temptation

2 Samuel 11, Ezekiel 18

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Samuel 11 and Ezekiel 18.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 11.

The most famous passage in 2 Samuel stands before us today. There are several lessons to be learned from David’s sin but the one I want to focus on today is in verse 3: “The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” This answer was the result of David’s inquiry about Bathsheba; verse 3 says, “David sent someone to find out about her.” That statement is vague; what exactly did David want to find out?

He might have merely been seeking her name. If that’s the case, then all he needed to hear was “Bathsheba.” He might have been seeking her marital status. David already had several wives (2 Sam 5:13) so he might have been willing to add one more if she were single. Given that Bathsheba did not yet have any children, she was probably still very young. The fact that the man who was sent to find out about her mentioned her father first in his report might be a clue that this is what David was after.

The most important bit of information that David got in verse 3 was the news that she is “the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” That should have ended the conversation right there. She was another man’s wife. It was therefore inappropriate for David to have any further contact with her and he knew it.

He also knew that her husband wasn’t home. David was usually out with his army and doubtless knew who Uriah was. It was unusual for a Hittite to convert to Judaism and fight in Israel’s army. He also was, obviously, a very loyal and righteous man (vv. 6-13). It seems clear that David knew her husband was away fighting the Lord’s battle which was David’s battle as well. The fact that David, having heard that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, immediately “sent messengers to get her” (v. 4) indicates that he saw the opportunity to sin and he took it. If her husband was at home with her or could be home soon from work or whatever, David would never have attempted to get with her. His sin was made possible by (1) not being where he should have been (2) being bored (v. 2) and not finding a righteous way to occupy his mind (3) acting on his lust when he saw something he shouldn’t have seen (4) ignoring the obvious boundaries (her marriage and her husband’s diligence in his duty as a soldier) (5) deciding that her husband’s absence was an opportunity to sin.

It seems clear that David did not intend to sin when he stayed home from fighting. It wasn’t his fault that he had insomnia or boredom. It is unfortunate that he didn’t respond by his boredom by spending time with one of his wives or playing his harp or going to the tabernacle (it was open 24/7/365) or read God’s word. The fact that he didn’t do any of those things wasn’t a sin either. He probably didn’t intend to be a peeping Tom when he went out on his roof at night. People used their roofs in his time like we use a deck or patio today. As I mentioned, it wasn’t a sin for David to ask about Bathsheba since she might have been an eligible bachelorette. Temptation does this to us. It takes situations that we innocently wander into and presents us with opportunities we think we might be able to get away with.

There are a few lessons, then, to learn from this situation:

Be careful when you’re not doing what you normally would be doing. Be careful about how you handle your boredom. Be aware that temptation sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Respect the boundaries God has put into place. They exist to warn you that danger lies beyond them.

Ultimately, though, none of us can avoid temptation. We carry around depravity in our hearts and it is easily aroused. Jesus saved us from the consequences we deserve for being sinners and for sinning but he also commands us and empowers us to live a holy life. We need to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” just as Christ taught us to pray because we are weak and temptation is so powerful. Let David’s compromises and sins cause you to turn to Christ for help each day.

Deuteronomy 8, Isaiah 36, Psalm 149

Today we’re reading Deuteronomy 8, Isaiah 36, Psalm 149.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 8.

I have heard people who are encountering difficult times in their lives refer to that difficult period of time as “wandering in the wilderness.” That phrase is a metaphor drawn from Israel’s 40 years of literally wandering in the wilderness. Moses talked about that here in Deuteronomy 8. In verses 2-3, he described the reasons for that wilderness wandering. Those reasons were:

  • to humble the Israelites (v. 2b)
  • to test the Israelites in order to reveal whether or not they would keep God’s commands from the heart (v. 2c).
  • to teach the Israelites to rely on God (v. 3d).

If we think of times in our lives as wilderness wanderings, do we think about these purposes? Many times when we suffer we think that our suffering is has no purpose or we have a vague sense that our faith is being tested. These verses would challenge us to think more deeply about these problems. While this passage was not given to say that every problem or trial in life is like this, God’s ways do follow similar patterns. So it is appropriate, when we are suffering, to think about God’s reasons for bringing this suffering into our lives along the lines described in verses 2-3--to humble us, to test us, and to teach us.

