The Satanic Alternative (1)
The First Temptation: Stones into Bread
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we come to thee again mindful that because our times are in thy hands and thou doest all things well, thou art our strength and our refuge, a very present help in times of need. We thank thee that in thee, we can face all our tomorrows in confidence, and so, our Father, we come. Bless us by thy word and by thy Holy Spirit, and grant us thy peace, In Jesus name, Amen.
Our scripture is St. Matthew 4:1-4; The First Temptation of Christ.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
As we have analyzed the society of Satan, we have seen that basic to the society of Satan is the insistence that not man, but God must change. That in the society of Satan, man confronts God with an ultimatum and says; “Be converted to our way of life! Be converted to our will, to our demands!” In the society of Satan, therefore, not man but God must change, and God must serve and glorify the creature, and man’s demand is for a paradise that is characterized simply by plenty, and abundance, a material abundance. This is what man demands; `’give me my heart’s desire, all the things materially that I crave and hunger for, and then I shall be happy.” And yet, the very results of this world’s own studies indicate that there is nothing that leads to greater unhappiness among men than the fulfillment of their desires.
Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, by no means a trustworthy guide, has nonetheless recognized that plenty leads to destructiveness, both societal and personal. That when man gets what he wants, instead of being happy, he becomes so thoroughly unhappy that he becomes destructive; destructive of his own life and of the world around him, and even among men who are moderately well-off. A common characteristic of our world today is what has been called; ‘Sunday neurosis,’ an inability of man to face himself, to be alone, to rest. The sickness of man is due to the purposelessness of his life. He associates life with bread, with economics, with satisfaction of his material wants, and having these things, he finds himself progressively more and more unable to live.
When Adam and Eve were tempted, they were in paradise. By succumbing to the temptation of Satan, they changed the world from a garden to a wilderness in which sin and death have ever since ruled, and thus it was fitting that our Lord should be tempted in the wilderness, and by withstanding, as the second Adam, the temptation of Satan, he began the recreation of paradise. Paradise Regained, Milton quite property termed the victory of Christ over Satan. Christ was in the wilderness, and the Tempter came to him and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread,” and the first half of that statement is a very interesting one in itself. “If thou be the Son of God.” “If,” conditional, probable, possible, not certainly. “If thou be…” implying doubt. Moreover, more literally, the statement reads not “the” but “a.” “If thou be a Son of God…” In other words; “If you are one Son among many, “I am a son,” said Satan, “and others are sons of God. We are the true sons of God as it were. We know what the kingdom should be. God the Father has grown a little bit foolish with age, and we, the true sons, know what the kingdom should be. If thou be a son, if you are ready to join our ranks as one of those who understands and knows what the true kingdom should be, then prove that you are of this circle. Command that these stones be made bread.”
After all, if you have miraculous powers, why not use them? People are starving all over the world, and what kind of a savior are you if you’re going to let people drop dead of hunger in China, and India, Africa, and Europe, all over the world? How can you call yourself a son of God when you permit these things to go on?
“If thou be a Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
Satan’s concept of the kingdom is, in part, economics; be a social reformer. Gain instantaneous acceptance by giving the people what they want, give them a social gospel. Men in every age are demanding a satisfaction to their material wants. They are hungry. They feel the pressure of the debt collector. Their income is limited, and they face a perpetual rat-race as they try to keep up with the growing inflation, and at the very time that Satan was tempting Christ, Rome was inflating its currency and the whole Empire was feeling the impact of a false prosperity, and a creeping inflation.
“Here are real problems,” Satan said. “Do you mean to say you’re going to bypass all of these real problems? Real problems of real people? Do you mean to say you’re going to let them drop dead in the streets, of hunger, and you don’t have a program for them? Prove you are the Messiah! Be the Messiah, the kind of Messiah Israel wants. Then, you truly belong to the inner circle of those who understand. Then you’re one of the enlightened sons of God who truly have a capacity for ruling.
“If thou be a son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Even as our Lord spoke, there were those false messiahs around him. In the capital of Rome, the Caesars were offering bread and circuses, controls, subsidies, inflation, pouring their every effort into economic salvation for Rome. Their concept of economic salvation was the welfare state, the ‘Great Society’ of Rome, and our Lord answered by quoting scripture. His answer to every temptation was, “It is written…, It is written…, It is written…”
In this instance, he quotes from the books of Moses; referring to Deuteronomy 8:2-3 and Exodus 16:4. The reference is Exodus is to manna, and Moses, in declaring that; “…man shall not live by bread alone…,” was commenting upon the incident in the wilderness with reference to manna. Israel had left Egypt through the power of God. God had delivered them. He had confounded the power of Egypt, destroyed Egypt, destroyed the army of Egypt in the Red Sea crossing, taken care of them miraculously, and the moment they faced a problem, they began to complain against God, and against Moses. “We’ve been led out here in the wilderness to starve to death,” and God gave them manna, and he declared that he gave it; “That I may prove them whether they will walk in my law or no.” Manna was given by God in the wilderness to teach his providential care, and to produce faith, and as a rebuke to them. “To humble thee,” God said, to teach faith, to teach them that their every step was in the hands of God and they were totally dependent upon God, that they had been delivered by God from Egypt every step of the way, and how dare they distrust him now. He was able to cause the heavens to open up and food to rain upon them. Could they not have faith in such a God? but they refused to have faith.
