Throughout the Gospel of Matthew we find a number of mountain scenes, seven in all, from which several lessons and applications can be drawn. We will look at these and in particular seek to derive in the main the practical lessons of each experience. These are lofty experiences, not only because they are found in mountain heights, but because in every one we find our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, to be the central figure. This must always be so; not that He must occupy a mere place of prominence but that in all things He must have the preeminence.
The first of these scenes is to be found in Matthew chapter 4, and the mountain is described as “an exceeding high mountain.” This is the starting point in our climbing of this range of hills and each will rise higher and higher as we explore the teaching for ourselves. Satan would get our Lord Jesus up to a height where he could show Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” He wanted to show Him how much he would give for so little. Just “bow down” is all Satan requests and “all these things will I give Thee.” Satan is undoubtedly at this point a most desperate being. Had he not sought from the time of Adam’s fall to destroy the woman’s seed, so that the One who was to bruise his head could not appear upon the scene? Indeed, had he not thirty years prior to this time caused the slaughter of the innocents as recorded in Matthew chapter two, in order to destroy this Blessed One in whose presence he now stood? Surely he remembered the Words of God regarding his fate, but he cannot be sure by what method God would bruise his head. Certainly he never anticipated that Calvary would be the means to that end else he never would have entered into Judas and caused the death of the Holy One. Unable to frustrate God’s purposes by preventing the coming of Christ, the devil now seeks to do so by destroying His usefulness by having Him bow down to him. The burning desire of his heart that had lingered down the long stretches from a past eternity until the present moment now manifests itself. He yearned to be acknowledged by God as god, to have ascribed to him deity by Deity, and to be worshipped by the one whom David called “his Lord” although in point of time He was great David’s greater Son. To get this he is willing to exchange the kingdoms of this world. As he shows them to our Lord ‘he is tacitly reminding Him that they do not belong to Christ, that they had come into Satan’s control. We may even suggest that he knows that the reason Jesus has come ‘is to get them back again and he is offering Him the “easy” way. When Satan tempted our first parents, he offered them so much for so little. Just eat of the forbidden fruit and they would become as gods, knowing good and evil. This was true in a measure, but true to his character he withheld more truth than he revealed. He did not tell them that in the knowing the evil they would be powerless to resist it. This is the sad record of the history of man. Do we not hear this same groan from the heart of Paul some 4000 years later as he cries out when he recognizes the evil principal working within his breast (Romans 7:19), “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Satan did not ask them to worship him for that would have given him only little satisfaction, suffice at that time for him to spoil the handiwork of God. Now, however, he presses hard the desire of his evil heart; first of all, to receive the worship of the Lord of Glory; and second, to, once and forever on this occasion, thwart the purposes of God in the person of His Own Beloved Son. How ignorant he was of the pure and holy and fragrant character of the One whom he sought thus to tempt! This One whose character was such that the Father ‘Himself had broken the silence of Heaven and cried out before the temptation, not afterward, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and yet One whose sole dependence was upon God and His Word and therefore refers His adversary to it, by saying “it is written.” He who created this being and who had the power and authority to destroy him, displays the characteristics of the blessed man of Psalm one, whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night. What an example He thus becomes for His people; The lessons for us are so patent that they hardly need to be recited but let us briefly review them.
Satan is a doomed being whose purposes are still to spoil God’s workmanship and he constantly attacks us in one form or another. He is still making his spurious offers of so much for so little. Large portions of this world are offered for just a little neglect. What a victory he gains if he can succeed in getting us so involved with the world systems, whether commercial, social, political or even religious. Success, ease, pleasure, fame or whatever else may be of interest to us are all offered by Satan if we are willing to meet his terms. Failing this, he will be satisfied just to have us unyielding or uncommitted to the claims of Christ. So often we are satisfied if we can say we are not doing anything wrong, when actually our failure is due to the fact that we aren’t doing anything either right or wrong. Like the unprofitable steward we wrap up our talent in a napkin which is the slave’s sweat cloth, the symbol of servanthood, and we just do nothing but take care of ourselves. Note the Scripture quoted by our Lord, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” Serving was the keynote of our Lord’s life, both toward God and toward man. “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” The servant is not greater than his master and what characterized Him should mark out His servants. Service, not at our convenience or choosing, but service born of a deep sense of gratitude to Him who loved us unto death even the death of the cross.
Service may take several forms such as working and witnessing, but also there is a service to God which includes devotion which produces worship of God, communion with God, intercession for His people and the shepherding of His people. God is jealous and would have all of us, and not just part of us. “A living sacrifice,” says Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let us be sure that it is He only whom we serve, and Satan will be defeated; we will be blessed, and God will be glorified.
Matthew four takes us up into an exceeding high mountain through which we learn lofty lessons from the example of our blessed Lord.