Temptation in the Holy City

Matt.4v5-6 “For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

This Bible passage is a very familiar one. We all read it. We talk about the temptations of Jesus. We wondered why the devil would be that audacious to tempt Jesus, the King of kings.

But it is not much of the temptation that seems to carry weight but the manner and place of the temptation. Jesus was taken to the holy city and the devil sat him on the top of the temple. And then he began to quote for him portions of the Old Testament. What is striking in this encounter is that it took place in the Holy City. The Holy City is the City of God. It is a place of holiness.

This is quite symbolic. The devil did not come to Jesus in the city of sin. He came to him in the holy city. The temptation came when he had been made to sit on top of the temple. The top of the temple also has huge implication. It is a strategic position that gives you the opportunity of viewing everything beneath. At the top of the temple you have a broader view.

At the top of the temple is the general overseer. That is the position of the Bishop. It is the position of the Archbishop and the Senior Pastor. You are the one on top. You see every other person but you do not see yourself. At that height you have a tendency to look down on others. The top of the temple is a vantage position. But the tragedy is that such height does not give you the privilege of self-assessment. The top of the temple if not carefully handled may turn out to be a grandiose place of deception. It is from such height many are falling off every day.

I am afraid many are on top of the temple in the holy city and they are being trapped by the devil. The holy city presents a situation that allows us to let down our guards. It is believed we are in the midst of Christians. The Holy City is the house of God. But it is in that house that the devil bares his fangs most. Those who are outside the city are already in his kitty. So he does not need to tempt them with anything.

But temptation comes most to us in the holy city. It comes to us when we feel we are secure. It comes in the place of leisure. It comes in a place we least expect. Because you are in the holy city you probably believe every Bible passage that is inspired within you. In the holy city you believe every character you meet. You believe every word of God that is preached to you. The words come in torrents and they seem harmless. In fact they seem to be addressing critical issues in your life.

In the holy city the word becomes common place.  The scriptures come to you effortlessly. You are tempted to twist the word of God to satisfy your ego. You entertain visions that are seemingly from God but in the long run they are visions that tend to test the Lord God.

See what happened to Jesus in the Holy City. The Devil came with a Bible passage: Are many of us not parading various scriptures to justify our lust and inordinate ambition? In the holy city the devil told Jesus to jump down using the scripture to justify his position. But thank God Jesus could sense that it was a devil “inspired” scripture. He quickly dismissed the devil saying thou shall not tempt the Lord your God.

In what way are you tempting God in the Holy City? Think deep. You are the general overseer? Right. But look at your plans and visions. Look at the church programmes. Look at your expansionist tendencies. Are they sanctified desires. Have those desires been presented before God for approval or they are desires that were inspired because we want to be like others? It is easy to hear God speak to us.

But there are times that it is not God speaking but it is the position we find ourselves that is speaking. It is the money we have that is speaking not the voice of God. It is people around us that are speaking. It is our education that is speaking not God. There are many times that our experiences speak and we say it is God. We act on the spur of the moment. We take the Lord for granted and attribute our vision to God. But there are many times that it is because we lack money that we suddenly have a frenzied feeling that God is speaking to us.

Thank God Jesus was quick to identify the voice of the devil. Many church leaders who have missed it today acted on a voice. They sometimes acted on the written word of God but the truth is that they may be working towards perdition. They may be heading towards a downhill. It was Bible that was presented to Jesus. The devil used the inspired word and presented it to Jesus at a time he was most vulnerable.

He was on top of the hill and he was in the holy city. The environment was splendid.  It was a position of power. And here is an opportunity to prove himself. The devil chose his scripture carefully. He knew that Jesus had come to fulfill the word of God. So, quoting that Bible portion was both timely and strategic. In a later experience Jesus had gone to the temple and had read a Bible portion where the Bible had said some prophetic words about him that he had been sent to deliver the captive. So it was just in order for Jesus to want to live by the scripture that God will give His angels charge over him so he would not hit his legs against a stone. It is not much of the word but more of the timing and the intention.

The deep lesson for us is that the devil should not call the shots for us. It is not him that will give us direction on what and what not to do. It is like somebody calling you to a duel. You are not to take orders from the devil but to give orders to him. Jesus gave us authority.

It would have been in order if the Lord had fulfilled that portion of the Bible that was presented to him. But doing that will mean he allowed his circumstances to dictate his actions. It was just similar to the temptation of turning stone to bread. He was hungry at that time and he would have been justified doing turning stone to bread. But that would mean he was responding to the devil.

The truth is that in the moments of lack when there is a pressing church need do we take advantage of our position to railroad people into giving or we simply depend on God to touch the heart of the people? There is nothing wrong in raising offering for a church need. But when we use our position to whip up sentiment and threaten members on the dangers of not giving; we may be threading on a destructive part. The devil wanted Jesus to take instruction from him. He wanted Jesus to try the Lord. But Jesus would have none of that.

Jesus’ response was quite instructive. He says thou shall not tempt the Lord your God. You tempt God when you take the Bible on a face value. You tempt God when you fail to play your role and expect God to play His role. You tempt God when you act on His word on the prompting of Satan without God’s leading. You tempt God when you relate carelessly with the opposite sex and think you are so strong and can’t fall into immorality. You tempt Him when you take advantage of people because you are born again. Did you read what the devil say? He said to Jesus “if you are the son of God”. That is the question that goes before the actual temptation. If you are the General Overseer…if you are a holy brother…if you believe the scripture that if you eat any deadly thing it will not hurt you?  The devil sometimes come with these posers and waits for your response.

The important thing to note is that the devil and circumstances must not call the shots let the Lord tell you what to do. No matter how pressing it is for you to act reach out to the Lord first. When David discovered that his wives and children have been taken captive, he did not immediately run after the assailants. He made inquiry from the Lord whether to pursue and the Lord gave him a go ahead. Indeed, we have run into many troubles because we simply refuse to take orders from the shepherd of our souls. These are evil days. God is calling us back to the Bible so we could put the devil where he belongs.

Gbenga Osinaike

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About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and also the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos, Nigeria Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is married and blessed with two children.

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