Putting the Lord to the Test

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by mont974x4, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. mont974x4

    mont974x4
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    Please forgive the length. A couple of weeks ago I started thinking about this phrase i hear from Christians on occasion. That phrase is "thou shall not put the Lord to the test". OK, were not supposed to put Him to the test, but what does that actually mean? What about Gideon and his famous fleece? So, I started with Jesus' words in Matthew/Mark when He was being tempted. I went back to the OT verse He quoted. Then I did a search on the Hebrew word used in that reference. Then I narrowed it down to those verses that dealt with people testing God. I also did a search of the NT for the Greek word used by Jesus in Matthew/Mark. What follows is the result of this study.


    Putting the Lord to the Test

    The Hebrew word for test in Exodus 17:2 is H5254. According to the Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament it means:
    nāsāh: A verb meaning to test, to try, to prove. Appearing nearly forty times in the Old Testament, this term often refers to God testing the faith and faithfulness of human beings, including Abraham (Gen_22:1); the nation of Israel (Exo_15:25; Exo_16:4; Exo_20:20; Deu_8:2, Deu_8:16; Deu_13:3 [4]; Jdg_2:22; Jdg_3:1, Jdg_3:4); Hezekiah (2Ch_32:31); David (Psa_26:2). Although people were forbidden from putting God to the test, they often did so (Exo_17:2, Exo_17:7; Num_14:22; Deu_6:16; Deu_33:8; Psa_78:18, Psa_78:41, Psa_78:56; Psa_95:9; Psa_106:14; Isa_7:12). Testing, however, does not always suggest tempting or enticing someone to sin, as when the Queen of Sheba tested Solomon's wisdom (1Ki_10:1; 2Ch_9:1); and Daniel's physical appearance was tested after a ten-day vegetarian diet (Dan_1:12, Dan_1:14). Finally, this term can refer to the testing of equipment, such as swords or armor (1Sa_17:39).

    It is found in the following verses:
    Gen_22:1; Exo_15:25; Exo_16:4; Exo_17:2; Exo_17:7; Exo_20:20; Num_14:22; Deu_4:34; Deu_6:16; Deu_8:2; Deu_8:16; Deu_13:3; Deu_28:56; Deu_33:8; Jdg_2:22; Jdg_3:1; Jdg_3:4; Jdg_6:39; 1Sa_17:39; 1Ki_10:1; 2Ch_9:1; 2Ch_32:31; Job_4:2; Psa_26:2; Psa_78:18; Psa_78:41; Psa_78:56; Psa_95:9; Psa_106:14; Ecc_2:1; Ecc_7:23; Isa_7:12; Dan_1:12; Dan_1:14

    Below are the verses that deal with testing the Lord.
    (Exo 17:2) Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

    (Exo 17:7) He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"


    In the passage from Exodus 17 the Israelites had been complaining. The event recorded here is when the people were complaining about not having water. Moses intercedes for them and God tells him to strike the rock at Horeb. What is implied here is a lack of faith. They complain instead of simply trusting God. In their complaints is the idea that God’s plan to rescue them was not real and He was unable, or unwilling, to meet their needs. It is as if they are claiming that God failed to plan ahead. It also implies they doubt His faithfulness.

    (Num 14:22) "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice,


    At this point Caleb and Joshua have given a positive report after spying out the land of Canaan. The other spies had given a bad report. What was the difference? Caleb and Joshua included God, His power and faithfulness, in their report. The other focused on the giants. The people respond with complaining again. They grumble against Moses and Aaron. God is about to make them wander for 40 years to wait for the evil generation to die off. The evil generation has put God to the test time and time again by their complaints. They deny God’s character as being faithful and able to give them what He has promised. God spares Caleb and Joshua for their faithfulness as they did not test Him.

    (Deu 6:16) "You shall not put the LORD your God to the test as you tested Him at Massah.

    This is a reference back to Exodus 17. It comes in the context of Moses’ instructions to the Israelites. They were not to follow other gods but to fear God alone.

    (Jdg 6:39) Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground."

    This is a different situation. The Israelites have been disobedient and God has delivered them into the hands of the Midianites and Amalekites for seven years. Then the Angel of the Lord goes to Gideon. God is calling him to fight. Gideon is not complaining or doubting the character of God. Gideon wants to be sure it is God that is talking to him. So he prepares a sacrifice, which God consumes with fire. Gideon then goes, as commanded, and tears down the altar of Baal and the Asherah beside it. This angers the Midianites and they demand that Gideon be handed over to them. It doesn’t happen. The Midianites and Amalekites assemble together. God sends an angel to assemblean army to follow him. Gideon wants know if God intends to deliver Israel through him. So he puts out his now famous fleece as a test. God responds positively. We then find verse 39. Gideon does not want to anger God. He does want to be sure he is hearing God, and hearing Him rightly. He puts out the fleece again. God, again, responds positively and Gideon goes out in obedience.

    This testing of God was not a complaint. It was not a denial of, or questioning of, God’s character. It was a desire to be fully convinced that he was hearing from God. Gideon’s heart here is one of obedience and desiring confirmation before action. It should be seen by us in a positive light. If he was complaining or disobedient that would be a different story. We should note that God does not get angry with him and he does not say Gideon did anything wrong here.
     
