Archive for May, 2011
As a youth pastor, students often ask me questions about this passage—one question in particular. It usually sounds something like this: “If Jesus is God, didn’t he really already have rule over the kingdoms of the world? Was this really even a legit temptation?” It’s a great question, and it’s one I have wrestled with myself. In my study of the kingdom and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, I believe I have arrived at an appropriate interpretation by considering this passage as part of the whole of God’s redemptive story. You be the judge.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and he created humanity in his image. He also designed humanity with a distinct twofold purpose: (1) to be numerous upon the earth and (2) to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:28). In order to understand the twofold purpose, we first must understand what is meant by “being created in God’s image.” There are like a zillion proposed answers to this. One that is certainly part of proper interpretation here involves the ancient practice of kings claiming territory and marking it with their image. Kings identified their claim on a territory by establishing an image of some sort (e.g., a statue) in the land that belonged to them. This same sort of thing can be observed in Mark 12:13–17. When Jesus was challenged about paying taxes to Caesar, he asked “Who’s image is on the coin?” Of course, Caesar’s image was on the coin. Thus, he replied, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” What belongs to God? Humans do. Why? Because his image is on them.
Now then, how do we understand the twofold purpose in God’s creation of humanity? First, humanity was commanded to be numerous so that the image of God would have more of a presence on the earth. Second, humanity was commanded to scatter and fill the earth so that rule of God would spread upon the earth as his image (i.e., humanity) expanded the boundaries of Eden.
Then comes the Fall. What happened in the fall? The humans who had been established as the representatives of God’s rule on the earth rebelled against the King and did not act in a way that expressed God’s ownership over them. They sided with God’s Adversary. While it is difficult to explain in detail what happened with regard to the rule of God upon the earth as expressed in humanity, something changed. The repetition of the command after the Flood in Genesis 9 is slightly different; there is not a command to “subdue the earth.” Further, the Adversary is given titles like “prince of the power of the air” and “the ruler of this world.” Thus, it appears that humanity forfeited its role as the image of God in the Fall.
Enter Jesus. The Adversary immediately tempts the Godman (i.e., the second Adam) to inherit the kingdoms of the world by submitting to him in worship. So, is his temptation legitimate? Absolutely. God’s prescribed way for humanity to be restored to its position as the image of God (i.e., the representative of God’s rule) was through the faithfulness of the second Adam. He would have to be faithful even on the road of suffering and death on a cross. He would have to be faithful unlike unfaithful Adam. Satan extended a temptation to Jesus to inherit the nations of the world apart from suffering and death, apart from allegiance to the Father and his will. Now read Matthew 26:36–46.
We often maximize Jesus’ deity over his humanity, and we forget that in his humanity he lived as a man who perfectly walked in step with the Spirit of God. In so doing, he offers the restoration of the image of God in humanity. Further, we become participants in spreading the rule of God by faithfully following Jesus’ journey to death and resurrection. One day, the second Adam will return and usher in the complete establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth. New heavens and a new earth will follow so that what God desired in the beginning will indeed come to fruition all because of the faithfulness of his beloved Son.
We are often jaded by what we need as humans, even as those who consider themselves members of the people of God. We continue in our self-deception by forcing these needs and the meeting of them into the plan and even the character of God.
Deuteronomy 8:3 addresses one major need we have with two (I’ll call them) sub-needs that are very much in relationship with the major need. First the major need—it is clear not only from this passage but also from the exodus journey of the people of Israel that YHWH wanted them to learn one, simple, yet profound lesson that would determine the spiritual life of the nation for years to come. This is the Lord’s lesson for them and for us: “You need Me.” O how desperate we are for the Maker and Sustainer of life! Do we even know this? Are we Americans able to see that our materialism is a house built on a foundation made of sand? Every moment of our existence is dependent upon the gracious will and words of the one true God.
Second, there are two related sub-needs that jump out of Deuteronomy 8:3. We first learn that once we recognize our need for YHWH, we enter into a relationship with him dressed in humility. This is because his hand gives or withholds. The words of the songwriter, “He gives and takes away” are indeed true. How dare we presume upon the Almighty! Therefore, we should expect relationship with him to look like a school of humility—where we experience suffering and tests so that we may know from whom our provision comes and not be deceived.
The second sub-need is often neglected because we rarely discuss what belief really is. We tell others that they need to believe in God and in his Son Jesus Christ whom he has sent for us and our salvation, but we rarely discuss the nature of belief. In Deuteronomy 8:3, I think that the nature of belief is addressed indirectly. Reread the second half of the verse, “He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth.” This statement can be boiled down to this, “In what or in whom have you placed your trust?” Ultimately, you are even incapable of feeding yourselves should YHWH will it. Therefore, our second sub-need is a heart that is loyal to the Lord.
We have just exited the Easter season, which aims the heart of the Christian at the work of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection—that which perhaps magnifies our needs the most. We need the Lord—more than anything else, for all things come from him and all things will return to him. In addition to this, when we enter into relationship with him, we are called to humility and to loyalty. My prayer is enter into a deeper awareness of these needs in my own life.
I am the Director of Student Ministry at Scofield Memorial Church. Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Jeff VanGoethem, delivered a sermon on 5/8/2011 that gives proper guidance to the Christian interested in responding biblically and in a gospel-centered manner to the recent death of Osama bin Laden. Check out the sermon audio here: http://www.scofield.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259&Itemid=263.