Learning from Temptation in the Old Testament
This wa taught as a "puzzle" where only the titles were displayed and the Christians in the Bible study had to figure out what passages these referred to.
Prov 23:32 "Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper." (NIV)
How come some people fall and fall again in the same temptation, when other believers with even greater temptations in the same area do not? Today we are going to look very briefly through a number of case histories of temptation in the Old Testament.
Temptation and sin are like fire. A fire never starts from just one cause, but three: air, fuel, and spark.
Air: We are surrounded by a sinful world, under the control of the evil one. But our sinful nature is especially open to temptation when:
Circumstances are against you
Temptations of depression, fear, desperation, discouragement, doubt, lack of patience, hunger, lack of sleep
There is no way out; things will never change. "We got to help God out."
You see a real need, and you can meet the need without God, just bending the rules "a little bit".
Robinhood would rob from the rich and give to the poor (perhaps keeping some for his band). But obeying God means not robbing the rich, even if we try to rationalize it by helping the poor.
The world shines on you and you relax your guard
Temptations of laziness, pride, lust, idleness, greed, materialism, apathy, gluttony, gossip
You claim you have no time to do what God wants you to do.
When a believer is saying false things, and you go with him, even though you know it is false.
I like what I have, but I want even more. I hope things change. "I want the best things God has for me, and also...."
The tongue is a special means of sinning. a person can probably sin more rapidly with their tongue than in any other way. Gossip, lies, and tearing others down are sometimes done without people even needing to think about it.
You do not forgive
Temptations of hate, envy, revenge, and grudges
I don't care to win; I just want them to lose.
When you are not the favored one.
Fuel: We all a have sinful nature; some parts of us are "burnable". We all have a sinful nature, but some people are more temptable in certain areas than others. Certain factors can make us more vulnerable.
1. We forget who we are in Christ
We have fallen in this area before, and it is familiar and "comfortable" to fall in this area again.
2. We forget Who is in us
Our body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit
3. We forget where we are going
pride, laziness, drunkenness, drugs, sex, theft, materialism, greed, occult, hatred, depression.
4. We forget Whose we are
We were bought with a price, so honor God with your body
5. We forget Who is watching us
Remember, we will have to give an account.
Spark: We are not alone in our temptation, We have special "helpers", demons, who want to persuade, force and seduce us to sin in order to sift and destroy us. Temptations and sin can be
"Why not, if I can get away with it?"
Someone plots a long time how to sin
"It's not a sin unless/until I actually do it"
Others try to force you to sin
"I have to sin, under these circumstances."
Repetition of the temptation, and habitual sin
Either others keep tempting you over and over, or you keep putting yourself in a tempting situation
Others try to persuade you that it is better or reasonable for you to sin.
So in each case we want to understand why they did something, by asking three questions:
1) What is the air, fuel, and spark?
2) Why might a believer (such as yourself) fall into this temptation?
3) Why might a believer (such as yourself) be strong and victorious over this temptation?
Later we will try to classify our results and see what we can learn from the Bible to conquer temptations.
The First Temptation
The first temptation was not with Adam and Eve, but Satan's fall in Isa 14:12-15; Ezek 28:11-17; and Rev 12:4,7-9. Some temptations are based on what you lack and want to get. However this temptation was what Satan already had but wanted more of.
Do You Want to Be Like God?
Adam and Eve in Gen 3. Gaining knowledge is some people's ultimate aim, and being like God sounds even better. Satan made it seem very reasonable to each the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But if gaining knowledge, or even wanting to be more like God or even more righteous, if more important than obedience to God, then you have just made an idol for yourselves.
Venerating God's Gifts, instead of God
The bronze snake, called Nehushtan, in Num 21:8-0; 2 Ki 18:4
What If God doesn't want your sacrifice?
Cain in Gen 4:2-12. Abel offered the firstborn, but scripture is silent on whether Cain offered the first fruits or not. Cain's heart was bad, as subsequent events showed. Perhaps God wanted blood sacrifices, not vegetables, and perhaps Cain did not know because he did not ask. But today we can be in a situation where we make a significant sacrifice for God, and God did not want our sacrifice. Then how would we react?
