Yesterday, we noted that Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12 instruct very clearly, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
And yet, it’s pretty easy to find passages where God not only chooses not to smite those who put Him to the test, He indulges them.
Probably the most startling example of this phenomenon comes in Malachi 3:10:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
This verse, in which God not only tolerates testing, but invites people to test Him (in this particular area) is famous, and often quoted by preachers urging their listeners to answer the call of Scripture to give the first 10 percent of their wealth to God (via the church). My point is not to wade into that subject (today), but to look at what the verse, and these other examples I’ve mentioned, say about The T-Word.
Here’s where I think the pencil meets the paper on the subject of testing:
In Deuteronomy, God chose to lay down the law and establish the standard. Jesus, during His wilderness time and throughout His recorded ministry, adhered to this rule – thereby showing us what human life lived perfectly looks like.
But think of Abraham’s negotiation with God over the fate of Sodom; of Moses talking God out of destroying Israel in light of the Golden Calf Incident, of Jesus being persuaded to help the daughter of a non-Jewish woman.
All of those stories have an element of testing to them (or at least challenge, which is a lot like testing), and in each case, God backs down. When people disobey the ‘rule’ of Deuteronomy and put God to the test in good faith (or even in weak faith, like Gideon), God’s responses are borne out of grace, not law.
And according to 1 Corinthians 10:13 and its footnote in the NIV, the same is true of His tests of us:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Footnote: The Greek for ‘temptation’ and ‘tempted’ can also mean ‘testing’ and ‘tested’.
When I wrestle with the stories of the testing of Abraham and Job as mentioned in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, I do struggle with what tests God might have in mind for me, and what fearful prospects await me if I pass them (let alone if I flunk them).
But when I read 1 Corinthians 10:13 and think of the tests its author – the Apostle Paul – endured, and still managed to say with credibility and a straight face in 2 Timothy 4:7:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.“
I can pray the following, but only with fear and trembling, and sometimes even mean it:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24
Peace be with you.