After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The second temptation that Jesus received from the devil is recorded in Matthew 4:5-7 “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.’’” If you are not to tempt the Lord your God, what does it mean to tempt God? The word tempt usually means to entice to do wrong. But God cannot be tempted to do wrong. James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” A different way of translating Jesus’ words would be “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” The devil was tempting Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by encouraging Jesus to throw Himself down from the highest point of the temple to see if God would keep Him from getting hurt. Such an action by Jesus would put God to the test. Would God protect Jesus and keep Him from getting hurt or not? But Jesus responds that it would be wrong to test God in this way.
Jesus took His words from Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” We read about Massah in Exodus 17:1-7 “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water, that we may drink.’ So Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?’ And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” The Israelites were naturally thirsty since they had no water. But they tempted or tested the Lord when they requested proof that the Lord was among them.
You can tempt or test the Lord if you expect God to prove Himself to you in some miraculous way. You are in essence saying “Show me that you really are God.” I have heard of individuals who are in difficult situations and they say to God “If you will get me out of this situation alive and well, then I will believe in you and be a faithful Christian.” That seems to me to be tempting or testing the Lord. You should have faith in Him without requesting some miraculous sign.
To expose yourself to a danger with the vain expectation that God will protect you from the natural consequences is one way to tempt or test God. In Mark, we have a description of the signs of believers. Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The apostles had these signs. They cast out demons, spoke in tongues, and healed the sick; the apostle Paul had a snake bite him and he suffered no ill effect (Acts 28:3-6). However, there are religious groups today who believe that these signs should apply to them as well. One of the things they do is handle poisonous snakes with the expectation that if the snakes bite them, they will receive no harm. It seems to me that they are testing the Lord by their actions.
Another example of testing God is found in Acts chapter 5. Acts 5:1-11 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?’ She said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” Why did God make such an example of Ananias and Sapphira by causing them to die? The reason is that they attempted to lie to God and test God. But God knows everything. Hebrews 4:13 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
My encouragement to you is to never tempt or test God. Don’t expect Him to prove Himself to you by some miraculous sign. Don’t attempt to lie to God. He knows everything that you do.