Let’s focus on that third one, “to teach us.” Verse 3d tells us that God wanted to teach a very specific lesson which was that “man does not live on bread alone but on eery word that comes from the mouth of God.” This phrase relates to God’s miraculous gift of manna (v. 3b). The point of the lesson was that God would provide for his people if they trusted him and obeyed his word, even if they didn’t know how he would provide. I am sure that it is hard to trust God when you have a credible fear of starving. With no food or access to the usual sources of food, a person may be tempted to curse God, to jettison faith, or to conclude that God does not exist. God and Moses wanted people to know that they needed to trust God to stay alive more than they needed everyday sources of food.

Israel wandered and suffered in the desert. Jesus also suffered in the desert. His suffering lasted 40 days rather than 40 years but he countered Satan’s first temptation by quoting this passage, Deuteronomy 8:3d. He knew well that it was more important to trust God the Father than it was to provide for his daily needs by any means necessary. When he refused to sin by turning stones into bread, he was depending on the promise that God the Father would provide for him if he trusted and obeyed God’s word.

Have you experienced a trial in your life that taught you to trust God and the promises of his word? If so, then you’ve seen him provide for you, not the miracle provision of manna but in some way showing himself faithful after you obeyed his word.

When we are tempted to sin, we need this message just as Jesus used this message when he was tempted to sin. Giving in to temptation might meet a need, relieve a problem, or satisfy a desire, but it is the opposite of trusting God. If you face temptation today, remember this--God has allowed this into your life to teach you to trust him. If you will trust him, he will provide for you just as he provided manna for Israel and angels to meet Jesus’s needs.

1 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

This chapter concluded Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the matter of eating meat offered to idols. The chapter began by pointing to Israel’s history (vv. 1-5), showing that God did so much for the entire nation (vv. 1-4) yet many in that nation fell under the judgment of God due to their unbelief (v. 5). This survey of Israel’s exodus was addressed to the Corinthian believers who believed they were strong in Christ and could exercise much Christian liberty. Yes, God has done much in your life and in your church but his powerful acts in Israel did not prevent people from worshipping idols (vv. 6-7), committing sexual sins (v. 8), testing Christ (v. 9), and being complainers (v. 10). We too have received much from Christ but that should never lead us to believe that we are immune from sin (vv. 11-12).

Although idols aren’t real and there is no spiritual or moral damage done by eating meat offered to idols, there is temptation associated with idol meat. That temptation is idolatry (v. 14). True, the idols are not real gods or representatives of real gods, nevertheless idolatry is demonic (v. 20). If the Corinthian Christians participate in Christ through communion (vv. 16-17) then go to the idol’s temple and are involved there (vv. 18-22), they are participating in the demonic and will face the Lord’s discipline (vv. 21-22).

It is important, then, whenever a Christian exercises Christian liberty not to focus on themselves but on others around them (vv. 23-30). The guiding questions for a Christian’s life are (a) am I playing with temptation to sin but calling it Christian liberty (vv. 12-13) and (b) is God glorified by this (v. 31)--meaning does it help or create obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the lives of others (vv. 32-33)?

Christians may answer these questions differently on the same subject. Here’s an example: One issue that Christians debate is whether it is acceptable to drink alcohol. The Bible condemns and warns against drunkenness but not against all consumption of alcohol. Christ himself drank wine and most Christians have throughout the century until very recently. But alcoholism is a serious problem in our world and many Christians were saved from a sinful life where alcohol was part of their sinful lifestyle. Many of these stopped drinking completely in order to live an orderly, obedient life to Christ. Personally, I don’t drink at all for several reasons, but if I did, I would be exposing myself to temptation--the temptation to drink too much and the possible reckless things I might do while drunk. So, if I were to choose to exercise my Christian liberty by having a beer, my faith in Christ and desire to please him should lead me to be careful about having more than one or two, lest I give into temptation (vv. 12-13).

