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Finale – Satan’s Weakness

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When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time. [Luke 4.13]

How much tempting did the devil do to the Lord?  Depending on how you see it, the devil tempted the Lord for forty days, [Luke 4.1-2] or just three times according to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, or five times according to The Testimony.

Now, consider what is at stake for the devil.  He is not facing off another prophet of God, but the Holy One of God – the Son of God Himself – and he knew it.  How can I say the devil knew it?  Because if demons could say, “I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” [Luke 4.34] to Jesus, then the devil must also know who Jesus is.

Surely the devil knew that if he let Jesus come out alive from the desert, it could be the end of his plans and even the end of his existence.  Did the devil, the craftiest of all of God’s wild creatures, not know what was at stake?  He did.  However, knowing that, even if he were to tempt Jesus every day for forty days and not succeed, it was no reason to give up.  But he did.  If indeed, the five or three times as written in the Testimony and in the gospels respectively are actually the few times he engaged Jesus in those forty days, then the devil is not as crafty as he likes to think he is.

Jesus was alone in the desert, getting weaker and weaker by the day from hunger and thirst, with no one else to help Him.  Being a spirit, he could see if there were angels there and so know if Jesus was alone.  Not only that, Jesus was led there by the Holy Spirit to be tempted. [Matthew 4.1]  It can be seen that the temptation of Jesus was sanctioned by the Holy Spirit.  What was the devil waiting for?  A God sanctioned temptation of the One who could end it all for him?  And all he could think of was tempting a thirsty Man to turn stone to bread.  He did not even remember that it was the lack of drinkable water that caused the Israelites to grumble as soon as they left Egypt.  Shouldn’t he have tempted Jesus to strike the rock to get Himself a cool drink?

Offering the riches and the glory of the kingdoms of the world to One who is the King of a realm far more glorious than anything on Earth without relieving first His thirst and hunger?  Consider this:  Satan could not even conjure up a cool beer and some hot bread, and he was claiming that the riches and the glory of all the kingdoms of the earth belong to him.  That is like a beggar trying to sell an investment plan to a billionaire.

And then to insult the Lord’s intelligence by saying, “If You are the Son of God…” [Matthew 4.3, 6; Luke 4.3, 9]  Did he seriously think that Jesus did not know He is the Son of God when as young as twelve Jesus had already said, “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” [Luke 2.49]

All Satan succeeded in doing was to make Jesus angry, but not angry enough to sin.  Offering a thirsty man a loaf of bread will only make him more thirsty.  Offering a rich man paltry, tardy trinkets if he would worship you while you leave him hungry and thirsty is just a stupid insult.  Questioning if a person really knows his identity when all along the only reason you are tempting him is precisely because you already know who he is just reveals the limitations of your repertoire of tricks.  And then you leave to wait for a more opportune time?  What if a more opportune time never comes?  Then what?

So, what does this reveal to you and I about Satan?

Firstly, he lacks endurance, for he gave up after a few times over a period of forty days.  Yes, this is his weakness – the lack of endurance.  Regardless of whether you agree that his tactics left much to be desired or not, to only have a few attempts at destroying the very person who will destroy you when you have the opportunity reveals a total lack of commitment and desperation to secure your own survival.  That is why Jesus urged His disciples to “Make every effort…” [Luke 13.24] to “…stands firm to the end…” [Matthew 10.22; 24.13; Mark 13.13] and “…to hold on…” [Revelation 2.25; 3.11] because patient endurance defeats Satan every time.  He will give up to wait for a more opportune time, or his impatience will cause him to make a mistake.

Satan should have tried more than a few times and a lot longer.  He should never have left Jesus alone to wait for a more opportune time.  He should have persevered and endured, and come up with an opening move better than challenging a hungry and thirsty man to change stone to bread twice in a row.  That shows his incomplete insight of the human condition.

Any man knows that you do not offer a thirsty and hungry man food before you have offered him water.  Herein lays Satan’s true weakness.  It is not his lack of endurance or clumsy attempts of temptation, but rather, his incomplete insight of the human condition.  Satan literally does not know what it is to be a man.  God through Jesus does.  That is Jesus’ advantage, and likewise, our advantage through Jesus Christ.

What the temptation of Jesus by Satan shows is that any man could have done a better job of it.  A man would have tested Jesus to bring forth water from the rock, or offered Jesus a cold drink in exchange for His worship.   And if a man knew Jesus is not another mere man, but really the Son of God, he would have taken Him prisoner and demanded a ransom from His Father.  Killing someone who could be a noble is not at all profitable.

That is why Jesus told us, His disciples, to be as cunning as a serpent and as harmless as a dove, for man can be more cunning than Satan, and does less harm to himself than Satan has done to himself.

It is the lack of complete insight of the human condition that will cause Satan to hand over his authority to a man and covet the praises of men.  Neither of which Jesus ever did.  He retained all authority and had no need for the praises of men, for He knew what is in men’s hearts.  Satan does not, and that is his weakness.

Hr. Ed Kwan

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NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.  www.zondervan.com

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