In my favorite recurring dream, I fly across the city as though I am light as air. Sometimes when I wake up and the dream still feels real, I must bring my expectations of my abilities back down to earth. My husband, with his fear of heights, doesn’t love this dream so much. He says it’s not falling that scares him, it’s the smashing into the earth part.
After Jesus’ baptism, Satan meets Jesus in the wilderness, takes him to the top of the temple, and tries to convince him to jump. Satan quotes Psalm 91: For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone (vv. 11-12). Jesus stands in a conspicuous public place, aware that if he jumped, and angels rescued him, his identity as the Messiah would be obvious.
Yet, as J. Clinton McCann says, “Jesus refuses to claim God’s promise of protection for his own benefit.” Later, as he hangs from
a Roman cross, someone suggests that Jesus call on angels to save him. Again Jesus refuses an angelic rescue that would “test rather than trust” God.
Trusting God without knowing the details of God’s ways makes faith challenging. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them, God assures (vv. 14-15). In this new year we cannot know all we will encounter, but we can trust that God will walk beside us, whatever we face.
J. Clinton McCann, “Psalms,” 1 & 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms, New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, vol 4 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996).
When do you test God instead of trust God?
God, when we despair, give us hope. When we fear, lend us faith. When we are uncertain, grant us courage. May we always commune with you. Amen.