Also, it may not be wrong for me to drink a glass of wine, but if I knowingly drink when I’m with another believer who doesn’t drink because he has less self-control, then I am sinning by putting him into a position where he may be tempted. So the limits of Christian liberty are about avoiding temptation myself and not leading another believer or unbeliever to sin (v. 32).

Is there an area of your life where you’re living in Christian liberty but you’re tempted to go further into something that is sinful? Are you considerate of the affect of your life on others--either leading them closer to Christ or misleading them from following Christ? Let these chapters from 1 Corinthians help you to guide your thinking as you make choices in everyday life.

Luke 4

Today we’re reading Luke 4.

Before Jesus began his public ministry in verse 14, it was appropriate for him to win a private victory. Specifically, in order to preach righteousness to others, Jesus had to practice righteousness first himself. That’s what his temptation in the wilderness in verses 1-13 was about.

Although Jesus was fully human his virgin conception kept him from receiving a fallen nature like the rest of us humans have. He did not have any inward pull toward sin like you and I have. That’s why Satan had to get creative in tempting him. He tempted him with food when he had been fasting (vv. 2-3); there is nothing sinful about eating food, so the temptation focused on Jesus using his divine power to create food. Again, there is nothing wrong with that; he used his divine power to create food when he fed the 5000. So this first temptation is hard to figure out; what exactly was the sin that Satan was trying to get Jesus to commit?

The answer is revealed in Jesus’ response to Satan in verse 4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 and the context for that passage was how God provided manna for his people in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8:1 Moses instructed the people to “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.” In other words, receiving God’s promises was tied to obeying his commands. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Moses said, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This was all a reminder to Israel that the most important thing they needed to do was obey God. If people obey God’s word, they do so because they are trusting God--trusting him to keep his promises and to provide what they need. Moses was reminding the people in Deuteronomy 8:1-3 that God provided for them in the desert so they should obey his word and trust him to care for and provide for them in the future.

Back to Jesus, then, and Luke 4. Luke 4:1 told us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and that he “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” It was God’s will, then, for him to be there. He was sent there by divine appointment without any preparation. The desert is not a place where food grows naturally so if Jesus were to survive his time out there, God would have to provide for him. The devil’s temptation, then, subtly suggests that God the Father and the Holy Spirit had abandoned him so he should use his powers as the Son of God to provide for himself. Jesus’ reply was that obedience was more necessary for human flourishing than food and that if he obeyed and waited, God would provide for him. The temptation to sin, then, was a temptation to operate outside of submission to God the father and act independently of his own will.

This is what we do, really, every time we sin. When we sin, we believe the lie that our sin nature, the devil, and the world around us speaks; namely, that obedience to God’s way is stupid, that we can’t trust him to keep his promises, so we need to seek our own gain, our own pleasure, our own solutions to the problems in our lives, or whatever else.

So, where are you facing this kind of temptation today? Has God left you waiting somewhere, longing for something that you think he should have provided by now? Don’t turn away from obedience for the false promise of sin. Just as Jesus resisted abusing his divine power by exercising it out of God’s will, live within God’s moral will yourself through obedience and wait for him to deliver and provide for you.

Hebrews 4

Happy Valentine’s Day! Read Hebrews 4.

Jesus had it easy, right? Sure, he had to contend with the limitations of human nature during his days on earth. But since he was God he did not have to worry about being “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (3:13). He knew what a liar Satan is and how sin offers us pleasure that it cannot ultimately deliver, at least not for long. So it was easy for him to live the faithful life that chapter 3 talked about, right? At least, it was easier for him than it is for us, it seems. So the statement here in 4:15 that our high priest “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” feels a bit hollow, yes?

Well..., think about it this way: imagine you are running a marathon-26.2 miles. Some people drop out after a mile, some after five miles, some quit 10 miles in, and so on. You’ve done some training and are in the best shape of your life, but from mile 10 onward your legs are just screaming to you, “Stop it!” You have the ability to quit at any time. You can drop out of the race anywhere. So who feels punishment of running the most, the person who completes the entire race or the one who drops out after a mile? Who feels the discomfort of high winds the most, the runner who quits at mile 5 or the one who finishes the race? What about the hot sun? Who gets burned the worst, the runner who quits after the finish line or the one who quits at mile 15? Whose foot blisters hurt the most? Who suffers most from the internal arguments that your brain engages in to try to get you to quit? Of course, all of these problems are felt most acutely by the runner who completes the race. Whether he or she is in better shape than you or not, the toll of the race is felt most fully by the one who completes it.

