Scripture Focus: Luke 4.13
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
From John: I decided to do a touchup and rewrite on this post from 2019 as it occurred to me that many of us have been through, or are still in, deserts of isolation and fear in the season of Covid-19 and quarantine. Devils often come out for us in the deserts. I pray that we all will remember Jesus’ example of resistance and, if we have failed, we will remember that Jesus takes back repentant Peter, just as he will take back you and me.
Reflection: Our Opportunistic Opponent
By John Tillman
I doubt that the devil has horns, but when considering demonic influence in our world, there are two horns on which we can be caught.
It is unwise to make too much of Satan. We stumble into dualism when we think of him as an all-powerful, omnipresent evil. When we imagine Satan hiding behind every inconvenience and minor temptation in our world we deny our own propensity to sin and the omnipresent Spirit of God that truly is with us at all times.
It is unwise to make too little of Satan. It is dangerous to consider him and other evil spirits as mere phantoms of psychology or to explain him away as a metaphor of our inward sinfulness. This makes Satan less a dangerous foe and more a delightful fable.
No devil is needed for us to be tempted or tormented. We are sinful, deceiving and tormenting ourselves. We have broken our world, leaving sharp edges at every turn that cause harm. But we will encounter specific times of spiritual opposition in our lives.
Scripture warns that Satan desires to thresh us like wheat, that he prowls like a roaring lion, and that he has power to deceive the elect and to appear as an angel of light.
Satan is a limited, yet dangerous, creature of opportunity. It is wise to attempt to deny Satan opportunity by avoiding temptation, but being led by the Spirit does not always lead to safety. Jesus went into the wilderness to face temptation head on and Satan made the most of his opportunity. The Spirit will often lead us, as he did Christ, into deserts, alone, through times of testing. The devils will come out for us in our deserts.
The disciples, even when physically present with Jesus, were surrounded by, and succumbed to, temptations of greed, lust for power, anger, vengeance, selfishness, and self-righteousness. That’s leaving out Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s foul mouth.
Temptations are a time for us to come to terms with our limitations and recognize our sinfulness. In times of temptation, when we feel our limitations, there is comfort in knowing that our tempter is also limited. His opportunity to torment us will come to an end.
By Christ’s mercy, we can resist Satan and he will flee. But just as when Satan left Jesus in the wilderness, he is only waiting for an opportune time to return.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in your be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me. — Psalm 69.7
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Exodus 1 (Listen – 2:32)
Luke 4 (Listen – 5:27)
Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness
The tempter overcomes very many, by making them presumptuously confident of their own strength.
Read more about Quotations from the Desert
From the temptations in the garden to the temptations of Jesus and his followers, Satan encourages us to misapply and misinterpret God’s words.