipulate Scripture

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms, which is a collection of prayers, petitions and praise comprised within psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passages is found in chapters ninety-one through ninety-nine of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will undoubtedly come to one of the most beloved and well-known psalms in the entirety of the book . The ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms is one that has been quoted and used countless times as a source of strength, a source of confidence a source of hope, and a source of trust within the hearts and souls of countless saints and servants of God alike. There was even a book written by Francis Frangipane entitled “The Shelter of the Most High,” which is entirely and altogether based on the words which are written and contained within this psalm. If you have been a student of the Scripture for any length of time you will at least have a rudimentary knowledge—perhaps even experience—with this particular psalm and the words contained therein. If we are being truly honest with ourselves, as well as with the living and eternal God we have quoted this psalm time and time again, for some of the words found and quoted within this psalm were used by Satan in the wilderness to tempt Jesus. You will recall in the second temptation of Christ by Satan in the wilderness He brought. Jesus to the top of the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Him to cast Himself down. The logic behind Satan’s temptation were the words which were found within this particular psalm—namely, those words which are found in the eleventh and twelfth verses. Consider first and foremost if you will the words found within these two verses, for the words which are found here not only point directly to the temptation of Jesus the Christ, but in the temptation of Jesus the Christ we come to understand a tremendous significance behind and surrounding this psalm. I am absolutely and completely convinced that if we are to truly understand the words which are found within this psalm, it is necessary and imperative that we first turn and direct our attention to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness which was written and recorded by the synoptic gospel writers—namely, the apostle Matthew, the physician Luke, and John Mark. Within these three gospel narratives we find the account of the temptation of Jesus the Christ in the wilderness after He emerged from the waters of the baptism, after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and after the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness where He would fast forty days and forty nights while at the same time be tempted of Satan. Consider if you will the following narratives written and recorded within these three gospel narratives concerning the temptation of Jesus the Christ:

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it be cometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the LORD thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 3:13-4:11).

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was capsized of John in J Rodan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him” Mark 1:9-13).

“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased’ (Luke 3:21-22).

“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil taking him up into an high mountain shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall e thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the LORD thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And J Russ returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Luke 4:1-14)

It is absolutely necessary for us to read and consider the narratives of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, for one of the temptations was literally geared around and centered upon God’s willingness to guard and protect us. I am convinced that in order to truly understand the words which are found within the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms it is imperative to consider the temptation of Jesus, for not only did the devil tempt Jesus using Scripture as a basis for the temptation, but the devil also tempted Jesus around the basis of His trust and confidence in the living God. This temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was more than simply a temptation to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple—perhaps in the sight of all those bystanders and worshippers in the court below—but was a temptation concerning and regarding the divine protection of the LORD his God. This temptation of the devil in the midst of the wilderness was in fact a temptation centered upon the divine protection of the living and eternal God, and there would be those who would think that Jesus’ response to the devil by not casting Himself down from the pinnacle was somehow a display of a lack of trust and lack of confidence in the living God who was His Father. I sit here today and I firmly believe that one of the greatest temptations the devil can and will present us with in our lives is centered around the divine protection of the LORD our God—and not only the divine protection of the LORD our God, but also our confidence and trust in Him. After Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights without eating anything, He would be hungry, and one of the temptations the devil would bring against him was a temptation surrounding the divine protection of the living God. The devil would even use Scripture in the midst of this temptation, as he hoped Jesus would hear Scripture, and would somehow think that His casting Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple was somehow a demonstration of His trust and confidence in the LORD his God. The temptation which the devil hurled against Jesus was one that centered around the divine protection of the living God—and more than that, it was a temptation whether or not Jesus would in fact fully and completely trust Himself in the divine hands of the Father. The temptation for Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple was essentially a temptation that if He had indeed made the LORD His refuge, and if He did in fact trust in the LORD his God, then He would prove it by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple.