Similarly, when I was in seminary my systematic theology professor said that only the one who withstands temptation completely knows the full force of it. If you give into temptation before the temptation goes away, you haven’t experienced the full intensity of it. So Jesus, the “one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (v. 15b) is able to “empathize with our weaknesses” (v. 15a) fully because he successfully endured every scheme the devil had to throw at him. Sure Jesus had a perfect nature but so did Adam and he quit after the first half mile. Jesus, however, endured every temptation obediently. He finished the race so he felt the difficulty of it more than anyone else who has ever lived.

This is why the author of Hebrews urges us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v. 16). You may be tempted to throw your faith away (v. 14c) at some point in your life; in fact, you probably will be tempted to do that. But the best thing you can do when you feel tempted to sin in any way is to go to Jesus in prayer. Many of our failures to live a holy life by resisting temptation are due to relying completely on ourselves and our willpower instead of coming to Christ for the mercy and grace he offers. So, go to him in prayer when your faith is weak and your desire to sin is strong. He’s finished the marathon, he knows what it is like, and he will help you if you ask him for it.

Matthew 4

Today we’re reading Matthew 4.

In this chapter, Jesus was tempted to sin by the devil (vv. 1-11), moved from Nazareth--where he grew up--to Capernaum after John was put into prison (vv. 12-16), and began preaching (v. 17, 23-25) and assembling his disciples (vv. 18-22). Jesus’ temptation accomplished at least two important things:

First, it confirmed his holy nature. Adam was created in God’s image so he was holy and sinless, yet he chose to disobey to become a sinner. Jesus was God so he was holy in his divine nature and had lived a sinless life to that point. In order to become the second Adam, he had to continue to choose not to sin. This period of testing between his baptism (chapter 3) and the beginning of his preaching (4:17) demonstrated that he was morally qualified to be our substitute and to begin calling people to repent from their sins and worship him as king.

Secondly, Christ’s temptation left for us a pattern--a case study--for how to defeat temptation. Today, I want to focus on one aspect of that. Satan is a very clever creature. He allowed Christ to wait in the desert for forty days without food so that he would be depleted physically before tempting him to use his divine power to make food. Christ could have easily justified doing what Satan encouraged him to do. There was no virtue, no salvation to be found in him if he died of starvation, so he had a good reason intellectually to justify miraculously turning those stones into bread. And there was nothing morally wrong with miraculously making food. Jesus would later feed thousands of people by miraculously multiplying loaves and fish. Among all the lessons in this chapter, reflect on this one: many temptations in life will come to you when you are weak. They will seem harmless--who would be harmed if Christ turned stones in the desert into bread? Also, temptations will often seem justifiable. The challenge for each of in the moment of temptation is to trust God’s word, his promise, even if the sin seems harmless and totally justified. God calls us to trust him by doing the right thing even when the wrong thing seems like the best or only option we have.

2 Kings 20, Hebrews 2, Hosea 13, Psalms 137–138

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 20, Hebrews 2, Hosea 13, Psalms 137–138. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Hosea 13.

Temptations await us at every point in our lives, in every circumstance in our lives. When we are discouraged or suffering or just discontent, we will be tempted to blame God or to reject him completely. But when we are prosperous, thriving, excited about the future and happy with the present, the temptation we face is to forget God. Israel faced all of these temptations and vast numbers of people in the nation surrendered to them throughout the history of the nation. 

