The Wilderness of Testing Part Two
Last month I shared some of the challenges I faced over the past year. If you missed that blog, you can read it here: The Wilderness of Testing. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I was greatly challenged. I received many comments about my transparency regarding the sexual temptation I endured. However, there may have been a misperception this was the primary way God tested me. This is not the case. I was tested in many areas; discouragement, physical and mental exhaustion, and financial stress were significant aspects throughout this season. The sexual temptation was a small part of a larger protracted trial. I call this season of trial, “The Wilderness of Testing.” It is a season specifically designed by God to test us, to see what we have learned.
In the previous blog, I shared the first interaction between Satan and Jesus when Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested. As I look further into this passage, there is more to discover in regards to the challenges we face. So this month let’s look at the second temptation Satan presented to Jesus and see how it relates to you and me.
Here’s the passage for this month:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7, ESV)
The Enemy Attacks
Once again, the enemy begins his attack by questioning Jesus’ identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God….” He used this statement in the first temptation. It is significant that he uses this line again. Why? Our enemy wants to destroy our relationship with God. If our enemy can get us to question our identity as sons and daughters of God, then we are in grave danger. Carefully guard your identity.
From the pinnacle of the temple, he tells Jesus to throw himself down. After all, the Scriptures say God will rescue you. Why not make him prove it. You’re his son, right?
Also notice how Satan uses Scripture as part of his attack. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12. Satan loves to quote Scripture on the way to destroying you and I. It should alarm us that our enemy knows Scripture. Do we know it as well as he does?
Gratefully, once again Jesus responds with Scripture. “Again it is written ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Now if you are like me, I’ve read this passage before and glossed right over what Jesus just said. This time, as I looked into this, I wondered what it meant to put God to the test. What was Jesus saying?
To understand what Jesus says, we need to look at the passage he references. Jesus refers to a passage where Moses addresses the Israelite nation. In this passage Moses says, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16, ESV).
We’re getting closer. Now we need to find out what happened at Massah. The event is described in Exodus 17. Here is what it says:
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7, ESV)
The Hebrew word for “tested” in this passage expresses the idea of putting God to the test, to make him prove himself. It is connected with the idea of doubting God. It is a test born out of doubt instead of faith.
The Israelites were thirsty by design. God led them to that place. In their discomfort, they complained to one another. They complained to Moses. It seems they speak to everyone but God. They tested the Lord by saying in effect, “Is the Lord among us or not? Then he should prove it.”
God tests us to see where we are in relationship with him, but it is not okay for you and me to test God to prove where he is in relationship with us. He never changes. His love is a constant burning flame. It is our love for him that flickers. The irony is we tend to test God when he is testing us! He allows trials in our lives to see what we have learned in our relationship with him, but instead of trusting him, we tend to test him. We doubt his love and care. Are you here? Do you love me? Are you loving or not?
Don’t do it. Do not test the Lord. Instead of testing him, trust him. Even when it does not make sense. Choose to love God rather than trying to understand him. This is perhaps the greatest lesson I learned over the past year. It is better to love God than to try and understand him. He is completely in control.
Next month we’ll look at the final temptation the enemy throws at Jesus. For now, let’s review the lessons from this section.
- Satan will question your identity as a son or daughter of God. It is the primary way he tries to defeat us. If he can get us to question our identity as God’s children, then we are in deep trouble.
- The enemy uses Scripture against us. It is interesting that our enemy knows Scripture. Unfortunately, he twists it to support his position. Some people do the same today. Do you know the Scriptures as well as your enemy? It is critical to view any Scripture in the broader context of the entire Bible.
- Don’t put God to the test. It is okay to question God, but it is not okay to doubt his love for you. Never doubt his love. He already proved his love for you when he gave his Son to die in your place. Choose to trust God rather than trying to understand him.
Is God actually trustworthy? Ultimately, this is the question at the heart of this temptation. May we pass the test! May we rise up and say, “I will trust God even when it does not make sense.”
I always enjoy reading your comments. Feel free to post your thoughts below.