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God’s staff team: Jesus’ temptation

God created a celestial staff team to assist his people on earth. Who comes to his staff meetings? Cherubim, seraphim, and angels!

Angels are described as “ministering spirits” that are sent by God to earth to announce something or to rescue, protect, or minister to someone (Heb 1:14). It may surprise you to know that, contrary to popular opinion, nowhere in Scripture do we see angels with wings—and they don’t have capes either! Let’s look at Psalm 91.

It begins with “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps 91:1). We’ve all made it this far because nothing has overcome us. We owe our resilience entirely to God’s gracious care. So, we need not “fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday” (Ps 91:5-6).

The history of the interpretation of Psalm 91 is interesting. Most Jewish and Christian readers assumed that the “terror” of “darkness” and “destruction” referred, at least in part, to demonic powers. The real enemies that threaten God’s people are not political opponents, natural disasters, and illness. So, it’s no coincidence that in the gospels, clear references to Psalm 91 are found in contexts that have to do with demonic powers (Matt 4:6; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:10-11; 10:19).

Ironically, the devil quotes almost verbatim this anti-demonic psalm—confirming that scripture can be used for nasty purposes. “Jump, Jesus, jump!” says Satan. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Matt 4:6; cf. Ps 91:11-13). Well, of all the places to jump, you’d think the temple would be the one spot on earth to be confident of God’s protection, right?

Yet, it does raise an obvious question: would God command his angels to catch Jesus if he jumped? What if the people of Nazareth had successfully pushed Jesus off the cliff (Luke 4:29-30)? Do angels have baseball mitts? I don’t know. But whatever Satan was suggesting would have been a catastrophe.

Thankfully, Jesus refuses to take a senseless leap of faith, not because he denies the protection of angels, but because one who is secure in his identity and certain that God is with him has no need to prove it by jumping.

It was only after the devil took off that God sent some angels to minister to Jesus (Matt 4:11). The gospel writers don’t tell us what they did in ministering to him, but I imagine that just the sight of angels clapping and hugging and giggling would have been enough to encourage him.