IF YOU TRUST IN THE LORD, PROVE IT! IF YOUR CONFIDENCE IS IN THE LORD, SHOW IT! I can’t help but be absolutely and completely captivated with and by the words contained in this passage of Scripture, for the words found in the narrative of Jesus’ temptation bring us face to face with whether or not we do in fact trust in the LORD our God, and whether or not our confidence is indeed placed in Him. The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was a temptation that was designed to have Jesus tempt the LORD God and test His willingness and ability to protect and uphold Him. This temptation was so sinister because the devil would even use Scripture to somehow tempt Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, thus testing His trust and confidence in the living God, as well as the willingness of the living God to protect Him. This temptation to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple was closely related to another temptation Jesus Himself would hear—one which He would hear on the cross. You will recall that while Jesus was hanging on the cross those who passed by Him taunted, tempted and jeered at Him commanding Him to come down from the cross if He was indeed and truly the Son of God. The temptation which Jesus would experience on the cross was one that would be centered upon the reality of His being the Son of God, and if he was indeed the Son of God, He would come down off the cross. Pause for a moment and think about what great trust and confidence it takes in the living and eternal God—not only to remain atop the pinnacle of the Temple in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, but also to remain upon the cross when others would tempt you to come down from off it. I can’t help but think about the absolutely astonishing reality that it takes a tremendous amount of courage, a tremendous amount of strength, and a tremendous amount of confidence in the living and eternal God to remain hanging upon the cross as opposed to coming down off the cross. Those who passed by Jesus thought that His coming down off the cross would demonstrate that He was indeed and was truly the Son of God, and yet what they failed to recognize and understand was that the true demonstration and the true test of His being the Son of God was His remaining upon the cross until the work had been completed, and until it was finished. We tend to think that in the coming down off the cross we demonstrate the reality that we are indeed the sons and daughters of the living God, and yet the truth of the matter is that it is not in the coming down off the cross the demonstrates trust and confidence in the LORD, but actually remaining upon the cross suspended between earth and sky.

When Satan tempted Jesus the Christ there in the wilderness, and tempted Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, that which he was ultimately doing was tempting and testing whether or not Jesus truly trusted in the LORD His God, and God His Father. The devil would even use Scripture to try and tempt Jesus, as surely Jesus’ casting himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple would only prove and demonstrate the truth and validity of the word of God. I can’t help but think about how much trust and confidence would need to be within the heart and spirit of Jesus to not only speak unto the devil declaring that one should not tempt the LORD thy God, but also to remain atop the pinnacle. Jesus could very easily have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and He could have perhaps even done it in the sight of all those worshippers who were gathered in the court of the Temple to worship the LORD with their gifts and offerings, and yet the truth of the matter is that Jesus’ doing just that actually would not have been any test or demonstration of His trust and confidence in the living God. Pause for a moment and think about what great strength and confidence it takes within one’s heart and soul to know that the LORD can uphold and protect you, and you have absolutely nothing to prove in order to make that reality true. Think about and consider the fact that the greatest demonstration of confidence and trust in the living and eternal God is simply abiding in quietness and rest in the knowledge that He has the power, the strength and the ability to protect us, to guard us, and to uphold us. Think about the tremendous reality that the greatest demonstration and manifestation of our trust and confidence in the living God is not actually in our putting the LORD to the test by deliberately and intentionally placing ourselves in a position where He would need to save us, but by knowing that if and when we find ourselves in those places He is perfectly capable and perfectly able to uphold and protect us. This is what was so absolutely remarkable and astounding about Jesus on the cross, for man thought that His coming down from the cross proved and demonstrated that He was the Son of God, and man thought that His coming down from the cross demonstrated His trust and confidence in the LORD. What I so absolutely love about the narrative of the cross is that not only did Jesus demonstrate His confidence in the LORD by remaining upon the cross, but He also demonstrated the powerful truth and reality that He was indeed the Son of God. Only a true Son would deliberately choose to—and would not only deliberately choose to, but would also willingly abide and remain on the cross. You will notice that one of the thieves who hung next to Jesus taunted and mocked Him, and even asked Him to save Himself and them from the cruel fate and death of being on the cross. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the powerful truth behind our trust and confidence in the LORD, and even our being sons and daughters of the living God.

WE DEMONSTRATE OUR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD BY REMAINING ON THE CROSS! WE DEMONSTRATE OUR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD BY REMAINING ON THE PINNACLE! The devil sought to tempt Jesus the Christ by having Him cast Himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple, and I can’t help but wonder if Satan wanted to see if what the LORD would do, and how the LORD would respond. Had Jesus in fact cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, would the Father actually have sent His holy angels and given them charge to uphold Him, thus preventing His foot from dashing upon and against a rock? I can’t help but wonder if the devil wanted to see whether or not the living and eternal God would uphold and protect this Son of God, or whether or not the Son would be dashed upon the rocks beneath the pinnacle of the Temple. It’s quite the thought to actually think about what would and could have happened had Jesus in fact cast Himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple. We know from Scripture that Jesus responded to the devil—and even responded to the devil’s use of Scripture—by emphatically declaring that one should not tempt the LORD their God. Jesus’ response to the devil tempting Him to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple was actually one that would speak directly to us as the saints and servants of the LORD, for we are commanded not to tempt the LORD our God. Jesus could have very easily cast Himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple, and He could have done it in the sight of all the people, and not only demonstrated the protection of the LORD, but also could have guaranteed and secured men trusting and believing in and upon Him. Think about what would and could have happened in the hearts and minds of men and women who saw Jesus cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and actually watching and beholding as angels upheld Him and prevented His foot from dashing against a stone. Jesus could have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and He could have come down from off the cross, however, neither would truly prove, nor would they demonstrate that He was truly the Son of God. Jesus’ casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and His coming down from off the cross would not have confirmed that He indeed trusted in the LORD his God. Oh, we would like to think that Jesus’ casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple would and could have demonstrated His full and complete trust and confidence in the living God—and not only in the living God, but also in the divine word of God.

