The Satanic Alternative (2)

The Second Temptation: Faith Versus sight

R.J. Rushdoony

Let us begin with prayer. We thank thee, our Father, that we can come to thee in the confidence that thou art he dost hear and answer prayer. We thank thee, our Father, that as we face our todays and our tomorrows, we can rest in the assurance that because our times are in thy hands, we can rest and work, and wait in confidence. Teach us, our Father, to take hands off our lives and to commit them into thy keeping, to cease from fretting, to be still and to know that thou art God. Bless us now as we study thy word and grant us thy peace. In Jesus name. Amen.

Our scripture this afternoon is from the Gospel of St. Matthew 4:1-7;

“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. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

The temple is the focal point of the second temptation. In the first temptation, Satan said to our Lord; “If thou be a Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” In other words, satisfy the economic wants of the people. Give them cradle-to-grave security. Make it unnecessary for them to have any kind of economic problem and prove thereby that you are a fit Messiah for mankind, because this, said Satan, is mankind’s real problem. And so the temptation was to be a political messiah with an economic program, a program of cradle-to-grave security, and our Lord rejected this temptation.

The second temptation, closely allied to the first, had reference to the temple.

“Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple.”

The temple has an important part in biblical history. It was preceded by the tabernacle. “And God declared,” in Exodus 25:8; “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” God, as the invisible king of Israel, had his palace in the form of the tabernacle at the center of the camp, as the center of all their life. The Holy of Holies was his throne room, and from thence he ruled as the King of Israel. True, no place, neither tabernacle or temple, could ever contain God, and this they fully knew. Indeed, in the prayer of dedication at the temple, Solomon said; “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” And yet, the Holy of Holies was God’s throne room in a special sense, and a place of meeting between himself and the chosen representative of his people, and from thence the sacrifice, the proclamation of the law, the declaration of the righteousness and the purposes of God.

But the people came to trust in form rather than reality, and we find this continually round about us. Every Sunday, millions of Americans worship in countless churches where they have a form of godliness but where the power thereof is entirely lacking. They are beautiful structures, and they can say even as the people of Jerusalem said; “We have the truth priesthood, the priesthood from Levi,” or “We have Apostolic succession,” or “We have the true creed,” and so on and so forth. They have the form but not the reality, and they are content with the form, the form of the faith, the form of Americanism, the form.

People content themselves with these things, and Jeremiah, in the very years before the Fall of Jerusalem, warned the people saying, in Jeremiah 7:4; “Trust ye not in lying words saying The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” This was their attitude; “the temple of the Lord is with us, we are God’s people, we are the cream of all creation, how could anything happen to us? How can we suffer or undergo captivity, or our nation be overthrown in view of these things?” And the warning of Jeremiah was; “…trust ye not in lying words,” the temple shall be destroyed. And Jesus, as he left the temple for the very last time, turned to his disciples in Matthew 24:2, and pointed to the temple and said; “See not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” And it happened. Not a stone left standing upon another.

The whole of the temple, a structure that had been years and years in construction, a huge edifice, some of the courts of which alone could seat, or contain, 5,000 and more people was totally destroyed, every stone systematically taken down by the Romans, and the whole area sown with salt, plowed up, because of their anger at its bitter resistance, and this, too, in terms of a fundamental principle of all of scripture; judgment begins at the house of God, this is the word of God. Judgment begins as the house of God, and so it is, over and over and over again, God takes a people, and God takes a church that has the form but not the reality, and there begins his judgment, because they’re an offense to Him. They have so much and are so little.