Saul and the Amalekite animals in 1 Sam 15:14-23
God is not required to accept all sacrifices made to Him, and there are some He does not want. In Mt 5:23-24 Jesus said that if you are about to offer your gift, and you remember that your brother has something against you, first be reconciled with your brother, and after that offer your gift.
How Spiritual Do We Have to Be Until We Relax Our Guard?
Noah Gen 8:20-21
Our Safety is Important to God
Abram and Lying Gen 12:10-20 and Gen 20:1-12
Our Life is Most Important to God
Hezekiah in Isa 38:1-8; 2 Chr 32:32-33:2,9
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
Abram and Hagar Gen 16; 28:8-21
When Should you Lie, Cheat, and Steal for God?
Jacob and Esau, and Rachel Gen 27 and Gen 31:19-20; 35:16-19. Some people can rationalize that lying, cheating, and sinning can be for a good cause
When God Appears to Love Someone More than You
Joseph's brothers Gen 37
Also Cain and Abel in Gen 4
Rachel and Leah in Gen 29:31-30:12
Why Do What Is Right When No One is Looking?
Joseph in Gen 39:7-23
Serving God, In Your Own Way
Moses and the Egyptian in Ex 2:11-13. Moses knew God had him put in special circumstances. Moses wanted to save the Israelites, and he empathized with the oppression of a particular Israelite slave. Since Moses' heart was in the right place, and he wanted deliverance, which God wanted, Moses led by doing things in his own way, in his own timing. The trouble is, God does not follow our leading; rather God wants us to follow His leading.
Don't Take for Granted God's Patience
Look at Pharaoh in Ex 7-14. One might think "poor Pharaoh, God was so severe with him and the Egyptians. God was severe, but one could look at just how fortunate Pharaoh was, that God gave Him so many chances. Perhaps though, after the first few plagues, Pharaoh thought he could be hard and tricky, because God would give him an unlimited number of chances. God does not give anyone an infinite number of chances. In fact, 1 Thess 2:16b says some "heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last." (NIV)
Does God Really Know Your Needs?
The Israelites in the Wilderness. Do you want to go back to Egypt? Ex 16:2-3; Num 20:1-5; 1 Cor 10:1-5
Don't Let Anyone be Over You
Korah's rebellion in Num 16:1-35
God's People Disappoint Me Sometimes
Moses striking the rock in Num 20:7-13
How Not to Rebuke a Godly Leader
Miriam Num 12
Shimei cursing David in 2 Sam 16:5-12
What Won't You Do - if the price is right
Balaam Num 22-23; Num 31:8
Being Blessed in God's Abundance
Achan Josh 7
Doing What is Right in Your Own Eyes
All of the book of Judges, especially Jdg 21:25
Disobeying God In Order to Be Righteous
Jephthah Jdg 11:30-40. Jephthah was also doing what was right in his own eyes.
Is God's Way Really the Best Way?
Is Success Worse Than Failure?
Justice without mercy or love
The battle against the Benjamites Jdg 20
Confiding in God's Enemies can be a hair-raising experience
Samson, his wife, and Delilah Jdg 14:8-15:6 and Jdg 16:1-22
The Temptation of Familiarity: God Has No Grandkids
Eli's sons 1 Sam 2:22-26; 3:11-14; 4:17
Also Ezek 18
What Are You doing under the Circumstances?
The "Need" to Help God Out
Saul and the Amalekites 1 Sam 16:8-31
To Only Get What is Rightfully Yours
David and Saul's robe in 1 Sam 24:3-27
Should you take whatever is offered of you?
Elisha curing Naaman of leprosy, and Gehazi getting it instead in 2 Ki 5:19-27
Heart-sick to the point of illness
Amnon and Tamar 2 Sam 13:1-34
Counting your blessings - the wrong way
David and the Census in 1 Chr 21:1027
When Kings Go Off to War
David was a man after God's own heart, so how could he fall? Let's look at what led up to his fall. 2 Samuel 11:1-2 says that in the spring, when kings go off to war, David sent Joab and stayed home. One evening he was restless, got up from his bed, walked around his roof, and saw Bathsheba bathing. Then he did something about it; he sent someone to find out who she was. Then after he slept with her, he tried to cover up that she was pregnant by having Uriah come home. However, the unknowing, loyal Uriah did not cooperate; he did not spend any time with his wife while the rest of the men were in the field. Then David was despicable by sending a command through Uriah for the murder of Uriah, which Joab carried out. Nathan the prophet rebuked David, and the child born to them was killed by God.