Although the people of Israel complained a lot about the Lord, the truth is that God was very good to his people. He led them out of Egypt  and called them to worship him exclusively (v. 4). He provided for them in the desert—a place hostile to human life (v. 5). Yet verse 6 says, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Ungrateful for what the Lord did, forgetful of how badly they needed his divine intervention, they took credit for surviving on their own for verse 6 says, “they became proud.” Whenever we think we have succeeded on our own, we think we can continue to succeed on our own. We buy into the myth of self-sufficiency, so we do not praise God for what he’s done and is doing in our lives, we do not worship God based on what he has revealed to us about himself, we do not ask God for help to serve him today, we do not look to God for wisdom in the decisions we make, we do not think about God and what he wants to do in the future. This is the temptation we face when times are good. 

Israel and Judah encountered these temptations as unbelievers, for the most part. There were people who worshipped the Lord from the heart but most of God’s chosen people forgot him because they never knew him in the first place. This is why God brought severe judgment on them (vv. 7-16). Although they had his word, his covenant, they rejected him and put their faith in other gods. Although we have come to know God by faith, we still encounter the temptation that verse 6 described. It happens when our prayer life diminishes during good times; we stop praying altogether or pray token prayers only. As we approach Thanksgiving, it is a good time for us to remember the Lord and evaluate our relationship to him. We need God far more than we realize and it glorifies God when we live in dependence on him.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Samuel 13, Romans 11, Jeremiah 50, Psalms 28–29

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 13, Romans 11, Jeremiah 50, Psalms 28–29. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Samuel 13.

Although Samuel had retired as a judge, he continued his ministry as priest. In today’s passage Saul wanted Samuel to come to Gilgal and perform a priestly function, namely to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel’s army as they went out to fight the Philistines (vv. 7b-8). It is important, when reading this passage, to realize that Saul’s men—including his son Jonathan—were already engaged battle with the Philistines at Geba (v. 3). The battle was not going well (vv. 6-7b) and the Philistines had shown up in large numbers and with heavy equipment for the fight (v. 5). But instead of attacking and helping their Israelite brothers who were already battling, Saul was told by Samuel to wait for a full week (8a)! Yet even after the full week had passed, Samuel did not arrive. Fearing an attack at any moment (v. 12a) and wanting the Lord’s favor on them (v. 12b), Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. He offered the sacrifices himself instead of waiting for Samuel any longer (v. 9). 

Samuel arrived almost instantly after the offering was given (v. 10) and he confronted Saul about his disobedience (v. 11a). Saul explained his justification for acting as he did. The situation was dire, he had already waited a week, and the timeframe Samuel gave him had expired (vv. 11b-12). But Samuel had no time for Saul’s explanation. His act was an act of disobedience. Twice Samuel told him, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you” 9v. 13b, 14c). Saul’s act was motivated by fear, not faith. Like all disobedience, it was the result of unbelief. Whenever we knowingly do what is wrong, we believe in that moment that we will be better off doing what seems right to us than what God said. 

Also, like Saul, we usually have good reasons for what we did. At least, we have reasons that seem good to us in the moment. If Samuel had only shown up on time for the appointment, none of this ever would have happened. If Samuel had decreed a more reasonable timeframe, one that did not leave God’s people so exposed to attack, Saul would not have disobeyed. If you recall a major sin in your life, I’ll bet you remember thinking that your sin was justified in this one instance. Adam and Eve had their excuses, too, and so has every one of us who has ever sinned against God. 

Saul may have had his reasons, but God had his own response. Samuel told Saul that, as a result of his choice to sin, his kingdom would not endure (vv. 13-14). He reigned in Israel for forty-two years (v. 1)—a nice long tenure, to be sure. But his son Jonathan would never be anointed king after him, nor would any of Jonathan’s children or any of their generations after. 

Remember this: our justifications for disobedience may help us dampen our guilty conscience or defend ourselves against the questions and allegations of others, but we are only fooling ourselves, not God. God is gracious to forgive our sins when we turn to him in repentance, but rarely does God choose to stop the chain-reaction of consequences that our disobedience triggers. When we feel the pull of temptation in our lives, passages like this one encourage us to trust God and obey instead of following our fear, our desire, our rationalizations. God was more than able to deliver Israel if Saul looked to him in faith and obeyed his commands. He is more than able to take care of you and me if we trust and obey his word, too.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.