Satan came to our Lord, and said;

“If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down (from this, the pinnacle of the temple): for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

The answer of our Lord to Satan, the first time, was; “It is written.” He stood in terms of scripture, and so Satan comes back at him with scripture; “If it’s scripture you want, I’ll give you scripture!” but he misquotes the psalms, because the psalmist, in a messianic psalm, declares that the Messiah, in the discharge of his duty and the proclamation of God’s word and God’s warning, should be fully protected, so that God would not suffer him to dash his foot against a stone. The scriptures indeed declare that the Messiah, in the fullness of time, would give his life a ransom for many, and we know that more than once before the appointed time, the leaders of the people purposed to take him and to kill him, but on one occasion very early in his ministry, a mob sought to take him and throw him off the edge of a cliff, but God did not suffer him to dash his foot against a stone before the appointed time, and the words of the psalmist simply said that in the discharge of his ministry, he would be under the total protection and providence of God. It did not say that he had the right to make demonstrations by throwing himself from a pinnacle of the temple and expecting the angels to catch him before he hit the ground, this is what Satan called for.

Here, in the temple, you will have crowds to witness this miracle. On almost any day, the crowds in the temple ran into the thousands upon thousands. On many an occasion, there would be crowds of several hundred thousand pouring in and out of the temple area, the many courts and grounds, because it covered many acres. What a dramatic occasion for such a miracle! These pilgrims coming from all parts of the world here to Jerusalem. Think of the impact! Cast thyself down. Why? Make it unnecessary for them to have faith. Give them scientific knowledge. Enable them to walk by sight. Prove to them that you are able to command supernatural power, and to do anything on demonstration so that it is unnecessary for them to have faith.

In the first temptation; make it unnecessary for men to face any kind of problems in this world, give them cradle-to-grave security. In the second temptation, make it unnecessary for man to be tested and tried and put to the acid test of his faith, to be compelled to walk by faith, as seeing the invisible, but enable him to see it, and our Lord answered; “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” The word ‘tempt’ has, as an important aspect of its meaning, and central here, the idea of ‘test’ or ‘trial.’ You shall not test, or put to a trial, the Lord your God.

Now, what Satan proposed was a complete reversal of the whole order of being. God can put man to the test, to the trial. God can say to man; “I am that I am. I am the omnipotent, all righteous, all wise God, and you must walk by faith, that because I am God, the very nature of the universe will sustain you as you walk in confidence, in obedience to me, in righteousness and holiness, and in godly knowledge.” But what Satan says is that it should be the other way around, God must have faith in man, and man has the right to say to God, “I am righteous, and holy, and perfect, and good, and every intention I have is perfectly wonderful, and you must believe in me in spite of what you see me do, you must believe no matter what I do, no matter what sin I commit, that my heart is perfect, and I’m alright within, and therefore, you must have faith; faith in me, no matter what test I put your faith to, no matter what I put you through in the course of my life. You, God, must have faith in me.” This is the implication, the plain meaning of the temptation. Satan says; “Thou shalt put the Lord thy God to trial. Thou shalt tempt him. Thou shalt test him, to purify him.”

Now, the meaning of ‘pure’ is a very interesting one. Our word for ‘pure’ is a different one than the Latin, so it fails to convey the accurate biblical meaning. When we talk about purity, our word comes from the Latin ‘puris’ which means ‘fresh, virginal, untouched,’ as it were, cellophane-wrapped, but that’s the not the Biblical meaning. The Latin word conveys the idea of a new-born lamb, something young and untouched, and unspotted by the world. But the Biblical meaning for ‘pure’ is associated with gray hairs, and with age, because the Biblical word for ‘pure’ is literally ‘refined, tested by fire,’ and it refers to the same kind of process used in smelting gold, thrown into the fire so that all the impurities are burned out. And, in the Biblical sense, purity is not something that belongs to the child, but to the man or woman of grey hairs that is tested, and has stood the testing, and the dross is being burned out, and the gold is increasingly in evidence, and what Satan says is; “God does not have the right to try us, God does not have the right to test us, to require us to have faith in him, and to produce the gold in us, but we shall tempt the Lord our God, we shall put him to the test to see if there is any gold in him, if he believes in us. That’s the test.” And our Lord said; “It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

Again, he quoted scripture. In this case, Deuteronomy 6;16-18, wherein Moses said;

“Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers.”

And Moses, in so speaking, was referring as he stated, to Massah. “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.”