The more you read and consider the narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness—particularly and especially this temptation—the more you will encounter the fact that not only did the devil tempt Jesus around the matter of whether or not He was the Son of God, but the devil also tempted Him around the matter of His trust and confidence in the power, the protection, and the strength of the living God. What’s more, is I am convinced that the use of the word of God in this temptation was also designed to tempt Jesus and test whether or not He trusted in the divine word of God. It’s interesting and worth noting that the devil would tempt Jesus with the word of God in order to see whether or not He trusted in the word of God, and yet Jesus responded to His temptation by using the word of God. Stop and consider that for a moment, for while the devil sought to tempt Jesus’ trust and confidence in the living God, Jesus chose to stand upon the authority of the word to resist the devil. WHEN THE DEVIL ATTEMPTS TO TEST YOUR TRUST IN THE WORD OF GOD, YOU STAND UPON THE TRUTH AND THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD TO RESIST HIM! The devil would make an attempt to tempt and test whether or not Jesus fully and completely trusted in the divine word of God—specifically the words of the LORD concerning His protection—and Jesus refused to allow Himself to be manipulated by the temptation of the devil. We must recognize and understand the presence of the word of God within and in the midst of this temptation, for this temptation is perhaps one of the most sinister of all the temptations, for the devil can and will seek to tempt us and test whether or not we truly do trust and believe in the divine word of God. Oh it is sure we might very well know the divine word of God, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we trust in the word of God. What I so love about this temptation is that Jesus trusted in the word of God enough to not cast Himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple and thus tempt the LORD his God, but to instead resist the devil. Jesus would stand upon the word of God—not to tempt the LORD and put Him to the test, but rather to resist the devil and to silence the voice of his temptation. Dear brother, dear sister—do you truly get and understand what great strength, what great confidence, what great trust can and will be present within your heart and soul if and when you realize that the word of God is not something you use to tempt, test and manipulate the living God, but as something you stand upon that you might resist the devil? Do you truly understand the great might and power that surrounds standing upon the word of God to resist the devil rather than tempting the LORD your God, and His ability to guard and protect you?

It’s worth noting that had Jesus given into this temptation—not only would He have given into the temptation of the devil, but He would have also tempted the LORD God, and would have used the word of God to somehow manipulate and control the living God. Oh, I can’t help but get the strong sense that this is one of the great dangers facing the church today as men and women attempt to use Scripture to somehow manipulate, control, and yes—even tempt the LORD our God. There are ministers, teachers, apostles, prophets and the like who will attempt to teach you and lead you into believing that you can use the word of God to your advantage and to somehow cause the living and eternal God to bend and bow to your agenda. There are ministers and leaders who are teaching men and women to use the word of God as a means to tempt and test the living God, and to somehow control Him into doing that which is present within their hearts, and that which is present within their minds. Such ministers can and will tempt men and women to use the word of God as a means to control the living God that they might somehow prove and demonstrate His willingness and ability to move within your life, and to protect you. There are ministers who will teach and have taught men and women to use the word of God as a means to somehow manipulate and control the LORD and His provision within your heart and life. What if I told you that the prosperity gospel and the “name it and claim it” gospel has its root and origin in this particular temptation of Jesus the Christ? What if I told you that the prosperity gospel and the name it and claim it gospel is nothing more than a temptation of the living God, and an attempt to manipulate and control the living God, and somehow bring Him to the place where He bends and bows to your will? Such ministers and leaders will attempt to use the words of David in the book of Psalms when he wrote “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” There are ministers and teachers who will attempt to use the word of God to their own twisted and sadistic desires in an attempt to somehow manipulate and coerce the living God into doing what they wish, want and desire. What makes these ministers even more dangerous is the fact that they will take the word of God and will so twist and distort it in their teaching that they will actually tempt those who would dare listen to their filth to use the word of God to their advantage.

