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Fasting Day 19: The Calvary Road, Part 2

Calvary Road

As Part One of this series discussed, after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit’s first act was to lead Him into the wilderness where He would be tempted by the devil. Jesus was led of the Spirit to fast these forty days. It was God’s will that the Son of God be tested on his way into the ministry and that Jesus triumph in this testing through fasting.

In A Hunger for God, John Piper shows the relationship between Jesus’ forty-day fast and Israel’s testing in the wilderness. The following is based on his chapter “Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone: The Desert Feast of Fasting.”

During His fast, Satan tempted Jesus. Each time Jesus responded to Satan’s three temptations He quoted form Deuteronomy.

  • “Man shall not live on bread alone” (Deut. 8:3)
  • “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut 6:16).
  • “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Deut. 6:13).

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness – note it was the wilderness, just as the Israelites had been in the wilderness.

To counter the temptations of Satan, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, all of which were spoken by Moses to the Israelites about their time of testing in the wilderness.

“The tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’ (Mt. 4:3-4).

But Jesus answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Look at Deuteronomy 8:2-3. What parallels do you see between the Israelites’ scenario in the wilderness and Jesus’ time in the wilderness?

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”

The multitude of similarities are not mere coincidence. What is God teaching through them?

The Spirit of God Led Jesus Into the Wilderness

The Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness. In this we see shadows of the Old Testament replaced with New Testament reality. Something greater is at stake – something greater than Moses and the wilderness and the Law and Joshua and the Promised Land.

The time of fulfillment is at hand. God’s promise to Moses is coming true and being fulfilled. “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).

It means that God is now, with the incarnation of his Son, preparing to deliver His people—the new Israel—from the Egyptian bondage of sin into the Promised Land of forgiveness and righteousness and eternal life. To do this he has sent a new Moses, or in this case, a new Joshua (Jesus reenacts both roles, and the name “Jesus” is identical to “Joshua” in New Testament Greek). This new Joshua stands as the head and representative of the whole new people that Jesus will gather from Jews and Gentiles. On their behalf Jesus will now be led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He will stay forty days to represent forty years. He will be tested as Israel was tested. And he will hunger as Israel hungered. And if he triumphs, he wand all his people go safely into the Promised Land of forgiveness and eternal life. [i]

Jesus’ Fasting Was Testing and Triumph

Jesus didn’t decide to fast on a whim as something to do when faced with Satan’s temptation. No, it was a voluntary act of identification with the people of God in their wilderness deprivation and trial.

In essence, Jesus was saying, “I’ve been sent to lead God’s people out of their bondage to sin into the Promised Land of salvation. In order to do this, I must be one of them. That’s why I came. That’s why I was born. That’s why I was baptized. The testing they experienced, I too will experience. I will represent them in the wilderness. My heart will be probed with fasting to test me and see where my allegiance lies and who my God is. With the Spirit’s assistance, I will triumph through this fasting. I will overcome the devil and lead all who trust Me into the Promised Land of eternal glory.”

Jesus fasting wasn’t just preparation for testing, it was part of His testing – just as hunger was a test of faith for the people of Israel in the wilderness. Moses said, “[God led you in the wilderness] that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry” (Deut. 8:2).

It was the same with Jesus. The Spirit led Him in the wilderness and allowed Him to be hungry so that He might test Him to see what was in His heart. Did He love bread more than He loved God? At the same time, His fasting was a weapon in the conflict against Satan. Fasting tests and proves where the heart is.

And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan. For then Satan does not have the foothold he would if our heart were in love with earthly things like bread. [ii]

Fasting is Heart-revealing, Voluntary Surrender

Christ’s followers are often called to go without the ordinary resources of life.

  • “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19).
  • “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom” (Acts 14:22).
  • “Even we ourselves groan…waiting the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

Fasting is a brief, voluntary experience of this lack. God reveals what is in our heart when we experience this deprivation, this surrender, this willing forfeiture.

What controls us? What do we most value and trust and turn to?

“More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.” ~ Richard Foster

As you have fasted, have you noticed what you had become a slave to? Have you noticed that there have been times you’ve been more hungry for food than God? Fasting reveals the bottom line desires and values that control us.

