Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 4:1-11

Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 4:1-11. Another passage that presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the True Israel is Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew’s account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. Just as Israel was tested for forty years in the wilderness wanderings, Christ as the True Israel was tested for forty days in the wilderness by the devil. Tom Schreiner writes: “Jesus’ uniqueness also shines through in the temptation by the devil (4:1-11). In these temptations Jesus is identified as the Son of God. Just as Israel as God’s son was tempted forty years in the wilderness, so Jesus was tempted forty days by the devil. Jesus, however, proves himself to be the true Son of God, the true Israel, by his trust in God and obedience to him.”[1] G.H. Twelftree similarly comments: “In Matthew the immediate background to the temptations is the voice from heaven announcing Jesus’ sonship (Matt.3:17), which is successfully tested. Jesus proves his obedience by being prepared to find his sustenance, safety and sovereignty only in submission to His Father, who faithfully supplies his needs….As a faithful son in the whole range of temptations (Luke 4:13), Jesus brings to an end the human disobedience typified in Adam and the Israelites during the Exodus.”[2]

 

In each of His temptations, Christ demonstrated Himself to be God’s faithful and obedient Son. Unlike Israel who miserably failed in the wilderness, Christ the True Israel was indisputably victorious. Unlike Israel who abandoned God and His Word in the hour of testing, Christ the True Israel unwaveringly clung to His Father and the Scriptures. Blomberg comments:

Just as Moses had to lead the Israelites during forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness as punishment for their sin (Deut. 8:2-3), so Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the Judean wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil (4:1-2)….The temptation to turn stones into bread might also echo Moses’ rebellion in striking the stone to make it bring forth water (Num. 20:1-13). But where in both instances Israel as a people or Moses as a leader failed the test, Jesus passes his. In fact, in each of the three specific temptations that Matthew depicts (this time paralleled in Luke 4:1-13), Jesus confounds the devil by citing Scripture. In one case he does so in response to a verse that Satan himself has quoted…[3]

Likewise, Beale writes: “Jesus Christ, however, knew the word and, by obeying it, established himself as God’s true last Adam and true Israel. Recall, in Matt. 4:1-11, when the devil sought to tempt Jesus. With each temptation Jesus responded to Satan by quoting from the OT, from passages in Deuteronomy where Moses rebuked Israel for failing in its task.”[4] Matthew 4:1-11 clearly demonstrates the Lord Jesus to be God’s faithful and obedient Son, the True Israel.


Notes:

[1]Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 439.

[2]G.H. Twelftree, “Testing,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 815.

[3]Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew” in Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson, The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 14.

[4]Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 222.

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