As I sit here today I fully realize and recognize that it might be difficult for you to truly understand how the prosperity gospel and that method of teaching within the body of Christ has its roots in the temptation the devil used against Christ in the wilderness, and yet it is important for us to not only realize that the devil knows Scripture and can twist and manipulate it, but the devil also believes in God and shudders, and the devil can use the Scripture to try and bring you to the place where you think you can use the word of God to somehow coerce and manipulate the living God. Within the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness we are brought face to face with the tremendous reality that the devil sought to use the word of God in his temptation of Christ in order to not only test whether or not Jesus the Christ actually believed the word of God, but would actually use the word of God to somehow manipulate and coerce God into doing what He wanted and desired. Jesus could have very easily cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple based on the word of God, and the word of God would have still held true regardless, however, that which Jesus would have done was use the word of God to His own gain and His own personal advantage. Had Jesus listened to the devil and cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple—not only would He have used the word of God to His own advantage, but he would have also played right into the hand and temptation of the devil. The devil knew the word of God and thought he could use it to tempt Christ—not only whether or not He would believe in the word of God, but whether He would use the word of God to His own advantage. It’s worth noting that even the devil can masquerade as an angel of light, and his ministers themselves can masquerade themselves as ministers of light. This is absolutely and incredibly important when we think about and consider this reality of teachers and ministers using the word of God to their own sadistic desires and natures, for they can and will use the word of God to try and manipulate God into doing for them. Such teachers will cause you to think and believe you can somehow use the word of God to your own selfish, self-centered and self-seeking way that you might control and coerce God into fulfilling your desires, your passions and your lusts. They will even use the words which Jesus spoke about asking anything in His name, and the words of James concerning not having because we do not ask, and will twist these references within the hearts and minds of men and women, thus causing them to think and believe they can use the word of God for their personal gain. What’s more, is they will even state that if you don’t follow and engage in this practice you do not truly trust in, nor do you have confidence in the living God. Even more than this, they will tell you that if it doesn’t work for you within your life you are somehow doing something wrong and aren’t using it to and for your advantage.

I recognize and understand that you might be wondering what all of this has to do with the words which are found within the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, and yet I am convinced that this particular psalm—despite the fact that is both beloved and well-known—is perhaps one of the most widely misunderstood, misquoted and misrepresented psalms in all of Scripture. This reality can be seen and is evidenced in the fact that the devil himself took a portion of this psalm and attempted to use it in his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. What’s so important to recognize is that what the devil did with the words of this psalm was what countless teachers, preachers, ministers, and even saints and servants alike do—namely, isolate a specific portion of the biblical text and use it for their own advantage and personal gain. The devil did with these words found within the book of the Psalms what countless men and women do when they isolate specific words, phrases, sentences, verses, and the like within scripture, and attempt to make it say something it doesn’t. Moreover, what we find within the temptation of Jesus the Christ is Satan himself taking a portion of Scripture—even though the words which are found and contained therein are true—and use them for his own personal gain to try and tempt Jesus the Christ. Had Jesus given into this temptation of the devil he would have also been guilty of sinning against the LORD by isolating and misusing Scripture for His own personal gain. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for had Jesus truly cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple—even based on the truth that was found within the word of God—He would have tempted the LORD God, he would have misused Scripture, and He would have used Scripture for His own gain and means to an end. Jesus could have cast himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple, and had He in fact done that He would have been guilty of taking a portion of Scripture, isolating it from the rest of the text, and making the word of God say something it really does not say. The danger with the temptation which Satan brought against Jesus the Christ is that he isolated one single portion of Scripture and so twisted and distorted it to make it say something it did not. The danger with this temptation is that it dissects the word of God, and isolates certain passages of Scripture in order to make Scripture say what we want to say in order that we can live how we want, and do exactly what we want. This temptation of Satan is one that has been used time and time again throughout history as he will allow you to know Scripture, but will attempt to tempt and bring you to the place where you use Scripture to say what you want it to say in order that you might use it as a license and free will to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. Make not mistake about it, for Satan is okay with you knowing and studying Scripture if he can bring you to the place where you use Scripture to satisfy your own selfish desires and whims. Oh how we must recognize and understand that there is a great and present danger in attempting to use Scripture to our own twisted advantage my making it say something it does not so that we can do something we weren’t meant to do.

