Jesus begins his ministry with a forty-day fast in the wilderness,
paralleling the Israelites’ forty years in the wilderness
after their rescue from slavery in Egypt. They faced many trials in
the wilderness. They found themselves tested by God, and they
barely passed. God miraculously provided for their care. Nevertheless,
while Moses busied himself on Sinai with receiving the
Ten Commandments, at the foot of the mountain the Israelites
busily made a golden god to worship.
In the Bible many stories of new beginnings include God’s
testing of the people and the leaders to determine their commitment.
Adam and Eve failed outright when they ate from the
forbidden tree. God tested Abraham, the father of the Jewish
people, by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, his son of the
promise. So it does not surprise us to find that Jesus, who will
serve as our new head, also faced testing in the wilderness.
Temptation and testing point to the same hard reality of life.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus himself tells his disciples to ask God
not to lead them into temptation or to put them to the test. The
events of Jesus’ life and death tested their faith.
From Jesus’ temptations, we gain key information about the
kind of messiah Jesus would be and whether or not we can trust
him. Our understanding of that relationship provides support in
our own times of temptation.
All these stories—about Adam and Eve, Abraham, Jesus’
disciples—teach us that when we fail our inevitable tests and
give in to our temptations, God does not abandon us. After
failing in the desert, the people of Israel still entered their new
land. Upon leaving the Garden, Adam and Eve received God’s
care. And in spite of our failures, God loves us still.
Loving God, we know that giving in to our temptations does not mean you abandon us. Amen.
The texts for Ash Wednesday are all ominous in nature, pointing forward to the redemptive power of God’s grace. Lent is a time when Christians reflect on their mortality and sin, as well as on the creative and re-creative power of God. The original parents of humanity could not resist the seduction of the serpent, but that narrative stands beside the story of Jesus’ lonely and painful resistance to the power of Satan. In Romans, the “one man’s obedience” by which “the many will be made righteous” is the quality that endures. The Joel passage is an alarm bell in the darkness of the night. Those who are caught in this terrible moment cannot hope to save themselves, for they are powerless to do anything on their own behalf. They are powerless to do anything, that is, except to repent and to open themselves to God’s intervening mercy.
• Read Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7. What choices have you made that put you outside God’s intention for your life?
• Read Psalm 32. Are there unconfessed wrongdoings in your life that need God’s forgiveness? Will this Lent be a time when you can nd the freedom forgiveness brings?
• Read Romans 5:12-19. Have you experienced a relationship that has died? How has God renewed that time in your life?
• Read Matthew 4:1-11. What has tempted you to set faith aside and to trust only in yourself? How did that work out?
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