The purpose of manna was to bring them to an acceptance of faith as the principle of relationship with God, to recognize the omnipotence and the power of God, that the God who can do this can do all things, and this is a principle we, too, must accept. The God who gave his only begotten Son to die for us, can also care for us, and it’s no problem to him. When he has already made the supreme sacrifice of the death of his only begotten Son, it is no great task for him to minister to our little needs, but Israel took not faith but manna, bread, as the basis of a relationship, and demanded more manna and less faith, and this, in the end, became Israel’s fate. In manna, not in God. In economic fulfillment, not in the creator.
Thus, The Apocalypse of Baruch declared;
“The earth will bring forth fruit, one producing ten-thousand. In the vine, there will be a thousand branches, in every branch a thousand clusters, in every cluster a thousand berries, and every berry will yield thirty-six gallons of wine.”
This was their dream of the world when the Messiah came. The Book of Enoch said;
“In those days will the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and vines will be planted on it. The vine which is planted thereon will yield wine in abundance, and of all seed which is sewn thereon will each measure bear ten thousand.”
In other words, when the Messiah comes, our wildest dreams will be fulfilled. We will rule the world. We will have no problems, and our vineyards will be so lush that every berry of grape will give thirty-six gallons of wine. Now, that’s the kind of world the Messiah will give us; not faith but manna.
This same dream, incidentally, crept in among Christians in all kinds of millennial expectancies, and Paul warned Titus against these Jewish fables in Titus 1:14. This was the Jewish expectation after the first feeding of the multitude. Our Lord created out of one small boy’s lunch enough food to feed a vast multitude of men, plus many women and children, and we are told by John in his sixth chapter that the multitude sought to take him by force and compel him to be king. “This is the kind of king we want, one who can produce food out of nothing. This kind of king can give us cradle-to-grave security. This kind of king will usher in the Great Society just by saying the word, this is our man,” and they sought by force to make him king, and he rejected them and rebuked them, and declared he wanted no part of them nor would he be their king, because he said; “Ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” Ye worship not me but your full stomachs, mot God but economics, and they struck back at this rebuke and retorted, John 6:31; “Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness as it is written. He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” In other words; “Moses fed us forty years in the wilderness. Now, you’re acting high and mighty, and independent of us, and what have you done? Just fed a crowd once. Who are you to exalt yourself above us?” And Jesus answered in John 6:48-51;
“I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The Israelites in the desert had the fulfillment of economic dreams and they died in the wilderness, an apostate generation. God abandoned them, and saved out of them only Caleb and Joshua, and what is there in economics? “I offer the bread of life of; myself. Salvation from sin and death, and I offer it on my terms. You seek to make me king, but you cannot make me your king.” Men cannot command God, man cannot choose God. God chooses him. This is the wickedness of some revivalism which tells people that salvation is their choosing God, when Christ says; “Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you,” and we are here today because God has chosen us, has regenerated us, has worked in our hearts and made us delight in him and in his Word. It is his doing, his saving, his choosing.
Jesus Christ, as that perfect savior, as very man of very man, and very God of very God, refused to give unto them manna, bread, and he refuses to give us manna, bread, economics, paradise on earth apart from himself, because it is a poor substitute for himself, and it leaves us still in sin and in death.
Today, our hearts cry out too often for bread, for manna, for an economic answer, not for life. Too often they cry out for material things instead of more faith, more of Christ in us, and the scripture tells us concerning material things that our Father in heaven knows that we have need of all these things, and that certainly we need them, and our Lord, in the temptation did not deny them. He said; “Man shall not live by bread alone.” He needs bread, but he cannot live by bread alone, “…but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This is the essence of man’s life, this is the certainty, the assurance. “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” and our Father in heaven, as a loving Father, will not give us a stone for the true bread, Jesus Christ, nor will he give us the false bread that perishes to keep us from the true manna, Jesus Christ. The hope of the world is not in economics, not in solution to social problems met with bread and economic security, but Jesus Christ.
We had, after all, the solution to the economic problems in this country, did we not? We established it as a free country, under a Constitution that was thoroughly Christian, and we had as ideal a situation as the world has seen since the Garden of Eden, but as men left Jesus Christ, they turned what was the nearest thing to paradise, into a country polluted and perverted, and if suddenly the clock were turned back, and all the conditions of the 1830’s again prevailed, in two or three year’s time, it would be no different than now, men, being what they are.
We, as Christians, are denied our cry for help at times that we might be weaned from the manna that perishes, and be fed on the true manna, Jesus Christ, and even as we often deny our children things that they passionately desire, because we know what is best for them, so our God often denies us things we passionately desire because he knows what is best for us, and knows that our eyes must be first fixed there where our true joys are to be found, even in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore, we need to give heed to the words of the Apostle James;
“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials. For ye know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect that it may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…”
And we, in these days, are indeed undergoing that trial of faith, that we might recognize that the answer to the future is not in economics, but in Jesus Christ, and in every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, that when we have that foundation, Jesus Christ, and then build in terms of that, by the Word of God, we have the answer to the problems of capital and labor, the problems of money, the problems of family, all of man’s problems, because the every word of God speaks clearly, plainly, and powerfully concerning all these things.
Therefore, let us summon men and let us turn ourselves more and more, day by day, unto Jesus Christ, who declares himself to be the manna
“…which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give as my flesh which I give for the life of the world…I am the bread of life… Lord, ever more give us this bread.”
Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, we give thanks unto thee that thou hast fed us with the true manna, Jesus Christ, and that in him we have victory over the power of sin and death. In him, we have the assurance that Christ, having died for us, will do yet more and care for us. Teach us, therefore, to cast our every care upon him, knowing he careth for us. Give us grace to walk in the confidence that He who began a new creation, that is victory over Satan, will make all things new, and His is the victory, His kingdom shall prevail. Our God, we thank thee. In Jesus name. Amen.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder