A promise of protection is not a license to do stupid things.
That is the essence of Jesus’ response to the second temptation. As He sat on top of the temple in Jerusalem, about twelve stories above the ground (see David Rolph Seely, “The Temple of Herod,” in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament, 53-70), Satan quoted a scriptural passage as the basis for a malicious request.
The passage is from Psalm 91, in which King David assures us that God protects those who trust in Him:
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.Psalm 91:10
It’s a beautifully reassuring image: As we follow God, He will send angels to catch us when we fall. But Satan managed to convert that promise into a cynical experiment. “If thou be the Son of God,” he said, “cast thyself down” (Matthew 4:6, Luke 4:9). In other words, God has promised to protect you, so put the promise to the test. Place yourself in danger, and see what happens.
Jesus refuted the questionable logic of the request with another scripture: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16; see Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12). The promise was intended to reduce anxiety, so that the faithful could focus on doing their work instead of the dangers they faced. It was not intended as an invitation to seek avoidable dangers.
Jesus reiterated this principle when the Seventy began to return from their first missions. They reported jubilantly, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” Jesus acknowledged the great blessing they had received: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19; compare Psalm 91:13). But He immediately redirected their focus: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). In other words, focus on your work. Be grateful for the blessings and protection you receive along the way, but don’t obsess about it.
Jesus’ restrained response in the Garden of Gethsemane when Peter tried to defend Him is another example of this principle. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” He asked (Matthew 26:53). The power of God to protect Him was not in question. The question that mattered to Jesus was what He must do next to fulfill His mission.
As Abinadi stood before the priests of King Noah, he forbade them to touch him, “for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver…therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time.” But he also acknowledged that the protection was context-specific: “I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved” (Mosiah 13:3, 9).
Years ago, President Russell M. Nelson and his wife were traveling in Central America with President and Sister Hinckley. As they drove from a church building to an airport, the Hinckleys’ car was involved in an accident. President Nelson recalled:
A truck loaded on top with unsecured metal rods approached them at an intersection. To avoid a collision, its driver suddenly stopped the truck, launching those iron rods like javelins to pierce the Hinckleys’ car. Windows were smashed; fenders and doors were dented. The accident could have been very serious. While shattered glass was being removed from their clothing and skin, President Hinckley said: “Thank the Lord for His blessing; now let’s continue on in another car.”“Spiritual Capacity,” General Conference, October 1997
Like the Savior, and like Abinadi, President Hinckley was focused on doing the work of God. He was grateful for God’s protection along the way, but he was not distracted by it.
Today, I will focus on doing God’s will, and I will trust His promise to protect me as I trust Him and focus on what is most important.
I found this blog as I was studying for this Sunday’s lesson. Thank you for taking the time to study and share. Much appreciated!
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for letting me know!
Hello, I’m teacher of our sunday class (country Belgium), I really appreciate your study and feedback. It’s very useful! Kind regards, Tshiela
Thank you for the kind words, Tshiela! I’m glad you’re finding the blog useful. Have a great day!