Old Testament Reading for the First Week of Lent

“Because he will order his messengers to help you, to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you with their own hands so you don’t bruise your foot on a stone. You’ll march on top of lions and vipers; you’ll trample young lions and serpents underfoot. God says, ‘Because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you. I’ll protect you because you know my name.’”

Psalm 91:11-14 (CEB)

'Vanity in Miniature' photo (c) 2013, David Goehring - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The story of Jesus fasting in the desert and being tempted by Satan is one that constantly humbles me and blows my mind. As the story goes, shortly after being baptized by John, Jesus heads off into the wilderness in order to fast for 40 days before he starts his ministry. While Jesus is out in the wilderness, hungry from fasting, Satan shows up to try and tempt him. The various temptations and challenges that Satan throws at Jesus are basically asking one question.

Who are you going to be?

At the baptism of Jesus, a dove comes down and the voice of God proclaims, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” When Satan shows up to tempt Jesus, he begins to call into question the proclamation of God.

Who are you going to be?

One of the temptations and challenges that Satan presents Jesus with is the temptation to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple to demonstrate God’s protection of his chosen Messiah. Since Jesus has been using scripture, Satan chooses to fight fire with fire and quotes the first part of this scripture reading.

“Because he will order his messengers to help you,
to protect you wherever you go.
They will carry you with their own hands
so you don’t bruise your foot on a stone.”

You could see a lot from the pinnacle of the Temple. And, everyone in the city would probably see Jesus jump if he chose to. They would see the angels showing up to slow his descent and carry him to the ground. The cliché image of Jesus floating just slightly above the ground, would seem to come true with this passage and everyone in the city would see Jesus as a great and powerful Messiah, chosen and protected by God. However, that’s not the Messiah Jesus was going to be.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus quite skillfully handles all the temptation and challenges of Satan. Definitely a feat after 40 days of fasting. If I skip breakfast I can hardly remember what I did yesterday let alone quote scripture. But Jesus stands up to the questions and temptations and demonstrates exactly who he is and what type of Messiah he will be. A humble, unassuming servant, devoted to God and his word. He will not seek glory at the expense of others, or test God for his own benefit. Like the end of today’s reading says, “Because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you. I’ll protect you because you know my name.” It’s not about who we are or what we can do. What matters is our devotion to God, knowing who he is and who he wants us to be.

For Lent, we would do wise to ask ourselves the very same question.

Who are you going to be?

Lent calls us out of ourselves, calls us to enter the wilderness with Jesus and stretch ourselves to see who we really are. Whether we fast or not, Lent should be a time of self-examination in order to see what elements of our lives, our thoughts or feelings in our hearts need to be questioned and challenged. The Bible only records Jesus being tempted by Satan once, yet we face his temptations and challenges daily. Daily Satan whispers into our ear.

Who are you going to be?

I pray that through this season of Lent you will discover who you really are and who God wants you to be. I pray that you would not fall for the temptations and challenges that Satan throws at us, trying to convince us that we are something other than what God has called us. I pray that you would listen to the voice of God as he desires to draw you closer to himself and grow into the mature person he desires for you to be.

“The person who scorns conventional forms of protection and seeks only the refuge provided by the Most High will find his faith rewarded. He will be enveloped by God’s providence so that he can continue to seek holiness and wisdom without fear of those who would seek to do him harm.”
– Rashi

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