Testing God

Do you test God?  Is it good or bad to test God?  Actually, it can be bad or it can be good to test God.  Let us investigate.

After Jesus was baptized by John, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  There were three specific temptations that the devil gave to Jesus that are recorded in Matthew chapter four. Let us look at the second temptation.  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.’’” The word “tempt” here can more properly be translated “test”.  The devil was casting doubt that Jesus was the Son of God.  He basically said “Prove it, and this is how you are going to prove it.  Throw yourself down from the top of the temple and see if God will send His angels to catch you and keep you from killing yourself from the fall.”  But Jesus did not yield to the devil’s temptation.  He knew He was the Son of God and that it would be wrong to put God to the test to prove to the devil that it was true.

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” What happened at Massah?  The story is found 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 thirsty.  They were totally dependent upon God.  But rather than trust in God who sees all things and who knew that they needed water, they doubted God and basically said “We don’t know if God is with us or not.  Prove it.  Give us water.”  They questioned God’s reliability because He was not meeting their expectations.

The writer of Hebrews referred to this testing of God in Hebrews 3:7-12 “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  The problem was a lack of faith.  They tested God; they tried God; they saw His works for forty years.  The Israelites did not have faith in God to lead them to the Promised Land. 

Today, people can do a similar thing.  For example, one may complain and grumble about what God is allowing to happening in his life.  Or he may say “I prayed and prayed that God would do things in my life to prove that He is who the Bible says He is, and He didn’t answer my prayers.  Where is God?” Instead, we must approach God in faith and not seek a sign from heaven.  Mark 8:11-12 “Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.’” Looking for a sign from God is the wrong way to approach God. We approach God in faith. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” We should not test God and ask Him to prove Himself.  God was angry with the Israelites for complaining and testing Him rather than walking in faith.  He may be angry with us also if we complain and test Him and do not walk in faith.

There is a proper way to test God.  In the time of the prophet Malachi, the people were negligent in their worship and in their obedience to God in giving of their tithes, and God had not blessed them.  Malachi 3:10 “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” God had promised to bless the people if they walked in faith and obeyed Him.  God, through the prophet Malachi, is in essence saying “Walk in faith and do what you have been asked to do and see how I will fulfill my promises to bless you.”

The difference is faith.  The wrong way is to doubt God and ask Him to prove Himself to us.  The right way is to have faith and trust in God, obey His will, and see how He fulfills His promises to us.  My encouragement is to walk in faith before God and do not complain, doubt or test Him.

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