TWISTING SCRIPTURE TO MAKE IT SAY SOMETHING IT DOES NOT SO WE HAVE LICENSE TO DO WHAT WE HAVE BEEN COMMANDED NOT TO! Perhaps the most dangerous element of this temptation of Jesus was not merely using Scripture to somehow bring Jesus into the place where Scripture would say something it was never meant to se in order that Jesus might do something He was never intended on doing. Jesus wasn’t sent to the earth to demonstrate that He was the Son of God by casting Himself down from mountains, or pinnacles of the Temple, or from any other structure. Jesus wasn’t sent to the earth to demonstrate His trust and confidence in the word of God, and in His Father by listening to the temptation of Satan in the wilderness which appeared to be based on Scripture and the word of God. It would have been very easy for Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of that Temple, and it have been nothing too difficult or impossible for the Father to give His angels charge over the Son that He might not dash His foot against a rock. The problem is that had Jesus listened to the temptation of the devil, and had Jesus given into casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple—not only would He not have truly demonstrated the power of the living God, but He also would not have demonstrated His confidence and trust in the word of God. Jesus knew Scripture for He was the living and eternal Word that became flesh, and Jesus knew the psalm where these words were found, and yet Jesus would and could not allow Satan to twist the word of God in order that he might manipulate it to his advantage and somehow get Jesus to make the Scripture say something it was never intended on saying that He might do something He was never intended on doing. One of the great and underlying dangers facing the body of Christ today is men and women who attempt to make the word of God say something it was never meant to say in order that they might have license and excuse to do those things they were never intended on doing. There are countless teachers and preachers who have used the word of God and have so twisted and distorted it that they have deceived men and women into thinking they can use the word of God to coerce and manipulate God into doing their own biddings and their own desires, and to do those things they were never intended or created on doing. Jesus could have listened to the temptation of the devil, and He could have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple thinking that He was somehow proving and demonstrating that He was indeed the Son of God, and proving the word of God to be true, however, by doing so He would have been tempting the LORD His God in the process.

If there is one thing we must recognize concerning this passage is that in order to understand what it says, we must understand what it doesn’t say. To truly encounter and come face to face with that which it doesn’t say we need to turn and direct our attention to the temptation of Jesus the Christ in hew wilderness, for through His temptation we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality of what this passage didn’t say, and what Satan tried making it say. It’s important for us to recognize and understand that the word of God is true, and the word of God will never return void, and the psalmist who wrote the words within this passage did in fact believe and declare that the living and eternal God would give His angels charge over His people, however, these words were never meant to be isolated and separated from the rest of the text. How do you know if you are in danger of making the Scripture say something you want it to say, or something you think it should say, or even something it doesn’t say? You do so by isolating texts and isolating verses and isolating passages from the rest of Scripture in order to formulate some new truth, or some new doctrine, or some new truth. Perhaps another way to explain this even further is found in the words which Jesus Jesus spoke and declared about drinking deadly poison and it not harming us. Consider the words which Jesus spoke and are recorded for us in the sixteenth and final chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark to get an idea of a passage that would be incredibly easy to take out of context and form a doctrine around: “In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18). It would be very easy to take the words “they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” out of context and yet the truth of the matter is that there is a tremendous danger surrounding such a false reality and such a false mindset. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for if you isolate Scripture, and if you begin isolating verses and passages from what is before and around them, you play a dangerous game with the word of God—one where you start becoming the author, and one where you start to think as though you can somehow control and command the word of God. Oh dear brother, dear sister—there is something incredibly dangerous when you start taking Scripture out of context, and when you start isolating Scripture to make it say something you want it to say, or something you believe it should say, and by so doing you start acting as you are a greater authority than the word of God.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by taking Him to the Temple and commanding Him to cast Himself down from one of the pinnacles of the Temple to prove He was the Son of God, He attempted to use the divine word of God as a tool and instrument against Jesus to somehow bring Him to the place where He would tempt and test the LORD God—even testing Him by and according to His own Word. I am convinced that one of the biggest passages of Scripture found within Scripture that is so taken out of context and twisted where we tempt and test the LORD our God is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifty-fifth chapter of this Old Testament prophetic book you will find some of the most beloved and well-known language in all of Scripture, and yet the words which are found and contained here have been widely misused, abused, misinterpreted, misread, and so twisted by men and women in order that they test and tempt the living God. There have been teachers, preachers, ministers, and individuals alike who have used this passage to tempt and test the living God—specifically preachers, teachers and ministers alike. There have been countless men and women who have used the words contained within this passage to their own advantage and to their own selfish gain—specifically concerning the divine word of God. Consider if you will the following words which are found written and recorded within this particular passage of Scripture beginning to read with and form the sixth verse:

“Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsaken his way, and the unrighteousness man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returned not thither, but watereth the the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:6-12).

