Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’’
Perhaps it’s surprising to hear Satan quoting the Bible from memory. Maybe it would not surprise us to learn that he does so with evil intent.
To Jesus, he quoted from Psalm 91. He did not add to the verse. He did not subtract from it. He did, however, misapply it.
These are the divine words of assurance to which he pointed Jesus: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’’ (vs. 11,12).
The promise is dramatic. It might even surprise us to learn it could apply to us. Do angels really keep God’s loved ones from tripping over stones? Difficult to believe? Not for Jesus. He knew how carefully God watches over his own.
Jesus trusted this promise. Satan hoped to use that trust as a trap. When standing with Jesus on the highest point of the Temple, he challenged: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”
He wanted to turn the trust into a test. He tried to twist words of God into a meaning never intended.
He tries the same with us.
He suggests that it is silly to take God’s words at face value. He aims to create a level of doubt that leads to further confusion. If the Christian decides it is foolish to believe in guardian angels, Satan wins—and trust in God is damaged, if not broken.
If the Christian decides, “This means I can throw caution away and walk upright into this firefight because angels must protect me.” Satan wins again. God is now being tested. That leads to further questions: “Is the fact that I am afraid, a sign that I do not trust God?”
We must ask, “Is caution a sign of cowardness?” Aren’t we to protect the life our Lord gave us? “But Isn’t it true that angels will lift me up to keep me from even tripping over a stone?”
It is. It most certainly is.
But not every time. Sometimes they let me fall flat on my face. Sometimes I pay for my carelessness. My faith will not stop a bullet. Disease will not bounce off of me. Prayer will not prevent disaster.
Unless! Unless that is the will of my heavenly Father.
“Then, what good is my faith if it will not accomplish what I want?”
The problem isn’t with my faith. The problem lies with what I want.
If I always would want only what is best for me, what my Savior God wants, my success rate in life will be 100%. For instance, if I want his blood to cover my sin, it has already happened. If I go into the Bible to pick out only those phrases that match my wishes, I will turn his Word into my words. I will change the meaning. I will misapply the message.
Jesus was indeed watched over by angels. He was always protected. He trusted his Father about this. His trust did not falter when he was led into a barren wilderness to go without food for 40 days. His trust did not falter when his home congregation threatened to throw him over a cliff. Or when he was arrested. Or when he was tortured. Or when he was killed.
He trusted his Father to carry him through every danger, even death.
Jesus promptly corrected Satan’s misapplication by showing Scripture must be interpreted with Scripture.
Guarded by angels? Yes! But, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’
We won’t do that. We will trust him—not test him.
We pray: Heavenly Father, too often we doubt. Too often our wants get in the way of your will. Keep pointing us to your Son as an example. Keep sending the Holy Spirit to build up our faith. Remind us that it is an honor and privilege to say, “In God We Trust!” Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer
WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military