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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Monday, February 16, 2015


Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
     Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4: 5-7)
I believe that the second temptation that confronted Jesus in the desert was about what could be called demandingness.  You see, the Israelites had put the Lord their God to the test at Massah (Exodus 17:3); and not in a positive way I might add.  In fact, the way they put him to the test at Massah is referred to numerous times in the scriptures as something not to do.  They were thirsty and demanded that God provide for them.  And not only did they demand it, but they also quarreled and tested and grumbled.  It was not a pretty sight.  They had a particular idea for how (and when) God should show up for them, and they didn't mind telling him about it.  In fact, God disliked their attitude so much that he actually named the place where this occurred Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling), so that anytime the encounter was remembered, this particular attitude would be on display (Exodus 17:7).  It seems that a spirit of demandingness and manipulation is something that God doesn't take kindly to. 
So what in the world does that have to do with the second temptation presented to Jesus in the desert?  Well, it would seem that the root of what the devil was trying to tempt Jesus to do is to demand that God act a certain way on his behalf.  "Throw yourself off the temple and force God's hand," he seems to be saying.  "Make him operate by your agenda.  Force him to intervene on your behalf."  But once again, Jesus knew better.  "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test," he replied, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.  But he didn't finish the quote, which states, "...as you did at Massah."  That is, when you quarreled and tested and grumbled.  Jesus obviously knew God's heart.  He knew that an attitude of demandingness and manipulation were two things that God would not stand for.  So Jesus would have none of it.  He entrusted himself completely to God's care and God's agenda.

How does this temptation play out for us?  Good question.  As a matter of fact, it likely plays out a little differently for each of us.  In order to see the way it plays out for you, ask yourself, "What do I do when things don't go my way?  What do I do when I experience suffering, pain, or disappointment?  How do I deal with it?  What does it do in me?  Do I get angry, or blame, or accuse?  Do I try harder, or perform, or try to butter God up?  Or do I quarrel and test and grumble?"  I don't know about you, but I tend to do all of the above.  All in a feeble attempt to get my way, to get God to act the way I want him to.  And when our feelings are hurt, or our demands are unmet, or we are disappointed that things aren't going the way we had dreamed or planned or hoped, we immediately ask why.  We immediately accuse God of mismanagement.  We begin to doubt the goodness of God's heart.  Which, in turn, causes us to turn on him just like the Israelites did.  We grumble and complain and quarrel, or we sulk and whine and pout.  We withdraw.  We distance ourselves from God.  Oh it can be very subtle, but it is still there.  And it can even appear to us as if God is the one who is absent, but we are in fact the ones who have moved.  And until the root issues of our disappointment are identified, exposed, and wrestled with, there can never be any hope for the intimacy with God that we most deeply long for.

So help us Lord Jesus.  Help us to see this temptation for what it is.  Help us to be attentive to all of the ways we are tempted to believe that you do not really care for us.  Help us to recognize the ways in which we are demanding and manipulative of you.  Give us the grace and the strength and the wisdom to respond to these temptations as you did.  Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

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