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Resisting Temptation from Psalm 63

Truth in Love 451

How do we, from the Scriptures, counsel others to resist temptation?

Feb 5, 2024

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I’m delighted to have with me, Keith Evans. He’s the Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s been in pastoral ministry for twelve years, and this is his sixth academic year as a professor at a seminary in higher education. He began pastoral ministry in Lafayette, Indiana before being called back to his alma mater to teach. Keith is married to his wife Melissa for 17 years, and they have four daughters.

We’re talking about resisting temptation. It’s really important for us when we think about temptation or struggles in life, that we always reset our experiences, what we’re feeling, what we’re behaving like, symptoms in to the context of Scripture. We’re going to talk about that in relation to Psalm 63. Psalm 63 and resisting temptation. How do you see the connection between those two things, from temptation and this particular psalm?

Keith Evans: It was actually a Reformed Baptist minister of the 1700s who helped me see this connection. Some of the listeners are probably familiar with John Gill. He preached in Spurgeon’s pulpit a hundred years before Spurgeon preached in that pulpit. So he made it famous before Spurgeon did. But in his commentary on this psalm, he makes the connection in the superscript, the comment on the psalm, a psalm of David, when he was in the Judean Wilderness. He makes the connection with Christ when He was in the Judean Wilderness during His time of temptation, so it was really John Gill who helped me see that. If that’s the case, then what we have here is a prophetic image of the inner dialogue and wrestlings of the Messiah as he’s resisting temptation. It gives the psalm a whole new clarity of resisting temptation. It’s kind of like Psalm 22, as the Messiah hangs on the cross, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” We see this inner dialogue prayer, wrestling with the Truth of God, as He’s making atonement for us. That’s how Gill was seeing Psalm 63: that it’s not just the wrestlings of David as he was driven out of Jerusalem by Absalom, but prophetically, it’s the inner wrestlings of Christ as He’s wrestling in the Judean Wilderness of, “Is God fully satisfying? Is He meeting my needs?” And how He’s resisting.

Dale Johnson: Now, I need you to go a little bit further as we talk about seeing Jesus in the psalm. Some people are listening, and they’re saying, “What? Jesus wasn’t born yet. We’ve not gotten a Matthew. We’re still in the Old Testament.” Help us to understand how we see the temptation of Jesus in this particular psalm.

Keith Evans: The New Testament’s regularly looking back to the Psalms, seeing how they are prophetic, how they are Messianic. I mentioned Psalm 22, of course, as the classic one. But we see many others, that being the case as well. But Jesus himself when He’s walking on the road to Emmaus, teaching His disciples, He’s unpacking the Psalms, mentions the Psalms specifically, as well as the Law and Moses and so forth. But the Psalms speak of Him. If we just think of the imagery in Psalm 63, that in Psalm 63, there’s that wrestling. Day and night, the Lord sufficiently satisfying in a dry and weary land, hungering to the point of near starvation and saying “my soul is satisfied with rich food, satisfied with every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Did you hear these images and these echoings?

In Mark’s gospel, we see that He was surrounded by wild beasts when Jesus was tempted. We see that same image in Psalm 63 that, “I will not be made prey of the jackals, it is my enemies who will be prey of the jackals.” And then we see the three images of the temptation. The Temptation with regard to bread, temptation with the sanctuary, the temptation of the glory of the kingdoms. We see all of those motifs in this psalm, as well. We see the image of the sanctuary, we see who is the true King and those who trust in the true king, they’ll be exalted. Again, whether or not He’ll be satisfied with all that God supplies and that He has sufficient, rich food for his soul. So all three of the temptation motifs are present in this psalm. At the very end of the psalm, He’s comforting himself that the enemy, the liar and all those along with the liar, their mouths will be made to stop and that He will be victorious.

Dale Johnson: So Keith, you’ve worked us through a little bit, helping us to identify this temptation of Jesus, how it resonates with so much in the gospels. How does this help us to see how Christ resisted temptation in the Judean Wilderness more fully than just the gospel accounts that we see in places like Matthew, for example?

Keith Evans: The gospels present a straightforward presentation of the combat between Christ and the devil. This psalm takes us into that inner wrestling, just like I was talking about with Psalm 22, Christ making atonement for us and we see the prayer, His wrestlings with His Father, His application of these promises as He’s making atonement for us. So, too, this psalm. We know that He used Scripture to resist the devil, but here, we see how He’s applying it, how He’s trusting these things. It’s more than just quoting Scripture back to the tempter, He is doing that. But He’s applying these realities to His life as He’s seeing with eyes of sight, that potential conflict between what He’s been promised by His Father. So He’s counseling His own heart in the midst of the temptation with what is true. He’s praying these truths back to His Father, He’s seeing with eyes of faith as He’s resisting.