I am absolutely and completely convinced that if we are to truly understand and appreciate the words which are found within a passage such as Psalm 97 we must understand what it does not say. I feel compelled to reiterate the tremendous fact that the temptation of Jesus presents us with the undeniable reality of what this passage does not say, and how a passage like this can be taken entirely out of context and twisted into something it was never meant to be. The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness aptly and profoundly demonstrates how the devil can take the divine word of God and so twist and manipulate it to make it say something it was never intended, and to somehow bring us to the place where we would dare tempt the living and eternal God. Psalm 97 does in fact speak about the divine protection of the living and eternal God, and within the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness the devil was in fact seeking to highlight and underscore this divine protection. The danger, however, was in using the divine protection of the LORD—the promise of the LORD to protect His own—as a means to test the living God. The devil would use this passage of divine protection as a means to somehow tempt Jesus to testing the LORD God and His willingness and ability to protect Him. Essentially that which the devil was doing was tempting Jesus to not only put the LORD God to the test, but also to somehow demonstrate and prove that He was the Son of God by using Scripture to His advantage. Jesus could have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and by doing so He could have demonstrated that He was the Son of God, and He could have demonstrated and revealing the words of the psalm were indeed true, and yet by doing so He would have betrayed the divine word of God, and would have undermined the very purpose for which He had been sent. Jesus could have turned stones into bread, and used His divine power to satisfy His own needs, and yet rather than doing this He would resist the devil with the word of God as He would declare that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the living God. Oh how absolutely necessary and imperative it is that we recognize and understand this, for had Jesus turned stones into bread He would have used His divine power to satisfy His own needs, and had Jesus cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple He would have tempted and tested the LORD God, and used the word of God to His own personal advantage. It’s quite interesting to think about and consider that in turning stones to bread Jesus could have used His divine power to serve His own needs, and by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple He would have used the divine word of God to test the LORD God, and to somehow prove Scripture to be true. Jesus could have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and He could have done so in the sight of those who were worshipping the living God, and It is true that by doing so He might have put on a shown the divine protection of the living and eternal God, but He would have twisted and manipulated Scripture for His own advantage and personal gain.

The ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms is perhaps one of the most widely known and widely quoted psalms and passages in all of Scripture. Although we wouldn’t think of this particular psalm as being a Messianic psalm, we have to think about the fact that when tempting Jesus in the wilderness the devil took a portion of this psalm and used it as grounds to tempt the Son of God. When tempting Jesus in the wilderness the devil took a portion of this psalm—specifically a portion that deal with the LORD giving His angels charge over His servant to. Keep them in all their ways, and how they would bear them up in their hands, lest they dash their foot against a stone. It’s quite interesting and unique to think about and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for when attempting to tempt the Son of God the devil not only tempted Him according to and using the word of God, but he also tempted Him according to the divine protection of the Father. The devil knew Scripture, and the devil knew the protection the Father would provide for His servants, and he sought to use this knowledge—perhaps even this trust and a confidence in the divine protection of the LORD to try and bring Jesus to the place where He would test the LORD God, and test whether or not the LORD would protect Him. The tremendous and inherent danger surrounding this temptation actually takes on a whole different level when you think about the fact that had Jesus given into this temptation, and had Jesus cast Himself from the pinnacle of the Temple before the devil, He would have quite possible demonstrated His ability to save and protect Himself—specifically and especially if the Father did not send His angels to bear Him up lest He dash His foot against the stones below. It’s worth noting that one of two things could have happened had Jesus given into the temptation of the devil—either the Father would have sent angels to bear Him up thus preventing Him from dashing His foot against a stone, or Jesus could have used His divine power to deliver Himself. What if Jesus did indeed cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, and what if He doubted Scripture, and/or doubted that the Father would actually give His angels charge over Him, and as a direct result of this doubt, He chose to save and deliver Himself? We dare not miss and lose sight of this reality, for if Jesus believed that God would and could deliver Him from this sudden death and destruction, He might very well have believed—yea, even expected—the living God to deliver Him from something as sinister and as dark as the cross. It would have been very easy for Jesus to think to Himself that if the Father saved Him from sudden death after casting Himself from one of the pinnacles of the Temple, the Father would surely save and spare Him from death. The truth of the matter, however, is that the Father would not save, nor would He spare Jesus from death, yet it wasn’t death that would have come as a result of casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, but rather death that would come as a result of the cross upon which He would die and be crucified upon. Consider if you will the words which are found within the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah:

“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is d despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, Yet he opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken. And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travel of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:1-11).

