40 Days

First Sunday In Lent | March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 • Psalm 32 • Romans 5:12-19 • Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

On Wednesday evening, we kicked-off the season of Lent. It is a 40 day season of preparation – a season of prayer, fasting, and giving – a season of renewal. Now, if you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you will find that there are 46 days. But, we don’t count Sundays, because those are feast days during this season of fasting.

We had a moving Ash Wednesday Service. As the minister, it was I who placed the ashes on each person who attended. We had some from our church and some from another local church. It is a service that reminds us that we need to be faithful to the Good News about Jesus. This season reminds us that we can make a mid-course correction. Since it comes around yearly, it allows us to examine ourselves and make sure that we are the Christ-followers that Jesus has called us to be.

As I’ve said, Lent is a 40 day season of preparation. The number 40 is significant in the Bible. 40 days and 40 nights of the flood. 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. 40 days elapsed between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

The number 40 signifies a period of waiting – a long period of waiting. We often hear of holding on a moment – or being placed on hold for a moment. These are short moments of waiting and if we are in a hurry they can be trying. But what about waiting 40 seconds, 40 minutes, 40 hours, 40 days, 40 weeks, 40 years…it is a significant period of waiting.

I find it very interesting that at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry – just after He has been baptized, Jesus enters a period of significant waiting and testing. After Jesus is baptized, He is led into the wilderness, by the very same Spirit who fell from heaven during his baptism. For forty days and nights, Jesus fasted and prayed. It was significant. Imagine if you had fasted all food for that amount of time?

It is when we are needy – that we often yield to temptation. At the end of 40 days, Jesus is needy – Jesus is hungry – remember Jesus was human as we are. He experienced the same testings – the same trials – the same aches and pains that we did while on this earth. I’m sure Jesus was famished. It is in these weak times that the devil often does his most diabolical work.

In the Old Testament reading, we have the account of Adam and Eve and their temptation in the Garden of Eden. They had everything they could have wanted. God gives them one command not to eat of one tree – in the abundance of the garden.

The devil – in the form of the serpent – knows the human’s weaknesses. He knows our weakness and he will prey on those weaknesses every time. He plays the “God doesn’t have your best interests at heart” card. He tells Adam and Eve that God is holding back on them – that they don’t have all the knowledge that they need.

The devil likes to tempt us. He tempted Jesus who was human in every way. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our great high priest because he experienced humanness in all of its form and still remained sinless.

The devil tempts Jesus with the same thing that he tempts us with today. There are three things and I’m not usually much on alliteration, but they all begin with P:

  • Provision – Jesus was tempted with food as if God wasn’t taken proper care of Jesus. The devil tempts us the same way.
  • Protection – The devil tempted Jesus with the idea that God wouldn’t protect him.
  • Position – The American dream is looking out #1.

Jesus was able to refute the devil, because, as the Word of God come in the flesh – he knew what the Word of God was. Even when the devil twisted God’s holy writings, Jesus was able to defend himself from the fiery darts of the devil.

In some ways, these 40 days can seem like a wilderness experience – when we will be tested and tried. The devil will use every available tool, especially the desires lurking in our hearts.

James writes:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15

The devil will use these tricks – especially as we are fasting during this 40 days of preparation – to trip us up. Remember the key is to persevere – to remember that God does have your best interests at heart.

God desires that we love Him with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In order to do that, we need to strip away all those things that can distract us from being a completely devoted, cross-bearing, Christ-following, child of God. My prayer is during this Lenten season – this 40 days of preparation – 40 days of a wilderness experience that you would prepare your heart, much like those who were being ready to be baptized into the church on Easter Sunday – to be reconciled to God – renewed in your heart – ready to serve Jesus with everything you have.

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