Danger in the Desert
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the
devil. Matthew 4:1
Las Vegas (Spanish: “The Meadow”) was a natural oasis in the Mojave
Desert. Raphael Rivera, who stumbled onto the area in 1829, was the
first non-native to view the area. After explorer John C. Fremont
arrived in 1844, his writings lured pioneers.
Underground water sources called “aquifers” provide water for
an oasis. Oases may be as large as a city with irrigated cropland or
as small as a cluster of date palms around a well. Dates, cotton,
olives, figs, citrus fruits, wheat, and corn are common crops found
around an oasis.
Blown sand threatens life. Another threat to life is poisoned
water—poisoned by accident or on purpose! An inviting pool may be
spring-fed and healthy, but by late summer evaporation would lower
water levels, increasing the concentration of both harmless and deadly
When veteran scouts noted the absence of vegetation or
bleached animal bones around a desert pool, they avoided the water.
Arsenic was a frequent contaminant, leading to an agonizing, rapid
death. Mining operations nearby could increase arsenic levels in
ground water. As little as one liter of water from pools near a mine
could kill a traveler!
Frontier doctors induced vomiting, gave large amounts of milk,
gruel, and flax-seed tea, or even rust from old iron!
Some believe Las Vegas, known as “Sin City,” is more
dangerous today than a polluted desert spring!
We know of no oasis on the barren heights above Jericho, where
Jesus Christ submitted to severe temptation by Satan to prove His
impeccable character. Repeatedly tempted during a 40-day fast, He was
tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). He countered every temptation
with scripture from Deuteronomy, the book of obedience. He never
compromised God’s Word!
Jesus Christ is the God-Man. As God, He could not sin. As man, He
would not sin!
Matthew records three specific temptations. To say “Jesus was hungry”
(v. 2) is an understatement! In fact, when hunger returns after a
prolonged fast, a person is starving to death. But, the will of the
Father wasn’t to satisfy Jesus’ physical hunger, but for Him to remain
in dependence upon His Father.
“Since You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,”
said Satan (4:3). In other words, “Step outside God’s will just once.”
Jesus overcame His appetite. He never performed a miracle to benefit
Himself. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Man fell in Eden
by eating, but Jesus overcame His appetite in the desert!
We have a deep hunger for God. Fulfillment in living comes when we
live in fellowship and obedience. When circumstances determine our
actions, when we place physical needs above spiritual needs, or when
we act independent of God, we sin. Are you living in dependence upon
God? Or, does your flesh dictate your every decision?
Satan’s second temptation took place in Jerusalem atop the temple.
“Since You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it
is written: ‘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” (Psalm 91:11-12). Satan left out “in all Your ways.”
The enemy is a master of twisting scripture. He speaks it out of
context, turning it into a pretext. God guards us when we live in all
His ways. But foolishly presuming upon Him is sinful. We must not
tempt God by forcing Him to work miracles to preserve us!
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: “Do not put the Lord your God to the
The third test came from a high mountain, where Satan showed
Jesus the kingdoms of this world, promising them to Him in exchange
“All this I will give You,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship
me.” Satan has always wanted to be worshiped as God. When Adam sinned
away our human authority, Satan became the god of this age (2
Corinthians 4:4) and prince of this world (John 12:31). The entire
world is under his influence (I John 5:19).
God has already promised that His Son will rule the world (Psalm 110).
The kingdoms will become His (Revelation 11:15). Satan’s temptation
was, “Take a shortcut. You can avoid the cross and still rule the
world.” But such compromise would have left all of us in our sins! And
Jesus came to pay the cost of sin!
There are no shortcuts to living in the will of God. Jesus quoted
Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him
Sin in every human causes us to yield to temptation. But Jesus had no
sin. Nothing in Him could fall to Satan’s seduction.
“He (Satan) has no hold on Me,” said Jesus (John 14:30). Jesus was
“holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26).
As ordered, Satan left. But the low-down snake would be back.
The King and His Kingdom
Why could Jesus not have sinned?
How was His temptation real?
How did Jesus overcome temptation?
“Haven’t We Met Before?” Satan was no stranger to Jesus Christ. They
were well acquainted, for Lucifer (“Satan”) had once led the worship
of the Son of God (Isaiah 14:12)! Jesus saw Satan’s fall from Heaven
(Luke 10:18). Jesus defeated Satan in the desert, but the enemy would
return…probably the very next day (Luke 4:13)! Satan masquerades as
an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He appears as a creature of
beauty, but he brings death. He uses religious folks like Peter
(Matthew 16:21-23). He controls this world system by demonic power. In
Daniel’s day, a demon controlled the kingdom of Persia (Daniel 10:13).
Did you ever wonder which demon controls China? Or Russia? Or America?
The Lord Jesus exposed Satan’s tactics and defeated him. As a man,
Jesus lived in the power of God’s Spirit and God’s Word, just as we
can live today. Are you living in the power of God’s Holy Spirit? Do
you know and use God’s Word to defeat Satan?