Perhaps the most intriguing and astonishing reality surrounding the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness is that this temptation was centered around Jesus being the Son of God, Jesus’ trust and confidence in the word of God, and by His trust in the word of God, so also His trust in the nature and character of the living God. The temptation of Jesus by the devil was so sinister, for had Jesus cast Himself from one of the pinnacles of the Temple, and had He been spared and saved by angels who had borne Him up so that His foot did not dash against a stone, He might very well have come to expect the Father to deliver Him from any sudden danger, from any sudden destruction, from any sudden death. This might even have included the Father delivering Him from the persecution and from the death which He would experience—first at the hands of the chief priests, the elders of Israel, and the scribes within Judaea and Jerusalem, and secondly at the hands of the Romans. In fact, immediately after Simon also called Peter emphatically declared and proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ and the Son of the living God, Jesus began from that time on teaching them how He must needs go unto Jerusalem, and how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, and how He must die, and on the third day be risen again. Jesus knew His divine mission and assignment within the earth would ultimately lead Him to the cross where He would suffer and died for the penalty and judgment of sin that humanity might be saved, ransomed and redeemed. What makes the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness so dangerous is that had Jesus given into the temptation and cast Himself forth from the pinnacle of the Temple, and had Jesus in fact been saved and spared from dashing His foot against a stone, He might have come to expect the Father to deliver Him from anything that would bring Him suffering, anything that would bring Him pain, anything that would bring Him affliction, and even death. The truth of the matter is that the Father never desired, nor did He intend to deliver Jesus the Christ His only begotten Son from death, nor from suffering and persecution, but rather deliver Him through it. The Father would not deliver Jesus from the cruelty and malice of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and the Father would not deliver Jesus from the suffering and persecution of the Romans as they would beat Him thirty-nine times in the Praetorium. Jesus would have His face spit upon, slapped, and punched, and would even have a crown of thorns placed upon His brow as a means of mockery. What’s more, is that Jesus would have His hands and His feet nailed to the cross and would be hung there suspended between earth and sky before the crowd which was gathered before and around Him. It’s important that we recognize and understand this, for not only would the Father not deliver Jesus from the suffering, from the persecution, and from the death upon the cross, but the Father would actually be pleased to allow Jesus to suffer.

There is a misguided perception when reading a psalm such as this, and that misconception is that the living and eternal God our Father can and will deliver us from all suffering, from all opposition, from all affliction, and from anything that would cause us pain, destroy, and even produce death within us. We read words such as those which are found in the ninety-first chapter of the book of the Psalms, and we think of them in terms of the living and eternal God delivering us from anything that would bring us harm and bring us danger, and yet the truth of the matter is that the words found in Scripture never guaranteed, nor did they ever promise that the Father would deliver us from everything that would seek to cause us suffering, everything that would cause us pain, and everything that would cause us to experience sorrow, anguish, and grief within our hearts and lives. The words which are found in this particular chapter of the book of the Psalms are powerful words that describe the divine protection of the living God, and yet the truth of the matter is that we dare not walk through this life expecting Jesus to deliver us out of all our troubles, for even Jesus Himself declared that in this world we will have many trials and many afflictions, but not to fear because he has overcome the world. What’s more, is that Jesus didn’t prepare the disciples to be loved, but He prepared the disciples to be hated, to be persecuted, to be afflicted, and even to be put to death. Jesus prepared His disciples for suffering, to be hated, to face persecution and affliction, and even to experience death itself. Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that the words of this psalm still hold true—even though we might walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and even through we might indeed experience and face suffering, trials, trouble, persecution, affliction, and the like? Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that the words of this psalm might not mean that the LORD will deliver you from and deliver you out of all your trials and all your troubles, but rather that the living God would deliver you through them? Pause for a moment and think about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and how the LORD didn’t deliver them FROM the fiery furnace, and He actually allowed them to be bound and cast alive into the fiery furnace. The living and eternal God didn’t deliver these three Hebrews from the flames of the furnace, but rather delivered them in the furnace and through the furnace. What’s more, is that we have to think about Daniel, for the LORD didn’t and wouldn’t deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, but would allow Daniel in his innocence to be cast into the lion’s den. What we must realize and recognize is that although Daniel would be cast into the lion’s den, the LORD would deliver him in and through this experience, for the LORD would stop the mouths of the lions, and would ultimately bring forth Daniel in his innocence out of that den. What’s interesting to think about and consider is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego faced the flames of the fiery furnace, and yet the LORD delivered them from the flames of the furnace by not allowing them to have any power or authority over them. The living and eternal God allowed Daniel to be cast into the den of lions, and Daniel was indeed surrounded by lions, and yet the LORD would shut the mouths of the lions and not allow them to harm him in any way.

