The story continues with the second test with which Satan tempts Christ. “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”‘” (Matt. 4:6). The devil issues his challenge quoting Psalm 91:11-12. He conveniently does not mention verse 13, “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.” The devil can quote Scripture as well as we can. He knows the Bible better than we do.
Christ must once again prove His status as the Son of God. He knows God will protect Him. And He will not take the bait. “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”‘” (Matt. 4:7). Once again, Jesus quotes God’s covenant. He references Deuteronomy 6:6. In so doing, He maintains His posture toward the Devil. Jesus displays His heart. He loves His Father. He will not compromise. He will keep covenant with His Father. He will keep covenant with His Father and do so for you and me
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me'” (Matt. 4:8-9). Jesus knew His Father promised Him peoples and nations. “I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2:8). On His part, Jesus must be “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Again, our Lord declares His covenant love for His Father. “I will not bow to you, devil. I love My Father. I will keep covenant with My Father. I will keep covenant with My Father for My people.”
Ironically, the devil promises Jesus the ministry of the angels if He will obey him. However, as a result of His covenant faithfulness to His Father, “The devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (Matt. 4:11).
What are we to make of this work of Christ? Merely quoting Scripture is not the answer to combating the devil. Yes, we must know and memorize Scripture. More importantly, we must live according to Scripture. Following Jesus Christ, we must lovingly keep covenant with God, our Father. Admittedly, we will not do so perfectly. And so, part of our covenant love for the Father is to admit our sins and failures and to seek God’s forgiveness based on Christ’s death on the cross for us.
At the same time, Jesus Christ maintained true covenant love with His Father, and He did so perfectly. As C. S. Lewis famously observes in Mere Christianity, “Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means” (New York: Macmillan, 1958, 110). Yes, Jesus Christ pressed through every temptation and sustained every test. As the Second Adam, He fulfilled covenant love to the utmost on behalf of you and me. On the one hand, Adam’s sin and covenant failure become our sin and covenant failure (Rom. 5:18a, 19a).
However, on the other hand, Christ’s covenant-keeping love becomes our covenant-keeping love (Rom 5:18b, 19b). It was for this reason that the Spirit led our Savior into the wilderness to begin His ministry and to press through every temptation and sustain every test. And as already observed, Jesus Christ is obedient in covenant-keeping love to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). This covenant-keeping love is a gift to you and me through faith in Him. Trust Christ’s covenant-keeping love for you.