Does God Test His People? Part 1

Deuteronomy 6:16 tells us that we are not to test God. But what about the other way around? Have you ever wondered if something you are going through is a test from the LORD? Does God test his people?

The answer, unequivocally, is yes.

In the book of Exodus, God tests the Israelites to see if they will obey his commands regarding the gathering of manna. Moses recounts this story to the Israelites just before they are to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land:

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.  Deuteronomy 8:1-5

Moses recounts this story in order to remind the Israelites of the journey the previous generation had endured since the time they left Egypt. The specific instance to which Moses is referring takes place in Exodus 16. The LORD tested the people with two commands: 

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” Exodus 16:4-5

Each person was to gather only enough manna for that day, an omer—about three-and-a-half liters—per person. Moses told them not to keep any of it overnight because doing so would break the command from the LORD to gather only enough for each day. Some, of course, disobeyed this command and what was left over accumulated maggots by morning. The day before the Sabbath they were to gather twice as much so that they could rest and would not have to procure food on the holy day. Again, some disobeyed and did not gather extra for the Sabbath. Then when that day came, there was no manna to be found. If anyone doubted that the manna or the two commands came from God, those doubts were dissolved when the manna that was stored overnight for the Sabbath did not spoil, yet the manna stored overnight on any other night did.

So what was the point? Why did God test the Israelites? The passage reads that the purpose was “in order to know what was in [their] heart[s], whether or not [they] would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). But doesn’t God already know our hearts? Was He just setting them up for failure? I think the point here is that God gave them a choice. He knew who would obey and who would not, but they still had a choice. We are given the power to choose for ourselves whether or not to obey.

Check back next week for part 2, where we see that Jesus was not immune from God's testing.

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Information Travels Faster
Death Cab For Cutie
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