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Saturday, February 2, 2008


Don’t push me.
Don’t test me.
Don’t try me.
Don’t tempt me.

Whatever the wording, the meaning is the same. This is the line, and if you cross it, something’s going to happen. Probably something you won’t like.

Matthew 4: 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
[NRSV] 7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"

Looking at the entire passage (Matthew 4: 1-11),Satan “tempted” Jesus to do things that were in a sense perfectly in character for Jesus to do. Jesus is God, and God can and had provided bread in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4), God can and will descend to the Earth (Acts 1:11; Matthew 25:31), and God can and will rule the kingdoms of the world (Revelations 11: 15).
The trick was that if Satan could have gotten Jesus (who is God) to do what God does because he wanted God to do it, then the devil would have been in control of God.
If the devil had gotten God to do what God does because he wanted God to do it, then the devil would have been the ruler of God.

We try the same trick.

We name what we what God to do and claim that He has to do it. We wrongly test God when we propose that paying the right percentage, belonging to the right church, quoting the right verses, or buying the right prayer cloth somehow invokes, impresses, entices, or tempts the God of the entire universe into doing our will on Earth as He is in heaven.

This way of testing God does evoke a response. When we cross that line, something happens, but it is not something we want.

Matthew 4: 9 And [Satan] saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

When we test God to see if He will obey us, we lose the privilege of His presence.

Sometimes our efforts at tempting God involve trying to frame our personal political, social, or economic preference as mandates from God.

Mark 12: 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
[NRSV]15 Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it."

The Word and the world will be at odds. The two have fundamentally different priorities, but sometimes we pick political and economic battles on our own and then holler for God to back us up when we start losing.
The culture demands that we tolerate every form of cultural sin. The Bible demands that we condemn all sin while simultaneously loving the sinner and forgiving them when they offend us personally. In this there is conflict, but the path for believers is clear. Never condone sin, but always love and seek to see the sinner saved.
The laws of the land prohibit discrimination against people because of their sexual activity outside the office. The Word condemns all sexual relations except within a marriage between a man and a woman. Here there is no conflict. Just because you don’t fire someone doesn’t mean you condone their lifestyle.
We don’t change our doctrine because there’s a change in political policy. Neither is it necessary to pass a law to give force to God’s commands.
Jesus never sought to change a single political law. He did condemn oppressive, man-made religious traditions. Even when they stood before kings and emperors, the apostles witnessed for the personal salvation of the men they faced. They didn’t negotiate for preferred religious status (Acts 24, 25).
The Lord requires that we be able to say both “You’re wrong,” and “I love you,” at the same time. We put God to the wrong test when we bring him into social conflict because we only want to say one or the other.

(Disclaimer: You should vote! This post isn’t about voting or about voting with an eye to the candidates moral as well as political stances.)

We’re talking about testing God by challenging Him to choose whether He’ll hold you to His laws or to the laws of the land. God holds us responsible for both, with His laws always first.

Mark 12: 16 And they brought [the coin].. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.
17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

We test God the wrong way when we forget.

Exodus 16: 35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.
Exodus 17: 1 ¶ And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.
2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?
[NRSV]2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

For the entire 40 years that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God sent them bread, manna, from heaven itself. They had no farms, no crops, no means of resupply, but god blessed even their clothes and shoes so that they remained like new after four decades of walking around in the desert (Deuteronomy 8: 4).

After all that God had done to prove that He had their back, they got right up to the edge of the Promised Land, and they went off.

Exodus 17: 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"
4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

God miraculously provided water to quench their thirst, but He did not forget the way they had pushed His buttons. When Moses came down off the mountain, having received the 10 Commandments, he recounted the words of the Lord and the statutes that become “The Law.” Among these is the command
De 6:16 [KJV] Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
16 [NRSV] Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

This is the verse Jesus quotes against the devil (Matthew 4: 7).

We want to be careful not to wrongly tempt God. When we do, we get placed in the same category as Satan, and we lose the privilege of God’s presence.

The awesome thing is that there are circumstances in which God actually invites us to “put Him to the test.”

Mal 3: 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
[NRSV] 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Why does God invite us to “Prove me” or “Try me” in this situation? What’s different here?
The difference is OBEDIENCE. The difference is that God is willing to show and prove when we approach Him while being obedient to his Word.

Basically God says, “Do what you already know you are supposed to do and see won’t I take care of the rest.”

Judges 6: 14 And the LORD looked upon [Gideon], and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.

Gideon asked for a sign, and God gave him one. The difference is that God only sought the sign in order to know and follow God’s will. There was no doubt that he would do what God said, Gideon just needed confirmation that what he was hearing was in fact God’s will. This wasn’t about finding a political loophole, or doubting God’s power, or trying to move God onto his program. Gideon put God to the test, but he did it in a spirit of OBEDIENCE.

In obedience Gideon gathered an army and got ready to attack the much greater enemy force.
Worried, and doubting more himself than God, Gideon obeys the Word as best he understands it, but ...

Judges 6:36 Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

Sitting in his tent. fully ready to obey God’s instructions even though they don’t make Earthly sense to him, Gideon prays for confirmation and God answers.
Through Gideon, God goes on to destroy a huge army with just 300 men armed with clay pots and trumpets.

God is willing to be put to the test and to prove His power in your life. But only, if your willing to obey His Word to the best of your ability.
Your worry and doubt may be as real as deadly thirst in the wilderness, but keep the faith. Do what you know is right regardless of what the culture says. Remember what God has already done in your life. Stand firm. Do the work. Work through the pain.
Be obedient to God, and pray – honestly.
Expect God not to answer exactly the way you expect it. But expect God to answer.

Try Him.

The doors of the kingdom are open.