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Jesus teaches that man shall not live by bread alone

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Today’s bible study is Matthew 4:3-4: Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said: It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

It is clear that the Gospel of Matthew was written at a fairly early date – prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Some scholars have proposed ad date as early as A.D. 50.

The Jewish flavor of Matthew’s gospel is also remarkable. It is evident, even in the opening genealogy, which Matthew traces back only as far as Abraham. The probability that Matthew’s audience was predominantly Jewish is further evident from several facts: Matthew usually cited Jewish custom without explaining it, in contrast to the other gospels. He constantly refers to Christ as the son of David. Matthew even guards Jewish sensibilities regarding the name of God, referring to the kingdom of heaven where the other evangelists speak of the kingdom of God.

Matthew even says, ‘If you are the Son of God.’ The conditional if here carries the meaning of since. Satan did not doubt who Jesus was; but Satan wanted to get him to violate the plan of God and to use wrongfully the divine power He had set aside in His humiliation. This is quite difficult to understand. Matthew writes of the son of David having saved some of his divine power and that his strength and divinity are not questioned by the powers of evil.

Our verse goes on to say: It is written. All three of Jesus’ replies to the devil are taken from Deuteronomy. This one, from Deuteronomy, states that God allowed Israel to hunger so that He might feed them with manna and teach them to trust Him to provide for them. So this verse is directly applicable to Jesus’ circumstances and a fitting reply to Satan’s temptation: Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A more important source of sustenance than food, scripture nurtures our spiritual needs in a way that benefits us eternally, rather than merely providing temporal relief from physical hunger.

It is difficult to imagine a conversation with Satan, yet, in a small way, we have these conversations nearly every day. Whenever we make choices to follow the Lord, to perform an act of kindness, to do good deeds rather than evil, or to reject temptation, we have, in essence, responded to Satan.

Help us, Lord Jesus, to always follow in your footsteps and perform acts befitting the sons and daughters of Your heavenly father. Help us to avoid temptation and to always choose good over evil. O most merciful and omnipresent God, grant us the grace to see the good in the world and revel in its beauty and glory, in Your holy name.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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