  2. mont974x4

    mont974x4
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    (continued......)

    (Psa 78:18) And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.

    This refers, again, to Exodus 17.

    (Psa 78:41) Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel.

    (Psa 78:56) Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God And did not keep His testimonies

    The psalmist continued to remind the people of their history of disobedience. They had a history of denying God’s power, authority, and ability to save them.


    (Psa 95:9) "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work.

    The psalmist is reminding them of both the events in Exodus 17 and when God punished them with 40 years of desert wandering.

    (Psa 106:14) But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert.

    We again find a reminder of God’s greatness and the Israelites disobedience and complaining in the desert wanderings.

    (Isa 7:12) But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!"

    Ahaz is the king of Judah at this time and the king of Israel and the king of Aram had come to attack Jerusalem. God sends Isaiah and his son to tell Ahaz about God’s deliverance. God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. In verse 12 we see Ahaz’ response to this command. It appears he is afraid to offend God. However, God wanted to be tested in this way. We see that in His response. God promises a sign, and it is the coming Christ. God’s response is here:

    Isa 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
    Isa 7:15 "He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.
    Isa 7:16 "For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.


    The Greek equivalent is G1598:

    ekpeirázō; fut. ekpeirásō, from ek (G1537), an intens., and peirázō (G3985), tempt. Try, prove, tempt, put to the test. Sinners are said to tempt God (Mat_4:7; Luk_4:12; Luk_10:25; Act_5:9, peirázō; 1Co_10:9), putting Him to the test, refusing to believe Him or His Word until He has manifested His power (Sept.: Deu_6:16; Deu_8:16; Psa_78:18). When God is said to try (peirazō) man (Heb_11:17 [cf. Gen_22:1; Exo_15:25]), in no other sense can He do this (Jas_1:13) but to train in order to elevate a person as a result of the self-knowledge which may be won through these testings (peirasmoí [G3986]). Thus, man may emerge from his testings holier, humbler, stronger than when he entered in (Jas_1:2, Jas_1:12). Peirázō is predominantly used to try someone in order to show he is not approved of God but reprobate, in the hope that he will break down under the proof. Peirázō is also used for Satan's solicitations (Mat_4:1; 1Co_7:5; Rev_2:10).
    Syn.: peirázō (G3985), to test; dokimázō (G1381), to test, prove.

    It is found in the following verses:

    (Mat 4:7) Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

    (Luk 4:12) And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

    These two verses are in the accounts of Jesus’ temptation by the devil. Jesus’ quote refers to Deut 6:16. The devil had just quoted Psalm 91:11, 12 which says:

    Psa 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.
    Psa 91:12 They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

    The devil is tempting Jesus. With the first two temptations the devil taunts Jesus, “if you are the Son of God…” and this would have allowed the devil to set the time table for Jesus instead of the Father. Jesus would not do anything that was not commanded by the Father. Nor would He do anything in way, or in a time, when it was not ordained by God. When we do things on our own and demand that God protects us, or blesses our endeavors, or try to obey Him but in our own way we put God to the test. We would be saying that our way is better than God’s way. We would be no different than the Israelites complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt instead of in the desert trusting God to bring them into the land He promised them. This testing is, by its very nature, idolatry. It is allowing another person, thing, or idea to take the place of God in our life.

    (Luk 10:25) And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

    This verse is part of the lead in for the story of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer wants to be justified in his actions. He is his own idol. He wants the chance to trip Jesus up and prove that he is smarter, and perhaps holier, than Jesus. How often is this us? God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves but we satisfy our conscience with a nod and wave across the fence while never making any effort to know them and meet their needs. We define what it means to love them for ourselves and dare God to prove us wrong…all while harboring an unwillingness to listen to what he says.

    (1Co 10:9) Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

    Paul is writing the church in Corinth. He has been reminding them of the sins of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. He lists references to specific acts of disobedience. Here in verse 9 he refers to Numbers 21. The people were , again, complaining against Moses and God. They said they would have been better off dying in Egypt than in the desert. God sent serpents that bit the people and they were dying. God told Moses to make an image of a serpent on put up on a pole of some sort so the people could see it. To be saved the people had to look at this image. This is a representation of Christ. The people doubted God’s goodness and His ability to save them. We are in danger of the same. To look anywhere but to Christ will mean death.

    I reminded of a term we do not hear all that often anymore. It is a comment about someone else. We may say that a person is testing, or trying, our patience when all we are trying to do is help them. They complain, argue, and doubt. They doubt our methods, our intent, and our abilities. Being imperfect men this can cause us to lash out in anger. God though is just and perfect. His patience goes on long passed ours. However, He will not strive with men forever. The justice and righteousness of God demands accountability. We test His patience when we ignore the warnings and lessons we see in the Israelites behavior.

    However, we can (and I dare say we should) test Him by seeing how He will bless our obedience. Just as we should be careful to ensure that, like Gideon, we are hearing from God and not someone or something that we have made an idol if for ourselves. Care must be taken so that we don’t make this an excuse for inaction. If that happens then we slip into putting the Lord to the test in a bad way.
     

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