The word is enough to put fear in the heart of any middle schooler, and I’m not sure that’s a dread we ever outgrow.
When someone ticks us off, we say they are ‘testing my patience’. When we’re discouraged, our resolve is ‘tested’. Sometimes we remember that these tests are good for us, in a ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’ sort of way, but unless you’re what the Germans refer to as ein übernürd, tests suck.
But if we think the tests we face are tough, perhaps there is some consolation in knowing that the heroes of the Bible had it tougher. The Good Book uses The T-word quite frequently, and the circumstances that test us are rarely as extreme as what our ancient predecessors went through.
One of the more famous examples comes early in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, when Jesus Himself is tested in the wilderness. A 40-day fast in the blistering heat and/or punishing cold of the Palestinian desert sounds pretty nasty to me.
But why was it necessary?
Did Jesus go through this horrible experience just so He could model what real discipline looks like for you and me? Or did He need to be tested in this way? Would the other trials He faced during His ministry have been too much for Him, if He hadn’t spent six weeks sharpening His heart, by depriving His body but feeding His soul?
Maybe this test was what helped Jesus the son of Joseph to take hold of the reality that He was also the Son of God – and all that that implies.
Either way, it must have been torturous.
I wonder if Jesus spent some of that 40-day period reflecting on the stories of testing in the Old Testament (I suppose at that time it would have just been called ‘The Testament’).
If you do a Bible Gateway search of the word ‘test’, you’ll find the T-word used many times in the story of the Exodus and the subsequent 40 years of wandering in the wilderness before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. It also comes up quite a bit in Judges and Samuel/Chronicles and in the books of the Prophets.
But there are two stories of testing that really stand out for me. And as I picture Jesus being tested in the wilderness, I imagine him reflecting on, and wrestling with, the stories of the testing of Job and Abraham.
It’s interesting to note that, although the Book of Job appears 16 books later in the Bible than Genesis, there’s fairly general agreement that the events captured in Job occurred some time during the Genesis era. I’ve heard once that Job and Abraham may have been contemporaries, but this Bible Study poo-poohs that notion and suggests that Job is actually a great-great grandson of Abraham.
Probably doesn’t matter. Whether they were contemporaries or not, I think the most interesting thing they have in common is that the climactic tests of their lives related to the death of their sons (and daughters, in Job’s case).
And I wonder if this thought was heavy on the heart of Jesus – the Son of God – as He began a journey that would lead to His death.
But let’s discuss this further tomorrow. Until then …
Peace be with you.