Desert times are times of trial in our lives. Times of hardship and challenges. Times when our faith, our motives, our obedience are put to the test. And times when we face temptation. How we respond to testing and temptation will prove pivotal for our future.

As we journey through desert times, will we have faith in God to be our Provider, our Protector, our Sovereign Lord? Will we resist the lures of the enemy? Will we choose to trust in Him or ourselves? Will we follow Him or rebel?

“A test is a trial posed by God to prove the strength of our faith… A temptation is a trial posed by Satan, with the wicked hope that we will fail.” – Philip Ryken, Theologian

Desert times are times when we face God’s testing and Satan’s temptations. Our Lord Jesus endured such a time, as did God’s chosen people, the Israelites. One ended in glorious victory and one in devastating defeat. We can draw parallels between the three temptations Jesus heroically overcame and the three temptations that brought disaster to the Israelites.

→   First Temptation Will the Lord provide?  

In the desert wilderness, the Israelites face monumental temptations. They had seen their almighty Jehovah God miraculously deliver them from bondage in Egypt.  Yet very soon, God’s chosen people begin to rebel. Temptation comes upon them when they become hungry in the desert of Sinai. Questioning God’s goodness, they wonder… Will the Lord provide?

The Israelites grumble and complain to Moses. In their discontent, they begin craving the foods of Egypt… even lamenting having ever left. The people seek immediate gratification for their desires rather than trusting in their Provider. In response, the Lord generously rains down bread from heaven and brings quail in abundance. Despite His people’s lack of faith, God faithfully provides for the ones He loves.

Jesus faces a desert time in the Judean wilderness. After fasting 40 days, the enemy pounces on the opportunity to tempt the Lord. When Jesus is hungry and vulnerable, He faces the same temptation as the Israelites. Satan tempts our Lord to use His divine power to satisfy His hunger by turning stones into bread. Yet Jesus refuses, for He trusts in His Father’s goodness and His faithful provision. He answers Satan with the powerful Word of God…

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4 (Deuteronomy 8:3)

→   Second Temptation Will the Lord protect?

The Israelites face temptation again when they doubt whether God will safeguard them in the wilderness. When they camp at Rephidim, there is no water to drink. The people fear they will die of thirst. They wonder… Will the Lord protect? The Israelites grumble against Moses, demanding a miracle.

The Lord is again gracious to His difficult people. He works His miraculous power through His servant Moses. When Moses strikes a rock with his staff, water pours forth in abundance. He names the place Massah and Meribah… for here the Israelites test their Protector, asking, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)

The enemy presents Jesus with the same temptation to test God. Satan leads our Lord to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, tempting Him to throw Himself down. The enemy twists Scripture to imply that if He is the Son of God, angels will surely protect Him no matter what He does. Yet Jesus has no need to test His Father, for He trusts in God’s all-encompassing protection. He answers Satan with the truth of God’s Word…

“It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” – Matthew 4:7 (Deuteronomy 6:16)

→   Third Temptation Is the Lord sovereign?

As the Israelites continue their wilderness journey, they face yet another temptation. Moses has been a long time on Mount Sinai with Jehovah God. The people begin to doubt this invisible God. They wonder… Is the Lord truly sovereign?

God’s chosen ones press Moses’ brother Aaron to create for them gods of their own… ones they can see… ones they can control. Aaron fashions for them a golden calf. The people worship this powerless idol as their deliverer in place of the almighty God.

The faith of God’s chosen people in their sovereign Lord crumbles in this time of temptation. The lure of idol worship overcomes them. They do not stay true to the One who has rescued them so mightily in the past.

Satan approaches Jesus with the same temptation to worship someone or something other than the one true God. Jesus needs only to bow before the enemy for all the glory of the kingdoms of the world. Yet the Savior of the World seeks only to glorify His Father. Jesus resists Satan’s deception, for He trusts in His Father’s omnipotent sovereignty. He brandishes the spiritual weapon of God’s Word…

“Away from Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” – Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:13)

The Israelites fail repeatedly when testing and temptation come their way. God’s chosen people fail to trust Jehovah God to be their Provider, their Protector, their Sovereign Lord. This proves to be pivotal for their future.

Jesus faces victoriously every temptation that comes His way… choosing to trust only in His Father. He recognizes the tactics of the enemy and demonstrates the power of God’s Word in overcoming him. Jesus uses three verses to counter the enemy that directly reference the three temptations that defeated the Israelites in their desert times. Our Lord perfectly passes His test in the desert and carries on to fulfillment the Master’s plan… the ultimate turning point for all mankind.

“Satan tempts us that he may bring out all the evil that is in our hearts; God tests us that He may bring out all the good.” – F.B. Meyer, Evangelist

God desires that we pass His wilderness times of testing with resounding success… that we overcome victoriously the temptations that come our way… that we fortify and renew our faith through these experiences.

Let us respond like Jesus and trust in God alone in our desert times. Let us resist the temptations of the enemy with the powerful weapon of God’s Word. Let us place our utmost faith in God’s provision, His protection and His absolute sovereignty in our lives.