Joshua interrupted Benjamin, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!”
“All right,” accepted Benjamin. “But in order to win a following, you must do something to get people’s attention. I am trying to help you here; that is why God sent me.”
Suddenly, Joshua was standing on the edge of a tall wall and lost his balance. He threw himself backward to avoid toppling off the great height. His weakened body trembled from the near accident.
He looked down the mountain below him. People were working and walking and going about their business. He looked below the wall behind him; it was the temple court. He was on the corner of the temple wall high above the Kidron Valley. Benjamin stood on the wall beside him with his black robes flapping gently in the breeze. No one took notice of them on the wall.
“So you say you will trust God—that is good! A demonstration will provide a quick start to your work for God,” said Benjamin. “If you are the son of God, throw yourself off the wall and allow God to set you safely down. You know the scripture says he will protect you. You can trust him!”
The advice was appealing. It would be comforting to toss his starved and exhausted body over the side and have God set him down gently on the grass below. People would rush to him, recognize him as Anointed One and within minutes they would storm the Roman fortress of Antonia at the opposite corner of the temple, and after that success they would drive the Romans from Israel completely.
“For what purpose?” asked Joshua. “This is testing God by asking, ‘Is God really among us?’ It is written, ‘Do not test God!’”
“It is a sign,” replied Benjamin. “What harm can there be in bringing people’s attention to the truth? Without signs you will take forever to reach people.”
Joshua’s weary, blurry mind had a moment of clarity regarding his memory of Benjamin. “You are Ashta,” he said.
Benjamin was shocked. “What do you know of the name, ‘Ashta’?” he asked.
“I knew you from the beginning,” said Joshua. “From the time you began.” But then his memory began to fade, and he was not sure what it meant.
Benjamin was unprepared for such a surprise. Joshua might be more significant than he had anticipated. What was that lying god trying to do? Benjamin decided that to subvert God’s plan, he must become bolder.
“Joshua, you are a good man and worthy to control the destiny of all the world. Do not limit yourself to this small strip of humanity. Egypt and all its glories can be yours to control—Babylon, Greece, Rome, and all the nations to the north, east, south and west. You can lead them all in peace and righteousness, and you can begin now.
I will give all these nations to you. My kingdoms and all their wealth and glory will become yours; my governments with their power will become yours; my armies will become yours. We will work together to bring about the perfect society of peace and righteousness. All I ask is that you accept them from my hand.”
Joshua saw all the nations and their wealth, power, and glory.
Joshua was so tired, and the thought of the great effort required in establishing the kingdom sapped him further. How easy it would be to receive the kingdom prepackaged with no effort at all! Joshua paused before replying in a croaking voice, “It is written, ‘Worship God alone.’ I can acknowledge no authority other than God.”
“Then you are on your own, you fool!” said Benjamin angrily. Suddenly Joshua was again lying alone in the hot desert. He felt the glaring sun beating on his tired and starving body. He knew he was about to faint and would probably die. He closed his eyes.
A hand touched his face. A small stream of water flowed against his lips. Joshua instinctively sucked at the water.
“Not too much,” said the voice, but it was not Benjamin’s voice; it was another.
Belfaire put his arms under Joshua’s head to lift it up. “Drink,” he said. “But not too quickly.” He poured water over Joshua’s head and face, and rubbed away the grime with a wet fleece.
Joshua looked up to see his benefactor—a tall man with golden hair wearing a bright, white garment. Tears glinted in Belfaire’s eyes. He lifted Joshua to his feet and helped him across the hot sand to a rock shelter. “Here is food for you,” he said. Joshua saw that this time there really was food. Honey from the desert. He ate only until his hunger dimmed. Then he slept.
He awoke refreshed but still hungry. Joshua ate more of the honey and began his trip back to Jericho. As he walked, he noticed the stones that might have become bread, and he knew he could have done it had he wished.
This concludes the story; I hope you liked it. On Monday we will examine the temptation of Jesus in the Gospel of John. What? You don’t recall such a passage in John? See if you can find it, and if not I will try to help you discover it.
Then we will discuss the biblical accounts of the temptation and consider whether Satan really accosted Jesus in the desert.
I invite your comments and observations below.
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