What’s He remembering? As He seeing all of these rocks and He knows that He has a good Father who, when He asks for bread, He doesn’t give Him a stone. And yet, that’s what Satan is tempting Him with and He’s saying, “No, I’m satisfied with the choicest of foods from my Father’s hand. I have what I want and what I need.” As He’s being offered all of the kingdoms in the moment of an eye, He’s remembering the true King and all those who trust in the King and swear by Him, they will rejoice, they will be exalted. “I won’t be cast down, I’m not going to be made food for the wild beasts and no, I will not die out here in the Judean Wilderness.” He’s counseling Himself with these promises, with these truths, when His reality appears different than those promises. It’s a true battling, it’s a true resisting and it’s in the inner man.

Dale Johnson: We’re about to talk about application, but before we do that, I want to highlight for our listeners one of the most important things Keith has demonstrated for you. Before we get to the application, we’re going to dive into Scripture and understand the passage itself well. From that, we start to see application, we start to see methodology, how we can utilize these particular truths in the counseling room. Keith, even as you were talking, I’m thinking of lots of applications in my own life personally. I’m thinking of applications of what these truths mean for people that I counsel. I want you to highlight and give some specific applications that you see here to our resisting of temptation.

Keith Evans: The main underlying thing here we see in Psalm 63 that David is speaking to, that Christ is inner-wrestling, that He is speaking to, we are being offered in the temptation, something else that’s alluring, something else that’s shiny, something else that’s drawing us away. The underlying theme is God fully satisfies. That’s what we need to keep coming back to and continue to remember and remind ourselves of the cost of yielding. There’s a genuine cost, yet the infinite value of the alternative that I get God, I get the relationship with God, I get the all-satisfying joy of Him and relationship with Him. Temptation is always saying, “I’m going to find satisfaction, I’m going to find enjoyment in something else.” And this psalm is saying, “No. Look at the infinite value of the alternative.”

This is a real battle here. This is a real inward-resisting. It’s not just this external, “I just need to say no,” or something like that. We also see recognizing the lies, rejecting the shortcut, as Christ rejected the shortcut to all the kingdoms of the world, patiently walking the long arduous path of the disciple, knowing the Spirit’s providential leading. Some translations of verse 8, Psalm 63 says, “My spirit follows after Your Spirit.” We know in the temptation of Christ, it’s the Spirit who drove Him into the wilderness, that there’s this providential leading that we forget that in temptation as well that, the Spirit is permitting us to be tempted for our strengthening and that He also gives all that is necessary to resist the temptation. All these things that we see highlighted here by the psalm I think are so helpful.

Dale Johnson: As we bring this full circle and take us into the counseling room. How do we use this type of psalm with this rich teaching example, even of our Lord, to help counselees resist, as Christ also resisted temptation?

Keith Evans: I think the one that I mentioned: knowing the lies, seeing the lies. We need to know our particular lures. We need to know what tempts us. What was Christ being tempted with? With the kingdoms of the world that He came to purchase by His blood. What a sinister temptation that really is. Satan knows, terrifyingly, what tempts us. He’s using it in Christ’s case; he’s using it in our case. We need to see those lies.

Secondly and again, underlying this entire psalm, is that we need to see that this is a battle for our affections, a battle for our loves, a battle for what satisfies. To quote another old dead guy, I referenced John Gill before, but Thomas Chalmers, a Presbyterian from the 1800s, preached a famous sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” that what drives away the lures and the temptations of the evil one, is seeing this greater affection, this greater love for Christ and I think that’s what this psalm is holding out to us and we need to hold out to our counselees. It’s not just knowing Scripture. It is knowing Scripture but it’s walking with Christ, it’s loving Christ, it’s fellowshipping with Him and seeing that He is all satisfying to our soul and so much more satisfying than whatever the devil’s offering us.

Dale Johnson: I love diving into particular psalms like this and how you’ve tied this, as the Scripture does, to the New Testament and what an encouragement for us to take away from the Scripture and make it immediately applicable to those who are sitting in front of us in the counseling room. Keith, this has been great. Thank you so much for joining us today.