a) When you know you should be doing something, you open yourself up to temptation when you are not doing it, even when you delegate your job to someone else.
b) David might not have been specifically looking for women who were bathing, but when he found one he did not immediately turn around and go inside.
c) David's cover up involving treachery and murder was as bad as the original sin.
d) Innocent people, Uriah and the newly born child, suffered for what David and Bathsheba did.
e) When Nathan rebuked David the child had already been born, so it was at least nine months after the sin before Nathan rebuked him. Presumably David had not repented prior to then but had acted like everything was OK.
f) David lost face before the people, and God specifically said someone from his own household would revolt against him.
g) I am sure that when David was mourning over Amnon, and later Absalom, he regretted ever sinning with Bathsheba or killing Uriah in the first place.
Can Believers Build Temples to Idols?
In 1 Kings 8-9 Solomon appeared as devoted to the Lord as he could be, it seemed that nothing could ever reduce that. Yet, 1 Kings 11:1-40 starts by saying that Solomon love many foreign wives, despite God's commandment not to marry from the surrounding nations. When Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter in 2 Chronicles 8:11, he built a new palace for her, rationalizing that the places the ark had been were holy. When Solomon grew older, believe it or not, Solomon, builder of the Temple, became Solomon builder of temples. He followed foreign gods and built a high place for Chemosh and Molech in 1 Kings 11:4-8. Three things to notice
a) Solomon probably did not see any great evil in marriage to foreign wives, - except that God said not to
b) At first Solomon had the "sacred" and "profane" compartments in his life, not wanting to diminish the holiness of where the ark had been, so he built a palace for his Egyptian wife. - so why did he marry her in the first place?
c) Nothing bad happened at first, and Solomon's many wives at first did not seem to do him any spiritual harm.
d) Eventually the evil was immense as Solomon built those pagan temples, even to gods that had human sacrifice.
e) Solomon did all of this and his kingdom was still prosperous and peaceful; but eventually adversaries came against Solomon: Hadad the Edomite, Rezin of Damascus, and Jeroboam an Ephraimite.
f) These men did not just appear; God specifically raised them up, even sending the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam telling Jeroboam to rebel.
If You Snack on Temptation, It will have You for Lunch
The prophet Jonah and the great fish
God sent a young prophet to warn Jeroboam after he built the altar to the golden calves. But in 1 Kings 13:9 God specifically told the prophet not to eat or drink anything until he returned to Bethel. But an older prophet came and asked the younger prophet to eat with him. The younger prophet said God told him that he could not, but the older prophet lied and said God told him it was OK to eat with him. In 1 Kings 13:20-24 God spoke to the older prophet telling the younger prophet he would die because he disobeyed. After he left a lion came and killed the younger prophet, and then stayed with the body, neither eating the body or the donkey. Notice three points:
a) God specifically commanded the younger prophet not to do something at all.
b) It would seem natural and good for the young prophet specifically to eat with the older prophet, - except that God commanded against that in general.
c) The older prophet was a genuine prophet of God, but the older prophet lied.
d) Even though a genuine prophet tells you a prophecy from God, God holds you responsible for NOT obeying it, if it contradicts what God has already spoken about.
e) We should not only watch out for false believers telling us things from God that are not from God, but we should even test what genuine believers tell us are from God.
And What If God Doesn't Protect Us?
The prophets killed in Elijah's time 1 Ki 19:3,10
Exhaustion Can Increase Temptation
Elijah's Discouragement 1 Ki 18:46-19:10-18
The Big Temptation to Do Nothing
Esther in Esth 4:13-14
Nehemiah in Neh 1-2:10. Nehemiah could have just said "that's too bad and done nothing, taken matters into his own hands, such as Moses killing the Egyptian, or prayed to God.
Others Putting You in Extenuating Circumstances Can Tempt
Daniel in Dan 6:1-12
Fear and Threats can Tempt You to do less
The Returnees in Ezra 4:4-5; Neh 4:1-3; 10-12
We looked at just some of the temptations people endured (or failed to endure) in the Old Testament. Next we will look at other temptations people faced in the New Testament. Temptation in the New Testament
Prov 7:22-23 "All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life."(NIV)
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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.