“Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Matthew 4:5-7).
Satan’s use of Psalm 91 when tempting our Lord is a great illustration of why the statement “You can prove anything by the Bible” is one of the devil’s many lies. When the apostle Peter declares that “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11), he is not intimating that a person should wrest or twist the Scriptures when seeking to demonstrate the divine authority for one’s actions.
There are three glaring flaws in Satan’s (mis)handling of Psalm 91. Let’s consider them carefully:
- Satan ignored the context. The promises of Psalm 91:11-12 that he cites were conditional in nature, not unconditional. As verses 2 and 9 clearly state, these promises were made to a specific type of person—the one who says to the Lord, you are my refuge, my fortress, and my trust (v. 2), the one who has made the Lord his refuge and dwelling place (v. 9). The promises of this psalm are made exclusively to those who are striving to obey God, not tempt Him.
- Satan misapplied the promises. Because he ignored the context, he sought to convince our Lord that God’s blessings were applicable to the presumptuous as well as the obedient. They were not.
- Satan’s interpretation and application of God’s word contradicted another plain passage of Scripture. Since God’s word is perfect (James 1:25), it contains no contradictions. Therefore, any interpretation that creates a contradiction of another passage or principle of Scripture is incorrect. Jesus’ deftly points this out in His reply when He uses the word “again”. God’s word must be handled accurately (2 Timothy 2:15). Any interpretation and application of one passage that clearly contradicts another is false.
Satan’s quotation of Psalm 91 clearly illustrates what not to do when studying and applying God’s word.