Rely on God but do not test Him
I was rereading Matthew 4 – The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness – and was struck by verse 7.
“Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.””
Just a reminder for anyone that needs it – Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights and Satan has come to tempt Jesus to sin. This is, of course, not the only time Jesus was tempted but it was a time of vulnerability and one of the few times that Satan did a full frontal assault on Jesus’ sinless nature.
At this point, Satan challenges Jesus to prove Himself by quoting scripture stating that the Messiah would be protected by God. He tells Jesus to throw himself off a tower because, if He really is the Messiah, angels will prevent him from being injured.
Jesus’ response is above – “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Now, we are told in other areas of scripture to ask God for anything we need, to rely on God, to have faith that God can deliver us in any trial so, how is that different than putting God to the test.
I believe the difference is attitude and I think a perfect example of putting faith in God’s ability to deliver without testing God is found in Daniel 3.
In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar has set up a golden idol and declared that everyone must worship it or be thrown into a furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego do not worship it as commanded. Even when standing in front of the king, warned that disobedience will result in death, these three men refuse to bow down to a golden idol.
Interestingly, they did not argue or make excuses. “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it.”
See, they had faith in God’s strength and used that faith to face certain death without pleading, making excuses or arguing. They made a simple statement of ‘No’.
However, most telling, though, is verse 18 where they maintain their faith without testing God. “But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold that you have set up.”
They knew God could deliver them but they also knew that God might allow them to be killed in this instance. They did not make the decision for God. They acknowledged that the power was God’s and the decision was God.
In the end, of course, God sent an angel to defend them in the furnace and they emerged completely untouched by the flames. However, to me, the important part is still their attitude, their statement that even if God did not protect them from pain and death it would not shake their faith.
Too often, we pray for deliverance from some pain and become angry when God doesn’t do exactly what we want. That’s the wrong attitude. God is not a servant or an atm machine. There is no “Insert prayer here, receive deliverance below” sign.
God’s ways or not our ways and God’s plans are mysterious. In addition, we must account for free will. God allows us to make bad decisions and He allows others to make bad decisions which we suffer from.
So, remember, God can deliver us from any trial and gives us ultimate deliverance in the form of His Son, Jesus. However, He is not ours to command. We are His.