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 ; 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.