Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. [Psalm 25:4 (NLT)]
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. [Luke 4:1-2a (NLT)]
I read the wildlife sightings posted on the board: “cat bird…anhinga…turtles…herons…alligator on the boardwalk!” Needless to say, those words gave me pause. Doesn’t that gator know where he belongs? But then again, twice I’ve stepped out of my car at another park and nearly tripped over an alligator sunning himself in the picnic area. Raccoons have left both their paw prints and scat on the boardwalk, a berry-loving bear has been seen near the butterfly garden, panther scat was found on the sanctuary boardwalk, birds regularly perch on the walk’s railings, the anoles, skinks and squirrels frequently scamper past me on the trails and, yesterday, a snake slithered along the boardwalk right by my feet. Although we people are supposed to know enough not to stray off the paths and boardwalks into their territory, the animals seem to have no qualms about coming into ours. Although we think we are safe and secure by staying where we belong, apparently, we’re never quite as safe as we think. Yesterday’s snake was a harmless rat snake but it could as easily have been one of the swamp’s many cottonmouths.
Following his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. One would think the wilderness would be a temptation-free zone. Had Jesus gone to pray at a pagan temple or in the 1st Century equivalent of a bar or gentleman’s club, temptation could rightly be expected, but in the wilderness? Jesus should have been able to go there without encountering Satan. Like the animals in the swamps and parks, however, Satan is no respecter of boundaries or territory.
David knew he was inviting temptation when he started looking at the married Bathsheba and, by dallying with the Philistine Delilah, Samson was just asking for trouble. Eve, however, wasn’t looking for trouble as she walked in the garden—Satan came to her. Jesus wasn’t looking for trouble in the wilderness either. He just wanted a little quiet time of fasting and prayer but then Satan showed up. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the one who led Jesus to the wilderness in the first place! God may lead us to along the right path but that doesn’t mean Satan won’t try to follow. We don’t have to be where we don’t belong or doing what we shouldn’t be doing to have Satan come looking for us.
In various mythologies, evil supernatural beings like vampires can’t enter your house unless they’re invited inside. Make no mistake about it, Satan doesn’t wait for an invitation—he’ll barge right in wherever and whenever he can. We need to be on the lookout for him, much as I will be doing from now on for that alligator who likes to sun himself on the boardwalk. If I encounter the gator, I’ll just turn around and go the other way. If I encounter Satan, with the power of the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, I’ll stand my ground and send him packing.
As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. [John Wesley]
When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. [Luke 4:13 (NLT)]
There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” [Luke 22:40 (NLT)]