DELIVERANCE DOESN’T MEAN DELIVERANCE FROM THE EXPERIENCE, BUT DELIVERANCE THROUGH THE EXPERIENCE! What if the words which we find within the ninety-first chapter of the book of the Psalms doesn’t necessarily mean the LORD will deliver us from the midst of our trials, from the midst of our troubles, and from the midst of our suffering and affliction, but rather that he delivers us through and in the midst of them? We tend to think that the deliverance and salvation of the LORD is and can only be manifested by and through His delivering us from those trials, troubles, test, afflictions, suffering, persecution, sorrow, anguish and grief, and yet the truth of the matter is that the LORD is just as powerful delivering us through and in the midst of that suffering as He is delivering us from that suffering. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—do you trust in the LORD enough to believe in His deliverance and salvation if it means you walk through that which you had hoped to avoid? We read the words found within the ninety-first chapter of the book of the Psalms, and yet the underlying premise that is found within this passage of Scripture is found in the opening verses of the passage, for it is in the opening verses of the chapter we find the psalmist declaring unto the reader, saying, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: My God; in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2). What’s more, is that this is further confirmed and built upon in the final verses of the chapter, as the psalmist would also go on to declare, “Because He hath set His love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will e with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and shew him my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16). It is important that we recognize and understand these words and these verses, for the underlying foundation and premise of this entire psalm is n to even necessarily in the divine protection of the living and eternal God, but rather our dwelling in the secret place of the most High, our willingness and ability to say of the LORD that He is our refuge and our fortress, and declaring that He is our God in whom we will trust. The question we must ask ourselves when reading the words in this passage of Scripture is not necessarily whether or not the living God can and will deliver us from suffering, from affliction, from trials, from troubles, and the like, but whether or not we are dwelling in the secret place of the most High. The question is centered upon whether or not we say and declare of the LORD that He is our refuge and our fortress, and that He is our God in whom we will trust.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel compelled to ask whether or not you believe that the God whom you worship, and the God whom you serve is just as good, and just as faithful if He allows you to walk through those things you thought—and perhaps even expected—Him to deliver you from. If the living and eternal God allows you to walk through the fire, and allows you to walk through the flood, do you and would you still trust in Him, and would you still make Him your refuge? Do you believe that even if you walk through the fire and the flood that the LORD your God is your refuge and your fortress? What makes the narrative of the three Hebrews, as well as Daniel so incredibly powerful is that the LORD was indeed their refuge and He was indeed their fortress, yet that reality and truth was not seen outside the fiery furnace, nor was it seen outside the den of lions, but it was actually seen in the midst of them. The LORD was the refuge and fortress for the three Hebrew boys, and yet that fortress and refuge was seen in the midst of the flames, as it wasn’t just them in the flames of the furnace, but there was a fourth man in the fire with them. It would be that fourth man in the fire that would be their fortress and their refuge from the flames, and would ultimately bring about their coming forth from the midst of the furnace. We dare not and must not miss this reality, for even when we speak about Daniel and the den of lions we must recognize and understand that the living God was truly and was indeed his refuge and his fortress, yet that didn’t mean Daniel would be delivered from the den of lions. More often than not we think that the LORD is our refuge and our defense in His ability to deliver us from those things that would cause us suffering, hurt, harm and pain, and yet the truth of the matter is that the LORD is just as much our refuge and fortress should He choose to deliver us in and deliver us through suffering and affliction rather than delivering us from and out of it. Psalm 91 does indeed speak of the LORD’s ability to protect us, and yet the truth of the matter is that this does not in the slightest bit mean the LORD will deliver us from those things which threaten us, and those things which might very well cause us hurt, pain and suffering. This entire psalm is about the divine protection of the living and eternal God, and yet I am absolutely convinced that the LORD can and might very well allow us to walk through those things we think we need to and should be delivered from, and it is in the midst of what we experience and face—regardless whether it is in life or through death—the LORD is truly and indeed our refuge and our fortress. Oh that we would indeed trust in the divine protection of the living and eternal God, but that we would not expect, nor be deceived and misguided into thinking that the LORD can and will always deliver us FROM our trials and troubles rather than delivering us THROUGH and IN them. Oh that we would truly and indeed trust in the divine protection of the LORD our God, and that we would place our trust and confidence in Him, but that we would not allow our hearts and minds to be deceived into thinking and believing the LORD can and will save and spare us from everything rather than allowing us to walk through and face them. The LORD is indeed and is truly our refuge and fortress, yet that reality is just as much true in the midst of suffering and affliction as it is in being spared from ever walking through and experiencing it.

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