This has reference to the incident described in Exodus in which the children of Israel, as they journeyed through the wilderness, according to Exodus 17, found themselves faced with a stretch in their journey where there was no water. They had been delivered miraculously, repeatedly, again and again and again by God, but this was not enough for them, and so they cried out, they complained about the fact that; “Here we are. No water right here where we’re camping. It might be miles to the next point where there is water,” and so they said; “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17 said; “Is the Lord among us or not? If God is with us, then let him demonstrate himself. How dare he ask us to walk by faith. How dare he put us to the test here in the wilderness. We must have perfect security, or we want no part of him.”

Men still say, “Is the Lord among us or not?” And they try to build churches and societies which will give them what they want, signs of God’s presence, because the God they worship is a God whom they can put to the test. And they are content, therefore, with a society which gives them everything and asks nothing of them. Which says; “We will provide you with cradle-to-grave security. We will give you beautiful churches where you will be lulled into complacency by a beautiful choir, and an organ, and lovely architecture, where you will feel that this is a world without any testing, and nothing will ever trouble you. Nothing.” This is the world they want, and if they cannot find a God or a false god to give it to them, they go to politicians and ask for it, this society of Satan. A world in which they can say; “Is the Lord among us or not.” And the sign that there is a God is cradle-to-grave security. No problems, no testing, no trial for man, God alone can be put to the test. Therefore, let the Lord show himself if he be God in healings, in numbers, in pomp and circumstance, and everything our heart desires! And if there is going to be a true social order, a godly social order, it’s got to provide us with everything also, or we deny that it is Christian. And so it is we live in a world today in which people increasingly are incapable of taking the faintest trial, because it’s not the kind of world they believe in.

Some years ago, I came very near having a serious accident when I was driving down a highway, and the car in front of me, driven by a woman, stopped suddenly, I stopped in time to avoid anything serious. I just barely touched her rear bumper, and the truck driver in back of me barely stopped in time to avoid wiping me out, and there was quite a bit of brakes behind him. What had happened? The woman in front of me had three dogs on the front seat with her, and the one dog was having the sniffles and she was rushing him to the vet and it was a traumatic experience for her, and the dog whimpered suddenly, and; “it was more than she could bear,” she said, and she just had to stop immediately and pick him up. This is not unusual.

Within the past week, I heard of one party, not too far from here, where the guests did not see much of their host or hostess, they were in the back room all evening, their dog was not well. This is the kind of world people want, really, in varying degrees. Some may laugh at this kind of extreme, because that’s not their cup of tea, but they want a world in which there are no problems, in which all the problems have to be on God’s side, bearing with us, and believing in us in the face of all these things, a world in which, if anything goes wrong, they can say; “Is the Lord with us or not?” A world in which they reserve the right to put God to the test at any time so they can say to him; “Prove yourself to us!” But the Lord does not reveal himself to us except through His word, the scripture, and His incarnate word, His Son Jesus Christ, and he declares unto us from of old through the mouth of his prophet Zechariah, Habakkuk, and others, through the mouth of our Lord, St. Paul, and the Apostles; “The just shall live by faith.”

When St. Thomas fell at our Lord’s feet, having seen the nail prints in his hands, and the spear thrust in his side, and said; “My Lord and my God,” our Lord said; “Blessed are they who having not seen, shall believe.” The blessings upon faith.

Thus, we are called upon to walk by faith, to know that because it is we who are the creatures and not God, it is we who shall be tested and tried. But if we stand in the testing and trial, we shall be purified, become sanctified, become increasingly gold in the sight of God, and we shall be blessed, and; “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow to it.

Therefore, the summons of the Gospel is not; “Come and see this scientific demonstration of the Lord, and accept it,” but; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Thou and thine household.” Let us pray.

Our Lord and our God, we give thanks unto thee for thy word, and we thank thee that thy testing of us is not beyond that which we are able to take, that thou art mindful of our frailties, and loving in thy discipline, and unto the end that we may stand before thee, perfected in Christian manhood. Bless us, O Lord, in thy service, and in thy calling. 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:

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