“Fasting is God’s testing ground—and healing ground.” ~ John Piper

When we fast, will we complain as the Israelites complained without bread? Will we “live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”?

Fasting is a way of revealing to ourselves and confessing to our God what is in our hearts. Where do we find our deepest satisfaction—in God or in His gifts? The aim fasting is that we come to rely less on food and more on God. That’s the meaning of the words in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Every time we fast, we are saying with Jesus, ‘Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord. Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord. [iii]

Fasting for God, Not His Miracle Provision

What did Jesus mean when he resisted Satan with the words, [Man shall live] on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”? Why was Jesus in essence saying, “Rely on God, not on bread”?

The answer is found in Deuteronomy 8:3, which is the source of Jesus words in Matthew 4:4:

“[God] fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”

The giving of manna, not the withholding of food, is the test. It wasn’t the withholding of food, but the giving of food that was to teach them that man doesn’t live by bread alone. How is that? Manna is one of the amazing ways God can meet your needs, with one word, when everything looks hopeless. Moses is saying that we need to learn to depend on God and not ourselves.

How does Satan respond to this truth? He says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread” (Mt 4:3). He is in essence saying, “You’re God. The world was created by your word. So make manna for yourself, like your Father did in the wilderness.”

Satan is cunning. He knows the Bible. He saw that manna was intended to teach God’s people that His miraculous power provides for His people in times of suffering and distress. So he debates with Jesus, “The whole reason your Father gave manna in the wilderness was to teach the people to expect miracles in distress; so make yourself some miracle bread and you will be obeying God and putting scripture to work.”

Jesus responds, “Ah, Satan. You are so warm, but so cold. So close, yet so far. You’ve always twisted the word of God so subtly. The purpose of the manna was this: Don’t trust in bread—not even miracle bread—trust in God! Don’t get your deepest satisfaction and fulfillment in life from food—not even God-wrought miracle food—but from God. God’s words reveal Himself to us. It is this self-revelation that sustains and feeds us most deeply. It will last forever. This is eternal life. Away, Satan, God is my portion. I’ll not turn from His path and His communion, not even for miraculous manna.”

Fasting was a weapon in the battle against satanic deception because it demonstrated that Jesus hungered more for God and God’s will than He did for God’s miracles. He could have justified to himself that miraculously making stones become bread is exactly what the Son of God should do as He experienced the wilderness occurrence of God’s people. If this had been the case, fasting would be a spiritual preface to miraculous provision.

But this isn’t how Jesus thought. This wasn’t His perspective. And that’s not what fasting was. Jesus thought like this: “I’ve been sent to suffer and die for my people. My only hope of carrying this through to completion is to so love God my Father that He is more precious, more desirous, more supreme to me than even the demonstrations of His miraculous power to relieve me of my distress. It is His will to crush me and grieve me for the sake of His people. (Is. 53:10). So I will not use fasting as an attempt to escape this calling. Satan wants me to turn this into a prelude to miraculous provision of bread, just like Deuteronomy. But the difference is that they were tested a little, and I will be tested lot. Much more hangs in the balance with my testing than hung on theirs.”

Hungering for God

Lord, we want YOU more than anything else! We need You more! We want You more than relief from distress, more than miracle provision, more than food, more than temporal means of life. More than the very air we breathe, we need You!

A Moment of Worship: I Need You More

Bethel Live Here is Love

 

I Need You More led by Kim Walker Smith

From the Album Here is Love by Bethel Music

 

Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 18:15; Matthew 4:3-4; Psalm 34:19;
Acts 14:22; Romans 8:23

Focus Questions:

  • In your fasting, have there been times that you’ve been more hungry for food than God? Fasting reveals the bottom line desires and values that control us.
  • Have you grumbled in your fasted like the Israelites grumbled without bread?
  • Are you living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?
  • Is He your supreme desire — more than His miraculous provision for your needs?

 

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES:

FASTING DAY 19 FROM THE ARCHIVES

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[i] John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 57

[ii] Ibid., 58

[iii] Ibid., 58

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